|Sages,Rushis & Saints
|Biographies of Great
Indians & Hindus
Mahaveera grew up in the company of Kshathriyas, members of the warriors' clan. He was
instructed in the use of arms worthy of the Kshathriyas; he became an expert rider and a
master wrestler. He was foremost among swimmers. He became proficient in music. He was
introduced to the fine arts. Thus his physical prowess and intellectual prowess developed
evenly. Everyone could see clearly the growth of these powers. But there was a power
growing within that people could not see. This third power was the soul-force, the
strength of the Atma. But the time was not ripe yet for its outward expression.
Mahaveera was the joy of Siddhartha and Priyakarini. The son was certain to bring fame to
the family. He was full of virtues. He had completed his education at the
Gurukula (the teacher's ashram). He had learnt much from experience.
The Siddhartha couple thought: Mahaveera has the ability and the training to take charge
of the administration. He is old enough to marry. Why delay? We can crown him king and
give up our worldly lives, take the vows of Jainism and spend our days in meditation and
Certain events sharpened this desire of Siddhartha and Priyakarini. Many kings, nobles and
princes desired that Mahaveera should marry their daughters; oil paintings of many brides
piled up, for Mahaveera's choice.
One-day Mahaveera's mother spoke to him about this. She placed before him the paintings.
The father also arrived. Mahaveera did not like to oppose at once the persuasive words of
his parents. He only moved the paintings from 'one side to another as if he had examined
Mahaveera was attracted by the teachings of Parshvanatha, which his parents followed. He
looked like one who was very much attached to the external world. But within he had
developed a love for Dharma and was not interested in worldly life. True, he had grown up
among the Kshathriyas. Physically the virtues of the warrior race had developed in him.
Within, he was preparing for a war, too. But this was war of a different kind. Mahaveera
got ready to fight against enemies like Anger, Illusion, Greed and Love of Earthly Things.
To conquer and subdue these was a truly great victory, he thought. His approach to
administration was different, too. He had faith in a moral and just democracy. He did not
like a life of luxury and ease. Such a life seemed brief and passing. He wanted to get
that which was deathless.
That was a dark period in the cultural history of the country. Gods and deities numbered
hundreds. Dumb animals were sacrificed to them and blood flowed like a river. Man lived
like a Rakshasa. In addition there was the curse of untouchability. Men were squeezing the
'untouchables' in the mill of cruelty. Women did not have
the same rights as men. Violence was supreme. All
these disturbed the mind of Mahaveera.
But day in and day out Siddhartha and Priyakarini were trying to compel Mahaveera to agree
for marry and becomes a householder.
Mahaveera thought of a plan. 'I do not want marriage this year', he said and thus put it
off. They also agreed. Years passed. Then doubts arose in their minds. Mahaveera was upset. She grew impatient and tried
to find a suitable bride for her son at once.
Yashoda was a beautiful and virtuous girl and an artist. Priyakarini selected her for her
But the father, Siddhartha, had begun to understand his son better. His doubts began when
the son said he did not want marriage. He understood the son's path. He appreciated the
ideals of his son. He informed his wife Priyakarini of this.
"Mahaveera has decided to remain bachelor!"
"Mahaveera has decided to give up family life and to become a sanyasin."
"Oh God! How can I endure this!" said Priyakarini and swooned. Father and son
did all they could for her. Priyakarini
Began to regain her lost consciousness. Her heart had been wounded. Right at that time two
great sages Sanjaya and Vijaya arrived. They were studying the Scriptures of the Jains and
had a doubt. They wanted help. As soon as they came to Mahaveera the doubt was cleared. So
the sages praised Mahaveera as 'Sanmathi'.
"Please advise Mahaveera. Let him marry and remain in the house like others,"
Priyakarini begged the monks.
They replied: "Mother, what are you saying? This boy is the reward for the good deeds
of several births. Don't come in the way of one who will become a Teacher of all the three
. "Sirs, what do you want me to do now?"
"Bless Mahaveera. Send him to perform Tapas (prayer and meditation),"
"Revered Sirs, my child cannot endure the difficulty of tapas."
"His body is a steel-frame. Isn't his name Mahaveera? Moreover, what tapas require is
not physical strength but the strength of the soul. Wish him well, mother."
Mahaveera prostrated before his mother. In a voice majestic like the voice of the sea he
said, "Mother, you know everything. You are my elder. You have given birth to me.
This world is Maya, mere illusion. The things and people of this world are short-lived
like bubbles. It is full of misery and pain and disease. Where is happiness in worldly
life? I am going to seek eternal truth. Please bless me."
It was the year 569 B.C. According to the Indian calendar, the day was the tenth day of
the second half of the month of Magha. Throwing away the chains of worldly life
Mahaveera turned towards tapas or spiritual life. He gave up wealth, palace and relatives.
Compared with his high ideals all these looked like mere straw.
All the people of Kundapura have assembled. There is the palace where Mahaveera was born
and brought up. These are the highways where he used to wander, here are the gardens, in
which he had played and danced. Here are assembled the citizens who have admired him and
showered flowers on him. Lo, the banyan grove where he stamped the snake with his feet!
Ah, here is the parade ground where he subdued the wild elephant. Mahaveera looked around,
like a lion surveying the land he has crossed. His eyes stood still as he saw the feet of
his parents - the feet which he had seen and worshipped every day. He bowed again. The
mother's tears fell on Mahaveera's head. The world has to be renounced for the sake of the
Atma; tears are but the forerunners for the coronation as the king of the realm of
tapas---- so thought
Mahaveera bowed to all. He entered the palanquin. Thousands of people shouted,
'Victory! The people of Kundapura felt honored to bear the palanquin on their
shoulders. Elephant, horse, chariot and the infantry led the royal send-off given to
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