Story of Jyestha

Posted: 12.10.2010
Updated on: 06.07.2013

A Story of Jyestha

Jyestha, the wife of Bhagwan Mahavir’s loving brother Nandivardhan and the daughter of king Cheda of Vaishali, was strikingly beautiful. She learnt her first lessons in the royal family itself and was an accomplished woman. Nandivardhan and Jyestha had a deep faith in the family tradition of Shri Parshvanath.

Jyestha’s beauty was the talk of the town. At the same time, she was a woman of spotless character. She was deeply influenced by Bhagwan Mahavir’s religious discourses and had undertaken to observe twelve vrata (vows). Very steadfast in their observance, she would not succumb to any temptation. Once Indra praised the character of Jyestha. He said that it was difficult to make her deviate from her chosen path. One of the gods, not convinced, said: “A mortal is a timid being. Fear makes him/her seek refuge. Offer wealth or riches and he/she can easily be subjugated. I can easily make her break vows she has decided to observe.”

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The god, arrogant that he was, abducted Jyestha and abandoned her in a forest. Then he disguised himself as a powerful and rich king and approached her with a big army comprising elephants and horses. He, then, said: “0 beautiful damsel, I am fascinated by your beauty. I want you to be my queen and roll in wealth.” Jyestha spurned the offer and refused to listen to what the king was saying. She said: “Even if the god from the heaven descends, I will not be tempted nor will I deviate from the path I have chosen. I am a devoted wife and will remain so” The god said: “You are an obstinate woman. Consider my offer or else wild animals will kill you. I promise to protect you if you accept my offer.” But Jyestha refused to budge. Finally the god said: “If you do not come with me, I will take you away forcibly.” Jyestha responded by saying that in that case she would commit suicide. The god was convinced that she was a woman of sterling character and nothing can make her deviate from the path of righteousness. He, then, appeared before her as god and said: “Jyestha, you are a pious woman and I was trying to test you but you have passed the test. Accept this small gift of kundal (ear-rings).”

Jyestha, then, was returned to Nandivardhan and was crowned mahasati - a truly great pious woman. Nandivardhan and Jyestha performed all the functions of a householder and also observed twelve vrata of shravak. It is also said that after listening to the discourses of Bhagwan Mahavir, she obtained Nandivardhan’s consent and accepted diksha from Mahavir and became a nun. Jyestha’s life, thus, symbolises sterling character and supreme control and austerity.

Spotless character is an invaluable ornament, not of the body, but of the soul. A person with a spotless character can only hope to develop mentally and spiritually. Possession of impeccable character can help one to strengthen body, mind and soul. It is difficult, if not impossible, to strive to keep character spotless, chaste. Its attainment involves qualities such as self-control, restraining desires and possessing abstemious habits in regard to food, drink and pleasure. A person with such a character and certain qualities can hope to attain spiritual heights. Jain religion has figures with such character and’ qualities which can hold candle to mortals like us. It is but natural that mahasatis (women with piety and impeccable character) are remembered early in the morning and one such figure is Jyestha.

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Compiled by PK