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Shrut Panchami is the day when the first Digambar Jain scriptures were written (roughly around 160 A.D.) in the small town of Ankleshwarin the state of Gujarat.Following the liberation (nirvana) of Bhagwan Mahavir on the day of Dipawali, his prime disciple Gautam Swami attained omniscience (kevalgnan) on that same day. There were three kevalgnanis within 62 years following the nirvana of Mahavir Bhagwan: Gautam Swami, Sudharma Swami and Jambu Swami. After Jambu Swami there was absence of omniscience (kevalgnan) in Bharat Kshetra. The link of what is omniscience and its root was not broken, however, the intensity of knowledge started to diminish. After Jambu Swami there were five shrut kevalis over the next 100 years – Vishnu, Nandimitra, Aprajit, Govardhan and Bhadrabahu, of which Bhadrabahu Swami was the last – they all possessed knowledge of the 12 ang including the 14 poorva (also called dwadashaang). The flow of knowledge was intact up to that point.
During the time of Bhadrabahu Swami there was a drought of twelve years and this knowledge started to diminish. In the lineage of Bhadrabahu Swami there were two great Acharyas – Dharsen Acharya and Gunbhadra Acharya (around 700 years after the nirvana of Mahavir Bhagwan). By this stage the level of knowledge had reduced to partial knowledge of one ang only. Dharsen Acharya lived in the caves of the Girnar mountain. Until his time, knowledge was passed orally, but he then noticed that due to the reduction in brain power, this oral knowledge was diminishing and was afraid it would be lost altogether so he called two monks from the South of India –Pushpadant and Bhootbali.
When they arrived he tested them by giving them two mantras, one which contained an extra word and the other one was a word short. Whilst both monks were carefully meditating upon these mantras, two devis (fairies) appeared before them – one with one eye and the other one with one tooth sticking out. Thus they immediately understood that these mantras were not pure. They added the missing word and removed the extra word from the two mantras, and as these became pure, two beautiful devis appeared before them. They then took these two mantras to Dharsen Acharya who upon reading them said “Jai Ho Shrut
The two monks then absorbed this knowledge and wrote the first scripture called the Shatkhand Agam (the foremost and oldest Digambar text). On completing this scripture in the town of Ankleshwar on the fifth day of the Jesht sud month (Shrut Panchami), the celestial beings (devas) performed a special puja. The scripture contains six volumes. Acharya Virsen wrote two commentary texts, known as Dhaval-tika on the first five volumes and Mahadhaval- tika on the sixth volume of this scripture, around 780 A.D. From this scripture, many more scriptures were written and thus started the flow of written knowledge. On the day of Shrut Panchami, all Jain scriptures continue to be venerated. Devta” (long live correct knowledge). As he was satisfied, Dharsen Acharya gave them the knowledge of the fifth mahakarma prakarti prabhrut adhikar of Agrayani poorva.
Narmadasundari, holder of 64 feminine arts, was married to Maheshvardalta. After her marriage, she greatly impressed her in-laws by her strict pursuit of Jain religion. Once upon a time, Narmadasundari was standing in a balcony and she spat the chewed betel leaf which fell on the head of a monk who happened to pass along the street. The monk looked up and told her that for having shown disrespect to a monk, she would suffer separation from her husband. Having realized her mistake, she came running down she bowed to the monk and earnestly requested the saint not to curse her.
The monk said, “A Jain monk would never curse. It is only the karma that make you suffer.”
For some business, Maheshvardatta was going to a foreign land and along with his wife he went for a cruise. One night, melodious music was heard from an island whereupon Maheshvardatta said that the singer must be very expert in the art of music. Besides the art of music, Narmadasundari had also studied the science of voice. Just by listening to the voice, she could make a lifelike description of the singer. Hence Narmadasundari said, “Indeed the singer is expert in singing, but he is black, his hands are muscular and hair rough. He is a young man of thirty-two with a broad chaste.”
Narmadasundari’s detailed description of the singer raised many doubts in the mind of her husband. He wondered as to how could she have such a detailed information about a third person. In anger he decided to abdicate her. The ship made a halt at Rakshasa Dwipa; while Narmadasundari was sleeping under the shade of a tree, Maheshvardatta left her asleep and returned to the ship and told others that his wife was killedby a monster in the form of a tiger. Thereafter, Maheshvardatta earned a lot of money in Yavan Dwipa. On returning to the home-town, Maheshvardatta informed Narmadasundari’s parents about the death of Narmadasundari and performed all the obsequial rites.
When she was awakened, Narmadasundari had to face many difficulties and began to weep loudly; she began to pass her days taking recourse to religion. Her uncle Virdas came there and accompanied her back but on the way, she fell prey to a courtesan. There she was tortured and beaten heavily but she did not budge a little. When the courtesan died, the king called her to the court to take the place of the dead courtesan. In order to protect and save her character, she jumped into a ditch and behaved like a mad woman. People thought that she was either a mad woman or a witch and let her go. Finally Narmadasundari arrived at her parents’ home and passed her days peacefully.
Once when she asked Suhastisuriji about her previous birth, he said that as a ruling goddess of the river Narmada in the previous birth, she had harassed the monks residing on the bank. Having known about her previous birth, she accepted initiation and after severe penance she acquired clairvoyance. Once she was on a tour when Maheshvardatta came to Sadhvi Narmadasundari to offer his respects. This was the time when everything was explained and Maheshvardatta repented greatly for his behaviour. Sadhviji told him, “You are not at fault in this matter. Every soul has to suffer according to the karmas that it has performed.”
Maheshvardatta also accepted initiation and both attained salvation on the banks of the Narmada.