About 3000 years back King Ashwasen was ruling over Väränasi, which is also known as Banaras situated on the bank of Holy River Ganga. He was a benevolent and popular ruler. He had a queen named Vämädevi. On 10th day of the dark half of the month of Margashirsh* (which usually occurs in December) she gave birth to a son. During her pregnancy, she had once observed a snake passing by her side. In memory of that incident, the boy was named Pärshwa Kumär, because 'Pärshva' in Sanskrit language, means 'beside'. Pärshva was dark complexioned but very handsome like Lord Neminäth. He grew up in the midst of wealth and happiness. In due course, he grew up to be a very attractive young man known for his courtesy, bravery, and valor. His reputation was well known in all the kingdoms and many rulers were eager to get their daughters married to him. He however did not develop much attachment for the worldly life and showed no eagerness for getting married.
During that time there was another well known city named Kushasthal and Prasenjit was ruling there. He had a very beautiful and talented daughter named Prabhävati. As she became older, her parents were looking for a suitable match for her. Once while Prabhävati was playing in a garden with her girl friends, she heard a song to the effect that prince of Väränasi is very handsome and brave and that the girl who marries him would be a very lucky girl. Prabhävati was impressed by that. She obtained all possible information about Pärshwa Kumär and became enamored of him. As her friends came to know of her attachment for Pärshwa Kumär, they gave hints to her parents. Thereupon Prasenjit decided to convey her wishes to the king of Väränasi.
At that time, another powerful ruler named Yavan was ruling over Kalinga. He knew about Prabhävati and wanted to marry her. When he heard about the plan of Prasenjit to offer Prabhävati to the prince of Väränasi, Yavan decided to get her by force. Accordingly he took a large army with him and surrounded Kushasthal. Prasenjit was overwhelmed since Yavan could easily conquer him. Therefore, he secretly sent a messenger to king Ashwasen with a request for help. When Ashwasen heard the messenger, he prepared his army. Pärshwa Kumär however did not like that his father should take that trouble. He therefore volunteered to go in his place and proceeded towards Kushasthal with a large force. For a while, Yavan tried to belittle the force of Väränasi. Ultimately however he heeded to advice and agreed to retreat from Kushasthal.
Prasenjit then welcomed Pärshwa Kumär with valuable presents and due respect. He then put forth his proposal for marrying his daughter. Pärshwa Kumär was however not inclined to get married and indicated his intention to go back to Väränasi. Prasenjit then decided to use the good facilities of King Ashwasen for that purpose. Accordingly, he decided to go with Pärshwa Kumär to Väränasi along with his daughter. King Ashwasen was very impressed by the beauty, grace, and talents of Prabhävati. He and Vämädevi therefore prevailed upon their son to marry Prabhävati. The wedding ceremony was performed accordingly with all the pomp and splendor and Pärsvakumär started enjoying happy days with Prabhävati.
At that time there was a penancing mendicant named Kamath. He had lost his parents in childhood and was raised as an orphan. Being disgusted of his miserable life, he had become a monk and was undergoing severe penance. He came to Väränasi for performing a Panchägni (five fires) penance. Many people were impressed by his penance and were going to that place for worship. When Pärshwa Kumär came to know of that, he realized the violence of live beings involved in a fire. He came there and tried to dissuade Kamath from the sacrificial fire. Kamath did not agree that life of any being was at stake because of his performance. By his extra sensory perception, Pärshwa Kumär could observe that there was a snake, in the wood that was put in the sacrificial fire. He asked his men to take out that wood and to shear it carefully. To the amazement of the onlookers, a half-burnt snake came out. It had too severe burns to survive. Pärshwa Kumär recited the Navakärmantra for benefit of the snake, who died and was reborn as Dharanendra, the lord of Asurkumars. Kamath became very annoyed by this interference but was unable to do anything at that time. He started observing more severe penance and at the end of his life was reborn as Meghmali, the lord of rain.
Observing the miseries that living beings had to experience, Pärshwa Kumär developed a high degree of detachment. At the age of 30 he renounced everything and became a monk with out possession Then he became known as Pärshvanäth. He spent most of his time meditating in search of ultimate bliss for all. Once while he was in meditation, Meghmali saw him. He recalled how Pärshvanäth had interfered in his penance in earlier life. He saw this opportunity to take revenge. By his supernatural power, he brought forth all kinds of fierce and harmful animals like elephants, lions, leopards, snakes etc. As Lord Pärshvanäth stayed in the meditation unperturbed, Meghmali brought forth heavy rains. It started raining like cats and dogs. The rain water touched the feet of Pärshvanäth and started accumulating. It came up to his knees, then to waist and in no time, it came up to his neck.
At that time, Dharanendra noticed the plight of his benefactor. He immediately came there and raised a quick growing lotus below the feet of the Lord so that He could stay above water. Then he spread his fangs all across the head and the sides of the Lord in order to protect Him. Dharanendra then severely reproached him for his wretched act and asked him to stop the rain. All efforts of Meghmali to harass the Lord were thus fruitless He was disappointed and understood that he was unnecessarily creating trouble to the graceful, merciful Lord. Meghmali realized the futility of his efforts. He withdrew all his supernatural power and fell at the feet of the Lord with a sense of heavy remorse. He sincerely begged the Lord to forgive him for his evil acts.
During the period of that distress, the Lord was deep in meditation. He had developed perfect equanimity. As a result, he did not have any special affection for Dharanendra for the protection he had extended or disaffection for Meghmali for the distress caused. Developing higher and higher purity of consciousness, he ultimately attained omniscience on the 84th day of his renunciation. That was the 4th day of the dark half of the month of Falgun* that usually occurs in April. Then he began preaching the true religion. He reinstated the Tirth or religious four -fold order and became 23rd Tirthankar. He attracted many followers. The principal disciples of Tirthankars are known as Ganadhars. Lord Pärshawa Näth had 10 such Ganadhars. His parents and Prabhävati renounced and became his disciples as well. Thereafter he lived long enough to spread true religion and left his mortal remains at the age of 100 years and attained Nirvana on Sametshikhar Hill. This is located in the state of Bihar and is the most famous place of pilgrimage for Jains.
These months have been mentioned here based on our present calendar.
Pärshwa Kumär demonstrated a very keen sense of non-violence and detachment from all things and people. These are qualities, which are essential for attaining self realization. He showed us that one should be detached and impartial regardless of whether a person is our well-wisher or ill-wisher. We may not always know the reason why a person behaves in a strange way towards us. It may very well be because of karma from a past life.
Information Courtesy : Mr. Pravin K. Shah
Chairperson JAINA Education Committee
Federation of Jain Associations in North America
509 Carriage Woods Circle Raleigh, NC 27607-3969 USA
Email - Pkshah1@attglobal.net Telephone and fax 919-859-4994
Websites - www.jaina.org and www.jainism.org
Mail to : Ahimsa Foundation