the equinoxes where the days and nights are of equal length. These times are very suitable for celebtrations because of the moderate climates. Followers use devotion, prayer and fasting to focus their attention on that is reall important in life.
During every day of this festival, the Jain followers worship the Navapad, also known as Siddha Chakra, and there is a dramatic performance of the story of Shripal and Mayana.
King Singhrath ruled over Champa-nagar. He and his queen, Kamal-prabha, had a son named Shripal. The king died when Shripal was five years old.
King Singhrath's brother Ajitsen was very ambitious and seized the throne. Ajitsen planned to get rid of Shripal so that he himself could become king. When queen Kamal-prabha became aware of Ajitsen's plans, she fled from Champa-nagar with Shripal. Ajitsen sent his soldiers to find her.
When the soldiers got close, queen Kamal-prabha asked a group of lepers to take care of her son. They warned her about the risk of her son contracting the disease of leprosy from them, but she felt she had no choice. Shripal was a very handsome boy. The leper colony became very fond of him and took good care of him. Shripal contracted leprosy. When he was older, the people made him their leader, and named him Umar Rana.
The group wandered from place to place and one day arrived at Ujjayini city, the capital of Malwa region.
King Prajapal and queen Rupsundari were the rulers there. They had two beautiful, intelligent daughters named Sursundari and Mayana-sundari. The girls mastered the arts and crafts, and their father provided all the training. One day the king decided to test their knowledge. He asked Sursundari a number of questions, and she gave satisfactory replies to all of them. The king then asked her who she should thank for the skills and privilege she enjoyed. Sursundari replied that she owed everything to the king, who was pleased with her replies and decided to reward her.
The king then asked Mayana-sundari several questions. She also gave satisfactory replies to all his questions. Then the king also asked her who she should thank for the skills and privilege she enjoyed, expecting Mayana to give an identical reply. However, Mayana had total faith in the religious philosophy she had studied at length. She replied that everything she had was due to karma.
The king did not like her reply and repeatedly asked her to recognise his generosity. Mayana was adamant that everything she had was a result of good or bad karma, and no one or nothing could have made any difference. The king grew angry because he did not believe her and decided to teach her a hard lesson. He decided to have her married to the ugliest man in Ujjayini, who happened to be the leper Umar Rana. He gave them the bare necessities and a small house, and told Mayana to accept her Karma.
Queen Rupsundari was very unhappy about all this but she could not speak against her husband's will. The king got Sursundari married to prince Aridaman of Shankhapuri. Mayana was deeply religious. She accepted Shripal (known to her as Umar) as her husband and took care of him and worshipped with him.
One day Mayana-sundari and her husband went to see Jain Acharya Munichandra to discuss their problems and his leprosy disease. Jain Acharya, a well-known scholar of the time, advised them to go through the penance of Navapad (nine pious entities), which can cure all types of diseases. They had to do this nine times over four and a half years, in other words once every six months.
In Sanskrit, nava means nine, prakrit means languages, and pada means post. This is the origin of the word Navapada, which refers to the nine supreme posts of the universe. Mayana-sundari and Shripal had to meditate on Navapad, which includes
- Arihanta (destroyer of enemies)
- Siddha (accomplishment)
- Acharya (spiritual enlightenment)
- Upadhyay (teaching)
- Sadhus or holy men (Pancha Paramesthi)
- Jnan (knowledge)
- Darshan (faith)
- Charitra (conduct)
- Tapa (penance)
They also had to practice a penance called Ayambil, which is one meal a day consisting of only boiled grains, not even with salt. The result was that Shripal's skin disease started fading and eventually he got totally cured of leprosy. He finally looked like the handsome prince he was. Mayana blessed her Karma for the change. Because of the results of their devotion to Navapad and practicing the penance, both of them continued to observe it even after that.
Once, while they were at a temple, queen Rupsundari saw Mayana with a handsome man instead of the "leper" with whom she was married. Mayana explained to her mother in detail everything that had happened. Queen Rupsundari was extremely pleased about this. She told king Prajapal that Mayana was right about karma. The king could finally see the truth because he was blaming himself for bringing misery in his lovely daughter's life. He was very happy about what had happened and invited his daughter and son-in-law to stay with him in the palace. Shripal's real identity was revealed to all, and his mother, queen Kamal-prabha, arrived at the palace and stayed with them.
One day there was a royal procession in which Shripal was seated on an elephant along with the king. Someone asked a relative who Shripal was. The relative replied that Shripal was the king's son-in-law. Shripal heard that and was not pleased that he was being identified by his relationship with his father-in-law. He felt that one should gain fame from one's own efforts and not from association with relatives. Shripal discussed this with Mayana and the king, and with their blessing went traveling by himself on an auspicious day. He traveled far and wide, and visited many places, while continuing his devotion to Navapad. That is how he successfully survived all the ordeals he faced. As was the custom at that time, he married many girls and acquired a lot of wealth and many followers.
He then returned and camped outside Ujjayini. His army was so large that it virtually surrounded the city. King Prajapal thought that some enemy had come with a large force to conquer Ujjayini, and was pleased to recognize his son-in-law. Shripal entered the city where he was given a hero's welcome. His mother and Mayana were both very happy to see him. Shripal spent some happy times with Mayana who was dearest to him.
He then decided to get back his original kingdom of Champa-nagar. He sent a message to his uncle Ajitsen to leave the throne that he had seized. However, Ajitsen was too proud to give it up, and Shripal invaded Champa-nagar with his vast army. Ajitsen's army was no match for Shripal's. Ajitsen was captured and Shripal regained Champa-nagar. Shripal released his uncle from captivity, and happily passed the rest of his life as king of Champa-nagar.