Bhagavan Mahavira Life and Philosophy ► 03 ► [03.03] Emancipation Of A Slave-Girl

Posted: 08.08.2005

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The Period Of Sadhana

t was the twelfth year of Bhagavan Mahavira's sadhana. He was putting up in Kausambi. He had developed super-sensory knowledge ever since his birth. The moment he became an ascetic, he developed another kind of knowledge - the perception of thoughts of other people's minds. He was now about to attain the kevalajnana - omniscience.

At this juncture, he decided to perform an experiment. This experiment was connected with an event. He had been performing sadhana in a state of reticence and even through it he accomplished the good of others. Women and slaves led a wretched life those days. Religious prejudices had deprived women of the privilege of being treated equal to men. The misinterpretation of the doctrine of karma had resulted in a miserable existence for the slaves. The masters treated the slaves as cattle and could punish them in any cruel way they liked. They could be sold like cattle, tortured, mutilated and even punished with death. Neither the law nor any conscious religious opposition could interfere with this cruelty. This orgy of violence continued for centuries together in the name of custom, religion and fate.

On the first day of the dark half of the lunar month of Pausa, Bhagavan Mahavira resolved to accept food under particular conditions only. This resolution went a long way to mitigate social injustice. Of course, he did not disclose this to anybody. Spiritual forces control the world in their own way by changing heart and correcting mental attitudes. The minds of the people of Kausambi were thoroughly shaken by the revolutionary plan of Bhagavan Mahavira within six months. He went out to collect food on the first day of the month. He visited several families and was greeted with great esteem. He was offered food everywhere but he returned without accepting anything from anybody. The next day also he went round in search of food and returned barehanded. People wondered as to why he had not accepted food anywhere. Nobody could understand him. People knew that during his period of fasting he would not go to collect food. It was only after the period of fasting was over that he went about to do so. His visiting homes and returning without accepting food became the talk of the town.

One day Bhagavan Mahavira visited the house of the minister Sugupta. Sugupta's wife Nanda was very mach devoted to Bhagavan Mahavira. She insisted the Bhagavan on accepting food, which she offered. Although the food was acceptable, Bhagavan Mahavira returned as usual without accepting it. Nanda became sad. She came to know from the gossip among the servants that Bhagavan Mahavira had not been taking any food for the last four months. This made Nanda all the more impatient.

When Sugupta came home to lunch, he asked his wife the reason of her sadness. When she told him what had happened, he expressed his ignorance. The wife remarked ironically that the minister who administered the kingdom was expected to know everything going on in the town. Sugupta felt a little embarrassed and sent round his men to find out what had happened to Bhagavan Mahavira.

Satanika was then the ruler of Kausarnbi. His queen, Mrgavati, was the daughter of King Cetaka. One of her attendants, named Vijaya, happened to visit the house of the minister. She gathered what had been happening and informed her mistress Mrgavati who consulted her husband about the matter. There was a lot of talk about it in the whole of the Kingdom.

The king and the minister tried their best to persuade Bhagavan Mahavira to accept food but in vain. His visits to the families and his returning without accepting food continued for five months and seventy-five days. On the twenty-sixth day he visited the house of Sresthi Dhanavaha. There Bhagavan Mahavira saw a girl [Candanabala] with shaven head standing on the threshold. Her legs had been chained. After a three-day fast, she had been given a few boiled pulses in a winnower. Though born as a princess, she was then living the life of a slave-girl. There was the opportunity for Bhagavan Mahavira to translate his resolution into practice. On seeing Bhagavan Mahavira, she became extremely happy and forgot her miserable lot. She offered boiled pulses to him from her winnowing basket. She saw Bhagavan Mahavira approaching her to collect food, but alas, the very next moment she saw him turning back. He did not accept the food, so she became sad. She suddenly began to shed tears and sobbed. Tears rolling down her cheeks fulfilled all the conditions of Bhagavan 's resolution. Mahavira returned and accepted the pulses he had been offered.

The news of this event spread in the town like wild fire. That Bhagavan Mahavira had accepted food from the slave-girl of Sresthi Dhanavaha became the talk of the town. King Satanika and queen Mrgavati came to the house of the Sresthi to congratulate the slave-girl. They were surprised to see that the slave-girl was none other than Chandanabala, the daughter of King Dadhivahaha of Campa and wondered how she had been made a slave. (Candanabala's mother happened to be the sister of Queen Mrgavati). When the people came to know the miserable plight of this girl, they began to become critical of the social customs based on injustice to human beings. They remarked, "Alas, if even a princess can be sold in a social system, just imagine what can become of others." The truth about the awful injustice done to the slaves dawned upon their minds. It was now impossible for them to reconcile themselves to the institution of slavery. The administration became worried about public opinion. It was a great challenge to the age-old institution of slavery. The first consequence of the great stir was that Chandanabala was released and emancipated.

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