The Legend of Udayana (Buddhist Version)

Birth and youthful career of Udena

Once upon a time King Allakappa ruled over the kingdom of Allakappa and King Vethadipaka ruled over the kingdom of Vethadipaka. They had been intimate friends since their boyhood-days and had received their education in the house of the same teacher. On the death of their fathers they raised the royal parasol and became rulers of kingdoms, each of which was ten leagues in extent.

As they met from time to time, and stood and sat and lay down to sleep together, and watched the multitudes being born into the world and dying again, they came to the conclusion, “When a man goes to the world beyond he can take nothing with him; he must leave everything behind him when he goes thither; even his own body does not follow him; of what use to us is the life of the householder. Let us retire from the world.”

Accordingly they resigned their kingdoms to son and wife, retired from the world, adopted the life of ascetics, and took up their residence in the Himalaya country. And they took counsel together, saying, “Although we have renounced our kingdoms and retired from the world, we shall encounter no difficulty in gaining a living; but if we reside together in the same place, our life will be quite unlike the life of ascetics; therefore let us live apart. You live on this mountain;

I will live on that. Every fortnight, on fast-day, we will meet together.” Then this thought occurred to them, “Under this arrangement neither of us will be in regular communication with the other; but in order that each of us may know whether the other is living or not, you light a fire on your mountain, and I will light a fire on mine.” And this they did.

After a time the ascetic Vethadipaka died and was reborn as a prince of deities of mighty power. A fortnight later Allakappa saw no fire on the mountain and knew that his comrade was dead. As soon as ever Vethadipaka was reborn, he surveyed his own heavenly glory, considered the deeds of his former existence, reviewed the austerities he had performed from the day when he retired from the world, and said to himself, “I will go see my comrade.” Accordingly he laid aside his form as a deity, disguised himself as a wayfarer, went to Allakappa, paid obeisance to him, and stood respectfully on one side.

Allakappa said to him, “Whence have you come?” “I am a wayfarer, Reverend Sir; I have come a long distance. But, Reverend Sir, does your honor reside entirely alone in this place? Is there no one else here?” “I have a single comrade.” “Where is he?” “He resides on that mountain; but as he failed to light a fire on fast-day, I know he must be dead.” “Is that so, Reverend Sir?” “That is so, brother.” “I am he, Reverend Sir.” “Where were you reborn?” “Reverend Sir, I was reborn in the World of the Gods as a prince of deities of mighty power. I have returned to see your honor. Does your honorable self reside in this place undisturbed, or are you subject to some annoyance?” “Yes, brother, I am bothered to death by the elephants.” “Reverend Sir, what do the elephants do to trouble you?” “They drop dung on the ground I have swept clean, and they stamp with their feet and kick up the dust. What with removing the dung and smoothing the ground, I am all worn out.” “Well, would you like to keep them away?” “Yes, brother.” “Well then, I will provide you with means whereby you can keep them away.”

Accordingly Vethadipaka gave Allakappa a lute to charm elephants with and likewise taught him spells for charming elephants. Now as he presented the lute to him, he showed him three strings and taught him three spells. “Strike this string,” said he, “and utter this spell, and the elephants will turn and run away without so much as daring even to look at you; strike this string and utter this spell, and they will turn and run away, eyeing you at every step; strike this string and utter this spell, and the leader of the herd will come up and offer you his back. Now do as you like.” With these words he departed.

Thereafter the ascetic lived in peace, driving the elephants away by uttering the proper spell and striking the proper string.

At this time Parantapa was king of Kosambi. One day he was sitting out in the open air basking himself in the rays of the newly risen sun, and beside him sat his queen, great with child. The queen was wearing the king’s cloak, a crimson blanket worth a hundred thousand pieces of money; and as she sat there conversing with the king she removed from the king’s finger the royal signet, worth a hundred thousand pieces of money, and slipped it on her own.

Just at that moment a monster bird with a bill as big as an elephant’s trunk came soaring through the air. Seeing the queen and mistaking her for a piece of meat, he spread his wings and swooped down. When the king heard the bird swoop down, he sprang to his feet and entered the royal palace. But the queen, because she was great with child and because she was of a timid nature, was unable to make haste. The bird pounced upon her, caught her up in the cage of his talons, and soared away with her into the air. (These birds are said to possess the strength of five elephants; they are therefore able to convey their victims through the air, settle wherever they wish, and devour their flesh.)

