Vasudeva-Heendi: (Vasudeva’s journey)

The greatest feature of Jain literature is that debaucherous and sensual literature did not find place in it. As a result, the moral standard of the people’s life was raised and the glory of India increased. Jain sages kept on travelling across length and breadth of India and with this wide exposure, Jain scholars continued to produce literature in the languages of different regions, which contributed to the development of the languages and literature. Jain literature is available in Prakrit, Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil and Rajasthani, Hindi, Gujarati on a wide range of subjects such as grammar, lexicons, rhyme, figures of speech, poetics, medicine, occultism, mathematics, examination of gems etc. A lot of important material related to Indian history, culture and folk life can be found in Jain texts.

Jain scriptures have a lot of universally useful literature that has been beneficial to the Indian society. Munishree Punyavijayaji edited the ancient Prakrit text Angavijjā which is the only ancient text on Angavidyā, in which rich and diverse cultural material has been preserved. Vāsudeva-Heendi written by Sanghadasgani in Prakrit language contains many mythological and secular stories about the journey of Lord Krishna’s father Vasudeva. In this Rishibhāshit – the composition of a rishi – is a collection of sayings of sages of three religions viz. Jain, Buddhist and Vedic respectively.

Vāsudeva-Heendi is considered to be the oldest and most prominent composition of other than the Āgama scriptures. This work contains the account of lord Krishna’s father Vasudeva’s journey (Heendi) according to Jain tradition. Originally from Sanskrit and used in Gujarati as well as Prakrit, the word ‘Hind’ means ‘to walk, to move or to revolve.’ Hence, ‘ Vāsudeva-Heendi‘ means journey of Vasudeva. Sri Krishna’s father Vasudeva left home in his youth and in the course of years he married many ordinary as well as knowledgeable girls and had undergone various strange experiences. His chronicle occupies a major part of Vāsudeva-Heendi story. Nevertheless, the author has presented, in the manner of an epic, a religious saga by depicting numerous religious stories, folktales, and discourses as well as the characters of Tirthankaras, holy monks and religious men among many other things.

The book is divided into two volumes: the first volume is the earliest of all available, apart from the Āgamas, texts of Jain literature. Its first volume consists of 29 and the second volume has 71 Lambhakas (chapters). The author of the first volume is Sanghadasgani Vachak and the author of the second volume is Dharmasengani. His time is not certain, but Jinbhadragani Kshamasraman mentions this scripture in Visheshanvati. Hence, the time of Sanghdasgani can be considered slightly before the 6th century AD. The middle and end parts of the first volume are fragmentary. 19th and 20th chapters are not available and 28th chapter is found incomplete.

In Ātmānand Jain Granthmālā edited by Munishree Punyavijayji, its first volume was published in 1930-1931 AD from Bhavnagar. Dr Bhogilal Sandesara has translated it into Gujarati. The second volume is usually called the average volume. A part of it was published by the L. D. Institute of Indology as L. D. Series 99. The rest of the parts has remained unpublished as on date.

Dr. Alsdorf has done significant research on the corelation of Brihatkathā and the Vāsudeva-Heendi and has provided some evidence about the original form of the Brihatkathā. The adventures of Naravāhandatta, the protagonist of the Brihatkathā, are attributed to Krishna’s father in Jain literature. The narrative is divided into six sections – the origin of the narrative (Utpatti), the prelude (Pithikā), the introduction (Mukh), the background (Pratimukh), the main body (Sharir) and the epilogue (Upsamharā). The origin of the narrative contains Jambooswamcharita, dialogue between parents and Jambu, between Jambu and Prabhava, story of Kuberdatta, story of Maheshvardatta, story of Valkalachiri Prasannachandra, story of Brahman Darak, origin of Anadhiadeva etc. At the end the origin of the character of Vasudeva is shown. After that, the story of Sarthavahaputra Dhammilla is given in detail, who married thirty-two girls and enjoyed worldly pleasures as a result of his penance. Pithikā describes the story of Pradyumna and Sambakumar, the introduction of the wives of Rama and Krishna, the birth of Pradyumnakumar, his abduction and discovery, Pradyumna’s antecedents, his reunion with his parents and marriage etc. In Mukh, there is a description of the activities of Samb and Subhanu. In Pratimukh, autobiography of Vasudev begins. However, the true extent of Vasudeva’s autobiography begins with Sharir section. The chapters (Lambhakas) also start from there. The sections of the autobiographical main story of Vasudeva are named as Lambhaka. Each Lambhaka is respectively named after the girls to whom Vasudeva was married, e.g., Syamalilambhaka, Gandharvadattalambhaka, Nilayshalambhaka etc. Sharir section starts from 1st Lambhaka and ends in 29th Lambhaka. In these Sections, the antecedents of Samudravijaya Adi and nine Vasudevas are described.

Along with the story of Vasudeva, it has many retellings. These stories provide useful and interesting information for the study of society and culture. Some of these references are very important as they present entirely new facts, while the rest provide rich supplementary information for the study of the culture of ancient India.

Vāsudeva-Heendi is a great epic written in descriptive and eloquent Prakrit prose. Verses also come in between. Occasionally, allegorical, and episodic descriptions are also found. From the point of view of narrative, the association of Vāsudeva-Heendi cannot be established in ancient Jain literature. Its language is the Arsh Jain Maharashtrian Prakrit found in the Churnigrantho Adi, which shows many peculiarities and peculiarities due to its extraordinary antiquity and is distinguished in all texts of Prakrit literature due to the Arsha features. Since Prakrit was written when it was the spoken language of the masses, its language has an innate spontaneity. Vāsudeva-Heendi is a rare treatise of Jain literature, even if viewed purely from the point of view of language.

Dr. Sejal Shah (Ph.D.)