Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (3) ► 39th And 40th Pontiffs Of Śramaņa Lord Mahāvīra

Posted: 14.07.2016

39th pontiff Ācāryaśrī Kiśanaṛṣi

40th pontiff Ācāryaśrī Rājaṛṣi







Ācārya post






Householder life

24 years

19 years

Ordinary monkhood

31 years

23 years

Ācārya hood

21 years

15 years

Total monkhood

52 years

38 years


76 years

57 years


39th pontiff did a great service for Jainism by keeping his disciples practice spiritual Jain code of conduct. During his tenure, an influential Ācārya of temple dwellers congregation Śīlaguṇa had the ruler of Pāṭaṇa (who was his disciple and follower of temple dwellers tradition) Vanarāja Cāvaḍā in Gujarat issue an ordinance banning Jain monks even from entering the Kingdom of Pāṭaṇa who belonged to traditions other than temple dwelling tradition.

33rd epochal- ācāryaśrī Sambhūti





Ordinary monkhood


Epochal- ācārya period





78 years 2 months 2 days


Jain King Vanarāja Cāvaḍā, a faithful devotee of temple dwellers
tradition and Ācārya Śīlaguṇa

Ācārya Śīlaguṇa was a great and influential ācārya of Jain temple dweller tradition during the first half of 13th century V.N. Around V.N. 1272, by his untiring efforts he helped establish a Jain dynasty (Cāvaḍā dynasty) in Gujarat and contributed to the dominant influence of Jainism there.

Śīlaguṇa was a ācārya of Nāgendra gaccha. Once he was going with his disciples from village to village to preach his doctrine. On the way in a village named Vaṇoṃda, he saw a bag hanging from a tree branch. A child was sleeping in that bag. He keenly observed the face etc of the child. All of a sudden, he felt that this child will grow to be the great and brave lion amongst men (Puruṣa Siṃha).

Seeing the monks near her child, the mother of the child came there. She paid obeisance to Śīlaguṇa and stood by the side. On being asked by Śīlaguṇa about the child, she described the same as, 'O Yogīśwara, I am the queen of King Jaya Śekhara of Paṃcāsara. My name is Rūpa Sundarī. My husband died in the battle field while fighting with ruler of Kalyāṇī Bhūvaḍa. When my husband Jaya Śekhara died, I was pregnant with this child. It is a well-known fact that to usurp a dynasty, people make some wicked plans. Scared of my child being killed by some enemies under the greed of our Kingdom; I ran away from the palace and started living in this forest. On Vaiśākha Śuklā 15th (full moon night) in Vikram752 I gave birth to this child in this forest. Due to divine disgrace, this child was born in this forest instead of the palace, so I named him as Vanarāja.'

This child who is light of the Cāpotkaṭa dynasty is spending his childhood in this forest amongst the forest animals living here. The people who plan crooked acts are very alert. They all must be looking for this child everywhere near his relatives. To protect this child from their sight, instead of going to some relatives, I started living here alone and protecting his life.

Śīlaguṇa was startled to see a queen who should have been living in palaces in her youth and now is living so bravely alone in this forest amongst these violent animals so bravely. He said to Rūpa Sunadrī, 'Difficult days of your facing difficulties at every step and living in this forest are over. Please come with me. We shall make arrangements for your living and proper upbringing of this child. Besides us, nobody else will come to know of your real identity. You are my religious-daughter. The entire Jain community of Gurjara will protect your and your child's honour and pride you as a family in their safe custody.  Please come with us Alongwith your son without any fear or worry'.

Rūpa Sunadrī immediately started walking along with the group of the monks having her child on her back.

Śīlaguṇa Alongwith Rūpa Sunadrī and her son Vanarāja came to the monastery in Paṃcāsara. He, in secret consultation with elders of the Jain community who came to pay obeisance to him, arranged a safe home for stay, food etc of Rūpa Sunadrī and her son Alongwith essential commodities needed for life.

Child Vanarāja was now being brought up with lot of love and affection. Like the moon of 2nd night of the fortnight, child Vanarāja started growing up gradually with the aura of a Kṣatriya prince. Vanarāja used to spend most of his time in the temple dwelling of Śīlaguṇa.

Chief disciple Devacandra of Śīlaguṇa took the task of educating Vanarāja in his own hands. With all his mental faculties and affection, he started imparting primary education Alongwith Jain doctrine to Vanarāja. In the delicate and simple mind of the child Vanarāja, Devacandra tried and started imbibing the values associate with truth, moral character, bravery, service to others, fearlessness, Alongwith knowledge on other subjects which were fit for a prince.

