The Jain Monk and his Saviors Saka

Today, politicians only remember the Mughal kings as outsiders. They remain strategically ignorant of other outsiders, like the Scythians who helped a muni Jain defeat a cruel Indian king

Today, politicians only remember the Mughal kings as outsiders. They remain strategically ignorant of other outsiders, like the Scythians who helped a muni Jain defeat a cruel Indian king

About 2,000 years ago, incidents took place involving the Jain community that inspired an epic ballad that was written down a thousand years later in Prakrit and local languages. It was the Kalak Acharya Katha which became the standard appendix to the main Jain text, the kalpasutrawhich described the Jain cosmogony.

Then, five centuries ago, illustrated Jain manuscripts appeared telling this story. The manuscripts were dedicated by Jain merchants and bankers to their patrons, the Muslim sultans of the newly emerging kingdoms of Ahmedabad, Jaunpur and Malwa. These peripheral kingdoms were born following the invasion of Timur 600 years ago, which had weakened the sultanate of Delhi. With limited access to Central Asian talent, these sultans were forced to employ local talent in their courts, especially Jain bankers with strong knowledge of accounting and finance.

Kalak Acharya Katha tells the story of a tall Jain muni from the Shwetambar school called Kalak. He and his sister joined the Jain monastic order at an early age. He was extremely knowledgeable and she was extremely beautiful. Even though she was a nun, she was kidnapped by the king of Ujjaini.

Kalak went to the king and begged him to release her, but the king refused. Frustrated because no local king would help him, Kalak then crossed the Sindhu River to its western banks and took help from Saka (Scythian) warriors. The Scythians agreed to help him because he had displayed magical powers: the ability to turn their bricks into gold. They attacked Ujjaini, but the king of Ujjaini had a trick up his sleeve. He had a magic donkey. When he bawled, the terrible sound could kill a hundred soldiers at once. Guessing the presence of this deadly donkey, the Jain muni ordered the Scythian warriors to shoot arrows directly into the braying beast’s mouth. This way they were able to stop the donkey from braying without killing it. Thus, with the help of the Scythians, Kalak was able to defeat the king of Ujjaini and save his sister.

This story is significant, as the Sakas are generally treated as outsiders in Hindu texts, along with the Yavanas (Greeks), Pahalavas (Parthians) and Kushanas (Central Asian Chinese), although many of them have frequented Buddhism, and some even Jainism and Hinduism. . The story is remarkably similar to the Ramayana, where Ram takes the help of the monkeys to free his wife from the King of Lanka. But what is interesting is that if the king of Lanka is a foreigner, here the enemy is an Indian king, probably versed in tantraand the antagonist is a Jain Muni whose support comes from a foreign land, the Shveta-dvipa or white continent to the west, a term used in many scriptures to designate Central Asia, the homeland of the skinned Turks Claire.

There are other stories of Kalak Acharya besides the attack of the Scythians. The muni’s nephews, Balmitra and Bhanumitra of Bharuch, eventually replace King Ujjaini and worship Kalak. But the Brahmins of Bharuch resent the popularity of the Jain monk, who is kindly encouraged to leave town. Kalak finds refuge in Pratishthana, whose King Shalivahan gives him sanctuary, and hosts Jain festivals alongside Hindu festivals.

The rivalry between Vikramaditya of Ujjaini and Shalivahana of Pratishthana is a key theme in folklore. There are stories that connect the birth of Vikramaditya with a heavenly donkey. Is this an allusion to the evil king Ujjaini’s magic donkey? It is difficult to extract facts from the world of folklore. In fact, dating the two legendary kings turned out to be nearly impossible. Some link Vikramaditya and Kalak to pre-Gupta invasions of Sakas and Kushans, while others date them to post-Gupta invasions of Hunas. The Sanskrit manuscripts that tell their story are dated to the eighth century, a little before the Kalak Acharya Katha was recorded in writing, probably in Gujarat. Any speculation should be made with caution.

Golden age

The 14th and 15th centuries were the golden age of Jain manuscripts. Following the Islamic invasions, the Jain community felt it was prudent not to build structures that could be smashed by ambitious iconoclastic Turks. They have instead invested in manuscripts that display fabulous calligraphy and are replete with vibrantly colored paintings. It was Indian art before the influence of Persian painting popularized by the Mughals. They were kept safely in libraries attached to Jain temples.

The story of Kalak Acharya Katha has been added as an appendix to kalpasutra, which tells the story of the three types of special beings in the Jain universe: the heroic Vasudeva, the royal Chakravarthy and the wise Tirthankaras. Illustrating kalpasutra, which describes the cosmogony of the Jain world, takes on its full meaning. But adding the story of the tough, righteous, and mighty monk Kalak as an appendix doesn’t. Why this among all the other Jain stories? Was it to make their patrons, the sultans, feel that they could be considered saviors, and not necessarily invaders, if they collaborated with their subjects rather than simply exploiting them? This is of course a controversial argument, but it must be taken into account. Indian history obscures the contribution of Jain traders and merchants.

math games

Jains were the oldest community in India to build memorial temples with icons of their sages and gods. The oldest Saraswati image has been attributed to a 2000-year-old Jain art collection found in Mathura. As traders, Jains introduced many concepts in the field of mathematics and accounting. the Hindi money transfer system was probably their invention. The snake and ladder game was invented to explain profit and loss, debt and equity. Jain monks, like Buddhist monks, were rivals of Brahmins and many Jain stories speak of this rivalry. For example, the Jain epics talk about how the Jain sage Nemi was far superior to the Hindu god Krishna, his cousin. Jains have theirs Ramayana and mahabharatawhere key characters embrace the Jain way of life.

As scholars try to research the historicity of Kalak, it makes more sense to see the mythology of this story. The world of imagination and feelings they capture explains the relationship of the Jain community with foreign invading kings and local rival communities. Let’s not forget that the name Kalak (or Kalk) is very similar to Kalki. Kalki is visualized as riding a horse and carrying a sword, much like what Yavana, Saka, Pahalava, Kushan, and Huna, and later Turkic, Afghan, and Mughal warriors would have looked like. Today, politicians only remember the Mughal kings as outsiders. They remain strategically ignorant of other outsiders, such as the Scythians who helped a muni Jain defeat a cruel Indian king.

Devdutt Pattanaik is the author of 50 books on mythology, art and culture.

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