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Vidhura Jātaka (No.546)

v.l. Vidhūrapaṇḍita Jātaka.– Four kings — Dhanañjaya Korabya, king of Indapatta; Sakka, the Nāga king Varuṇa; and Venateyya, the king of the Supaṇṇā — having taken the uposatha-vows, meet together in a garden and there have a dispute as to which of them is the most virtuous. They cannot decide among themselves and agree, therefore, to refer the matter to Dhanañjaya’s minister, Vidhurapaṇḍita (the Bodhisatta). The minister listens to the claims of each and then declares that all are equal; their virtues are like the spokes of a wheel. They are pleased, and Sakka gives the minister a silk robe, Varuṇa a jewel, the Supaṇṇa king a golden garland, and Dhanañjaya one thousand cows.

Vimalā, Varuṇa’s wife, hearing from her husband of Vidhura’s wisdom, is so enchanted that she yearns to see him, and in order to do so feigns illness, and says that she must have Vidhura’s heart. Varuṇa’s daughter, Irandatī, is offered to anyone who can get possession of Vidhura’s heart, and the yakkha Puṇṇaka, nephew of Vessavaṇa, who sees her and is fascinated by her beauty, accepts the condition. He obtains Vessavaṇa’s consent by a ruse and visits Dhanañjaya’s court. There he challenges the king to a game of dice, giving his name as Kaccāyana, and offers as stake his wonderful steed and all seeing gem, provided the king will offer Vidhura as his. Dhanañjaya agrees, plays and loses. Vidhura agrees to go with Puṇṇaka; the king asks him questions regarding the householder’s life for his own guidance, and Vidhura is given three days’ leave to visit his family. Having taken leave of them, he goes with Puṇṇaka. On the way Puṇṇaka tries in vain to kill him by frightening him. When Vidhura discovers Puṇṇaka’s intention, he teaches to him as he sits on the top of the Kāḷapabbata, and the yakkha is so moved that he offers to take Vidhura back to Indapatta. However, in spite of his protestations, Vidhura insists on going on to the Nāga world. They arrive in Varuṇa’s abode; Vidhura teaches first to Varuṇa and then to Vimalā. They are both delighted, and Puṇṇaka wins the hand of Irandatī. In his great joy Puṇṇaka gives Vidhura his marvellous jewel and takes him back to Indapatta. There Vidhura relates his adventures and gives the jewel to the king. A festival lasting one month is held in honour of Vidhura’s return.

The story was related in reference to the Buddha’s wisdom. Vidhura’s chief wife, Anujjā, is identified with Rāhulamātā; his eldest son, Dhammapāla, with Rāhula; Varuṇa with Sāriputta; the Supaṇṇa king with Mahā-Moggallāna; Sakka with Anuruddha, and Dhanañjaya with Ānanda (J.vi.255‑329).

The Jātaka is also referred to as the Puṇṇaka Jātaka (e.g., J.iv.14, 182). Four scenes from the Jātaka are found on the Bharhut Tope. Cunningham, Bharhut, p.82.

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