As expected by Devacandra, child Vanarāja also started accepting, learning by heart and practicing these high moral values and acquiring knowledge. With sharp intellect, Vanarāja entered in his youth equipped with practical knowledge as well as other skills Alongwith expertise in logic and law.

Opportunist Śīlaguṇa, after imparting all proper education, sent Vanarāja to his maternal uncle King Sūrapāla for training in martial art and warfare suitable for a kṣatriya. From his maternal uncle Sūrapāla, Vanarāja learnt all martial arts, use of arms and ammunition and skills needed to gain victory in warfare over the enemies.

Vanarāja was a very ambitious child from the beginning. On entering the youth of his life, he took a vow to establish a very powerful dynasty in Gurjara land which will become the envy of strongest rulers and be unconquerable by them.  In a way he made this as the objective of his life. He had to struggle for a long time to achieve his objective. After struggling for almost thirty years, he achieved his objective. During this prolonged struggle, he continued to get active support in one form or the other from Śīlaguṇa, his successor Devacandra, & the temple dwelling congregation. He never became disappointed even in the toughest situation during this long struggle. He continued to dream of a very strong and potent Gurjara dynasty even during those testing times and kept on looking out for suitable persons to take heavy responsibilities of the posts of being his prime minister, defence minister, advisers etc. His thinking and looking for suitable candidates for such positions resulted in several interesting events which were useful for ambitious people also. With this view, we are listing two or three such events below:

