Jain religion speaks of twenty-four Theerthankaras. They were holy
souls; they came to the earth in human form with a purpose. When evil and injustice grew
strong in the world, they came to save men by their example and their preaching.
Vrishabhanatha was the first of twenty-four such Theerthankaras. He was Bahubali's
Before becoming a Theerthankara, Vrishabhanatha was a king. Ayodhya was his capital.
Vrishabhanatha had two queens, Yashaswathi Devi and Sunanda Devi. There was peace,
contentment and prosperity everywhere in his kingdom.
As time passed, the elder queen Yashaswathi gave birth to a hundred sons. The eldest
was Bharatha. Later a daughter was born and she was called Sundari. The younger queen
Sunanda Devi had only one son, Bahubali, and a daughter by name Brahmi.
The joy of the king and the queens, who had more than a hundred bonny children, knew no
Three or four years passed. It was time for the royal children to begin their
education. Not one or two but a hundred of them were there, and so it was not easy to
organize their education. The king himself taught them. He taught Bharatha dramatics and
economics. Bahubali was taught medicine, weaponry, the lore of the horse and the elephant
and some other branches.
The king taught all his sons like this, each according to his choice and aptitude.
Even as a boy Bharatha showed signs of becoming a great emperor. Bahubali was an expert
in wrestling. His very name meant one with strong arms, that is, a man of great strength.
He had a keen interest in warfare. In wrestling or in any other kind of duel with his
companions, Bahubali was always the victor. He would forget himself in playing with
elephant cubs. He was very brave. He was not afraid of anything.
Great was the delight of the parents as they watched the progress of their children.
Once it happened that Devendra, the Lord of Heaven, arranged in Vrishabha-natha's royal
court, a dance by a nymph of his own court. The nymph's name was Neelanjane. Her
performance was superb.
But as the dance was in progress, the nymph's life came to an end.
She was about to fall; Devendra, with his divine power, made her continue, so that the
king's enjoyment might not end abruptly.
No one in that big gathering understood what had happened. But the king recognized the
That very moment he developed strong disgust towards life.
'So human life means only this!' the king thought, 'Nothing in this world is permanent.
All things must die. Life is just like a bubble of water. Every thing is beautiful like a
rainbow to outward view. And man's life is just like the rainbow; life too appears and
then suddenly disappears. Nothing lasts forever.'
Vrishabhanatha decided that he had had enough of this kind of life. He resolved to give
up his kingdom, his queens and his children, and go away to perform 'tapas', that is, to
meditate on God.
A small, unexpected incident thus transformed the mind of King Vrishabhanatha.