In the glorious country of Gurjar (Gujarat), King Veerdhaval ruled the state of Dholka. Aashraj, a minister in the court of King Veerdhaval, was a follower of Jain religion. He lived with his family in the village of Sunhalak. His wife was Kumardevi and together they had three sons and seven daughters. Amongst his children, due to the pious deeds in their previous lives, Vastupal and Tejpal had built righteous merit which was instrumental in bestowing on them great intelligence and virtues, right from childhood. Such was their love for each other and their unwavering faith in the religion set forth by the Lord, that they became a cause of envy for everyone.
With the passage of infancy and childhood, they stepped into the throes of youth and eventually selected as their respective life partners, Lalitadevi and Anupamadevi. As time passed and their father Aashraj left the mortal world, Vastupal-Tejpal, along with their families settled in the village of Mandal. Shortly after settling in Mandal, their mother Kumardevi also passed away. Unable to cope with the loss of god-like parents, both brothers decided to go on a pilgrimage to the great shrine of Siddhachal to lighten their heavy hearts.
Desirous of seeking employment after the pilgrimage, they left the village of Palitana and went from town to town testing their fortunes. Meanwhile, emperor Veerdhaval was in search of a discerning minister to manage his kingdom’s royal administration and a brave commander to be the chief of his army. Just like a jeweler can evaluate the worth of a diamond, the king read their fortune by reading the lines on their forehead and with great enthusiasm he entrusted the responsibility of running the royal affairs on these two virtuous young brothers who were entering the royal court in the prime of their youth. These two brothers had been instrumental in not only augmenting the royal treasure, but their combination of bravery and tact had helped them win over the hearts of the king and his subjects. As they were not only effective in managing the royal affairs, but were equally loyal in abiding by Jain religion’s commandments, their fame and popularity started spreading everywhere.. Desirous of ensuring deliverance in their future lives, they got several temples constructed and in that process, once they had the opportunity to visit the pious mountains of Girnar along with many members of the Jain community.
Meanwhile on the other side, several Jain monks, who travel everywhere by foot only, had reached the foot hills of the great Girnar mountains after a tiring and long journey and with a desire to see the child celibate Lord Neminath. They began their upward ascent of the land that had been made pious by the renunciation, enlightenment and/or liberation of innumerable Tirthankars (Jain Lords) and through which they themselves sought salvation. Their hearts brimmed with boundless joy but alas, their dreams came crashing down as a giant man stopped them in their tracks. On being asked why, he replied, “If you want to continue your ascent to this mountain, you will first have to pay tax; if not, you will not be permitted to go ahead”. Bewildered, the great monks said, “Is there ever money to be paid to reach the Lord’s doors”? We have taken the vow of non possession and therefore how can we have any money”? But he remained unconvinced. The monks had no option but to turn back. The next day, the monks experienced a sense of déjà vu as their ascent to the mountain top was again refused unless they paid the tax. The only acceptable solution was that this forced and unfair tax on the pilgrims of Girnar should be abolished. The battle of thoughts in their minds had ended with this resolution.
The next day, as red hues filled the evening sky, some words floating in the temperate breeze reached the ears of the monks. They found out that the minister of Dholka would be arriving at the foot hills of Girnar with many members of the Jain community the next day. They could sense that their wish of getting the tax abolished could soon be fulfilled. The noble Vastupal was indeed aware of this issue of tax, but upon knowing in detail he realized that this issue would need to be handled with tact and not power. Vastupal requested the monks to climb the mountain along with the entire community. Thus taking advantage of the fact that the minister was himself quite eager to get this tax abolished, the monks told minister Vastupal, “It is indeed very shameful that the devotees are asked to pay taxes to worship the Lord. Today you might be able to get us to worship the Lord along with the community but what about other noble souls who come here in the future to worship this pious shrine”? The monks’ words formed a strong impression on the mind of minister Vastupal and the idea of abolishing the tax which was in the form of a tiny spark in his mind, had now been ignited enough to become a huge flame. Agreeing to be supportive, the minister said, “Oh noble souls, your wish is my command; I am at your service. It will be a golden moment in my life, if my head were to be severed and if I could become a martyr for the cause of the Lord”.
The minister and the monks discussed the possible solutions to enable abolishment of the tax and thereafter the monks once again began their ascent to the mountain. No sooner had they begun, than they heard a voice commanding them to stop. Despite this, the monks with great determination and slow speed continued to march ahead. Unfazed by the anger spewed by the officials, the monks also decided to retaliate with a tit for tat; they openly disregarded the officials, did not pay the taxes and eventually reached the top of the mountains after persevering for two long days. On the other hand, the officials were furious and their anger was raging as they were unable to gather the tax payment. They realized that their long lasting tradition of assessing a levy on all pilgrims had received a fatal death blow. They could not bear this humiliation and reached out to the minister in the hope of getting justice at any cost. The minister gave them an opportunity to vent their frustration and consoled them with the assurance that he would certainly look into this issue.
Shortly thereafter, the minister called for the monks and as soon as they arrived, the minister cordially welcomed them, giving them the respect they were due with gratitude. Knocking on the doors of the minister seeking justice, the officials presented their case complaining with the words, “Respected minister, these monks slighted our long running custom of paying traveler’s tax and forcibly went ahead with their pilgrimage of the mountain without paying the dues. They have openly disregarded our system that has been in place since many years. We, your humble servants ardently request you to provide justice in this matter”.
At that time the monks said, “Minister, kindly tell how can there be any taxes levied on us bald headed monks? We have been patient and have tried to control our burning desire to see the Lord since the last three days; but there is a limit to our patience as well. How ridiculous is it to even think that one has to pay money to see the Lord?” The officials argued, “Oh minister, how can we tolerate a blow to our source of livelihood and income that has been ongoing since several years? We should definitely get five drams per head”.
The minister said, “Under such trying circumstances, the best way out would be that all of us come up with a solution that will be acceptable to everyone”. However no one was able to come up with such a solution and so the minister proclaimed, “If you are unable to come up with an agreeable solution, can you ordain me with the responsibility? Will my decision be acceptable to everyone? But remember, there will be no room for negotiation thereafter – is that acceptable”? The officials said, “Oh minister, we are confident that there is no room for any bias in your decision”.
Lovingly winning the trust of everyone present, the clever and astute minister secured everyone’s consent and announced that, “From this day onwards, traveler’s tax on this land of Girnar, which has been made pious by the renunciation, enlightenment and salvation of the twenty second Tirthankar Lord Neminath, is being abolished. Anyone found collecting taxes in disdain of this announcement will be prosecuted to the highest extent in law. To ensure that we do not compromise the issue of your livelihood, the village of Kuhadi, situated near Girnar, is being handed over to you. You will have every right over all income being earned from this village of Kuhadi as you will from today be the owners of this village”. The joy of the people knew no bounds, hearing the golden words of the minister. People became completely relieved as they received the official documents making them the beneficiaries of all income of Kuhadi village.
The atmosphere reverberated with sounds of victory hailing the Lord of the Lords Shri Neminath and minister Vastupal. Every cave in the mountains of Girnar echoed with these cries and that fragrance of peace and happiness permeated the entire universe.