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In Indian religions, a chakravarti (Sanskrit: च���्रवर्तिन्, cakravartin, Pali: cakkavatti)[a] is a world conqueror and ideal universal ruler who rules ethically and benevolently over the entire world, although in practical terms this is often imagined as meaning the Indian sub-continent.
Such a ruler's reign is called sarvabhauma. The word is a bahuvrīhi compound word, 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). The Tibetan word translates "monarch who controls by means of a wheel".
The first references to a Chakravala Chakravartin appear in monuments from the time of the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), dedicated to Chandragupta Maurya and his grandson Ashoka. 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.
The Cakravarti King in Buddhism
In early Buddhist art there are more than 30 depictions, all from the Deccan. In most the Cakravarti King uses the "Royal Gesture" in which the king "clenches his left hand at his chest and reaches up with his right hand". He is surrounded by his seven attributes: the cakraratna wheel, his state elephant, charger horse, "the octagonal gem which is so luminous it can light the path of his army by night", his queen, prime minister and finance minister.
The early 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".
A Cakravarti King is a king who rules all of the great continents (Pubbavideha, Jambudipa, Aparagoyana, Uttarakuru) of earth. The King wins all of the continents with peace. Since he is virtuous, seven miracle treasures appear including a large wheel spinning (Chakraratnaya) in the sky. The king and his army can travel anywhere with that spinning wheel in the sky. He travels over the world and teaches all kings how to rule with peace Dasavidha-rājadhamma. He can travel to the lower heaven realms with the power of Chakraratnaya if he wants. Cakravarti king only appears when humans are virtuous and long lived. Jataka tales, a part of the Pali Canon, describe Buddhist Cakravarti Kings.
According to the traditions "Vishnu, in the form of Chakra, was held as the ideal of worship for Kings desirous of obtaining Universal Sovereignty", a concept associated with the Bhagavata Puranas, a religious sanction traceable to the Gupta period, which also led to the Chakravartin Concept. There are relatively few examples of chakravartins in both northern and southern India.
In Southern India, the Pallava period beginning with Simhavishnu (575 CE – 900 CE) was a transitional stage in southern Indian society with monument building, establishment of (bhakti) sects of Alvars and Nayanars, flowering of rural Brahmanical institutions of Sanskrit learning, and the establishment of Chakravartin model of kingship over a territory of diverse people; which ended the pre-Pallavan era of territorially segmented people, each with their culture, under a tribal chieftain. The Pallava period extolled ranked relationships based on ritual purity as enjoined by the shastras. Burton distinguishes between the Chakravatin model and the Kshatriya model, and likens kshatriyas to locally based warriors with ritual status sufficiently high enough to share with Brahmins; and states that in south India the kshatriya model did not emerge. As per Burton, South India was aware of the Indo-Aryan Varna organized society in which decisive secular authority was vested in the Kshatriyas; but apart from the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagar line of warriors which claimed Chakravartin status, only few locality warrior families achieved the prestigious kin-linked organization of northern warrior groups.
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. 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.
- Bharata, son of Tirthankara Rishabhanatha
- Sagara, ancestor of Bhagiratha as in the Puranas
- Tirthankara Shantinatha
- Tirthankara Kunthunatha
- Tirthankara Aranatha
In Jainism, a Chakravartin Samrat was characterised by his possession of Saptaratna, or "Seven Jewels":
- Ratna-Chakra, a miraculous diamond serrated discus that never misses its target
- Divine Jewellery
- Immense Wealth
- Huge Army of War-Chariots
- Huge Army of Cavalry
- Huge Army of Elephants
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