Vasumati was the princess of Champanagari. She was clever, learned and possessed many an art and abilities along with being devout and virtuous. Her father, a great king, was powerful but a peace loving-person. Even he was not spared [clears throat] by the onslaught of war in which he was killed, and Vasumati, a child barely 12 years old, and her mother were taken captive by the enemy.
Her mother sacrificed her life to save her own honor. Little Vasumati had faith in God and prayed for protection. Seeing the dead mother and a very young girl at hand, the hostile’s evil intentions got watered down. He thought of selling this small girl as a slave in the market. Being young and beautiful, he was sure to get a good price. He put her up for sale in the town market and found many bidders. How fate brought down a princess to the level of being sold as slave!
But, as luck would have it, Dhanavarshi Seth, a wealthy businessman, happened to pass by. He saw the girl and at once realized that such a beautiful girl could only be of some noble birth. He decided that if he allowed this girl to be sold in this market, fate can be very cruel to her. So he paid the price for her and took her home.
He told his wife that they would look after her as their own daughter, since, in any case, they were childless. His wife was all too glad to take care of this child. And she was brought up by this Seth and Sethani. As she grew up, her beauty and sweet voice so impressed this Seth, he felt as soothing to hear her voice as much as the coolness of Sandal. Thatâ€™s how she got the name CHANDANBALA.
Her beauty grew with her age and the Sethani felt that this beauty might capture her husbandâ€™s heart and she would be left in the lurch. This fear and jealousy built up in her mind as days went by. So much so, when the Seth went out of town, she imprisoned Chandanbala in a room, without food and water, tying her up with shackles, shaved off her head, in an attempt to deprive her of beauty. Chandanbala, though she did not know for what sh-, she had done and for being punished, kept her cool. She prayed to God for protection. She was thus imprisoned for three days. Being without food and water, she took to fasting.
As fate would have it, Bhagwan Mahaveer was on a fast for a very long time. He had taken a secret vow to break the fast only on certain conditions being fulfilled. He went from one town to another in search of food suitable to his secret vow, but could not find any. This way he spent five months and 25 days in fasting.
On his return, the Seth asked for Chandanbala, who was not to be seen. While his wife was out, the neighbor confided in the Seth and told about the plight that Chandanbala was in. The Seth went to the dark room and was aghast to see the condition Chandanbala was in. He, at once, gave her some boiled grams, the only food, then, at hand, and asked Chandanbala to break her fast. And he went off to call a blacksmith to break the shackles.
Chandabala decided to break the fast only after making a holy offering of the food to any sadhu or monk. So she sat at the doorway to see if any sadhu passed by. On this fateful day, Bhagwan Mahaveer was passing by. He saw Chandanbala, who, with reverence, offering this frugal food to him. Food offered out of one’s own share to a saint is the Holy offering. So she was all too glad to offer some of it to Mahaveer. Bhagwan Mahaveer too saw almost all the self-imposed conditions being fulfilled. And so he went close enough to receive the offering. But the joy on Chandanbala’s face was one condition against his desire and so he turned away. Chandabala, utterly dismayed, prayed to the Lord, asking Him what was wrong with her offering. She had tears in her eyes and devotion in her voice. So Bhagwan Mahaveer turned back and saw tears in her eyes. This fulfilled all the conditions set himself to take any offering. The moment he accepted the offering, miracles took place– the shackles broke off and wealth showered from the sky and all round there was an air of Divinity.
Chandanbala went on to become Bhagwan Mahaveer’s first female disciple or Shishya, who, after taking to sainthood, spread the preachings of Mahaveer far and wide.