This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Stories of the Buddha's Former Births
Jataka (Buddhist Birth Stories - Jataka Tales), the story of the previous birth of Buddha is the oldest, most complete, and most important collection of folklore which contains a record of the everyday life, and everyday thoughts of the people. (The Commentarial Introduction entitled Nidana Katha - The Story of the linage, Translated from Pali text by Prof. V. Fausboll). The Jatakas so constituted were carried to Ceylon in the Pali language, when Buddhism was first introduced into that island (a date that is not quite certain, but may be taken provisionally as about 250 B.C.); and the whole tales were translated into the Singhalese language. Mahinda, the son of Asoka (in some text he is called on as the brother of Asoka), is believed to have collected 550 Jataka stories in Pali (the twenty-two Nipitaks) which were composed by the time of the council of Patna (held in about 250 BC). A Jataka Book is also found in the Anguttara Nikdya and in the Saddharma Pundarika. The memoirs of Fah-hian (Faxian 399-414 AD, the famous Chinese traveler) who
visited Abhayagiri in Sri Lanka (412 AD) and recorded 500 representations of Bodhisattva in successive births. The Jataka Atthavannand (547 tales) belong to the third or fourth century BC is retold into its present form in Ceylon in the fifth century AD in the Pali text is edited by Prof. Fausboll of Copenhagen in 1877-96. This Pali Text is the oldest collection of the Jataka Tales, it has been translated into English language by Edward Cowell (Cambridge 1895-1907). The 547 Jatakas do not include the Mahagovinda Jataka, which is mentioned in several early texts such as Nidanakatha and the Jatakakatha. Similarly some stories are repeated with the same name or with another, thus, the number of Jataka stories could also be more or a little less. In all Jatakas from India, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, the story of the rescue of five hundred merchants from the captive of Rakshasi by White Flying Horse, as the divine Lord Avalokiteswara, is mentioned and the story ends with the only member, the leader able to get back home safely
leaving behind all other members under the captive of the Rakshasi, but nothing is mentioned about the Leader of the Legandary Caravan. The story of the flying white horse is illustrated on the bas-reliefs of the temple of Boro-Boedoer in Java (Leemans, BorroBoudour, page 389, Leide, 1874) and on one side of a pillar in a Buddhist railing at Mathura, is a flying horse with people clinging to it (Anderson, Catalogue of the Indian Museum, page 189) from The Goblin City (Valahassa Jataka by Francis & Thomas page 189). The story of the horse Balaha was immortalized in stone at the Angkor monument of Neak Pean during the 12th century CE. (See Khmer Mythology by Vittorio Roveda, p. 65) One painting from Ajanta cave shows the pastimes of Prince Simhala’s journey to Sri Lanka. He is shipwrecked along with his men on an island on which ogresses appear as beautiful women, but who eat their victims. The prince escapes on a flying horse, then later returns to the island and conquers it and established Buddhism. (Behl, Benoy K: The Ajanta Caves). Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang
visited India in the seventh century A. D. and stayed here for fifteen years (629-645 AD), did not mention about Ajanta cave. In 1819 British officers of the Madras Army made a discovery of this magnificent site. They named it Ajanta after the name of the nearest village. After a gap of twentyfive years, James Fergusson presented a paper at the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1843, highlighting its importance in term of Buddhism. This is the first scholarly study of the site which drew the global attention. (Jamkhedkar, Ajanta: Monumental Legacy) The Valahassa Jataka Tales (Jataka Story: the Flying White Horse) The Pali Jatakas, Divyavadana (heavenly stories) and the sixteenth-century Sanskrit text Gunakdrandavyiha narrates the story of Avalokitesvara as The Flying White Horse to help rescue the five hundred merchants from the captivity of the Raksasi - the Valahassa Jataka. The horse is represented as an incarnation of the Avalokiteswora in the Karandavyuha Sutra. The flying white horse is called Balaha in Jataka, the stories of Buddha’s previous life. Simhsarthabahu is
