05 July 2009

CHANDANBALA AND LORD MAHAVIR

Chetak, the chief of Vaishali republic was the brother of Trishaladevi, the mother of Lord Mahavir. Chetak had seven daughters. Of these, Jyeshtha was married to Nandivardhan, the Lord’s brother, Mrigavati was married to king Shatnik of Koshambi, Dharani also known as Padmavati to the king Dadhivahan of Champa. Dadhivahan and Padmavati were very happy with each other and they had a daughter named Vasumati whom they loved very much. Vasumati was beautiful and obedient. Though she was brought up in royal comfort and luxuries, she was exposed to religious tenets as well.
Once king Shatnik invaded Champa. Dadhivahan fought bravely but he was killed in the battle and Champa fell in the hands of Shatnik. Padmavati did not want to surrender herself. She tried to escape with her young daughter. Unfortunately she fell in the hands of some soldiers of Shatnik. They were attracted by her beauty and wanted to molest her. But Padmavati committed suicide in order to save herself from sexual assault. The soldiers were scared by the horrible scene and were afraid that Vasumati too may try to follow her mother. So they treated her well and took her to Koshambi where they intended to make money by selling her.
In Koshambi there was a kind hearted merchant named Dhanavah who was financially well off. He saw Vasumati in the market and decided to get her because he was childless. He liked the girl and thought that she would be able to help her wife Muladevi. So Vasumati went with him.
She had to undergo varying phases of life within a short period. From Princess she had become a captive and now a maid. She had been raised with proper spiritual thinking and therefore was able to accept all the changes in her life as consequences of her earlier Karmas.
She had decided not to disclose her original identity and adopted her new role without grumbling. She took all possible care for Dhanavah who soon developed fatherly affection for her. He used to call her Chandanbala because she scattered fragrance in his life by her sweet, obedient and accommodating nature. For him Chandanbala was a God given daughter.
As Dhanavah’s affection for her grew, his wife Muladevi started harboring suspicion about their relations. She was aware that she could not give any child to him. She was now aged and not attractive. So she started worrying that her husband may marry Chandanbala who grew to be a very attractive, lovely young lady. Muladevi jealously watched the affectionate behavior of her husband for Chandanbala.
Once as he was coming back from a business trip, Chandanbala was as usual cleaning his feet with warm water. While she had to bend for this purpose, her hairs, hanging downwards, almost touched the ground. He therefore picked them up and put on her back. Muladevi was watching that and she became certain that her husband was in love with the girl and would marry her. She shuddered at the fate that would be in store for her in that case and decided that something had to be done to get rid of the girl.
Shortly after that, Dhanavah had to go out on another business trip for three days. After he left, Muladevi called a barber and a locksmith. Long black hairs of Chandanbala were the immediate cause of her jealousy. Chandanbala’s head was therefore completely shaved. Then, she was put into chains and locked in a dark, remote room without any food or water. Muladevi thought that the girl would die of thirst and hunger. There was another maid who was strictly asked not even to go near to that room nor to report anything to Dhanavah.
True to her religious orientation, Chandanbala did not fight back. She did not blame Muladevi for what she had done to her. She accepted that situation as the consequence of her earlier Karmas. She did not even harbor bad feelings towards Muladevi because she used to respect her as a mother. She decided to use the period of confinement for fasting and spiritual meditation and spent most of the time thinking about the nature of Karmas and reciting Navakar Mantra.
On the fourth day, when Dhanavah returned, he expected Chandanbala to receive him with warm water as usual for cleaning his feet. As she did not turn up, he thought that she might be sick. He, however, could not see her in the family room or anywhere else in the house.
After finishing his bath, as he came to the dining room, food was served to him by his wife. He had to ask, “Where is Chandan ?” Muladevi replied that he had spoilt her by too much pampering; she always roamed outside while he went away and that this time she had gone away, nobody knows where, since the day he left.
It was hard for Dhanavah to digest what his wife was stating. He knew his daughter very well. He could hardly eat. Rising from his seat he started looking all around for Chandanbala who was so dear to him. He went round all the rooms and corners of his house. That solitary remote room however did not even occur to him, because that was treated as condemned and he hardly even went that side. Failing in his search he got too much upset, his heart was crying. He even asked the maid, but she couldn’t say anything, because Muladevi was all the time watching her.
