The jaina view

The jainas possess some interesting divergent variants of the canonical Indo-Aryan myths. The harivaMsha of jinasena and the triShaShThisalakapuruSha charita of hemachandra is a rather rich source for such mythic material. The jaina view postulated the existance of 63 salakapuruShas or notable figures who are like spokes in the wheel of time. Not unexpectedly the 63 includes the 24 tirthankaras. Other than these there are 12 chakravartins who start with the great bhArata. Then there are the 9 vAsudevas or the 9 nArAyaNas, 9 balabhadras and 9 prativAsudevas. In each epoch of the time wheel is born a vAsudeva or a nArAyaNa with an elder brother termed the balabhadra. A woman called a kR^itya is also born in each epoch to aid the vAsudeva in his acts. The evil in the world is spread by the prativAsudeva, who is finally killed in the show-down with the vAsudeva. Below are these entities:

vAsudeva balabhadra prativAsudeva

tripR^ishTa vijaya ashvagrIva or hayagrIva

dvipR^ishTa achala tAraka

svAyambhuva dharmaprabha naraka

puruShottama suprabha nishumbha

puruShasiMha sudarsana madhu and kaiTabha

puNDarIka Ananda prahlAda

dattAtreya nandimitra bali

lakShmaNa rAmachandra rAvana

kR^iShNa samkarShaNa jarAsandha

In Jain temple 49 of Vimalavasahi (Mt. Abu) there is a remarkable idol of the 16 armed vAsudeva puruShasiMha killing a prativAsudeva. The jaina version of the rAmAyaNa obviously has lakShmaNa kill rAvaNa the prativAsudeva and kR^iShNa kill jarAsandha rather than bhIma.

From the list of vAsudevas or nArAyaNas and prativAsudevas it is clear that the jaina epicists had diverged from the Hindu mainstream early on and were drawing in an ad hoc fashion from a body of historical and mythological elements they had inherited from the mainstream. These were used to rebuild works that paralleled the mainstream sUta literature. The core elements of the original inheritance include the concept of periodic nArAyaNas from the incarnations of viShNu and their number, names of some of these incarnations and the names of demons. The concept of the vAsudeva and the balabhadra appear to have been acquired from the early form of the bhAgavata religion of the sAtvatas, which later developed into the full-fledged pA~ncharAtra system where they are the primary manifestation of the puruSha nArAyaNa. This appears to have been further systematized to include all the incarnations of viShNu. That the elements of the original inheritance were reordered in an ad hoc fashion is suggested by the several anachronisms such as the insertion of madhu and kaiTabha in to the prati-vAsudeva list when they were actually killed by the un-incarnated viShNu. Other demons like tAraka who was killed by kumAra and naraka much later by kR^iShNa were made earlier prativAsudevas.

Such conflations are also apparent in the bauddha ghatajAtaka. It talks of the tale of vAsudeva and baladeva the sons of upasAgara and devagabbhA the sister of kaMsa. In this tale vAsudeva and baladeva are brought up by a certain andhakaveNhu and his wife nandagopA who was an attendant of devagabbhA. Here the name andhakaveNhu is a corruption of the compound of andhaka-vR^iShNi, the main clans of yadus from which kR^iShNa hailed. One can see that the conflation of names coming from the ancestral mainstream source following their isolation of the bauddhas was similar to the case of the jainas. The chakravartins amongst the 64 jaina salakapurShas also seems to be a concept derived from the mainstream sUta histories which enumerate chakarvatins and the ShoDaSharAjika. But the jaina list a of chakravartins is a strange motley including mainstream rulers like bhArata, sagara and brahmadatta woven into jaina-centric legends and polemics.

The jaina concept of prati-vAsudeva may not be very original either. The bhAgavataM/ harivaMsha describe the showdown between kR^ishNa and the false-vAsudeva (or the prativAsudeva), the paunDraka in which the latter’s head is cut off. Thus, there may have existed the concept even in the mainstream that in the age when vAsudeva emerge there is competition for that status and the winner is the vAsudeva, while the loser the prati-vAsudeva. The jaina theory present the balabhadra as a more peaceful individual compared to the vAsudeva who slays the hostile elements of his epoch. The baladeva is often portrayed as the promulgator of peaceful jaina concepts. While the historical baladeva of the mainstream literature was hardly in a jaina tirthankara mould he did devote time to peace efforts even in the account of the harivaMsha. During the marriage of sAmbha he prevented a major showdown between the yadus and the kurus by his peace effort and a minimal threat of diverting a river to flood Hastinapura. He also refused to participate in the great bhArata war. After baladeva murdered the sUta lomaharShaNa and rukmiNI’s brother rukma, he decided to retire from all military activities and he and his wives devoted themselves to shrauta practices. These may have provided the jainas with the inspiration for their idea of the baladeva.

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