Chakravarti (Sanskrit: चक्रवर्ति; Pali: cakkavatti) is an ancient Indian term used to refer to an ideal universal ruler, who rules ethically and benevolently over the entire world. Such a ruler's reign is called sarvabhauma. It is a bahuvrīhi, figuratively meaning "whose wheels are moving", in the sense of "whose chariot is rolling everywhere without obstruction". It can also be analyzed as an 'instrumental bahuvrīhi: "through whom the wheel is moving" in the meaning of "through whom the Dharmachakra ("Wheel of the Dharma) is turning" (most commonly used in Buddhism and Hinduism).
- Chakravala chakravarti, a ruler over all four continents postulated in ancient Indian cosmography
- Dvipa chakravarti, a ruler over only one of four continents
- Pradesa chakravarti, a ruler over only part of a continent.
The first references to a cakravala cakravrtin appear in monuments from the time of the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), dedicated to Chandragupta Maurya and his grandson Ashoka. It has not been generally used for any other historic figure. In Buddhism, the chakravarti came to be considered the secular counterpart of a Buddha. In general, the term applies to temporal as well as spiritual kingship and leadership, particularly in Buddhism and Jainism. In Hinduism, the term generally denotes a powerful ruler whose dominion extended to the entire earth.
अथ किमेतैर्वा परेऽन्ये महाधनुर्धराश्चक्रवर्ति:
राजानो मिषतो बन्धुवर्गस्य महतीं श्रियं
त्यक्त्वास्माल्लोकादमुं लोकं प्रयान्ति .. ५.
atha kim etair vā pare 'nye mahādhanurdharāś cakravartiḥ
rājāno miṣato bandhuvargasya mahatīṁ śriyaṁ
tyaktvāsmāllokād amuṁ lokaṁ prayānti 5
- Ikshvaku, the son of Ila of the Suryavanshi lineage after whom India was named as Ilavarta and Eelam. In Hindu mythology he is said to have conquered the world.
- Bharat was the son of the Puru Dynasty. The official name of the Republic of India, Bhārat (भारत) in Hindi and Bhāratam (भारतम्) in Sanskrit is named after him. He was able to conquer the whole Indian subcontinent. Legend holds that he even conquered regions outside of the Subcontinent such as Afghanistan (then referred to as Gandhara) and Tibet (then referred to as Bhūta).
- Shibi, famous in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. He sacrificed his flesh. There have been several dynasties which have claimed heritage from Emperor Shibi's line. The Cholas mentioned him to be of Chola lineage, and referred to him as Sembiyan.
- Imayavaramban Neduncheralathan, a Sangam age Tamil king said in inscriptions to have conquered up to the Himalayas.
During the each motion of the half-cycle of the wheel of time, 63 Śalākāpuruṣa or 63 illustrious men, consisting of the 24 Tīrthaṅkaras and their contemporaries regularly appear. The Jain universal or legendary history is basically a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious men. As per Jain cosmology, out of these 63, twelve are Chakravartis, who are Universal Monarch or World Conquerors. The Jaina Puranas give a list of twelve such Cakravartis who flourished in this Avasarpini. Golden in complexion, they all belonged to the Kasyapa gotra. The mother of a Cakraborty sees some dreams at the time of conception. According to the Adipurana, Bharata's mother saw the sun and the moon, the mount Meru, the lake with swans, earth and the ocean. According to Acharya Hemachandra, Marudevi, mother of Adinath, sees fourteen great dreams. A chakravarti is considered an ideal human being endowed with thirty-two major signs of excellence and many minor signs of excellence.
The list of 12 chakravartis as per Jainism is as follows:
- Bharata, son of Tirthankara Rishabha
- Sagara, ancestor of Bhagiratha as in the Puranas
- Tirthankara Shantinath
- Tirthankara Kunthunath
- Tirthankara Aranath
In Jainism, a chakravarti was characterized by possession of saptaratna, or "seven jewels":
Some lists cite navaratna or "nine jewels" instead, adding "prime minister" and "son".
The Boddhisattva-Cakravarti in Buddhism
The concept of the cakravarti existed in Buddhism as well as in Jainism. The Buddhist Mahāvastu (1.259f) and the Divyāvadāna, as well as the Theravadin Milindapañha, describe the marks of the cakravarti as ruler: uṣṇīṣa , chhatra "parasol", "horn jewel" or vajra, whisk and sandals. These were the marks of the kshatriya. Plastic art of early Mahayana Buddhism illustrates bodhisattvas in a form called uṣṇīṣin "wearing a turban/hair binding", wielding the mudras for "nonviolent cakravarti rule".
|“||Buddhist and Jain literatures describe their enlightened founders (the Buddha or Buddhas and the tīrthaṅkaras, respectively) in similar terms, the notion being that religious truth transcends local or national limitations and applies to all people everywhere. This idea is particularly evident in Buddhist oral and scriptural traditions, which frequently refer to Gautama as a cakravāla cakravarti, an illuminator of dharma (life in adherence to compassionate truth) in all regions of the world.||”|
from External Links.
|“||What do you think, Subhuti, is the Tathagata to be seen by means of his possession of marks? -Subhuti replied: No indeed, O Lord. -The Lord said: If, Subhuti, the Tathagata could be recognized by his possession of marks, then also the universal monarch would be a Tathagata.||”|
from Buddhist Wisdom Books, The Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra, translated and explained by Edward Conze.
|“||"What do you think Subhuti? Can someone meditate on the Tathagata by means of the thirty-two marks? Subhuti said, "Yes, World-Honored One. We should use the thirty-two marks to meditate on the Tataghata." The Buddha said, "If you say that you can use the thirty-two marks to see the Tathagata, then the Cakravarti is also a Tathagata?" Subhuti said, "World-Honored One, I understand your teaching. One should not use the thirty-two marks to meditate on the Tathagata."||”|
|“||Monks, I don't envision any other single strength so hard to overcome as this: the strength of Mara. And the adopting of skillful qualities is what causes this merit to increase.||”|
from Cakkavatti Sutta.
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 81.
- Source: Maitrayaniya Upanishad @ Wikisource in Unicode (accessed: Saturday March 6, 2010)
- Charles Somasundrum: The continent of Ilamuridesam (Lemuria)
- The Great Chronicle of Lanka
- Jaini, Padmanabh (1998)
- Umakant Premanand Shah (1987) Jaina-Rupa Mandana: Jaina Iconography:, Volume 1 Abhinav Publications ISBN 978-81-7017-208-6 p.72
- Jagmanderlal Jaini Outlines of Jainism edited by F.W. Thomas. Appendix III
- Falk, Harry, "Small-Scale Buddhism" in Voegeli, François; Eltschinger, Vincent; Candotti, Maria Piera; Diaconescu, Bogdan; Kulkarni, Malhar, eds. (2012). Devadattīyam : Johannes Bronkhorst felicitation volume. Bern: Peter Lang. ISBN 9783034306829., p. 495
- The Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra
- Translator's note:4. This is the refrain repeated with each stage in the account of how human life will improve in the aftermath of the sword-interval. Here, "merit" seems to have the meaning it has in Iti 22: "Don't be afraid of acts of merit." This is another way of saying what is blissful, desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming — i.e., acts of merit."
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola
- Cakkavatti Sutta The Wheel-turning Emperor (excerpt) Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
- A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms