The life of Rajarshi (king with the attributes of a sage) Kumarpal symbolising bravery, justice and compassion and it is a glorious chapter in the saga of Jainism. Kumarpal, an apostle of non-violence, was a powerful monarch. As a man of exceptional talents, he had carved out a niche for himself not only in the history of Gujarat but of India and his life was full of some extraordinary events.
Life of Kumarpal
His life was a blend of grievous calamities and glorious achievements, a blend of joys and sorrows. Born in a noble family, he suffered king’s ire, separation from family, thirst and starvation and had to beg and roam in forests. Finally, he defeated his enemy, got back to his kingdom and embraced religion to die a coveted death. It was a life fit to be a subject of an epic. Profuse details about Kumarpal are available in Dwayashray of Hemchandracharya, in the play Moharajparajay by Yashpal and Kumarpalpratibodh of Somprabhacharya. Such a detailed history of no other king is available in India.
The Story of Girnar and Kumarpal
Once Maharaja Kumarpal and Kalikal Sarvagnya Hemchandra Acharya went on a cha-ri Palit Sangh (Yatra on foot following 6 principles) to Shatrunjay and Girnar. After a lot of enthusiasm and celebrations, the Sangh reached Girnar foothills. The next day, both of them started their yatra on Girnar. As soon as they stepped on the hill, the mountain began to shake without any reason. Experiencing the unexpected mountain shake, Maharaja Kumarpal asked Acharya Bhagwant for the reason for this. To which Acharya Bhagwant replied,
‘’ The rock is hanging like an Umbrella and an old tradition says that if two powerful and meritorious men stand together beneath it, the rock falls down’’.
We both are meritorious men and if the old saying is true, then if both of us were to continue further on this way, it could spell doom for us. And hence O Great King! I will not come further and you should go on your own till the top. But King Kumarpal let Acharya Bhagwant and Sangh continue with the Yatra on the way where the umbrella-like rock stood, while he ordered to build new steps on the route alongside the old fort. The new route got created with a total expenditure of Rs. 63 Lakh. And after that, he did his yatra with great pleasure and bhakti. He also got a new temple built on top of Girnar, which even today is named Kumarpal Maharaja’s toonk.
Birth of Kumarpal
Born in 1093 CE, Kumarpal was married to Bhopaldevi. Siddhraj had no issue and hence Kumarpal was to succeed him to the throne. However, Siddharaj did not want Kumarpal to inherit the throne of Gujarat. He wished that Kumarpal died and then was reborn as his son to become the king of Gujarat. He, therefore, tried to kill Kumarpal but didn’t succeed. Hemchandracharya had been kind to him and helped him many a time.
In 1143 CE, at the age of fifty, Kumarpal ascended the throne of Gujarat. At the instance of kalikal sarvagya (all-knowing) scholar Hemchandracharya, the new king banned gambling in the kingdom. He proclaimed:
“The people at large are violent and are at one another’s throat. Lying is a sin and illicit relationship with a woman is a worse sin; but violence to living organism is the worst of all sins. I ordain that no one should profit from violence. Those who practise violence should give it up and they will be fed at the king’s kitchen for three years if they have no means of subsistence.”
He instructed his officials to give severe punishment to those who indulged in violence. Kumarpal’s devotion to non-violence inspired the kings in the neighboring countries too to practice non-violence. The prohibited any form of violence committed for the sake of religion or livelihood. The offering of animals to goddess kantakeshwari was also prohibited. He closed down slaughterhouses at the instance of Hemchandracharya. The compassion for all living organisms that one finds in Gujarat is the result of a sustained campaign launched by Kumarpal at the instance of Hemchandracharya. He was made to accept the twelve vows of samyaktva and grihastha and Hemchandracharya then conferred on him the title Rajshri (best among the kings).
He also freed Kumarpal from the divine curse. His routine included waking up to the chanting of devotional songs, recitation of Vitrag stotra and Yogashastra, partaking of food only after offering it to the gods, lighting of a lamp, singing of psalms and reflecting on the lives of great beings before going to bed. During the period of fourteen years of his rule, he donated gold worth crores of rupees, commissioned the writing of twenty-one volumes, effected friendship treaties with fourteen countries, undertook seven pilgrimages, constructed 1444 shrines, and renovated 1600 shrines. He is remembered in history as an ideal king of exceptional talents. In 1173 CE, Hemchandracharya, aged eighty-four, breathed his last, and Kumarpal the disciple of the great master, left for heavenly adobe at the age of eighty and his disciple Kumarpal died in 1174 CE.