Following the footsteps of Lord Mahavir - Part 1
उन राहों की खोज में निकला हूँ , जहां से गुज़रे थे तेरे कदम ,
उस धरती का स्पर्श कर , तुझे पास पाऊं हरदम ...
Western India has been blessed with highly spiritual Jain centres like Palitana, Shankheshwar, Girnar, Taranga, Dilwara, Ranakpur and Nakodaji; but it is the vast presence of Kalyanak Bhumi’s (the holy places where 5 important life events of Tirthankar’s take place) which makes the land of East and North India very special for Jains. The dust of this land has been blessed with the fortune of bearing the footprints of the Tirthankar’s.
This is what has inspired me to pen this series ~ “Following the footsteps of Lord Mahavir” wherein I would tread those paths, dusty roads, hillocks, towns, villages and cities, which lord Mahavir had himself taken more than 2,500 years ago to feel closer to the divine. The aura of lord’s presence can still be experienced in such regions and thus, I begin this series with the land where Lord Mahavir spent a lot of time post Diksha – Radh Pradesh, today which is known as Bengal.
Prabhu Mahavir’s tryst with Bengal
As per ancient scriptures, post diksha, Prabhu Mahavir wandered in the kingdoms of Magadh, Vajjiganarajya, Malladesh, Ang, Kunal, Laadh, Shakyadesh, Kaling, Vatsa, Bhagg and Shalindya. Lord travelled from place to place, practicing deep meditation making these lands his “Vihar & Sadhana Bhoomis”. Of these, Radh Pradesh finds a special mention.
As per “Acharang Sutra”, Lord Mahavir visited Radh Pradesh shortly after Diksha, where he had to face numerous calamities. In “Bhagwati Sutra” also, it is mentioned that Lord Mahavir had spent many chaturmas in Panit Bhoomi, which is a portion of Radh Pradesh.
Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia state that- “Radh Pradesh is a toponym for an area in the Indian subcontinent that lies between the Chota Nagpur Plateau on the West and the Ganges Delta on the East. Although the boundaries of the region have been defined differently according to various sources throughout history, today it is mainly coextensive with the state of West Bengal also comprising some portions of the state of Jharkhand and Bihar in India.”
Further, have we ever wondered why Budwan’s original name was Bardhaman? Why is the north western administrative district of West Bengal named as Birbhum? The name Bardhaman is derived from Lord’s name ‘Vardhaman’ and Birbhum is derived from ‘Vir-Bhum/ Bhumi’. These places were named in the honour of Lord Mahavir. (Note that Bengali alphabets and dialect do not have the word “V” and hence the pronunciation is made as “B”.)
Thus, through this post, I would try to revisit the major places in Bengal to retrace the path taken by the Lord.
Prabhu’s Chaturmas in Bengal – the atrocities of Shulpani Yaksh
Then: Post Diksha, Lord Mahavir spent the first Chaturmas in “Morak-Sannivesh” and “Asthigram”. It was in this village, where Shulpani Yaksh (celestial being) rained numerous atrocities on the lord. The yaksh transformed himself into a wild elephant, a fearsome ghost and a poisonous snake to give the Lord unbearable pains.
However, Lord Mahavir remained undisturbed in his meditation, free from attachment and aversion. After what seemed an eternity, the Yaksh ended his tortures and fell at the feet of Lord Mahavir. The compassionate Lord Mahavir ended his meditation and said, “Shulpani! Anger supplements anger and love begets love. If you do not cause fear, you will become free of all fears always. So destroy the poison ivy of anger”. The Yaksh deeply criticized himself for his sinful activities and attained right faith and belief.
|Atrocities by Shulpani Yaksh|
Now: Today, the village “Morak Sannivesh” is known as Deoghar in Jharkhand and “Asthigram” is known as Nutanhat Village which is situated in the Burdwan district of West Bengal. The place where Shulpani yaksh rained the atrocities on the Lord is known as Bhanga Masjid (in Nutanhat) and the Shulpani Yaksh is also worshipped here as Shulpan Shiv.
Jogi Pahadi ~ The Land of Chandkaushik
Then: Once, when the Lord was on his way to the capital city of Radh Pradesh, Shwetambika, he had to pass through a barren forest which housed the Kanakhal Ashram. The forest was the habitat of a poisonous snake named Chandkaushik, which had the powers to kill any living being by casting its glance at them. The snake had terrorised all the local villagers and was the sole reason behind the barrenness of the forest.
|Jogi Pahadi from a distance|
When the local villagers learned about Lord Mahavir's intention to pass through the forest, they begged him to take another route. However, the Lord had no fear as he was at peace with himself and had no hatred towards anyone. The Lord convinced the villagers that everything would be all right, and he took the dangerous path. Venturing deep inside the deserted barren forest, the Lord found a spot and started to meditate with peace, tranquillity and compassion in his heart for the well-being of each and every living being.
