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A Chakravatin, possibly Ashoka, 1st century BCE/CE. Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati. Preserved at Guimet Museum

Chakravartin (Sanskrit cakravartin, Pali cakkavattin) is an ancient Indian term used to refer to an ideal universal ruler[1] 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 analysed 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).

In Buddhism and Jainism, three types of cakravartis are distinguished:[citation needed]

  • 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.

List of Chakravartins[edit]

Many Chakravartins or Emperors are mentioned in the Mahabharata. Most of them lived in the Satya, and the Treta Yugas. Almost all of them conquered the world with all its continents, performed many Ashwamedha Yagnas and other sacrifices on a grand scale, gave away monumental amounts of wealth to Brahmanas, righteously ruled over their kingdoms and upheld Dharma.[citation needed]

  • Prithu: The son of Vena and the first Samrat Chakravartin, under whom the whole earth flourished. He was called Chakravartin because he had the mark of Vishnu's Sudarshana chakra on his right hand. Prithu is a form of Lord Vishnu. Prithu was a descendant of Vishnu himself. He performed a hundred Ashwamedhas and a Rajasuya Yagna. His reign was an ideal and peaceful one. His chariot could move anywhere unobstructed. Prithu experienced Samadhi and died of old age.[citation needed]
  • Ambarisha: The son of the Suryavanshi King Nabhaga and King of Ayodhya. He ruled over the Kosalas. Ambarisha conquered the entire world in seven days by righteousness and defeated one million Kshatirya kings in a single duel. He gave away his land and wealth to superior Brahmanas. He was a devotee of Lord Vishnu which saved him from the short tempered Sage Durvasa.[citation needed]
  • Nahusha: The son of the Chandravanshi King Ayu and the Aila King of Pratishthana. Nahusha acquired a divine chariot from Indra which allowed him to go anywhere at will. Nahusha was able to conquer the entire earth and the heavens in only six days with his fast moving chariot. He was an exceedingly virtuous king who acquired so much religious merit that he acquired the sovereignity of the three worlds. When the thunder god Indra, the King of Gods was weakened by the sin of killing a Brahmana when he killed the wicked Asura Vritra, he fled away, leaving the throne empty. The gods appointed Nahusha as King of the Gods. Nahusha acquired a boon from Brahma that he would acquire the power of anyone who he saw with his eyes. Hence, Nahusha became invincible and nobody could overthrow him. Initially, Nahusha ruled the three worlds virtuously for a 100,000 human years, but he soon became filled with hubris. Not even Indra, who renewed his powers, nor the Brahmarshis could overthrow Nahusha. Finally, the sages, Bhrigu and Agastya conspired against Nahusha. Bhrigu overthrew Nahusha by means of guile and cursed him to become a huge snake living on earth. Nahusha was humbled and eventually redeemed by his descendant, Yudhishthira and returned to the heavens. Nahusha was the father of King Yayati.[citation needed]
  • Rajingaya "Raji": The son of the Chandravanshi King Ayu and the younger brother of Nahusha. Raji was a virtuous king and had five hundred powerful sons who were feared by even Indra. The gods asked Raji to help them defeat the Asuras. Raji was ready to offer help on the condition that the Devas install him as King of the Gods, to which Indra agreed. Raji defeated the Asuras in battle and ruled over the gods until his death. Indra looked upon Raji as his father. Raji went to Brahmaloka. After Raji's death, his five hundred sons demanded the sovereignity of the heavens as their birthright and defeated Indra. Indra's preceptor, Brihaspati, offered them dubious advice, which the foolish sons followed and they killed each other, allowing Indra to take up his throne.
  • Yayati: The son of the Chandravanshi King Nahusha and the Aila King of Pratishthana. Yayati ruled over the Kashis. He conquered the world and performed a hundred Ashwamedhas and a hundred Rajasuyas. Yayati helped the Devas and defeated the Asuras in battle. The Purus, the Druhyus, the Anus, the Yavanas, the Bhojas, the Mlecchas and the Yadavas are his descendants. Yayati lived upto the age of 100,000 years. After his death, Yayati was thrown from the heavens for becoming too proud of his accomplishments, but Yayati's four grandsons, including Shibi, combined their spiritual powers and sent their grandfather to heaven.[citation needed]