mentioned as one of the previous lives of Buddha in the 16th chapter of Gunakarandavyaha. In one the Jataka Stories the name of the leader of the group of merchant is mentioned as Simhala, who was the only member to get back to the other shore. (The Jataka: Stories of the Buddha's Former Births -The Goblin City page 164/165, edited by E. B. Cowell, vol. 1 - 3. published in 1895-1907). The Aśvarāja story relates the adventures of a caravan of merchants shipwrecked on an island of demo nesses and rescued by a flying horse, the aśvarāja, the ‘king of horses’. The Simhala story continues this narrative to include the chief merchant, Simhala, being followed home by demons, who tries to get him back before seducing and eating the king. Simhala is crowned king and invades the island. “The Valahassa Jataka” Some of the different sources related to the legendary story of the Avalokiteswora help rescue the group of five hundred merchants from the Cannibalistic demons (man eating Rakshasis - the she-goblins). 1) Valahassa Literature Jataka in the Japanese
The Valahassa Jataka, as it is known in Pali, was transmitted across Asia from India to Japan. A Japanese scroll painting belonging to the 13th century illustrating the Valahassa Jataka is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the tale is known as Kannon-kyo (Kannon Sutra) in Japanese literature. In the tale the name of the island and the city of Cannibalistic demons is mentioned as Ceylon. The name of the country of the five hundred merchant and the name of the leader are not mentioned. In this tale the five hundred merchant are called on as the disciples of Sakyamuni and the white flying horse as Bodhisattva. (The Flying White Horse: Transmission of the Valāhassa Jātaka Imagery from India to Japan by Julia Meech-Pekarik, Published by: Artibus Asiae Publishers Volume 43 n. 1-2 1981, page 111- 128) 2) The Valahassa Jataka – Indonesian version Once upon a time, there was on the island of Lanka a goblin town called Sirisavatthu, the home of she-goblins. We find the story of a group of five hundred shipwrecked traders being rescued by five
hundred she-goblins disguised as pretty nice looking young ladies. The chief of the traders got noticed the ladies as man eater goblins so he did request all member to flee from the city (Ceylon). Two hundred fifty members followed the chief and they were being helped by the white flying horse to cross the ocean. This is how the Jataka story ends with the rescue help made to the group of merchants by the flying white horse Balaha as one of the Buddha’s previous life. The same story is repeated by E J Thomas in his book Jataka Tales (No. 196, The Goblin City page 164166 published by Cambridge University Press in 1916 and in The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha, Valahassa Jataka-196 by C.B. Varma) 3) The Valahassa Jataka - Tibetan version In the history of Tibet called Rgyalrabs-gsal-vai-me-lon (The mirror illustrating the lineage of the kings) Valahassa Jataka is mentioned in the sixth chapter. This was composed in the early 17th century with the narrative description of the animistic life in Tibet from an ape and a rakshasi and the
description of the linage of the ruling king ending Sronbtsan-sgam-po and the further history of the country to the time of the writer. (A Jataka -Tale from the Tibetan by H. Wenzel - pp. 503 -511; published in 1888). Singhala is mentioned as the name of the island and the groups of five hundred merchants from India were being rescued from the Rakshasis by Lord Avalokiteswora in the form of flying horse Balaha. 4) Valahassa Jatakaya (The birth story of the Flying Horse) from Pali (Ceylon) Ceylon is believed to have been popular since long for the Iron and copper deposits, so the name Tambapanni is given to this island. This island is also known by the name Ratnadweepa as it was also popular for the precious gems found here. The Sanskrit word Sinhala has a meaning of “BARK”, Cassia bark (‘cinnamomum cassia’), which is also used as a substitute for cinnamon (cinnamomum verum also called ‘cinnamomum zeylanica’) which is native to Sri Lanka. It is believed that merchants from West Indian coast sail in