The snake Chandkaushik on sensing that someone had intruded his land, came out of his hole. On witnessing the Lord, he became furious thinking, "How dare a person come so close to my land?" Unable to understand Lord Mahavir's tranquillity, he became angry and swayed its hood, ready to strike. Despite threatening the lord, when Chandkaushik saw no fear, he blew poisonous venom towards the Lord. The venom neither affected Lord Mahavir nor disturbed his meditation. The anger of Chandkaushik crossed its threshold limit; he started enlarging his hood to most possible extent and moved forward towards the lord and bit his toe. As Chandkaushik bit the lord, an extra ordinary union of anger and love occurred. Chandkaushik was flabbergasted when he saw that the poison did not affect the lord and instead of blood, milk oozed from his toe.
|The short climb to the place where Kanakhal Ashram once existed|
Later when the Lord completed his mediation, he looked at Chandkaushik with his sight full of compassion & calmness. The Lord then uttered the words “Bujh! Bujh! Chandkaushik” (Chandkaushik! Be calm! Wake up from the sleep of anger! Get comprehended!). Merely by listening to the words of the Lord, Chandkaushik recalled the memories of his past births wherein he realized what the anger and ego of his last two lives had done to him.
Realising the truth of life, Chandkaushik made its mind to sacrifice all materialistic world and decided to fast till the very last moment of its life. Chandkaushik burrowed itself inside a hole of a tree to prevent any harm to any soul.
|The spot where Lord Mahavir pacified Chandkaushik|
Now: The barren forest where the Kanakhal Ashram was situated and where Lord Mahavir pacified Chandkaushik is known as Jogi Pahadi in the Ushka village near the Sainthia town of West Bengal.
The Jogi Pahadi is a small mound which resembles a tiny hill in the middle of the village. One has to climb a few steps to reach the holy spot. The spot was identified by Shri Bhojrajji Parakh after 25 years of research. On 22nd January 1989, a small shrine bearing the footprints of Lord Mahavir Swami was installed by the Panchayati Jain temple, Kolkata.
|Footprints of the lord installed at the spot|
The tree under which Chandkaushik burrowed itself is still located on the Jogi Pahadi. The villagers here also claim that their ancestors believed that Chandkaushik was pacified here by the Lord. Even today, the residents of the villages claim that no cultivation is possible in a nearby path where Chandkaushik used reside.
How to reach: The Jogi Pahadi is 16 km from the town of Sainthia from where private vehicles are available to reach the spot.
Note: Some people believe that this event took place in the village of Nandiya which is situated in Rajasthan. A small shrine with the footprints of Lord and a carving of a snake marks the spot in the temple which was constructed by Lord’s brother, Nandivardhan. However the exact truth is still unknown and irrespective of this matter, faithfuls flock to both these divine places. As respected Acharya's have stated- "તત્વ કેવલી ગમ્ય છે " (The truth is only known to Kevali Bhagwants)
Shwetambika Nagari – The grand welcome of Lord Mahavir
|Mulnayak Shri Adinath Bhagwan at Shwetambika (Sainthia)|
Then: More than 2,600 years ago, Radh Pradesh was ruled by a violent and tyrant King Pardeshi from his capital named as Shwetambika (Sainthiya). In the north east direction of the city was a pleasant, fragranced, lush green and flowered with shadeful park called Mrugvan Udyan. Once a disciple of Lord Parshwanath called Keshi Gandhar came and stayed in the Mrugvan Udyan and gave a religious sermon to King Pardeshi which made him change his violent attitude and accepted Jainism.
After giving the life changing sermon to Chandkaushik, Lord Mahavir reached the capital city of Radh Pradesh- Shwetambika. When the king got to know that the lord was about to reach Shwetambika, he ordered his army, his ministers and his public to prepare themselves for a carnival on the occasion of arrival of Lord Mahavir.
The King welcomed the lord at the outskirts of the city at a place named Amal Kappa along the banks of Suwarna Baluka River. King Pardeshi went forward, worshipped the lord and welcomed him in a grand and prestigious manner into his capital. To commemorate this event, the king named the region as “Veer Bhoomi” which was earlier known as “Vajra Bhoomi”.
Now: Today, the city of Shwetambika is known as Sainthia- a large town and a municipality in Suri Sadar subdivision of Birbhum district in West Bengal. The town spread over 16 square kilometres stretching from the Mayurakshi River in the north to roughly Pariharpur Village in the south. In recent past, archaeological excavations (near the place which was earlier known as Mrugvan Udyan) have unearthed gold coins bearing the seal of King Pardeshi.
The spot where the Lord was welcomed by the Lord is known as Amuya (About 500 metres from Sainthia) and the Suwarna Baluka river is known as Mayurakshi. A huge tree which is still standing tall today is believed to be the place where the King had welcomed the Lord. The locals here state that, under this tree a great spiritual soul was welcomed by the ruler and thus they worship the tree with great faith.
As a tradition, every family makes an offering of mud annually near the tree. Despite being located near the riverside, the tree and the land surrounding it has never been flooded even after torrential rains.
|Jinalay of Shri Adinath Bhagwan|
A Shikharbandhi Jinalay dedicated to Shri Adinath Bhagwan is the centre of worship for all the Jains residing in Sainthia. Just 5 minutes from the Railway station, Dharamshala and Bhojanshala facilities are also available here.
How to reach: The town is well connected with National Highway 114 and State Highway 11 which link important cities and towns in West Bengal. Major local and express trains run at regular intervals from Howrah and Sealdah railway to Sainthia.
At the end, I urge all my readers to share this post with all Jains, as most of them are unaware of the existence of these places. I would also request all the readers to visit these places themselves (if possible), and experience the divinity of Lord Mahavir which can still be felt in these places.