  • Shibi: The son of the Chandravanshi King Ushinara, the grandson of King Yayati and the Anava King of the Bhojas. His mother was the beautiful princess Madhavi, the daughter of Yayati. Shibi conquered the world by military force, performed many Ashwamedha Yagnas, performed charity and upheld Dharma. He was most famous for sacrificing his own flesh to save a pigeon from a hawk, who turned out to be the gods. The gods restored Shibi to his original form. Shibi later used his power to force Yayati back to heavens when the latter exhausted his religious merit.
  • Kuvalaswa a.k.a Dhundhumara: The son of the Suryavanshi King Brihadaswa and the Ikshvaku King of Ayodhya. Kuvalaswa was famous for slaying the invincible Asura, Dhundhu, son of Madhu and Kaitabha and became known as Dhundhumara (Slayer of Dhundu). Kuvalaswa had 21,000 mighty sons, of which only three survived the battle against Dhundu. Kuvalaswa possessed the energy of Lord Vishnu. He acquired a boon of invincibility from the Saptarshis.[citation needed]
  • Dashagriva a.k.a Lankeshwar Ravana: The son of the Paulastya Sage Vishrava, the great grandson of Lord Brahma and the Rakshasa King of Lanka. From his mother's side, Ravana was a descendant of the primordial Rakshasas. Ravana acquired a boon of invincibility from Lord Brahma, only vulnerable to humans and animals. He vanquished the gods Kubera, Yama, Varuna, Surya, Chandra and Indra in battle. He also conquered the Yakshas, the Nagas, the Asuras and the Gandharvas. Ravana vanquished the human kings Marutta, Dushyanata (Bharata's father), Gaya, Gadhi (Vishwamitra's father) and Suratha, King of Vidarbha. He was defeated by Kartavirya Arjuna, the Vanara Vali and the Sage Kapila. He was also humbled by the Asura Bali. Ravana was eventually slain by the Ikshwaku King Rama in war, for kidnapping his wife.
  • Marutta: The son of the Suryavanshi King Avikshit and the Ikshvaku King of Vaishali. He was strong as ten thousand mighty elephants. Marutta was so powerful that he once vanquished even Indra, the mighty thunder god in battle, when the latter foolishly challenged the monarch. Marutta performed many Ashwamedha and Rajasuya Yagnas as well as the rare Maheshwara Yagna with the help of the sage Brihaspati's younger brother, Samvarta. During his rule, the earth yielded riches without any agriculture or mining and rains fell on time. The gods personally attended Marutta's sacrifices. Marutta was forced to surrender to the Brahmavanshi Ravana, the Rakshasa King of Lanka.[citation needed]
  • Shashabindu: The son of the Chandravanshi King Chitrasena and King of the Yadavas. Shashabindu had 100,000 wives and one billion mighty sons. He performed millions of Ashwamedha and Rajasuya Yagnas and gave away billions of elephants, horses, cattle and gold to the Brahmanas. His daughter, Bindumati, married the King Mandhata.[citation needed]
  • Mandhata: The son of the Suryavanshi King Yuvanashva, the son in law of King Shashabindu and the Ikshvaku King of Ayodhya. His father gave birth to Mandhata without any woman and Indra suckled him with his index finger. Mandhata became a fully grown adult within one month and acquired the Vedas and divine weapons without any teacher. Mandhata conquered the entire earth in one day by his righteous behaviour and defeated the Kings Marutta, Angara, Gandhara, Suna, Jaya, Sudhanwan, Nriga, Brihadratha, Janamejaya, Asita and Gaya in battle. He also conquered the world of Asuras and half of Swargaloka and ruled over them as Lord of the Three Worlds. He had supernatural powers over the rains and wealth. He performed hundred Rajasuyas and hundred Ashwamedhas and gave away innumerable cows, huge amounts of gold and other riches to Brahmanas as charity. Mandhata defeated Ravana in a duel. He married the beautiful Yadava princess Bindumati, daughter of King Shashabindu and had three sons and fifty daughters with her. Mandhata's fifty daughters married the sage Saubhari. Mandhata was burnt to ashes by the Asura Lavana in battle.[citation needed]
  • Sarvadamana a.k.a Bharata: The son of the Chandravanshi King Dushyanta and his wife Shakuntala and the maternal grandson of the Brahmarshi Vishwamitra. He was the Aila King of the Pauravas. As a small child, Bharata could easily fight, defeat and tame wild animals like lions, tigers, elephants, bulls, wild boars, buffaloes and rhinos. All animals feared Bharata when he was a child. Bharata was known for his strictness, valour, might and ruthlessness. He was called "Sarvabhauma" for conquering the entire world with his prowess and performed a thousand Ashwamedhas and hundred Rajasuyas. He gave away a lot of wealth as charity. Bharata ruled for 27,000 years. He married three princesses of Vidarbha. One of them, Sunanda, gave birth to Bhumanyu a.k.a Vitithi who succeeded Bharata as king. It is after Bharata that the continent was named Bharata Varsha.[citation needed]