small and big boats to this island since time immortal in search of the precious stone (Gems), Copper, Iron and Cinnamon. It is also believed that the first king Vijaya arrived here on a boat after Buddha’s parinirvana on 543 BC. In 1952 a large and well-made dugout boat was found in Kelanimulla, Kelaniya belonging to 380480 BC and is kept in the Colombo Museum. (That has been radio carbon dated to 2300BP ± 100, which is 380 – 480 BC Sunday Times, Sri Lanka 2010 -----------). The story of rescue of five hundred merchant by the divine lord Avalokiteswara is mentioned in Pali Literature in Ceylon. 5) A Jataka-Tale (Dukanipata: No. 196) Translated from the Pali Literature In the Valáhassa Játaka (No.196) the island Tambannidípa and Sirísavatthu is mentioned as a Yakkha city peopled by Yakkhinís who used to eat human flesh. Avalokiteswara, the divine lord is believed to get rescue the group of five hundred merchant in the form of a white flying horse. (The Jataka, Vol. II: Book II,
translated from Pali. by W.H.D. Rouse, 1895, No. 196 Valahassa Jataka Page- 9092). Same story is mentioned in Jataka: The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma and A JatakaTale from the Tibetan by H. Wenzel (The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland pp. 503--511) 6) Goblin City (The Flying White Horse) In the Jataka: Stories of the Buddha's Former Births, Ceylon is mentioned as the Goblin City and the leader of the group of merchant is mentioned as Simhala who was the only member able to get back to the other shore (The Jataka: Stories of the Buddha's Former Births edited by E. B. Cowell, volumes 1 - 3. First published in 1895-1907 under the title - THE Goblin City page 164/166) 7) Jataka Story from Ajanta Cave Cave 17 has the largest number of paintings and murals than any of the other caves. The mural paintings in Cave no. 17 of Ajanta Cave mention the story of Bhalaha horse as a form of Avalokiteswara helping the group of merchants from the Rakshisis. Among the finest are a vast panel depicting Simhala’s shipwreck and
encounter with a man-eating ogress (“Simhala Avadana”). (The Cave Temples of India by James Fergusson and James Burgess 1895, and Ajanta and Ellora: Cave Temples of Ancient India Pushpesh Pant). The Ajanta caves are dated from the beginning of the Christian era, or earlier to the seventh century. 8) Hiouen Tsang’s version of Simhala Avadana It relates a story of the colonization of this country which is called “Ratnadweepa”, as it is in Hiouen Tsang’s version - by “Sinhala”, the son of Simha, a Merchant Prince who comes with 500 merchants in search of gems. He comes here, and meets a group of beautiful women who live in an iron city called Sirisavatthu. They are, in fact, cannibalistic Yakkhinis who can change their form, and they prey on shipwrecked sailors and merchants. Sinhala’s ship is wrecked and he is saved by the Yakkhinis who present themselves as the widows of other merchants who have sailed on trading missions many years ago and are “presumed dead”. Simhala believes the story and ‘marries’ the chief Yakkhini, but
finds out who they are and manages to escape with two hundred and fifty of his men who believe him, with the help of a magical flying horse. His ‘wife’ follows him to his kingdom and presents herself, as the woman wronged by his son, to Simha’s father. He believes her and gives her shelter. For his pains, she devours him and his whole household that night and returns to Ratnadweepa, where she kills and eats the 250 men who had not heeded Simha’s call. Simhala succeeds his father as king and invades Ratnadweepa by sea, bringing an army complete with war elephants, by ship. 9) Simhalasarthabahu Avadana Professor Todd Lewis of the college of Holy Cross in Massachusetts, USA also published a paper on the localization of Simhalasartha bahu Avadana did mention Simhasarthabahu as the leader of the five hundred merchants in Newar-Tibetan Trade and the Domestication of Simhalasārthabāhu Avadāna. (Chicago Journal- History of Religion volume 33 no.2, November 1993 page 135-160) In Simhala Avadana it is mentioned about the birth of a son named Simhala to a