  1. In the critical moments during his struggle for the proper feeding and upkeep of his soldiers and acquisition /requisition of armaments, he had to use dubious methods also at times. One day to sell ghee, Jāṃba or Cāṃpā by name Śrīmālī Jain trader was going towards the city. When he was crossing with his cart filled ghee pots, Vanarāja was compelled to use his dubious act at that time. Seeing the cart advance further, Vanarāja Alongwith his two soldiers stopped the cart. The intelligent trader immediately guessed that he was being robbed that day itself. He himself was an expert archer. He immediately took out all the five arrows from his belt and broke and threw away two of them and tool the remaining three in his hand while looking at Vanarāja. Surprised by this act, Vanarāja asked the trader, 'O trader! Why have you broken two arrows and threw them away?' Jāṃba immediately replied fearlessly, 'You are three persons. Hence it is enough for me to have three arrows. So why should carry the extra burden of two more arrows? Therefore I have broken and thrown the two arrows.' Mixed with surprise and laughter, Vanarāja asked, 'O so you have much confidence on your archery skills. If it so, then at the tree branch swinging in air, aim at the fruit on the back side of that branch.' Jāṃba immediately mounted his arrow on the bow and aimed at the fruit pointed by Vanarāja. The fruit fell on the ground. Filled with happiness, Vanarāja said, 'I am very happy with your courage and skill in archery to shoot down the difficult fruit. I shall appoint you as the prime minister of the (to be created) Gurjara Empire. Please take it that you are henceforth the prime minister of my grand and powerful Gurjara Empire. So with your sharp intellect, think of some plans so that we can amass immense wealth. With your intellect and my power, success will soon be at our feet. O great man of the future Gurjara Empire! Go and start finding some ways to amass immense wealth for the Gurjara Empire'. Elder and trader Jāṃba also accepted the challenge in the same spirit as was fit for a prime minister for the orders of his King. Vanarāja noted the name, address and other particulars of Jāṃba in his diary and let him go happily.
  2. During those days of struggle, to feed his soldiers, Vanarāja was compelled to surround and ransack the home of a Śrīmālī Jain elder in Village Kakara. On entering a room of his home, he opened the door of a storehouse and pushed his hand in between the open door. Due to some reason, his hand landed in a wide mouth curd pot. When he felt that his hand had landed in curd, he left the home empty handed. In the morning when the residents of the home knew that their home was ransacked at night; then they started to look for missing things.  When they found doors of store room for milk etc and seeing the hand marks of someone in the curd pot, they felt confident that their home was definitely ransacked at night but nothing from the house had been stolen. When Śrī Devī, sister of the elder took out the curd pot and saw the hand prints in the curd pot, she was filled with immense surprise. She immediately said, 'The person who came to ransack our home was not an ordinary person. These hand prints are of some fortunate and brave person. Only his hand prints are seen on the top layer of the curd and even they are not very clear. However from two or three lines of his hand print which are clear tell that he is either at present a very brave person or in the near future his fortune will shine like a sun. I am surprised at the reason for such a person to ransack our home.' On not being able to understand the truth of this event in her mind, she expressed her anxiety as, 'How nice it will be that the person who ransacked our home visits our home again so that I can read his palm clearly and tell him about his real capability and his bright future ahead.' With the tradition of the word of mouth travelling further, such expressions of Śrī Devī reached Vanarāja also. On the next day, in disguise, he went to the home of that elder in Kākara and had discussions with the elder and his sister. Śrī Devī from his signs and lines on his palm immediately recognized that this is the same man who ransacked their home previous night and had his palm prints in the curd pot. Considering Vanarāja as her brother, Śrī Devī studied the lines in Vanarāja palm and said, 'You are going to be King of a vast empire in the near future.' With deep affection she offered meals to Vanarāja at her home and amidst talks encouraged him to continue practicing the high ideals.' Vanarāja addressed Śrī Devī as her sister-in-religion and promised her to keep her teachings in mind always and practice the same. He further resolved that when he ascends to the throne, then she, her sister-in religion, will anoint him on the throne.
  3. Similarly Vanarāja also chose Moḍha lineage Jain Śrī Āśaka as his most confidential adviser for secret activities before ascending to the throne of Cāvaḍā dynastic rule. ŚreṣṭhīJāṃba after his meeting in the forest kept on meeting him from time to time and with his intellect told him ways to acquire wealth and even did so for him. Śreṣṭhī Jāṃba saw that one day the tax collectors of King Bhūvaḍa had come to Gujarat to collect land and other taxes. Jāṃba contacted them and greatly helped them in collecting taxes and he became a confidant and most loved person of the Bhūvaḍa tax collectors. Jāṃba even converted the tax collection in gold. After collecting all taxes, the date for the return of tax collectors to Kalyāṇī was fixed. With great care, Jāṃba apprised Vanarāja secretly about the date and route of the return of Bhūvaḍa tax collectors. Vanarāja took four times the number of soldiers that came with tax collectors of Bhūvaḍa with him. He camped behind trees at an appropriate place on the route of tax collectors return. As soon as the tax collectors entered that forest, Vanarāja with his soldiers attacked them. Soldiers of Bhūvaḍa could not face the devastating attack of the soldiers of Vanarāja. Very soon soldiers of Bhūvaḍa were devastated and got killed.  From this attack, Vanarāja got twenty four lakh gold coins, 400 horses, many elephants, arms and armaments etc. After collecting such a huge amount of wealth, Vanarāja mobilised a strong army and started recapturing his ancestral Kingdoms. Bhūvaḍa came to know from his secret agents that Vanarāja has mobilised a large and strong army. So Bhūvaḍa decided to move towards Gujarat. Over a period of time, Vanarāja kept on adding more and more regions of Gujarat in his Empire and ultimately became the king of large and powerful Bhūvaḍa-Gurjara region and empire.

On the day of Akṣaya Tṛtīyā in Vikram 802, as per his own vow and directions of his guru Śīlaguṇa, he laid the foundation stone of Aṇahillapura Pāṭaṇa on the land identified by his guru. Mahārājā Vanarāja also had his anointing done by her sister-in religion Śrī Devī when he occupied the throne of Cāpotkaṭa dynasty. He also appointed śrīmālī Jain Jāṃba (other name Cāṃparāja) his minister as per his vow and promise made earlier in the forest. Heir of Jāṃba and his descendents kept on providing their services to Gurjara rulers and the name of Jāṃba lineage as ministers of Gurjara rulers became very famous in Gujarat.

While populating Pāṭaṇa, Vanarāja invited Nīnā Śreṣṭhī of Gāṃbhū and helped him to settle with his family there. He appointed Nīnā as his prime minister and also made him as a head of judiciary to give major punishments.  Like King Nandivardhana (1st Nanda) got Kalpāka as his prime minister and in his form, generations of able devoted and responsible for Nanda dynasty; similarly it will not be out of place to say that appointing Nīṇā as the first prime minister of Aṇahillapura Pāṭaṇa by Vanarāja was a boon for him to have Nīṇā's generations of able devoted expert in legal matters and intelligent ministers to serve the rulers of Gurjara land.  A member of Nīṇā's family was the chief of judiciary when the last ruler of Cāpotkaṭa and even during the rule of Mūlarāja Solaṃkī. Vīra and Nedha, several generations later of Nīnā's family were also chiefs of judiciary in Pāṭaṇa during their times. Vimala, son of Vīra was also a minister and chief of judiciary when Bhīma Deva Solaṃkī ruled in Gujarat. Similarly Dhavala and Ānanda from Amātya family were minister and prime minister. Prime Minister Pṛthvī Pāla of Jain King Kumāra Pāla was also from Nīnā's lineage.