  • Brihadratha: The son of the Chandravanshi King Prithulaksha and the Anava King of the Angas. He was known for giving away so much wealth. Indra and the gods had personally enjoyed his hospitality.[citation needed]
  • Gaya: The son of the Chandravanshi King Amurtaraya and King of Kanyakubja. He was very virtuous and a scholar of the Vedas. He performed many sacrifices and charity. Gaya was forced to surrender to Ravana, King of Lanka.[citation needed]
  • Rantideva: The son of the Chandravanshi King Sankirti and the Paurava King of Charmanvati. He conquered the world, performed sacrifices and gave away huge amounts of wealth and food to the Brahmanas. Rantideva was a devotee of Vishnu. He gave away his own food to people when he needed it to break his fast he observed for 48 days.
  • Suhotra: The son of the Chandravanshi King Vitithi, grandson of King Bharata and King of the Pauravas. He conquered the world and slew robbers. He performed a thousand Ashwamedhas and hundred Rajasuyas. Indra rained gold on his kingdom for one year. The lakes, rivers and aquatic creatures became pure gold in colour. Suhotra performed a sacrifice and gave away all that gold to the Brahmanas.
  • Kartavirya Arjuna: The son of the Chandravanshi King Kritavirya and the Yadava King of the Haihayas. He acquired the boons of righteousness, invincibility and a thousand strong human arms from the sage Dattatreya. Arjuna was believed to be the incarnation of the Sudarshana Chakra. His chariot could move anywhere at will. Kartavirya conquered the entire earth and defeated the Nagas and the Asuras. He even defeated the mighty Ravana of Lanka and captured him as prisoner for a few days before releasing him. Kartavirya also burnt huge tracts of forests to satisfy the fire god Agni's hunger. Arjuna ruled for 88,000 years and performed 10,000 splendid sacrifices.Towards the end, Kartavirya mistook the Brahmanas hoarding wealth as treachery and oppressed his subjects. In the end Kartavirya, in his arrogance stole the cow of the Sage Jamadagni. Jamadagni's son, Parashurama, who mastered weapons under the God Shiva, was offended by this and singlehandedly defeated and slew Kartavirya and his forces in battle. The Pandava Arjuna was often compared to Kartavirya in terms of combat prowess and skill in archery.
  • Parashurama: The son of the Bhargava Sage Jamadagni and the Ikshvaku princess Renuka. His grandmother was the Chandravanshi princess Satyavati. Although technically a Brahmana not a Kshatriya and therefore not a Chakravartin, Parashurama was still counted as one. Though born as a Brahmana, Parashurama had Kshatriya characteristics as well and thus was a Brahmakshatriya. Parashurama studied archery, weapons and military sciences from his own father and acquired divine weapons from Lord Shiva. Parashurama had defeated and slain many Asuras in war for the Gods on the orders of Shiva. Parashurama was most famous for slaying the arrogant Kartavirya Arjuna and hacking off his thousand human arms. When the Kshatriyas under Kartavirya Arjuna slew Jamadagni, Parashurama, filled with vengeance, annihilated the adult male Kshatriyas around the world twenty one times, conquering it in the process. The sage also created five huge lakes from the blood of the Kshatriyas he had slain, called Samantapanchaka, which became a holy place. Parashurama performed many Vajapeya and a hundred Ashwamedha Yagnas to purify himself of the slaughter and gave huge amounts of gold to Brahmanas. He gave the entire earth to Sage Kashyapa, the father of all creatures. Parashurama resided on the Mahendra mountain. He is most famous for training the three most powerful warriors of all time: Bhishma, the patriarch of the Kurus; Dronacharya, the martial Guru of the Kurus and the son of Surya, Karna, the King of Anga and the most powerful ally of the Kurus.