wealthy merchant Simhaka, during the period of king Simhakesari from Simhakalpa. Simhala was selected as the leader of the group of five hundred merchants who were on a sea-voyage. The abode of rakshas is mentioned as Tamradvipa and Simhala was able to escape from the island on a magic white horse living behind all other members under the captive of the Rakshasis. In Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal: Narratives and Rituals in a Newar Merchant Community (Columbia University: Ph.D. Dissertation, 1984), Todd Lewis mentioned the name of the leader of the group of the merchant leading to Lhasa as Simhala Sartha Bahu, son of the Merchant Simhalasartha Baha from the town of Simhakalpa in Jambudvipa. Professor Todd Lewis in his article published in the Journal of Religion mention about a stupa in Lhasa known as Simsharthabahu Chorten and a shrine in Jokhang dedicated to his wife' that newar traders honour as the form of Jatika Ajima (Newar-Tibetan Trade and the Domestication of Simhalasarthabahu Avadan - source History of Religions,
Vol.33 No. 2, page 150, published by the University of Chicago Press 1993). The adventure of the Merchant Simhala is also mentioned by Professor Siegfried Lienhard with a description of a long scroll Painting 11.44 meter long and 0.55 meter wide with 80 frames each with the legend / story of Simshartha Bahu (Text in Nepali Script & the language Newari) from the collection of Museum of Indian Art, Berlin. Professor Siegfried Lienhard also did mention about this Scroll painting in his paper “A Nepalese painted Scroll Illustrating the Simhalavadan” (Nepalica 4 Sankt 49-53 Editors Prof. N. Gulschow & A. Micheals - Sankt. Augustine Wissenschaflaverlage VGH, p 51-53). Published in the Heritage of Kathmandu Valley, proceedings of an International. Conference in Lubec June 1985). Simhala (Simhala Sartha Baha) was the name of the legendary founder and first king of the island. (Buddhism in Tibet by Schlagintweit Emil Leipzig, London 1863). The Sanskrit version of the Simhala story is mentioned in the Gunakdrandavyuh as found in Y.Iwamoto, Bukkyo Setsuwa
Kenkyu Josetsu (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1967 pp. 247-94, A.K. Ramanujan, "Who Needs Folklore? The Relevance of Oral Traditions to South Asian Studies, “South Asia Occasional Papers (University of Hawaii Vol.1, 1990).
The Legendary Story of the Lhasa Caravan
A copy of wall hanging (Poubha, Wilampau, Thangka painting, Scroll painting) narrating the story of the legendary caravan to Lhasa is being displayed in the main courtyard of Bhagwan Bahal during the festival of the holy month Gunlaa, the ninth months according to the Nepali Lunar Calendar narrates the legendary story of the Lhasa Voyage, being leaded by Simhala Sartha Baha. Simha Sartha Baha is believed to have established Bhagwan Bahal and the entire daily rituals and activities during the festival are being controlled by the Pradhan family from Thamel, who believe themselves as the descendents of Simhala Sartha Baha. According to the legend (a non-historical or unverified story), a group of five
hundred young businessmen left for a caravan to Lhasa. The group did select Simhala, a merchant with rich knowledge, as their leader. Being selected as the leader of the group of merchant he got the new name Simhala Sarthabaha. (Sarthabaha meaning the leader of the group of merchant) While crossing the River Bhramputra, they encountered an accident and were being rescued by five hundred young and exceptionally beautiful ladies. All members of the caravan were busy doing business and enjoying with the young ladies as their wife, so they did not thought of returning back home. Simhsarthabahu used to worship the family God Avalokiteshvara (Karunamaya) daily. One day Simha Sartha Baha was given the divine sight of Lord Avalokiteshvara(Karunamaya) while in meditation and worship. In the dream Lord Avalokiteshvara told him that they are being under the captive of the she-devils (the man eater) and told him to leave the city as soon as possible as it is a bewitched island. He was instructed to go to the northern side of the city to check a big compound surrounded by tall walls like a well, where they used to throw the
