Article: Añjanāsundarī

Contributed by M. Whitney Kelting

Pavanañjay returns

When Pavanañjay returned, he was devastated to hear that his wife had been thrown out of the house. He looked for her everywhere but in vain.

He gave up the search and went to burn himself to death on a funeral pyre, as atonement for sending Añjanā to her death.

At the last second, his father came and told him that Añjanā was living with her uncle and they went to fetch her.

Once they found Añjanā she immediately forgave everyone, saying that all this suffering was on account of her past karma.

Pavanañjay and Añjanā lived happily ever after, renounced at the end of their lives and reached liberation.

References in Jain writings

A Jain lay woman holds up her hands and bows her head in devotion. Jains do not ask for things when they pray. For Jains praying is always joyful and means reverencing the qualities and example of the Jinas

Woman praying
Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah

Añjanā is a major figure in the Jain Rāmāyaṇa tradition. The tale of Añjanā is also found in numerous other sources, some dating back hundreds of years, while modern accounts remain popular.

The initial source of Añjanā's story is the Hindu Rāmāyaṇa story though the Jain version has some major differences from the Hindu account. The oldest Jain telling of Añjanā is part of the fourth-century Paūmicariyam.

The story's main theme of marital devotion in an unhappy marriage means it is popular as an example of marital fidelity in a bad marriage. This fits in with the tales of the satīs, whose loyalty to their husbands, virtuous behaviour and religious piety are key to their roles as model women. Although she is not one of the 16 satīs – soḷ satī – Añjanā is listed in the Āvaśyaka-sūtra as a sati.

Añjana in the Jain 'Ramayaṇa'

The most significant Jain telling of Añjanā's story is found in the poem Paūmicariyam. Composed by Vimala-sūri in the fourth century, the Paūmicariyam tells the story of Añjanāsundarī in cantos 15 to 18.

For both Jains and Hindus Añjanāsundarī is the mother of Hanumān but the Jain version is quite different. Two examples clearly demonstrate this.

Firstly, Hindus know Hanumān as the king of the monkeys who helps Rāma rescue his wife Sītā from the demon-king Rāvaṇa. In the Jain versions of the Rāmāyaṇa neither Añjanā nor Hanumān is a monkey. In the Jain telling Añjanā is human while Pavanañjay is a demi-god – vidhyā-dhara – and so is Hanumān.

Secondly, in Vālmīki's Rāmāyaṇa in Kiskindha Kāṇḍa 66, Añjanā is married to the monkey Kesarin. She is grabbed by Vāyu, the god of the wind. He seduces her with promises of a semi-divine son and thus Hanumān is conceived. In the Hindu story, it is therefore Añjanā's infidelity that blesses her with her son, Hanumān. However, in some Jain versions Hanumān's god-like strength is attributed to the power of his mother's śakti rather than his father or his half demi-god parentage.

Thus the emphasis in the Jain account is on Jain values, in which practising celibacy and fidelity leads to great spiritual power, and it is Añjanā who displays the greatest virtue.

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