The maid respected Dhanavah; she even had soft corner for Chandanbala. She could not face the miserable condition of her master. When Muladevi got out of sight for a moment, she pointed out that remote room to her master. He immediately rushed there and broke open the tottered doors. It was however too dark inside for anything to be visible at first sight.
After a while he could faintly see the starved body in chains. He could not believe that so tender a girl could have survived for three days without food and water. Luckily for him she was not dead. He picked her up in his arms and brought her to the living room area. To his astonishment he found that all the rooms there were locked.
As Muladevi saw him rushing to that remote room, she became afraid that what she had done would no longer remain secret. She was sure that her husband would punish her for her wickedness. In order to escape his instant wrath, she hurriedly locked the rooms and sped to her parents home.
Her husband was eager to find some food and drinks for Chandanbala but he was nonplused to find every place locked. He lay Chandanbala on the floor of Verandah (balcony) and looked around if there could be something that she could eat. At last he spotted a pot of black peas soaked in water. There was however no serving bowl. He therefore picked up a winnowing pan. Taking out black peas from water in that pan, he gave them to Chandanbala and rushed out to call locksmith for breaking her chains.
Chandanbala took the pan. For a moment she thought about the changes that had come in her life. From being a princess she was reduced to the position of a miserable starved girl who had nothing to eat but the soaked peas and that too in a winnowing pan. She laughed at her fate. Before, however, she put the peas in her mouth, she remembered that she was on fast for three days. Would it be possible for me to offer food to a Muni before I break my fasts ? she thought.
At that time Lord Mahavir was in the renounced state. In his endeavor for seeking truth and ultimate happiness he was continually meditating and observing severe austerities. In that process he went without food for days together.
At that particular time he had imposed upon himself apparently improbable stipulations for accepting food. He had vowed that he would accept food only if soaked black peas were offered to him, from a winnow, by a princess, in chains, with shaved head, who had fasted for three days and who had tears flowing from her eyes. How all these conditions can be operative in one single case ?
For months he used to go from place to place and came back without food because his stipulations could not be fulfilled. But how the fate could allow so great a saint to die for want of food ? The fate had wrought apparent havoc on Chandanbala as if to enable her to fulfill the divine mission of terminating six months fasts of Lord Mahavir !
So the Lord happened to come for alms where Chandanbala was thinking to offer food to some Muni. He saw all his stipulations coming true. Here was a princess in chains with cleaned shaven head, having fasted for three days, offering black peas from winnowing pan. Chandanbala was happy to see the great ascetic in front of her and cheerfully offered the peas. For Lord this was the right situation for accepting food. But nay, where were the tears ? He declined the offer and turned back.
Chandanbala felt intensely miserable that the sage did not accept her offer for food. She started crying terribly and tears began to roll down her eyes as she repeatedly entreated the great ascetic to accept her humble offer. The Lord looked back and saw the tears rolling down her cheeks. Now all his hard stipulations were operative and he willingly accepted the food offered by her.
There was a thunderous cheer outside. For months people of Koshambi were watching the great ascetic moving from place to place and going back without food. There were a number of his admirers who were concerned that he was not accepting food. They used to follow the Lord at some distance since he did not desire any company and wanted to stay alone. All those admirers were filled with joy as he ultimately accepted food from Chandanbala. They rushed in, showered flowers and perfumes over her and offered good food and fancy clothes. There were some artisans too. They were quick in breaking her chains and there was joy and pleasure everywhere.When Dhanavah came back, his pleasures knew no bounds as he learnt about the miraculous event. Almost the whole city turned out there. Muladevi also dared to come back to see the unbelievable occasion. She requested her husband for forgiveness. But he was too mad at her wickedness to forgive. Chandanbala however persuaded him to forgive. She asked him to think that the fate had perhaps prompted Muladevi to do what she did only to enable her to fulfill the vow of the Lord. He ultimately accepted her request and forgave his wife thus wiping out all ill feelings not befitting that auspicious occasion.

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