A series of historical events have unfolded on the gracious land of Girnar, making it glorious for withstanding numerous storms of arguments and controversies. With the passage of time, there have been pages after pages in History, documenting many instances of dissention on the ownership of Girnar.
Documented in letters of gold in the history of Jainism, this is one such instance of five sons of trader Dhar, who sacrificed their lives for the cause of devotion to this shrine.
As he watched the holy land that had turned into a battlefield and the five bloodied dead bodies of his brave sons, trader Dhar’s deepest desire was still unfulfilled. As he took the steps backwards to his home, he was actually determining to leap forward. Despite having sacrificed five sons at the altar of Jainism, trader Dhar was still not at peace. Every passing day further sharpened his pangs to ensure Shwetambar ownership of Girnar.
After the death of his five gem like sons, trader Dhar continued to wander and eventually reached the city of Kanyakubj. Being a stranger to this city, he wandered along the lanes and happened to reach a Jain upashray (temporary residence of Jain monks). There he found that a Jain acharya was giving his religious discourse. Sailing across the assembly audience, Dhar managed to sit nearby the acharya (highest order of Jain monks) whose name was Acharya Bappabhattasuri Maharaj Saheb. After listening for some time to the nectar like words of acharya saheb, trader Dhar stood up in the middle of the assembly and addressed the acharya maharaj saheb in full hearing of the audience. He said, “Today the ownership of the great shrine of Girnar is in jeopardy. The digambars have staked their claim on the ownership of Girnar and calling Shwetambars frauds, they prohibit us from ascending the Girnar mountains. At such a time, it will be meaningful to listen to your illuminating religious talks only once we have reclaimed our ownership of Girnar. Therefore today it is time to set aside the scriptures and get set with weapons”. Seated in the assembly was King Aam who until then was listening to the discourse peacefully. He was stunned hearing the raging words of trader Dhar. Unable to bear such humiliation of acharya saheb, King Aam was about to retaliate when the astute acharya saheb was able to read the gravity of the situation and gestured the King to remain silent. Trader Dhar wanted everyone’s hearts to be lit with the same spark of devotional fire that engulfed him. In trader Dhar’s talks, despite losing his five sons, there was no desire for sympathy or display of pain, but rather an ever increasing yearning to protect the shrine; this impacted everyone present immeasurably.
For an acharya, every fiber of whose being bore allegiance to the Jain religion and for a King who was deeply influenced by this acharya, it was eye opening to hear of the dire situation in Girnar. It tugged at their heart strings and acharya saheb and King Aam commenced their journey to Girnar along with members of the Jain community. A man of truly great potential, King Aam took an unimaginable oath that, “I will not consume any food or water until I am able to see and worship the Lord of Girnar, Neminiranjan”. This was an incredible vow as the distance between Kanyakubj and Girnar was vast. En route, they carried out several activities that enhanced the glory of Jain religion. When they reached the Stambhan shrine, the King though mentally still strong, had physically weakened considerably. He was inches away from death. Everyone including acharya saheb was worried, but King Aam was unflinching in his oath. Finally, the dynamic acharya saheb prayed with unprecedented devotion to invoke Goddess Ambika, the celestial being who is the presiding deity of the Girnar shrine and of Lord Neminath. Goddess Ambika appeared in front of him. He described in detail the incredible vow that King Aam had taken and the situation at Girnar. After listening to him, Goddess Ambika disappeared and within a moment, the sky was filled with a divine voice. “Oh blessed soul, I am the presiding goddess of the great shrine of Girnar, Ambikadevi. I am pleased with your moral integrity and courage. Seeing your deep desire to protect the shrine and your extremely weak physical condition, I have brought with me the idol of Lord Neminath from Girnar. Your oath will be complete upon seeing and worshipping this idol.” Within a few moments, the resplendent idol of Lord Neminath was seen in the sky, making its way to land on the earth. People sprang from every corner of the Stambhan shrine and got engrossed in their devotion to the Lord. King Aam was still hesitant as to whether his oath was fulfilled. Sensing his hesitation, the presiding goddess again spoke in her divine voice, “Oh son! Upon seeing and worshipping this idol, you have attained the exact same benefit as worshipping Lord Neminath of Girnar. So let there not be even an iota of doubt in your mind regarding the fulfillment of your oath”! Trusting the divine words of the presiding goddess, King Aam broke his fast, albeit half-heartedly and everyone continued their march towards Girnar. Acharya saheb and King Aam kept daily tabs on the developing situation in Girnar and were informed that the opposition was stronger than ever before and was preparing well.
King Aam and his supporters had now arrived at the base of the Girnar mountains. As if to accord them a warm welcome, the opposition group comprising of 11 Kings and their vast artillery, armies, acharyas and householders had already arrived at the foot hills of Girnar and were camping there. No sooner did King Aam’s group begin their ascent to the mountain, than they heard a booming voice from the opposition say, “Beware! We have the sole right to this mountain shrine. Dare not move a step forward or we will sever your heads!” Today even King Aam was fully prepared to take them on in the battle field but Acharya Bappabhattasuri said, “The root of every religion is compassion. Slaying of thousands of men for the purpose of any religious activity is absolutely inappropriate. The decision regarding who wins or loses will be determined by debating our scriptural knowledge”.
The acharyas of the opposition also had unwavering faith in the Jain Lords and therefore agreed to this suggestion from acharya saheb. Instead of a war with weapons, being played today was a war of words. Both groups were presenting their views and opinions. Acharya saheb who was the beneficiary of many intrinsic gifts, said that “Let us invoke goddess Ambika and then publicly request her to announce her decision. Whatever her decision is should be acceptable to all”. Both the teams decided that they would send a girl from their side to the other team’s side and whatever the girls would then say would be accepted by one and all.
Acharya Bappabhattasuri sent an impressive young girl to the other team’s abode. The opposition team cast her under a spell for 36 hours and thereafter asked her to speak. At that time, the girl stood stupefied as if she was deaf and mute. Then the Digambar group sent a girl to acharya saheb and challenged him saying, “If you have the ability, then make our girl speak”. Acharya Bappabhattasuri saheb looked at the girl with affectionate eyes and placed his hand on her head to bless her. No sooner did he do that than goddess Ambika spoke clearly through the girl’s mouth and voice: Even a single salutation made to the Jain Lord Vardhaman can help men and women cross over the ocean like worldly cycle of birth life death and rebirth. I bow down to the supreme religious ruler Arishthanemi (Neminath) whose initiation, enlightenment and salvation took place on the peak of Ujjayant (Girnar) mountain.
Hearing these hymns, a wave of happiness spread across the face of acharya sahib. The opposition was incapable of understanding the deep mystery and meaning of these hymns and therefore to help the confused group, acharya Bappabhattasuri saheb spoke with intense composure and said, “Oh King, we in our sect believe that salvation of men, women and even the impotent eunuchs is possible whereas your sect does not accept the possibility of the salvation of women. Through this young girl, goddess Ambika has clearly stated in the first hymn that, “Even a single salutation made to Lord Vardhaman can enable men – women to achieve salvation”. This hymn completely supports our belief and therefore this can be considered as goddess Ambika’s seal of approval on this issue of ownership of Girnar and resolves this issue easily”.
The mediating intermediaries happily accepted the words of acharya saheb and announced the victory of Shwetambars. With this announcement of Shwetambar victory, the foot hills of Girnar reverberated with the triumphant acclamation of Lord Neminath.