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Jain Stories

Bharat Chakravati charitra

In the ancient times, when Bharata was the king of the city of Vinita, it so happened that a divine cakra, a bright disc, appeared in the sky and the guard on duty was extremely delighted to see the divine sign as it traveled towards the armory of the king. The guard humbly bowed to the cakra and rushed inside the palace to acquaint the king of its appearance. The king also expressed his surprise and followed the guard to the armory and when he saw it, he too offered his worshipful salutation to the disc. He was extremely pleased with the guard who brought him the news and gave away all the jewelry that he was wearing on his person except of course his crown.
The king ordered eight days of celebrations in honor of the divine sign. When they were over, the Cakra moved out of the armory and placed itself in the sky where it was surrounded by one thousand Yaksasas. Finally it moved in the eastern direction towards Magadha tirtha.

The king also decided to follow the cakra as it proceeded towards Magadha ti rtha. He got his four-fold army prepared for the journey and led it himself mounting on his own excellent elephant (abhisekya hasti-ratna) which was beautifully decorated. He camped outside the city of Magadha tirtha and ordered his men to construct a house looking like a cottage where Jain householders stay when they observe a religious fast for varying periods of time. Such a house called pausadhasala was made ready for the king in which he lived for three day's observing afast without water called astamabhakta which is usually undertaken to propitiate the god Kumara who is the presiding deity of Magadha tirtha.

When the fast was over, the king ordered his army to march ahead towards the Lavana ocean. When they reached the ocean, the king entered it in his chariot but stopped when the water reached the middle of the wheels of the chariot. Then the king shot out an arrow from his powerful bow which dropped right in front of the presiding deity of Magadha tirtha, god Kumara. He felt tremendously angry and demanded in his big roaring voice, "Who is he that desires death ?" He picked up the arrow and when he looked at it he quickly realised that it belonged to king Bharata. Magadha tirtha had a long tradition of honouring cakravarti kings and so god Kumara also, according to this tradition, approached the king with rich gifts. Bharata in his turn bowed before the god in an appropriately reverential manner and accepted the gifts. He also held an eight day celebration in honor of the God of Magadha tirtha.

Towards the end of the week-long celebration, the king saw that the cakra was moving in the south western direction towards Vardama tirtha. The king followed the cakra with his army. Then the cakra moved north-west towards Prabhasa tirtha and the king and his army also followed. At both the places the king held appropriate celebrations in honor of the presiding deities.

The cakra now moved east towards the temple of Sindhudevi. There also the king held his celebrations in honor of the Devi and moved further on in the north-eastern direction towards the mountain Vaitadhya where the cakra had moved. It also moved further towards Timisra Cave in the western direction. The king as usual held celebrations in honor of the deities of the mountain and the cave.

He summoned the commander-in-chief of his army and ordered him to proceed through the various countries on the way and conquer so that his way back home was marked by a victory march. In all he conquered thirty-two thousand kings throughout the Bharatavarsa and secured the nine well known treasures (Navanidhi) known as (1) Nesarpa, (2) Panduka, (3) Pingalaka, (4) Sarva ratna, (5) Maha-padma, (6) Kala, (7) Mahakala, (8) Manavaka and (9) Sarnkha. Each one of them had a deity to guard it and lasted for a very long time, as long as a palyopama.

When the victory march of Bharata came to its end, the divine cakra re-emerged from the armoury of the king and moved towards the king's own capital of Vini ta, the king realised that his conquests have now ended and the divine message was that he should return home. Accordingly he arrived home and was greatly felicitated by the bards of the court and the people. The king distributed rich gifts to his loyal subjects.

The king thus lived happily in his own palace at Vinita but a thought kept recurring to his mind that since he had conquered the entire Bharatavarsa by his own valour and thirtytwo thousand kings of the conquered territory have chosen to follow his lead submissively, and since he possessed the nine well-known treasures why should not the people designate him the cakravartin. With this thought, he called a meeting of the royal council to which he invited sixteen thousand gods, thirtytwo thousand kings, his commander-in-chief, his purohita and three hundred and sixty bards of the court. He explained to them his new position and expressed his desire that a coronation ceremony to confer the title of cakravartin on him should be held.

On an auspicious day at an auspicious hour, the coronation was held in a grand and spectacular ceremony and the king was pleased to declare twelve years of festivity in the city. Bharata ruled for a long time and enjoyed every possible pleasure.
Once it so happened that the king after his bath entered the hall of mirrors and admired the beauty and lustre of his body. As he was absorbed in his appreciation of his own figure, he went into a trance which was the beginning of a deep meditation.

His mind acquired purer and purer states and ultimately reached the highest stage where the king acquired kevalajnana. In the hall of mirrors itself he cast off all the ornaments from his person, stripped it of his expensive garments, plucked his hair in five handfuls and walked out of the hall. He visited his harem but quickly came out and left the palace. Ten thousand of the kings collected around him and in their company he left the capital. He traveled to Kosala and stayed there for some time.

Then he moved on towards the Astapada Mountain. On its top, he found a slab of stone and sat on it in the padapopagamana posture. He renounced food and water. He observed fast for one month. This practice of observing occasional fasts of one month duration lasted all his life which spanned over eighty-four lakh years at the end of which kevalin Bharata attained salvation.