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Jain Stories
Lord Adinath

Time has no beginning or end. It is not possible to measure the length of the past or the future. They are without beginning and the end. The time is thus infinite and continues forever. The conditions that prevail from time to time do not however remain the same; nor do they continue to stay static. They are periods of ups and downs, of rise and fall, of progress and decline. After every rise there is a fall and a fall is again followed by a rise. According to the Jain tradition a period of rise, known as Utsarpini or the ascending order is marked with all-round improvements like increase in age, size, prosperity etc. On the other hand, a period of fall, known as Avasarpini or the descending order is marked with all-round deterioration and decline like decrease in age, size, etc. These two periods together constitute one time cycle.

Each of the Utsarpini and the Avasarpini is divided into six eras called Äräs meaning the spokes of a wheel. The present one is considered the period of Avasarpini and we happen to live in its fifth Ärä. It is also known as Kali-Yug.

Up to the end of the third Ärä of the current Avasarpini, the people were leading more or less natural, and simple life. The population was low and the nature was bountiful. The nature provided all the necessities of human beings who had not to undertake much effort for obtaining the necessities of life. Trees were their shelter and provided enough leaves and barks for covering their bodies. With the help of the boughs, they could also erect huts for getting protection from rain and extreme weather. When they felt hungry, they could pick up their food from the trees, bushes etc. and there were ponds and enough flowing water for cleaning their bodies and quenching their thirst. As such, there was no struggle for existence or rivalry for survival and the people used to spend their lives in peace.

Jain tradition believes that till then women invariably gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. As kids, they used to grow together and when they attained maturity, they behaved as husband and wife. The people lived in tribes and had a leader who was known as Kulkar. Nabhiraya was such a Kulkar at the end of the third Ärä. He could peacefully manage the community of that time. His wife Marudevi in due course gave birth to a twin who were named as Rushabha and Sumangalä, who is also known as Nanda by some people.

Conditions started changing after Rushabha was born. There was increase in population and nature no longer remained the bountiful that it used to be. This gave rise to a sort of struggle for acquisition and accumulation of the necessities of life. Sense of jealously, envy, etc. also arose in its wake. Nabhiraya as the leader of the community tried to restrain the struggle to the utmost possible extent. In due course however, as Rushabha grew to be a bold, intelligent, enthusiastic, young man, Nabhiraya entrusted the management to him.

Rushabha was visionary, thinker and inventor. He visualized that the struggle for survival would not rest, unless some system of producing the necessities of life is resorted to. He realized that people could make effort for gaining their requirements from nature instead of relying exclusively on natural bounties. The genius that he was, he evolved the art of cultivation and taught the people how to grow food and fiber. Thus he ushered in what we call the age of material civilization.

He explained to the people how to make life comfortable. He taught how to cook the food, how to make wearable out of fiber, how to rear the useful animals like cows, horses, etc. and also how to construct houses in place of the huts. Thus, came into existence the first city, Vinita that became his capital. The same city was later known as Ayodhyä. He also evolved and developed different arts and crafts whereby a variety of articles could be made out of wood, metal, stone, etc. Thereby, people started leading variegated life.

His father started the marriage system when Rushabha was married not only to Sumangalä but also to another girl named Sunandä who had lost her birth partner in an accident. Rushabha sanctified the system of marriage and institutionalized the family life. Thus a social order was evolved and Rushabha as the first acknowledged ruler of the human society came to be known as King Rushabhdev. He ruled for a very long time and laid down equitable rules and regulations for ensuring peace and safety within his realm. People were spontaneously affectionate to him, because he had provided to them the peace and happiness that their forefathers could not dream of.

Rushabhdev had a large family. He had 100 sons of whom the eldest two, Bharat and Bähubali are well known and had two daughters named Brähmi and Sundari. To all of them he imparted training in different arts and crafts. Bharat turned out of be a brave warrior and a capable ruler. India got its name ‘Bhäratvarsha’ from his name. Bähubali, true to his name (Bähu means the hand and Bali means mighty), was known for the exceptional strength of his hands. Brähmi was very learned girl. She evolved the art of writing and developed the Brähmi script in which most of scriptures are written. Her sister Sundari cultivated exceptional talent in mathematics.

There was still one more mission to be fulfilled by Rushabhdev. Once while he was watching a dance, the life of one dancer suddenly came to an end. Rushabhdev got much perturbed on witnessing it. He started pondering over the incident and realized that every phenomenon and every situation in the universe undergoes change and that no situation stays forever. He developed detachment for everything that is impermanent and ephemeral and he decided to devote his life in search of lasting happiness. For this purpose, he made Bharat the king of Vinita and entrusted Taxshilä to Bähubali. To the remaining 98 sons he distributed other parts of his vast kingdom. Then he renounced every thing else and became a monk without possession in the search of ultimate truth. 4000 of his associated and followers also joined him in renunciation.

As a monk, Rushabhdev wanted to stay an anchorite and therefore moved from place to place. Moreover, he stayed in continuous meditation and did not even care to take food. His followers could not fast like him. They could also not get any guidance about the right behavior for the monks, because Rushabhdev remained deeply immersed in meditation all the time. They thus got confused and started behaving according to their instincts. After a few months Rushabhdev could see their miserable condition. He therefore thought to demonstrate them the way a monk is supposed to live. As such, he started going for alms in search of food. The people however did not know what type of food to offer to the monks. Rushabhdev therefore could not get the food that he could accept and had to continue fasting.

Months passed that way. After undergoing fasts for thirteen months and 9 days, while Rushabhdev was in Hastinäpur, he went to the sugarcane farm of his grandson Shreyans. It was the day of Akshaya Tritiya, the third day of the bright half of the month of Vaisakha, usually occurs in the month of May. Shreyans offered the sugarcane juice that was acceptable to the Grand Father. Thus he terminated the long fast with that juice. In commemoration of that ordeal of fast, people try to observe similar austerity. As it is not possible to fast that long, they fast on alternate day during the period of that austerity and at the end of it, they terminate it with the sugarcane juice on the Akshaya Tritiya day.

After years of rigorous austerities and search for truth, while Rushabhdev was meditating under a banyan tree on the 11th day of the dark half of Falgun (that usually occurs in March), he realized the way of gaining lasting happiness. This is known as the ultimate enlightenment and the attainment of Omniscience or Kevaljnän. Then for guiding the people towards the right path, he set up the fourfold religious order comprising monks, nuns, householder males and householder females. Rushabhsen, the son of Bharat (Some people considered him as a son of Rushabhdev) became the head of the monks and Brähmi and Sundari headed the order of nuns. As establisher of that religious order which is known as Tirth, he is considered as the first Tirthankar of the current Avasarpini. Being thus the first Lord, he is also known as Adinath (Adi means the first or beginning and Näth means the Lord). He lived long enough thereafter to teach the truth about the everlasting happiness.