human skeletons after eating the flesh. Avalokiteshvara also did promise to help them cross the river as a flying white horse. He went there and was able to climb a tree, and saw lots of human skeletons behind the tall wall, where they were forbidden to visit. He got convinced himself about the dream after visiting the northern side of the city. He made the plan to get an escape from the evil eyes of the damsels whom they mistakenly thought of their beloved wives. He was able to get convinced his friends about the instruction of the divine Lord and made a plan to live the bewitched land. They left their home in the middle of the night when their wives were fast asleep and came close to the River. Simhal Sarthabahu did worship the divine Lord and a flying white horse appeared. The horse instructed all them to get a ride and warned them not to look behind while crossing the river and enchant the holy Triratna Mantra. While they were crossing the river, all ladies woke up and could not find the young merchants sleeping next to them. They started flying over the river and laminating and requesting them to return back home. Hearing the kind
hearted voice of their wife (the she-devil) all members except Simhala Sarthabaha looked behind and were taken back to the other side of the river. Simhala Sartha Baha was the only person who did not look behind, and did not forget to enchant the Mantra of Triratna, so was able to get back home leaving behind all his friends under the captive of the wretched women. The chief devil disguised as a young and exceptionally beautiful lady followed Simhsarthabahu and came to the court with a baby on her lap claiming herself to be the wife of Simhsarthabahu. Simhsarthabahu did try to convince the king about the she-devil and denied to accept them as his wife and son. The king then kept her in the palace as he was attracted with the exceptional beauty of the lady. In the middle of the night she called all her companions and started killing the members of the Royal family and the staff. Next day the palace door did not open so Simhsarthabahu entered the palace climbing through a ladder. He was no more able to find anybody but the human skeleton scattered all over the palace court yard. As all Royal family members along with the staff were
killed and eaten by the she devils, He found the human skeletons scattered around the palace and saw the she devils sleeping around the courtyard. With the Devin sword he is believed to have killed all the Dankinis except his wife who did beg pardon for her life. Simhala Sartha Baha was nominated as the leader of the community as all members of the Royal family were killed by the she-devil. This is how he got a new name Garud literally meaning army chief and later on was able to become the king and called Garudjuju. (Pradhan, Bhuban Lal, 2047, Kathmandu Upatyeka ka Chirka Mirka Page 72). Simhal Sarth Bahu donated land and is believed to have established Thambahi in his home town; with the wealth he earned from Lhasa (the traders usually bring Gold from Tibet). He was able to win victory over the bewitched island and was also able to introduce Buddhism there. Later on with his spiritual power and intellectual knowledge, he gained popularity as a form of Divine God – Dipankara Garud Bhagwan. His wife also is honored as a divine god Ajima, the protector Goddess (Jatika Ajima). After being pardoned from her life she is being
ordered to make a solemn vow to protect the entire community and in return she also made a proposal to protect the community least there be no opening in the roof top of the buildings. This is why even today the Pradhans from the locality do not have open rooftops in their houses. She was then asked which portion of the rice she wants to have- the first, middle or the last. She spoke to have the first one thinking herself as senior so this is how she got the sticky water (Jati). This is how even today the sticky water (Jati) is being poured to the image of Jatika Ajima, before reaching the rice bowl to Garud Bhagwan. The main image of Bhagwan Bahal which is known as Garujuju or Garud Bhagwan, is believed to be the image of Simhalsarthbahu. Pradhan from Thambahi do not visit Lhasa because they believe themselves as the descendant of Simhal sarthbahu and they are scared of being attacked by the she devils as revenge. Simhala Avadana The Story of the Horse-King and the Merchant Simhala in Buddhist Texts, by Naomi Appleton.
