Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Vasumati. She was the daughter of king Dadhivahan and queen Dharini of the city of Champapuri.
One day a war broke out between the King Dadhivahan and the king of nearby Kaushambi. King Dadhivahan was defeated in the war and so, he had to run away in despair. When princess Vasumati and queen Dharini learned that they had lost the war, they also decided to escape. While they were running away from town a soldier from the enemy's army spotted and captured both of them. Princess Vasumati and her mother were scared. They didn't know what the soldier would do to them. He told the queen that he would marry her, and that he would sell Vasumati. Upon hearing this, the queen went into shock and died. The soldier immediately felt sorry for his remarks and decided not to make any more comments. He took Vasumati to Kaushambi to sell her.
When it was Vasumati's turn to be sold in the slave market, a merchant named Dhanavah happened to be passing by. He saw Vasumati being sold and felt that she wasn't an ordinary girl. He thought she might have been separated from her parents and if she was sold as a slave, what would be her fate? So out of compassion Dhanavah bought Vasumati, and took her to his home. On the way, home he asked her, "Who are you? What happened to your parents? Please don't be afraid of me. I will treat you as my daughter.” Vasumati didn't reply.
When they reached home, the merchant told his wife, Moola, about Vasumati. "My dear," he said, "I have brought this girl home. She has not said anything about her past. Please, treat her like our daughter.” Vasumati was relieved. She thanked the merchant and his wife with respect. The merchant's family was very happy with her. They named her Chandanbala, since she wouldn't tell anyone her real name.
While staying at the merchant's house, Chandanbala's attitude was like that of a daughter. This made the merchant very happy. Moola, on the other hand, was wondering what her husband would do with Chandanbala. She thought that he would marry her because of her beauty. Therefore, Moola was never comfortable with the idea of having Chandanbala around.
One day, when the merchant came home from his shop, the servant who usually washed his feet was not there. Chandanbala noticed this, and was delighted to have a chance to wash his feet for all the fatherly love he had given her. While she was busy washing the merchant's feet, her hair slipped out of the hairpin. The merchant saw this and felt that her hair might get dirty. So he lifted her hair and clipped it on the back of her head. Moola saw all this and was outraged. She felt that her doubts about Chandanbala were true. Moola decided to get rid of Chandanbala as soon as possible.
When Dhanavah went on a three-day business trip, his wife used this opportunity to get rid of Chandanbala. Right away, she called a barber to shave all of Chandanbala's beautiful hair. Then she tied Chandanbala's legs with heavy shackles and locked her in a room, away from the main area of the house. She told all of the servants not to tell the merchant where Chandanbala was or she would do the same to them. Then Moola left to go to her parent’s house.
When Danavah returned from his trip, he didn't see either Moola or Chandanbala. He asked the servants about them. The servants told him that Moola was at her parent's house, but they didn't tell him where Chandanbala was because they were scared of Moola. He asked the servants in a worried tone, "Where is my daughter Chandanbala? You better speak up and tell the truth. I will fire you all if you don’t tell me the truth.” Still nobody said a word. He was very upset and didn't know what to do. After a few minutes an older servant thought, "I am an old woman and will soon die anyway. What is the worse Moola can do to me?.” So out of compassion for Chandanbala and sympathy for the merchant she told him all about what Moola did to Chandanbala.
She took the merchant to the room where Chandanbala was locked up. Dhanavah unlocked the door and saw Chandanbala. He was shocked when he saw her. He told Chandanbala, "My dear daughter, I will get you out of here. You must be hungry, let me find some food for you.” He went to the kitchen to find food for her. He found that there was no food left, but only some boiled lentils in a pan. The merchant decided to feed her that for the time being. So, he took them to Chandanbala. He told her that he was going to get a blacksmith to cut off the heavy shackles and so he left.
Chandanbala was thinking about how her life had changed. She started wondering how fate can change the life from rich to almost helpless. Chandanbala then thought of offering lentils to someone else before eating. She got up, walked to the door, and stood there with one foot outside and one inside.
To her surprise, she saw a monk (Lord Mahaveera) walking towards her. She said, "Oh revered monk, please accept this food which is suitable for you.” But Lord Mahaveera had taken vow to fast until a person who met a certain conditions and offered him food. His conditions were:
- A person who would be offering alms should be a princess.
- She should be bald headed.
- She should offer the food in winnowing pans.
- She should be in tears.
- Her hands should be chained.
- Her feet should be chained.
- She should be wearing a single cloth.
- She should have been sold in market.
- She should offer only soaked black peas.
- She should have fasted for 3 days.
- She should be having her one foot inside the house and other outside.
- She should be locked in an underground room.
- She should offer him the alms after the usual time of offering alms i.e. lunch time had already passed.
Therefore, Lord Mahaveera looked at her and noticed that one of his pre-decided conditions was still missing. She met all conditions except the tears in her eyes and therefore, Lord Mahaveera walked away. Chandanbala was very sad that Lord Mahaveera did not accept alms from her and started crying. Tears started running down her face. Crying, she again requested Lord Mahaveera to accept the alms. Lord Mahaveera saw the tears in her eyes and came back to accept the food knowing that all his conditions were met. Chandanbala now offered the lentils in Lord Mahaveera’s hand and was very happy.
Lord Mahaveera had fasted for five months and twenty-five days. Before He met the person who will satisfy all the condition he had thought of to accept the alms. Heavenly Gods celebrated the end of Lord Mahaveera’s fasting. By their magical power, Chandanbala's shackles were broken, her hair grew back, and she was again dressed as a princess. The loud music and celebration drew the attention of king Shatanik. He came to this place with his family, ministers, and other people. Sampul, a servant from the original kingdom, recognized Chandanbala. He walked towards her, bowed and, broke out in tears. King Shatanik asked, "Why are you crying?” Sampul replied, "My Lord, this is Vasumati, the princess of Champapuri, daughter of king Dadhivahan and queen Dharini.” The king and queen now recognized her and invited her to live with them.
Later, when Lord Mahaveera attained Kevala-gyana, the perfect knowledge, he reestablished the four-fold order of Jain Sangh (community). At that time, Chandanbala took Diksha and became the first nun (Sadhvi). She became the first sadhvi-president (head of the order of nuns) of 35000 sadhvis. When Chandanbala attained nirvana, her soul achieved liberation.
We can learn from a number of behaviours that are sited in this story. Moola’s heart was blinded by jealousy and therefore did not understand Chandanbala’s plight, role of a mother, and compassion of a father. This led her to do terrible things resulting in karma. This depicts the destructive power of jealousy and why we should avoid it. Next, the self-less old servant who told Danavah about what had occurred did this out of compassion, and risked her own demise with Moola. This good deed will be attached to her soul and demonstrates the principles of Jainism. Similarly, Danavah’s compassion and treatment of Chandanbala supports the proper role of a father and the willingness to help an orphan. Lastly, Chandanbala’s offering of food to Lord Mahaveera despite her own pitiful situation is very self-less and comes from the heart. Jain principles ultimately led Chandanbala to the path of liberation.