Article: Story of Śālibhadra

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Numerous versions

It would be irrelevant and almost impossible to give an exhaustive list of all versions of the story of Śālibhadra. The table includes a representative selection. More are mentioned in Shah 1983 (pages 22 to 37), coming to a total of 50. Of these, nine are in Sanskrit and 41 in Gujarati, with several of them undated.

Some versions of the story of Śālibhadra




Date and language

Key concept

Publication reference



stanzas 444 to 447

  • first centuries CE
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

fasting to death




initial episodes in the story of Kr̥tapuṇya

  • first centuries CE
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

giving alms to monks

Balbir 1990: 26–28



initial episodes in the story of Kr̥tapuṇya

  • approximately sixth to seventh centuries
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

giving alms to monks

Balbir 1990: 26–28



verse 85 and commentaries

  • not later than the seventh century
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

giving up copious wealth




initial episodes in the story of Kr̥tapuṇya

  • eighth century
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

giving alms to monks

Balbir 1990: 26–28



story number 32 in the collection

  • 828 (915 of the Vikrama era)
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

giving alms to monks





  • 1051 (1108 VS)
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit





story number 33 in the collection

  • 11th century
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

full story in the section on giving alms




  • 12th century
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

giving alms to monks

Balbir 1990: 26–28



story number 8 in the collection, and the commentary by Āmradeva-sūri

  • 1133 (1190 VS)
  • Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit

full story in the section on giving alms with several dialogues




within Mahāvīra’s biography, Book X, chapter 10

  • 12th century
  • Sanskrit


Johnson 1962: 254–262

Pūrṇabhadra of the Kharatara-gaccha assisted by Sarvadeva-sūri


full independent story

  • 1228 (1285 VS)
  • Sanskrit



Dharmakumāra assisted by Pradyumna

Śālibhadra Carita

full independent story

  • 1277 (1377 VS)
  • Sanskrit


published in Yaśovijaya Granthamālā, Banaras, 1910; Bloomfield 1923




  • oldest manuscript is dated 1301 (1358 VS), see Shah 1983: 24
  • Gujarati


critical edition and German translation in Baumann 1975: 102–133




  • oldest manuscript is dated 1324 (1381 VS)
  • Gujarati


Bhayani and Nahta 1975: 63–67




  • 1398 (1455 VS)
  • Gujarati



Jinakīrti of the Tapā-gaccha

Dhanya-Śāli-caritra or Dāna-kalpa-druma


  • 14th to 15th centuries
  • Sanskrit


published by Devchand Lalchand Jain Pustak Fund, 1919




  • 1406 (1463 VS)
  • Sanskrit


published in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, 1914




  • 1453 (1510 VS)
  • Sanskrit






  • 1457 (1514 VS)
  • Gujarati






  • 1566 (1623 VS)
  • Sanskrit



Guṇavinaya Upādhyāya of the Kharatara-gaccha

Dhannā-Śālibhadra copāi


  • 1617 (1680 VS)
  • Gujarati


Shah 1983

Matisāra (Bender 1992) or, unlikely, Jinarāja-sūri (Shah 1983: 28)



  • 1621 (1678 VS)
  • Gujarati


Bender 1992



independent story

  • 17th to 18th centuries
  • Sanskrit



Most of the famous Sanskrit independent versions are ample verse compositions in several chapters. The story is often expanded by didactic breaks, consisting of either praises of charity or alms-giving to monks and other virtues, or by descriptions.

The numerous Gujarati narrative poems – called kakka, rāsa, copaī or caupaī and sajjhāya – dedicated to this story range from short compositions to highly developed ones (see Shah 1983: 24–37). The earliest one seems to date back to the 14th century and there is a peak in production in the 17th century. These works use the metres and musical modes characteristic of poems written in this language. The kakka form follows a special device while telling the story, unfolding the full alphabet, so that one couplet starts with the syllable ka, the next one with , the next with ga, then and so on. (Baumann 1975: 102–133). Though they are in Gujarati, these poems normally use either the Sanskrit or Gujarati forms of the names of the two main protagonists, as follows:

  • Śālibhadra or Sālibhadda
  • Dhanya or Dhannā.

