Contributed by M. Whitney Kelting
The Jain satī Añjanā is also known as Añjanāsundarī. She is a major character in the Jain tellings of the Hindu Rāma story. In both Jain and Hindu sources, she is the mother of the demi-god Hanumān although there are significant differences between the versions. Outside the Rāmāyaṇa context, Añjanā's story has appeared in Jain popular literature for hundreds of years as an example of marital fidelity in a bad marriage.
Añjanā is usually considered to be a satī even though she is not one of the 16 satīs. Her story illustrates the spiritual powers to be gained from religious devotion and patient endurance in difficult situations, especially a bad marriage. These themes are commonly found in the stories of the satīs, who act as inspirations to Jain women.
Añjanā married Pavanañjay, but before the marriage was consummated he overheard a conversation that led him to reject her.
One of Añjanā's friends said that her husband was better than Pavanañjay. Añjanā's best friend defended Pavanañjay, but Añjanā remained silent throughout the argument between her friends. Pavanañjay interpreted his new wife's silence as a kind of rejection and was so insulted that he did not come to her on their wedding night to consummate the marriage.
Bewildered, Añjanā tried to figure out what she had done in this life or a past life that made her new husband indifferent to her. Her friends told her to complain to her husband or mother-in-law. She refused, saying that this was her fate.
Añjanā stayed with her in-laws and loved Pavanañjay from a distance even though he continued to reject her. Añjanā lived her married life without ever seeing her husband even once. Pavanañjay was a virtuous man in spite of his behaviour towards his wife. He also led a celibate life.
After 21 years passed Pavanañjay went to war and left Añjanā without a word. He refused even her wifely farewell blessing. Añjanā began a strict fast to correct the bad karma that had led to her unhappy fate.
The night before the battle, Pavanañjay heard the pitiful wailing of a bird mourning its beloved. He felt pity for his wife and returned to his parents' house to see her for the first time. He arrived secretly at night and their marriage was then consummated. Pavanañjay left in the morning without seeing his parents.
Before he left to rejoin his fellow soldiers, Añjanā asked him how she could prove herself virtuous if she found out she were pregnant. Pavanañjay said that he could not admit to having come back from battle or he would be called a coward. However, he gave her a ring and told her to keep it safe in case of an emergency.
When her pregnancy became visible, people started to talk. Pavanañjay's parents did not believe her story that he had secretly visited her the night before battle. When Añjanā showed them the ring, they claimed that she had stolen it. They drove her from their house in shame, thinking she was unfaithful, and sent her back to her parents' house.
When Añjanā's father heard that she was pregnant he assumed the child was illegitimate. He barred her from the palace of her birth.
Thus Añjanā and her best friend wandered the jungles until the child was born.
When Añjanā's uncle heard that she was in the jungle, he insisted that she come to live with him until Pavanañjay returned.
Avoiding or stopping sexual relations, often after taking a religious vow. A celibate practises celibacy.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:
Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
A voluntary action undertaken to make up for a sin or breach of a religious principle, frequently an act of self-punishment or physical hardship.
A pile or heap of wood or similar that has been collected together to be burned, especially when used to cremate a dead body.
An avatar of Viṣṇu, the preserver or protector who is one of the three major Hindu gods. Rāma is a prince of Ayodhyā and is often shown with blue skin, holding a bow and arrow. The epic poem Rāmāyaṇa recounts his adventures as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas cast him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History.
One of the fundamental works of Indian literature, the Rāmāyaṇa is an epic poem recounting the adventures of Prince Rāma as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas present him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History.
'Virtuous woman', who is worshipped for her admirable qualities. Satīs demonstrate religious devotion and loyalty to husbands and family, especially in difficult times. Some satīs renounce to become nuns while others remain householders. There are many satīs but there is a group of Sol Satī or 16 satī who are particularly venerated by Śvetāmbara Jains.
Austerity or asceticism in general. A tapas is an act of austerity or self-discipline that produces bodily heat – tapas – that burns up karma. Austerities may be internal – mental – or external – physical. Both lay and mendicant Jains practise austerities. Fasting is the most common external austerity for lay people these days.
A Western academic term used for the largely medieval texts that hold the Jain legendary history of the world. Recounting the life stories of the '63 Great or Illustrious Men', the writings are intended to provide role-models for later Jains. The main texts of Jain Universal History are the: