Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
Foreword
I. JAINA TRADITION UPTO MAHAVIRA
II. PRINCE MAHAVIRA
IV. PRECEPTS OF MAHAVIRA
V. DOCTRINES OF MAHAVIRA
  VII. SIGNIFICANCE OF MAHAVIRA

Chapter II - PRINCE MAHAVIRA

 

Dr. V.A.Sangave

The happy tidings of the birth of the Prince to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala was received with great joy by all residents of Vaishali (Kundalapur) city and the Videha republic and the entire region wore a festive appearance. King Siddhartha and his relatives celebrated the occasion with royal pomp and glory. Common people also participated in the celebrations with great enthusiasm and love. They bedecked their houses with lamps, flowers, buntings, and flags, adorned their bodies with new garments and ornaments, decorated the streets with arches and auspicious symbols, performed worships in the temples, sang eulogistic songs, staged dance and drama performances and thus gave expression to their joy and mirth in innumerable ways. In memory of this great event King Siddhartha made special arrangements to give presents of different kinds to theneedy and poor people of his republic.These festivities continued unabated for ten days and on the twelfth day the auspicious naming ceremony of the Prince was accomplished in the presence of the persons specially assembled for the purpose. While addressing the gathering King Siddhartha declared that "Since the conception of their child nine months ago we have witnessed every prosperity in Vidaha republic, in Vaishali capital, in Kundaipur suburb and in our family, we have decided to name the Prince as `Vardhamana' (i.e. the Prosperous One): The declaration was highly appreciated by the public with great applause.

The child-prince Vardhamana was not only extremely beautiful but also possessed various physical traits of an unusual nature: His limbs were greatly proportionate and without defects of any kind. His body-structure was strong and his body-odour was pleasant. His speech was soft and melodious. His body possessed 1008 auspicious physical attributes like Shankha (Conch), Chakra (circle), Kamala (lotus),

Dhanusha (bow), etc. He also showed superb intelligence and developed grasping capacity.

The news about the most beautiful and talented child-prince Vardhamana did spread far and wide and many persons of authority were eager to see the child-prince.Once a couple of sages, named Sanjaya (or Sanjayanta) and Vijaya (or Vijayanta), who had heard about the greatness of this baby-prince, came to see him. At his very glance they felt so much exhilarated that they exclaimed: "How beautiful he looks!" Not only this much; they also felt that their philosophical doubts, which were troubling their mind since long, had disappeared.They went their way duly satisfied after bestowing the name of `Sanmati' (i.e. Good Intellect), and proclaimed a great future for him.

As Prince Vardhamana entered boyhood, people soon realised that he possessed in great measure the rare qualities like bravery, self-control, fearlessness, helping-nature, courage etc. Many events gave eloquent testimony of the attributes of his gifted personality. Once while Prince Vardhamana was engrossed in play with his friends in the courtyard of his Palace, he was suddenly disturbed to hear a loud noise of screams in :fear and helplessness from the streets of Kundalapura. Instantly, he came out of the Palace and ran towards the site of the noise. There he saw that one royal elephant had gone amok and that the citizens were running frightfully in different directions in a frantic bid to escape from the onslaught of the mad elephant. This dangerous sight did not create any fear in his mind. On the contrary he immediately showed his presence of mind and staring straight at the elephant he loudly ordered the elephant to remain calm. To the great surprise of the frightened persons the elephant instantly became peaceful. After pacifying the elephant, Prince Vardhamana personally mounted the elephant and in a cool manner directed the elephant towards its resting place. People were tremendously impressed by this rare feat of courage and bravery and from that time began to address him by the name "Vira" i.e. the Hero.

On another occasion when Prince Vardhamana was out in the royal gardens playing with his companions the game of hide and seek, he and his playmates were surprised to hear clearly a hissing sound. When the sound came quite close, they found a. large poisonous cobra coming towards them. The boys immediately scattered away in all directions, screaming with fear,. but the Prince did not budge an inch and stood calm and quiet at his place.When the cobra came almost near him hissing out poisonous sparks vehemently and tried to attack him, the Prince caught hold of its tail, lifted it and threw it away easily. The playmates witnessed this unusual feat of great courage with awe and surprise.But their curiosity became highly increased when they saw the transformation of the cobra into a semi-god. of the heavens.The real fact was that the cobra was the form assumed by one good named `Sangama' to test the power and fearlessness of Prince Vardhamana.After realising the strength and courage of Prince Vardhamana, Sangama-deva revealed his real identity and in praise said to him that he is indeed a Mahavira, i.e. a Great Hero. Sangama-deva was so much over joyed that he placed the boy-prince on his

shoulder and began to dance along with Chaladhara, Kakadhara and Pakshadhara, the three close companions of Prince Vardhamana.