Matisāra's version

The version of the Story of Śālibhadra by Matisāra is known by the title Dhanna-Śālibhadra-carita or Dhanna-Śālibhadra-copaī. Composed in Old Gujarati, Matisāra's 17th-century verse version of the tale is well known among Śvetāmbara Jains. As is often the case with Gujarati narrative poems, information on the date of composition and author is found at the end of the work.

The story is divided into sections associated with musical modes – rāga – which is usual in Gujarati verse of this period. The tale includes all the episodes associated with the full story.

The personalities of the story's characters come through strongly in this spirited version, which has been published several times in India. A scholarly treatment in English appeared in 1992.

On JAINpedia, the story of Śālibhadra is found in a manuscript held in the British Library in London and is one of the highlights of JAINpedia.

Form and story

The 24th Jina Mahāvīra at the beginning of an 18th-century manuscript of the Śālibhadra story. The Jinas are commonly invoked at the start of a Jain manuscript, to bring good luck. This illustration presents Mahāvīra as a spiritual monarch.

Auspicious painting of Mahāvīra
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The beginning and end of the text emphasise the concept of giving alms, while the story is divided into 29 sections called ḍhālas, each having approximately 35 to 40 stanzas. Each section is associated with a musical mode – rāga – in accordance with the rules of composition in Gujarati poetry. Each section ends with a stanza written in a metre different from the rest, a couplet known as dūhā.

Matisāra's version of the Śālibhadra tale opens with an initial homage to Mahāvīra and other Jinas, which is a fairly standard way of beginning a Jain work. Then the power of giving alms is praised:

Śālibhadra obtained happiness and prosperity through alms-giving. By relating his story one drives sins far away. Pay close attention to the tale of Dhanya which is combined with it

Translation by Bender 1992, page 303

The text covers all the episodes described in the plot outline above, summarised in the table.

Episodes and sections in Matisāra's Story of Śālibhadra

Ḍhāla section


1 and 2

Initial alms-giving to a monk

3 to 7

Rebirth as Śālibhadra


Śālibhadra’s enlightenment:

Never before, even in my dreams, have I recalled word[s] as harsh and poisonous as these uttered by my mother. I have wasted my rebirth wallowing in filth. Until today I never experienced the state of an inferior. I shall not bear on my head the command of anyone other than the Paramapuruṣa i.e. Mahāvīra
Translation by Bender 1992, page 316

9 to 17

Śālibhadra’s decision to turn to ascetic life:

A man can obtain two merits by undertaking saṃyama [self-control]: he becomes an eternal king in the next existence, and, in this existence, he has no king over him. Thus two goals are gained by one path.
Bender 1992, page 319

17 to 21

Dhanya and Subhadrā

22 to 25

Dhanya and Śālibhadra as monks


Second alms-giving to monks

27 to 29

Fasting unto death:

They confessed and repented with mind, word and body whatever pains they had caused in connection with their practice of Saṃyama [= self-control], and he censured them at that time. They asked forgiveness of the 8,400,000 classes of existence and declared their friendship for all of them. With purified minds, they reverenced all the Jinas, the teachers in proper conduct [Dharmācāryas] and the Lord [Mahā]Vīra, especially. They undertook the Vrata to starve until death while standing like a tree [in a motionless meditation posture] and abandoned their lovely, desirable bodies to this. They resorted to the four wise refuges [= the Arhats, the Siddhas, the Sādhus and the dharma told by the Omniscient] and released themselves from selfishness.
Bender 1992, page 344

The story contains many monologues and dialogues and is told in a lively style. Although it includes a number of clichés, it is full of spontaneity in the way the various protagonists express their feelings or wishes. Outbursts of emotion are frequent in this version. Śālibhadra’s mother, Bhadrā, appears as a determined character who entirely runs her son’s life. Until he turns to monastic life, he seems a dominated and fragile child – although he is depicted as married to 32 wives. His brother-in-law is called by his Gujarati name, Dhannā, although Śālibhadra has the Sanskrit version of his name.

Matisāra's version is quite popular and has been published in India several times. It has also been the subject of a critical edition, English translation and grammatical analysis by the American scholar Ernest Bender (1919–1996), which was published in 1992 in the American Oriental Society Series.

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  • Text


    British Library. Or. 13524. Matisāra. 1726

  • Text


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