Once upon a time a wealthy merchant named Simhaka used to live in the capital city of Simhakalpa ruled by King Simha Kesari. When his wife gave birth to a beautiful son, he named him Simhala. After finishing his education, he asked his father for permission to go away on a seavoyage. Simhaka was afraid of losing his beloved son and was not willing to send him for the voyage. Simhala left Simhakalpa in the company of five hundred merchants. They all took with them abundant merchandise. After visiting many places they were able to sale all their goods and made huge profits. On their way back home they reached a place called Tamradvipa. This place was the abode of rakshasis. On seeing the merchants, all the rakshasis took beautiful female forms and entertained the merchants. Each rakshasi took one of his friends home, fed them, made love to them and they lived as husband and wife. When all his friends were thus drugged to sleep, the rakshasis devoured them. The rakshasi entrusted with the task of devouring Simhala fled when he took out his sword. Simhala then escaped from the island on a magic white horse.
From Tamradvipa, Simhala came to Jambudvipa. The rakshasi in the form of a very beautiful young lady followed him. She met a merchant from Madhya Desa. She promptly fell at his feet and said I am the daughter of the king of Tamradvipa and was married to Simhala. While crossing the ocean the ship encountered an accident. He left me as he thought me to be inauspicious. The merchant was impressed by her story and promised to help her. He blamed Simhala for not accepting the innocent girl. Simhala then told him that she was a rakshasi. From Jambudvipa Simhala returned to Simhakalpa, the rakshasi followed him there also. She came to the house of Simhala with a very handsome child, greatly resembling Simhala. She told Simhala's father the same old story. When Simhala came back home, his parents requested him to forgive his wife. Simhala then revealed the true nature of the innocent young girl. After being denied by Simhala, the rakshasi went to the palace claming her as the wife of Simhala and the child as his son. The king of Simhakalpa, Simhakesari ordered Simhala to accept her as his wife. Simhala told the king who
she was and requested him to expel her. But the king was attracted by her beauty and kept her in the palace. During diner the rakshasi mixed sleeping doses everyone including the king felt asleep. She then invited her rakshasi friends to come and join in the feast. She told them that they should stop claim over Simhala instead of giving them one; she was giving them so may. The rakshasis entered the palace and started killing the king and his family. In the morning people saw vulture’s rooming around the place. Simhala entered the palace climbing through a adder. Then he searched the entire palace but could not find none of the royal family members as all were killed by the rakshasi. The ministers and the people decided to offer the crown to Simhala. The crown was then offered to Simhala who accepted it on the condition that the people would obey him without question. On assuming the throne, he raised a powerful army and invaded Tamradvipa. When king Simhala with his army marched upon Tamradvipa, the rakshasis surrendered to him and agreed to leave the island. The island was then
colonized by Simhala Simhaladvipa after him.
A garland of Gold to you the Listener A garland of flowers to you the story teller Now may these stories go to the heaven? And when it is time to retell them Comeback immediately again!
The traditional way of the closing of the Story telling.
Books related to Jataka Stories
birth-stories; Jataka tales translated from Pali text Jatakatthavannana –The oldest collection
of Jataka Folklore by V. Fausböll's edited and translated into English by T.W. Rhys Davids 1880, London 2) A Jataka Tale from the Chinese Translation by Samuel Bell 1880 3) The Jataka together with its commentary being tales of the Anterior births of Gautam
Buddha by Viggo Fousball, T William Rhys Davidson; Turner London 1877-1897 4) The Jataka or the stories of the Buddha's former births in 6 Volumes by Professor Cowell, Edward Byles, (Valahassa Jataka) Pali text Society London 1895 5) Jataka Tales By Ellen C Babbill; Ellsworth Young New York 1912 6) Ancient Tales of Wisdom - Jataka Tales H. T. Francis, M.A. and E. J. Thomas, M.A 1916 7) Buddhist Birth Stories (Jataka Tales) The commentary introduction entitled Nidan Katha, the story of the lineage by T William Rhys Davidson, Caroline AFR Davids NY 1925 8) The Ocean of the Stream of Story C H Tawney Translation of Katha Sarit Sagar by Somdev 9) Jatakamala by J. S. Speyer 10) Jataka (six volumes) Translated by Bhadanta Ananda Kausalyayana. 12) The Jataka Story in Japan 1999 Anita Khanna 11) The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma 13) 365 Jataka Tales & other Stories
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?