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Tāvatiṃsa

The second of the six deva-worlds, the first being the Cātummahārājika world. Tāvatiṃsa stands at the top of Mount Sineru (or Sudassana). Sakka is king of both worlds, but lives in Tāvatiṃsa. Originally it was the abode of the Asurā; but when Māgha was born as Sakka and dwelt with his companions in Tāvatiṃsa he disliked the idea of sharing his realm with the Asurā, and, having made them intoxicated, he hurled them down to the foot of Sineru, where the Asurabhavana was later established.

The chief difference between these two worlds seems to have been that the Pāricchattaka tree grew in Tāvatiṃsa, and the Cittapātali tree in Asurabhavana. In order that the Asurā should not enter Tāvatiṃsa, Sakka had five walls built around it, and these were guarded by Nāgā, Supaṇṇa (Garuḷa), Kumbhaṇḍā, Yakkhā, and Cātummahārājikā-devā (J.i.201 ff; also DhA.i.272 f). The entrance to Tāvatiṃsa was by way of the Cittakūṭadvāra-koṭṭhaka, on either side of which statues of Indra (Indapatimā) kept guard (J.vi.97). The whole kingdom was ten thousand leagues in extent (DhA.i.273), and contained more than one thousand multi-storeyed palaces (pāsāda) (J.vi.279). The chief features of Tāvatiṃsa were its parks — the Phārusaka, Cittalatā, Missaka and Nandana — the Vejayantapāsāda, the Pāricchatta tree, the elephant-king Erāvana and the Assembly-hall Sudhammā (J.vi.278; MA.i.183; cp. Mtu.i.32). Mention is also made of a park called Nandā (J.i.204). Besides the Pāricchataka (or Pārijāta) flower, which is described as a Kovilāra (A.iv.117), the divine Kakkāru flower also grew in Tāvatiṃsa (J.iii.87). In the Cittalatāvana grows the Āsāvatī creeper, which blossoms once in a thousand years (J.iii.250 f).

It is the custom of all Buddhas to spend the Rainy Season (vassa) following the performance of the Twin Miracle, in Tāvatiṃsa. Gotama Buddha went there to teach the Abhidhamma to his mother, born there as a devaputta. The distance of sixty-eight thousand leagues from the earth to Tāvatiṃsa he covered in three strides, placing his foot once on Yugandhara and again on Sineru.

The Buddha spent three months in Tāvatiṃsa, teaching all the time, seated on Sakka’s throne, the Paṇḍukambalasilāsana, at the foot of the Pāricchattaka tree. Eight hundred million devas attained to a knowledge of the truth. This was in the seventh year after his Enlightenment (J.iv.265; DhA.iii.216 f; BuA. p.3). It seems to have been the frequent custom of ascetics, possessed of psychic-power, to spend the afternoon in Tāvatiṃsa (e.g., Nārada, J.vi.392; and Kāḷadevala, J.i.54).

Mahā-Moggallāna paid numerous visits to Tāvatiṃsa, where he learnt from those dwelling there stories of their past deeds, that he might repeat them to men on earth for their edification (VvA. p.4).

The Jātaka Commentary mentions several human beings who were invited by Sakka, and who were conveyed to Tāvatiṃsa — e.g. Nimi, Guttila, Mandhātu, and the queen Sīlavatī. Mandhātu reigned as co-ruler of Tāvatiṃsa during the life period of thirty-six Sakkas, sixty thousand years (J.ii.312). The inhabitants of Tāvatiṃsa are thirty-three in number, and they regularly meet in the Sudhammā Hall. (See Sudhammā for details). A description of such an assembly is found in the Janavasabha Sutta. The Cātummahārājika devā are present to act as guards. Inhabitants of other deva and brahma-worlds seemed sometimes to have been present as guests — e.g. the Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra, who came in the guise of Pañcasikha. From the description given in the sutta, all the inhabitants of Tāvatiṃsa seem to have been followers of the Buddha, deeply devoted to his teachings (D.ii.207 ff). Their chief place of offering was the Cūḷāmaṇi-cetiya, in which Sakka deposited the hair of Prince Siddhattha, cut off by him when he renounced the world and put on the garments of a recluse on the banks of the Nerañjarā (J.i.65). Later, Sakka deposited here also the eye-tooth of the Buddha, which Doṇa hid in his turban, hoping to keep it for himself (DA.ii.609; Bu.xxviii.6, 10).

The gods of Tāvatiṃsa sometimes come to earth to take part in human festivities (J.iii.87). Thus Sakka, Vissakamma and Mātali are mentioned as having visited the earth on various occasions. Mention is also made of goddesses from Tāvatiṃsa coming to bathe in the Anotatta and then spending the rest of the day on the Manosilātala (J.v.392).

The capital city of Tāvatiṃsa was Masakkasāra (Ibid., p.400). The average age of an inhabitant of Tāvatiṃsa is thirty million years, reckoned by human computation. Each day in Tāvatiṃsa is equal in time to one hundred years on earth (DhA.i.364). The gods of Tāvatiṃsa are most handsome; the Licchavī, among earth-dwellers, are compared to them (DhA.iii.280). The stature of some of the Tāvatiṃsa dwellers is three-quarters of a league; their undergarment is a robe of twelve leagues and their upper garment also a robe of twelve leagues. They live in mansions of gold, thirty leagues in extent (Ibid., p.8). The Commentaries (e.g., SA.i.23; AA.i.377) say that Tāvatiṃsa was named after Magha and his thirty-two companions, who were born there as a result of their good deeds in Macala-gāma. Whether the number of the chief inhabitants of this world always remained at thirty-three, it is impossible to say, though some passages, e.g. in the Janavasabha Sutta, lead us to suppose so.

Sometimes, as in the case of Nandiya, who built the great monastery at Isipatana, a mansion would appear in Tāvatiṃsa, when an earth-dweller did a good deed capable of obtaining for him birth in this deva-world; but this mansion would remain unoccupied until his human life came to an end (DhA.iii.291). There were evidently no female devas among the Thirty-three. Both Māyā and Gopikā (Gopaka) (q.v.) became devaputtas when born in Tāvatiṃsa. The women there were probably the attendants of the devas. (However, see, e.g., Jālinī and the various stories of VvA).

There were many others besides the Thirty-three who had their abode in Tāvatiṃsa. Each deva had numerous retinues of attendants, and the dove-footed (kakuṭapādiniyo) nymphs (accharā) of Tāvatiṃsa are famous in literature for their delicate beauty. The sight of these made Nanda, when escorted by the Buddha to Tāvatiṃsa, renounce his love for Janapadakalyāṇī Nandā (J.ii.92; Ud.iii.2).

The people of Jambudīpa excelled the devas of Tāvatiṃsa in courage, mindfulness and piety (A.iv.396). Among the great achievements of Asadisakumāra was the shooting of an arrow as far as Tāvatiṃsa (J.ii.89).

Tāvatiṃsa was also known as Tidasa and Tidiva.

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