As the queen was being carried away by the bird, terrified though she was with the fear of death, she preserved her presence of mind and thought to herself, “Animals stand in great fear of the human voice. Therefore if I cry out, this bird will drop me the instant he hears the sound of my voice. But in that case I should accomplish only my own destruction and that of my unborn child. If, however, I wait until he settles somewhere and begins to eat, then I can make a noise and frighten him away.” Through her own wisdom, therefore, she kept patience and endured.

Now there stood at that time in the Himalaya country a banyan-tree which, although of brief growth, had attained great size and was like a pavilion in form; and to this tree that bird was accustomed to convey the carcasses of wild animals and eat them. To this very tree, therefore, the bird conveyed the queen, lodged her in a fork of the tree, and watched the path leading to the tree. (It is the nature of these birds, we are told, to watch the path leading to their tree.) At that moment the queen, thinking to herself, “Now is the time to frighten him away,” raised both her hands, clapped them together and shouted, and frightened the bird away.

At sunset the pains of travail came upon her, and at the same time from all the four quarters of heaven arose a great storm. The delicate queen, half dead with suffering, with no one beside her to say to her, “Fear not, lady,” slept not at all throughout the night. As the night grew bright, the clouds scattered, the dawn came, and her child was born at one and the same moment. Because the child was born at the time (utu) of a storm, at the time when she was upon a mountain, and at the time when the sun rose, she named her son Udena.

Not far from that tree was the place of residence of the ascetic Allakappa. Now on rainy days it was the custom of the ascetic not to go into the forest for fruits and berries, for fear of the cold. Instead he used to go to the foot of the tree and gather up the bones from which the birds had picked the flesh; then he would pound the bones, make broth of them, and drink the broth. On that very day, therefore, he went there to get bones. As he was picking up bones at the foot of the tree, he heard the voice of a child in the branches above.

Looking up, he saw the queen. “Who are you?” said he. “I am a woman.” “How did you get there?” “A monster bird brought me here.” “Come down,” said he. “Your honor, I am afraid to come down on account of difference of caste.” “Of what caste are you?” “Of the Warrior caste.” “I am also of the Warrior caste.” “Well then, give me the password of the Warrior caste.” He did so. “Well then, climb up and set down my boy.” Finding a way to climb the tree on one side, he climbed up and took the boy in his arms; obeying the queen’s behest not to touch her with his hand, he set the boy down; then the queen herself came down.

The ascetic conducted the queen along the path to his hermitage and cared for her tenderly without in any way violating his vow of chastity. He brought honey free from flies and gave it to her; he brought rice grown in his own field and prepared broth and gave it to her. Thus did he minister to her needs.

After a time she thought to herself, “For my part I know neither the way to come nor the way to go, nor can I repose absolute confidence even in this ascetic. Now if he were to leave us and go elsewhere, we should both perish right here. I must by some means seduce him to violate his vow of chastity, so that he will not abandon us. Accordingly she displayed herself before him with under and upper garments in disarray, and thus seduced him to violate his vow of chastity; thenceforth the two lived together.

One day, as the ascetic was observing a conjunction of a constellation with one of the lunar mansions, he saw the occultation of Parantapa’s star. “My lady,” said he, “Parantapa, king of Kosambi, is dead.” “Noble sir, wliy do you spealc tiius? Why do you bear ill-will against him.?” “I bear him no ill-will, my lady. I say this because I have just seen the occultation of his star.” She burst into tears. “Why do you weep?” he aslied. Then she told him that Parantapa was her own husband. The ascetic replied, “Weep not, my lady; whoever is born is certain to die.” “I know that, noble sir.” “Then why do you weep?” “I weep, noble sir, because it pains me to think, ‘To my son belongs the sovereignty by right of succession; had he been there, he would have raised the white parasol; now he has become one of the common herd.’“ “Never mind, my lady; be not disturbed. If you desire that he shall receive the sovereignty, I will devise some means by which he shall receive it.” Accordingly the ascetic gave the boy the lute to charm elephants with and likewise taught him the spells for charming elephants.

