There once was a beautiful princess named Vasumati. She was the daughter of king Dadhivahan and queen Dharini of Champapuri.
One day war broke out between the King of Champapuri and the king of nearby Kaushambi. It was a sad war. Vasumati’s father could not win the war, so he had to run away in despair. When Vasumati and her mother learned that they had lost the war, they also decided to escape. While they were running away in the woods, a soldier from the enemy’s army spotted them and captured both of them. Vasumati and her mother were scared. They didn’t know what the soldier would do to them. He told the older lady (mother) that he would marry her, and that he would sell Vasumati. Upon hearing this, the queen went into shock and died. The soldier immediately felt sorry for his remark, and decided not to make anymore comments. He took Vasumati to Kaushambi to sell her.
When Vasumati’s turn came to be sold as a slave, a merchant named Dhanavah happened to be passing by. He saw Vasumati being sold and felt that she wasn’t an ordinary girl. He thought she might have been separated from her parents, and if she was sold as a slave, what would her fate be? So out of compassion for her, Dhanavah bought Vasumati, freed her from slavery, and took her home. On the way home he asked her, “Who are you? What happened to your parents? Please don’t be afraid of me. I will treat you as my daughter.” Vasumati didn’t reply.
When they got home, the merchant told his wife, Moola, about Vasumati. “My dear,” he said, “I have brought this girl home. She has not said anything about her past. Please, treat her like our daughter.” Vasumati was relieved. She thanked the merchant and his wife with respect. The merchant’s family was very happy with her. They named her Chandanbala, since she wouldn’t tell anyone her real name.
While staying at the merchant’s house, Chandanbala’s attitude was like that of a daughter. This made the merchant very happy. Moola, on the other hand, was wondering what her husband would do with Chandanbala. She thought that he would marry her because of her beauty. Therefore, Moola was never comfortable with Chandanbala around.
One sunny day, when the merchant came home from his shop, the servant who usually washed his feet was not there. Chandanbala noticed this, and felt delighted to get a chance to wash his feet for all the fatherly good things he had done for her. While she was busy washing the merchant’s feet, her hair slipped out of the hair pin. The merchant saw this and felt that her hair might get dirty. So he lifted her hair and clipped it on the back of her head. Moola saw all this and was outraged. She felt that her doubts about Chandanbala were true. Moola decided to get rid of Chandanbala as soon as possible.
When Dhanavah went on a three day business trip, his wife took the chance to get rid of Chandanbala. Right away she called a barber to cut off all of Chandanbala’s beautiful hair. Then she tied Chandanbala’s legs with heavy chains and locked her into a distant room, away from the main area of the house. She told all the servants not to tell the merchant where Chandanbala was, or she would do the same to them. Then Moola left to go to her parent’s house.
When Danavah returned back from his trip, he didn’t see either Moola or Chandanbala. He asked the servants about them. The servants told him that Moola was at her parent’s house, but they didn’t tell him where Chandanbala was because of their fear of Moola.
He asked the servants in a worried tone, “Where is my daughter Chandanbala? You better speak up now, because if you are hiding the truth, then you will be fired.” Still nobody replied. He was very upset and didn’t know what to do. After a few minutes an older servant thought, “I am an old woman and will soon die anyway because of age. What is the worse Moola can do anyway.” So out of compassion for Chandanbala and sympathy for the merchant she told him all about what Moola did to Chandanbala.
She took the merchant to the room where Chandanbala was locked up. Dhanavah unlocked the door and saw Chandanbala. He was shocked when he saw her. He told Chandanbala, “My dear daughter, I will get you out of here. You must be hungry, let me find some food for you.” He went to the kitchen to find food for her. He found that there was no food left, but only some dry lentils in a pan. The merchant decided to feed her that for the time being. So he took them to Chandanbala. He told her that he was going to get a blacksmith to cut off the heavy chains and so he left.
Chandanbala was amazed at how things were going. She started wondering how fate can change the life from rich to almost helpless. Chandanbala then thought of offering lentils to someone else before eating. She got up and walked to the door, and stood there with one foot outside and one inside.
To her surprise, she saw a monk (Lord Mahavir) walking near her room. She said, “Oh respected monk, please accept this food which is suitable for you.” But Lord Mahavir had taken vow to fast until a person who met a certain conditions and offered him food. His conditions were, 1) the person who would be offering should be a princess, 2) she should be bald headed, 3) she should be in chains, 4) she should offer uncooked lentils, with one foot inside the house and other outside, 5) and she should be in tears. Therefore, Lord Mahavir looked at her and noticed that one of his pre-decided conditions was still missing. She met all conditions except the tears in her eyes, and therefore Lord Mahavir went on. Chandanbala felt very sad and tears started running down her face. She was sad that even though she had the chance to offer food to the monk, he would not accept it. In her crying voice, she once again requested the monk to accept the food. Lord Mahavir saw the tears in her eyes, and came back to accept the food knowing that all his conditions were met. Chanada put the lentils in Lord Mahavir’s hand and felt satisfied.
While Lord Mahavir was looking for his pre-conditioned person, he had fasted for five months and twenty-five days. Heavenly angels celebrated the end of Lord Mahavir’s fasting. By the angels power, Chandanbala’s chains were broken, her hair grew back, and she was dressed as a princess. The loud music and a celebration drew the attention of king Shatanikand. He came to this place with his family, ministers and other people. Sampul, an old servant, recognized Chandanbala. He walked towards her, bowed, and broke out in tears. King Shatanikand asked, “Why are you crying?” Sampul replied, “My king, this is Vasumati the princess of Champapuri, daughter of king Dadhivahan and queen Dharinee.” The king and queen now recognized her, and invited her to live with them. So she went, but first thanked the merchant Dhanavah who was so kind to her.
Lateron, when Lord Mahavir attained the perfect knowledge, he reestablished the four-fold order of Jain Sangh (community). At that time, Chandanbala took diksha and became the first nun (sadhvi). The end of that life, Chandanbala achieved liberation.