Article: Story of Śālibhadra

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Dhanya and Śālibhadra as monks

This manuscript painting depicts the 24th Jina Mahāvīra and the 'universal gathering' – samavasaraṇa. This Sanskrit term means the event during which the omniscient Jina preaches to all sentient beings – human beings, animals and deities. It also describe

Mahāvīra and the universal gathering
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Mahāvīra happens to preach in Rājagr̥ha. While attending the sermon, Śālibhadra sees that his sister and brother-in-law have become ascetics and is strengthened in his decision. He takes monastic vows, leaving his mother and wives in sorrow.

Dhanya and Śālibhadra lead the life of perfect ascetics, in particular observing various fasts. One day Mahāvīra announces that they will break their month’s fast at the hands of Śālibhadra’s mother.

Second alms-giving to monks

The monks go to Bhadrā’s house, but nobody attends to their needs.

Outside the city, they meet a milk-woman, who is overcome with joy when she sees them. She offers them alms.

It so happens that this lady is Śālibhadra’s mother in his previous birth as Sangama.

Fasting unto death

This manuscript painting shows Dhanya and Śālibhadra fasting to death, among lay people and monks paying homage to them. Dubbed the 'sage's death', this very difficult ritual is believed to purify the mind and destroy negative karma and passions

Dhanya and Śālibhadra fast unto death
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Encouraged by Mahāvīra, both Dhanya and Śālibhadra reflect upon their earlier lives, then undertake the ritual of fasting unto death.

When she learns about the condition of her son, Bhadrā is again grief-stricken.

The two ascetics are reborn as supreme gods in the heaven called Sarvārtha-siddhi, where they enjoy the highest bliss.

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