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Āḷavī

A town thirty leagues from Sāvatthi ¹ and probably twelve from Bārāṇasī.² It lay between Sāvatthi and Rājagaha. (The Buddha goes from Sāvatthi to Kiṭāgiri, thence to Āḷavī, and finally, to Rājagaha). The Buddha, on several occasions, stayed at Āḷavī at the Aggāḷava Cetiya (q.v.), which was near the town. In the sixteenth year after the Enlightenment, the Buddha spent the whole of the rainy season at Āḷavī and taught the doctrine to 84,000 listeners.³ The King of Āḷavī was known as Āḷavaka and the inhabitants as Āḷavaka. The town later became famous as the residence of Āḷavaka Yakkha and of Hatthaka Āḷavaka. The Therī, Selā was born in Āḷavī and was therefore known as Aḷavikā.⁴ There was evidently a large community of monks at Āḷavī, some of whom seem to have chiefly occupied themselves with building vihāras for themselves (See Āḷavakā).

Once, while at Sāvatthi, the Buddha saw a poor farmer of Āḷavī, ready for conversion and decided to go and teach in that town. The farmer’s ox had strayed away, and he looked for it for quite a long while before finding it; he knew that the Buddha was in Āḷavī and decided that he still had time to visit the Buddha, and he set off without taking any food. Meanwhile at Āḷavī the Buddha and his monks had been served with a meal by the people, but the Buddha waited until the farmer came before returning thanks. On the farmer’s arrival the Buddha ordered that some food should be given him, and when the man was comforted and his mind was ready the Buddha taught a discourse, at the end of which the man became a Stream-winner.⁵

On another occasion the Buddha came all the way from Jetavana to Āḷavī for the sake of a weaver’s daughter.⁶

Āḷavī has been identified by Cunningham and Hoernle with Newal or Nawal in the Urao district in the United Provinces, and by Nandalal Dey, with Aviwa, twenty-seven miles north-east of Etwah.⁷

Mrs. Rhys Davids states that Āḷavī was on the bank of the Gaṅgā,⁸ probably basing her view on the declaration of Ālavaka in the Suttanipāta ⁹ that he would throw the Buddha “pāragaṅgāya” (over to the other side of the Gaṅgā) unless his questions were answered. I believe that here “pāragaṅgāya” is merely a rhetorical expression and has no geographical significance.

¹ SnA.i.220. ² See Watters: ii.61; Fa Hsein, 60, 62. ³ BuA.3. ⁴ ThigA.62‑3.

⁵ DhA.iii.262‑3. ⁶ For the story see Pesakāradhītuvatthu DhA.iii.170 f.

⁷ Law: Geog, of. Early Buddhism, p.24.

⁸ Ps. of the Brethren, 408. ⁹ Ibid. p.32.

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