After this incident Prince Vardhamana was known as Prince Mahavira and eventually `Mahavira' became his popular name so much that later on Vardhamana was always referred to as Mahavira. Other synonymous terms like `Ativira�, �Viranatha� and �Mahativira� were also commonly used to denote him. Because of his intimate connections with Vaishali city and Videha republic, the names like �Vaishalika�, �Vaishaliya (i.e. belonging to Vaishali), �Videhadatta� (i.e. given by Videha) and Videhasukumara' (i.e. tender prince of Videha) are freely assigned to him. Since Vardhamana hailed from the Jnatr or Jnatrika clan of the Kshtriyas, he was also referred to as �Jnataputra�,. or Jnatrpufra� (i.e. the Son of the JnatrClan). As the terms �Nata� or �Natha� are derived from the word �Jnatr� many a time Vardhamana was mentioned as �Nataputta� (i.e. the son of the Jnatr clan) in Pali literature and �Natha-kulanandana� or �Nathanvaya� (i.e. hailing from the Jnatr clan or family) in Sanskrit literature.

Prince Mahavira's regular education started at the age of eight. Soon his teachers realised the extraordinary talents possessed by him. He rapidly began to imbibe knowledge imparted to him and even to show proficiency in the acquired knowledge. He had the rare capacity to grasp easily any new subject and to express effectively the learned subjects. His teachers always used to appreciate the learned way in which he usually gave answers to various questions.

3. The Youth and the Aspirations:

Gradually Prince Mahavira passed the stage of adolescene and entered adulthood. The advent of youth bestowed additional charm and dignity on his natural beautiful personality His physical strength increased to a great extent and his knowledge developed beyond measure. His elligence becamemore acute and his beauty surpassed the usual limits.Thus different facets of his personality sufficiently bloomed as he be came a young man. Further, being a Prince, all comforts and luxuries of the royal life were at his disposal. He was very well connected to several important royal families of the time through his father and especially through his mother.

In this way young Prince Mahavira possessed various accom-plishments and developed a handsome personality. He had all opportunities and different facilities to build a political career for himself. But he never showed any inclination towards harbouring political ambitions and securing more and more wordly pleasur In fact, he never aspired for acquisition of material wealth and political power.On the contrary Mahavira never took any interest in family affair and in political matters.He did not indulge in extravagance of any kind.Instead he always valued the virtue of self-control and invariably attached great importance to the actual practiseof giving help to others.He firmly believed in the principles of right conduct and of equality towards all living beings. That is why it is stated that right from his eighth-year Mahavira used to observe five Anu-Vratas (i. e: small views) prescribed by Jaina religion. These facts clearly reveal that aspirations of young Prince Mahavira were not towards leading a life of worldly pleasants but were in the directions to lead a life of self-control and to help others in securing ultimate happiness.

King Sidhartha and Queen Trishala had an idea about these spiritual and religious inclinations of their son, Mahavira. They were aware that he did not belong to the category of ordinary Princess who are deeply interested in building their political careers: They were equally conscious of Mahavira's aversion to increase . worldlyattachments and his intense desire to concentrate on thinking and self-contemplation. They were also sure that Mahavira would eventually follow the path of asceticism prescribed by Jaina religion and would achieve the highest - position as the promulgator of Jaina religion.

Even though these facts were weighing very heavily on the minds of King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala, their parental affection goaded them to see that Mahavira leads a married life before he embark on his path of spiritual progress. They did not feel anything wrong in planning this householder's stage, in the religion-oriented career of Mahavira because they knew that Lord Rishabhadeva, the first Tirthankara entered the ascetic order after leading a contented married life. They really thought that in deference to their ardent desires Mahavira would adopt this course of life.

Accordingly King Sidd.hartha and Queen Trishala gave to their relatives the indication of their mind to arrange soon the marriage

ceremony of their son, Mahavira. As many Kings of the time became aware of this intention to get Mahavira married, they hastened to make their proposals. Naturally different Kings vied with each other to have a matrimonial alliance with this scion of the Jnatrka clan. Among these marriage proposals King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala finally gave approval to the proposal of Princess I,�,asllasla, the daughter of King Jitashatru and- Queen Yashodaya of Kalinga State. This proposal was given highest preference because Princess Yashoda was most superb in beauty and other accomplishments among-the Princesses of the time. There was another consideration also in the proposal of Princess Yashoda and that was she happened to be the daughter of Yashodaya, who was younger sister of King Siddhartha. Hence King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala finally decided to get Prince Mahavira 'married toPrincess Yashoda.

When Prince Mahavira came to know of the negotiations going on about his marriage, he felt extreme grief about these developments. He never harboured any idea to indulge in sensual pleasure and did not even think of the gratification of sex-desire. In fact he had already made up his mind not to get himself entangled in any 'kind of worldly activity which would detract him from his path of spiritual progress. That is, why Mahavira outright rejected the marriage proposal and in a polite manner conveyed to his parents his firm resolve to observe strict celibacy throughout his life and to devote his energies in future to conquer the worldly desires and passions. He further made clear that he aspired to emulate the examples of four earlier Tirthankaras, viz. Vasupujya,

Mallinatha, Neminatha and Parshvanath, who remained celibate and revealed the path of liberation to the people.

This well thought out and planned decision of Prince Mahavira made King Siddlxartha and Queen Trishala to reconsider their proposal of Mahavira's marriage with Yashoda. The parents were completely convinced of his firm reso3ve and hence did not wish to come in his way of realising his goal of life. The parents, therefore, did not press the matter further and accordingly communicated their decision, to allow Mahavira to lead a celibate life, to King Jitashatru of Kalinga.Thus Prince Mahavira "was ft free to realise his aspirations in life. Naturally Mahavir felt a great relief and began to plan to take definite step in the desired direction.