  • Sagara: The son of the Suryavanshi King Bahu and the Ikshvaku King of Ayodhya. He was born with his hand holding poison. Bahu died before Sagara's birth. Sagara was raised by the Sage Aurva, the grandson of Bhrigu and the great grandfather of Parashurama. Aurva trained Sagara in the scriptures and warfare. Sagara learnt from his mother that Bahu was defeated and driven away by the Mlecchas, the Haihayas and the Talajanghas. Sagara defeated the barbarians and conquered Ayodhya. Sagara in his rage, nearly exterminated his enemies, but he was stopped by Sage Vashishtha. Sagara punished his enemies and married two wives, Keshini and Sumati. The king performed a thousand Ashwamedhas and hundred Rajasuyas and donated his wealth to Brahmanas. Sagara had 60,000 mighty and brash sons who could fly at will. Once Indra stole the sacrifical horse of Sagara and hid it underground. Upon the orders of their father, Sagara's sons dug huge pits which later formed the oceans (also called Sagara). Sagara's 60,000 sons discovered the horse beside the Sage Kapila, who was engrossed in meditation. Sagara's sons were burnt to ashes by the sage for disturbing him in meditation. Sagara's grandson, Anshuman, apologised to Kapila and recovered the horse. Sagara ruled for 30,000 years before crowning his grandson Anshuman as king.[citation needed]
  • Bhagiratha: The son of the Suryavanshi King Dilipa, the second great grandson of Sagara and the Ikshvaku King of Ayodhya. He conquered the world with his righteous behaviour, performed sacrifices and gave huge amounts of wealth as charity. His most famous feat was bringing down the celestial river, Ganga on earth to wash away the sins of his ancestors. Bhagiratha performed penances in the Himalayas for thousand years to please Lord Brahma and one year to please Lord Shiva. Bhagiratha dug the course of Ganga to connect her to holy places. With the help of Shiva, Bhagiratha was able to cause the river to flow on earth. Bhagiratha after his death, went to Brahmaloka, higher than the heavens.[citation needed]
  • Dilipa: The son of the Suryavanshi King Havila, descendant of Bhagiratha and the Ikshvaku King of Ayodhya. Dilipa conquered the world, performed countless sacrifices, studied the Vedas and performed charity. He was also called Khatavanga and Satadhanwan for his prowess as warrior and archer. His chariot could travel on water as well as on land. During his rule, roads were made up of gold and everyone was safe.[citation needed]
  • Raghavendra a.k.a Ramachandra: The son of the Suryavanshi King Dasharatha and the greatest Ikshvaku King of Ayodhya. He lived during the interval between the Treta and Dwapara Yugas. Rama is believed to be the avatar of Lord Vishnu. Rama studied scriptures from Vashishtha and acquired divine weapons from the Brahmarshi Vishwamitra. Rama was the greatest warrior and archer of all time. He went to the forest as exile for fourteen years where he slew many Rakshasas who harassed the sages. Rama's most famous feat was the conquest of Lanka and to defeat its evil King Ravana. Ravana, the King of Lanka kidnapped Rama's wife Sita in Rama's absence. Rama and his younger brother, Lakshmana sought the alliance of Sugriva, the Vanara King of the monkeys and bears and Sugriva's minister Hanuman. Hanuman was able to track Sita in the island Lanka and informed Rama. Rama and his army of monkeys crossed the ocean and invaded Lanka. A famous battle took place between the Vanaras led by Rama and the Rakshasas led by Ravana. The Vanaras slew Ravana's warriors. Rama himself fought Ravana in a duel. Rama defeated and slew Ravana in battle, rescuing Sita. Rama acquired a boon of invincibility from Lord Brahma and returned to Ayodhya, where he ruled for 11,000 years (13,000 years according to the Srimad Bhagavatam). Rama conquered the world by non violence and by his righteous behaviour. Rama performed a Rajasuya and a hundred Ashwamedha Yagnas, and performed charity. His reign was the most perfect and ideal one, and the earth flourished under his rule. Rama died of old age and went to the abode of Vishnu.[citation needed]
  • Yudhishthira: The son of Yama, the god of death and Kunti, the Yadava princess, and the Chandravanshi King of the Pandavas, the Pauravas, the Kurus and the Bharatas. During the interval of the Dwapara and the Kali Yugas he ruled over the city of Hastinapura and founded the city of Indraprastha. He was the eldest of the five Pandava brothers, as his mother Kunti was the wife of King Pandu, a descendant of Puru and Bharata. Yudhishthira and his brothers were harassed by their rival cousins, the hundred Kaurava brothers, led by the eldest brother Duryodhana, who believed himself to be the true king of Hastinapura. After many trials and tribulations, Yudhishthira and his brothers, with the help of his cousin, Krishna waged a brutal war against the Kauravas. The Kauravas were slain and the Pandavas won back their kingdom. Yudhishthira was a kind and virtuous king. His brothers conquered the entire world. Yudhishthira performed two Ashwamedha Yagnas and one Rajasuya Yagna. He died of old age in the Himalayas and attained heavens.[citation needed]

