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Mātaṅga Jātaka (No.497)

The Bodhisatta was once born in a village of outcastes (caṇḍāla) outside Bārāṇasī and was named Mātaṅga. One day, when Diṭṭhamaṅgalikā, the daughter of a rich merchant, was on her way to the park with a group of friends, she saw Mātaṅga coming towards the city, and thinking the sight inauspicious, washed her eyes with perfumed water and turned back home. Her companions, annoyed at being deprived of their fun, beat Mātaṅga and left him senseless. On recovering consciousness, he determined to get Diṭṭhamaṅgalikā as his wife and lay down outside her father’s house refusing to move. Seven days he lay thus until her relations, fearing the ignominy of having an outcaste die at their door, gave Diṭṭhamaṅgalikā to him as wife.

Knowing her pride to be quelled by this act, Mātaṅga decided to bring her great honour. He, therefore, retired into the forest and in seven days, won supernatural power. On his return he told her to proclaim abroad that her husband was not an outcaste, but Mahābrahmā, and that seven days later, on the night of the full-moon, he would come to her, breaking through the moon’s disk. She did as he said and so it happened. The people thenceforth honoured her as a goddess; the water in which she washed her feet was used for the coronation of kings, and in one single day she received a hundred and eighty million from those who were allowed the privilege of saluting her. Mātaṅga touched her navel with his thumb, and, knowing that she had conceived a son, admonished her to be vigilant and returned to the moon.

The son was born in the pavilion, which the people had constructed for the use of Diṭṭhamaṅgalikā, and was therefore called Maṇḍavya. At the age of sixteen he knew all the Vedas and fed sixteen thousand brahmins daily. On a feast day Mātaṅga came to him, thinking to turn him from his wrong doctrines, but Maṇḍavya failed to recognise him and had him cast out by his servants, Bhaṇḍakucchi, Upajjhāya, and Upajotiya. The gods of the city thereupon grew angry and twisted the necks of Maṇḍavya and all the brahmins so that their eyes looked over their shoulders. When Diṭṭhamaṅgalikā heard of this she sought Mātaṅga, who had left his footsteps so that she might know where he was. He asked her to sprinkle on the brahmins water in which were dissolved the leavings of his food; to Maṇḍavya himself was given some of the food. On recovering and seeing the plight of the brahmins, he realised his error. The brahmins recovered, but were shunned by their colleagues; they left the country and went to live in the kingdom of Mejjha.

On the bank of the Vettavatī lived a brahmin called Jātimanta, very proud of his birth. Mātaṅga went there to humble the pride of Jātimanta and lived higher up stream. One day he nibbled a tooth stick and threw it into the river, where, lower down, it got entangled in Jātimanta’s hair. He was greatly annoyed and went up stream, where he found Mātaṅga and told him that, if he stayed there any longer, at the end of seven days his head would split into seven pieces. On the seventh day Mātaṅga stopped the sun from rising. On discovering the cause, the people dragged Jātimanta to Mātaṅga and made him ask forgiveness, falling at Mātaṅga’s feet. Jātimanta’s head was covered with a lump of clay, which was immersed in the water as the sun rose.

Mātaṅga then went to the kingdom of Mejjha, where the exiled brahmins reported against him to the king, saying that he was a magician and a mountebank. The king’s messengers surprised Mātaṅga as he was eating his food beside a well, and cut off his head. He was born in the Brahma world. The gods were angry and wiped out the whole kingdom of Mejjha by pouring on it torrents of hot ashes. Before his meeting with Diṭṭhamaṅgalikā the Bodhisatta was a mongoose-tamer ¹ (koṇḍadamaka). The story was told in reference to the attempt of King Udena (q.v.) to torture Piṇḍola-Bhāradvāja. Udena is identified with Maṇḍavya

¹ However, in SNA.i.186, he is called a sopākajīvika.

² J.iv.375‑90; the story is found also at SNA.i.184‑93, with alterations in certain details — e.g., for Vettavatī we have Bandhumatī; see also Mil.123 ff.