In this way, Vanarāja was apt in selection and appointment of able and devoted persons in his team. As far as gratefulness is concerned, Vanarāja can be favourably compared to southern Jain kings Gaṃgarāja (Gaṃga dynasty) and rulers of Hoyasala dynasty. They all expressed their profound gratefulness towards Jains and made unique contributions for the preaching and influence generation of Jainism in their times.

With the supreme benevolence of Śīlaguṇa, Vanarāja was brought up with all round care and support. Successor of Śīlaguṇa made him an able and worthy person by imparting complete education. Both teacher and disciple and at their slightest indication, the entire Jain congregation offered all kinds of help to Vanarāja Cāvaḍā from time to time. To express his deep gratitude towards his biggest and guardian like well-wisher Śīlaguṇa, Devacandra and the entire Temple dweller Jain congregation, Vanarāja Cāvaḍā got himself anointed at the throne of Gurjara Empire with the hands of both Śīlaguṇa and Devacandra. Further to express his heartfelt gratitude for the infinite favours and kindness bestowed on him, Vanarāja Cāvaḍā on the instruction of his guru Śīlagūṇa issued an ordinance to ban entry in Gurjara Pradeśa of all Jain monks except those belonging to temple dwellers Jain congregation permanently. This way he contributed his might uniquely to enhance the influence and dominance of temple dwellers congregation, the like of which cannot be found in the history. It will not be out of place to say that all these contributions of Vanarāja are historical example of paying reverence to his teacher. The biggest benefit of such benevolent acts of Vanarāja resulted in complete dominance of temple dwellers congregation in Gurjara Pradeśa and Pāṭaṇa from 11th century V.N. to 16th century V.N. with the absence of any type of obstacles from other competing Jain congregations, the temple dwellers congregation continuously prospered and expanded. For around five centuries, any kind of opposition to them could not disturb them.

Vanarāja Cāvaḍā during his childhood had obtained education on Jain doctrine from temple dweller Ācārya Devacandra. He considered Śīlagūṇa and Devacandra as his gurus throughout his life. To express their gratitude towards Jain ācāryas of temple dwellers congregation and the congregation itself, not only him but his successor family rulers also stayed as devotees, worshippers and extended all round support to the temple dwellers tradition.

Vanarāja while founding the city of Pāṭaṇa in Vikram 802 also laid the foundation of Lord Pārśvanātha temple there. After making Pāṭana as his capital, he had the consecration of Lord Pārśvanātha temple by Ācārya Śīlaguṇa also. This temple of Lord Pārśvanātha was also named as Vanarāja Vihāra. Such details are also found about Vanarāja Vihāra that Vanarāja got this temple made to enable his mother perform daily pūjā of Lord Pārśvanātha. Mother of Vanarāja was also an ardent worshipper of Jinas.

Moral standards and platitude of Vanarāja were of very high level. There is a famous folklore in Gujarat about him.

'Once upon a time during Vanarāja's rule, a caravan of ships having 1000 horses and 500 elephants, due to a severe storm in the sea, landed near Soma Nātha on the border coast of Pāṭaṇa. The three princes of Vanarāja prepared themselves to capture that caravan of ships. Then Vanarāja stopped them from doing such an immoral act. Still the princes sent their armed servants and soldiers and seized that caravan. Then they presented the 500 elephants and 1000 horses to Vanarāja, he was deeply hurt by this immoral act of his sons.

Later on scolding his sons, he said, 'O Sons! You have disobeyed the orders of the king. Either you take the punishment for these immoral acts or being your guardian I have to take the punishment on your behalf.' Saying this, the great ruler of greater Gujarat gave up all foods and water for life and observed fasting unto death. For the remaining days of his life, while observing his fast, he practiced total spirituality and died at the age of 109 years in Vikram 860.

Not only in Gujarat but throughout this land of āryas, the name of Vanarāja as the founder of greater Gujarat state and a Jain follower is always remembered with deep veneration.

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