Jain tradition[edit]

Main article: Salakapurusa

During the each motion of the half-cycle of the wheel of time, 63 Salakapurusa or 63 illustrious men, consisting of the 12 Chakravartin regularly appear.[2] The Jain cosmology or legendary history is basically a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious men. As per Jain cosmology, Chakravartins are Universal Monarchs or World Conquerors. Golden in complexion, they all belonged to the Kasyapa gotra. The mother of a Chakravartin sees some dreams at the time of conception. A chakravartin is considered an ideal human being endowed with thirty-two major signs of excellence and many minor signs of excellence.

The list of 12 chakravartin of Avasarpini as per Jainism is as follows[3]

  1. Bharata, son of Tirthankara Rishabhanatha
  2. Sagara, ancestor of Bhagiratha as in the Puranas
  3. Maghava[4]
  4. Sanatkumara[4]
  5. Tirthankara Shantinatha
  6. Tirthankara Kunthunatha[5]
  7. Tirthankara Aranatha[5]
  8. Subhauma[5]
  9. Padmanabha
  10. Harishena
  11. Jayasena
  12. Brahmadatt

In Jainism, a chakravartin was characterised by possession of saptaratna, or "seven jewels":[citation needed]

  1. chakram
  2. queen
  3. chariot
  4. jewel
  5. wealth
  6. horse
  7. elephant

Some lists cite navaratna or "nine jewels" instead, adding "prime minister" and "son".[citation needed]

The Cakravarti King in Buddhism[edit]

Tibetan mandala of the six chakravartis

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".[6]

A Cakravarti King is a king who rule the all of the great continents (Pubbavideha , Jambudipa , Aparagoyana, Uttarakuru ) of earth. The King win all of the continents with peace. Since his virtuous, seven miracle treasures appear including a large wheel spinning(Chakraratnaya) in the sky. King and his army can travel any where with that spinning wheel in the sky. He travel over the world and teach all kings how to rule with peace Dasavidha-rājadhamma. He can travel to the lower haven realms with the power of Chakraratnaya if he want. Cakravarti king only appear when humans are virtuous and long lived. Jataka tales a part of the Pali Canon describe about Buddhist Cakravarti Kings.

See also[edit]

  • Devaraja                          
  • Samraat                         
  • Maharaja                          
  • Kalachakra                         



  1. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 81. 
  2. ^ Jaini 1998.
  3. ^ Jaini, Jagmanderlal, F.W. Thomas, ed., Outlines of Jainism  appendix III.
  4. ^ a b von Glasanapp 1999, p. 306.
  5. ^ a b c von Glasanapp 1999, p. 308.
  6. ^ 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


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