Now at that time many thousands of elephants came and sat at the foot of the banyan-tree. So the ascetic said to the boy, “Climb the tree before the elephants come, and when they come, utter this spell and strike this string, and they will all turn and run away, without even so much as daring to look at you; then descend and come to me.” The boy did as he was told, and then went and told the ascetic. On the second day the ascetic said to him, “To-day utter this spell and strike this string, if you please, and they will turn and run away, eyeing you at every step.” On that day also the boy did as he was told, and then went and told the ascetic.

Then the ascetic addressed the mother, saying, “My lady, give your son his message and he will go hence and become king.” So she addressed her son, saying, “You must say, ‘I am the son of King Parantapa of Kosambi; a monster bird carried me off.’ Then you must utter the names of the commander-in-chief and the other generals. If they still refuse to believe you, you must show them this blanket which was your father’s cloak and this signet-ring which he wore on his finger.” With these words she dismissed him.

The boy said to the ascetic, “Now what shall I do.?” The ascetic replied, “Seat yourself on the lowest branch of the tree, utter this spell and strike this string, and the leader of the elephants will approach and offer you his back. Seat yourself on his back, go to your kingdom, and take the sovereignty.” The boy did reverence to his parents, and following the instructions of the ascetic, seated himself on the back of the elephant and whispered in his ear, “I am the son of King Parantapa of Kosambi. Get me and give me the sovereignty which I have inherited from my father.” When the elephant heard that, he trumpeted, “Let many thousands of elephants assemble;” and many thousands of elephants assembled. Again a second time he trumpeted, “Let the old, weak elephants retire;” and the old, weak elephants retired. The third time he trumpeted, “Let those that are very young retire;” and they also retired.

So the boy went forth, surrounded by many thousands of warrior-elephants, and reaching a village on the frontier, proclaimed, “I am the son of the king; let those who desire worldly prosperity come with me.” Levying forces as he proceeded, he invested the city and sent the following message to the citizens, “Give me battle or the kingdom.” The citizens answered, “We will give neither. Our queen was carried off by a monster bird when she was great with child, and we know not whether she is alive or dead. So long as we hear no news of her, we will give neither battle nor the kingdom.” (At that time, we are told, the kingdom was handed down from father to son.) Thereupon the boy said, “I am her son.” So saying, he uttered the names of the commander-in-chief and the other generals, and when they still refused to believe him, showed the blanket and the ring. They recognized the blanket and the ring, opened the gates, and sprinkled him king.

Winning of Vasuladatta by Udena

Yet another of Udena’s queen-consorts was Vasuladatta, daughter of Canda Pajjota, king of Ujjeni. One day, as Canda Pajjota was returning from his pleasure-garden, he surveyed his own splendor and asked, “Is there any other soever possessed of splendor like mine?” “Splendor such as it is, King Udena of Kosambi possesses exceeding great splendor.” “Very well, let us take him captive.” “It is impossible to capture him.” “By employing some means or other, let us capture him all the same.” “It is impossible, your majesty.” “Why?” “He understands the art of charming elephants. By reciting spells and playing his elephant-charming lute, he either drives elephants away or captures them at his pleasure. No one possesses so many riding-elephants as he.” “I suppose it is impossible for me to capture him.” “If you are bent on doing it, have a wooden elephant made and turned loose near him. Let him hear of a good mount, be it elephant or horse, and he will go a long way for it. When he is close by, you can capture him.” “A stratagem indeed!” exclaimed the king.

So the king had a mechanical elephant made of wood, wrapped about with strips of cloth and deftly painted, and turned it loose on the bank of a certain lake near the country of his enemy. Within the belly of the elephant sixty men walked back and forth; every now and then they loaded their shovels with elephant dung and dumped it out. A certain woodman saw the elephant, and thinking to himself, “Just the thing for our king!” went and told the king, “Your majesty, I saw a noble elephant, pure white even as the peak of Kelasa, just the sort of elephant your majesty would like.”

Udena mounted his elephant and set out, taking the woodman along as a guide and accompanied by his retinue. His approach was observed by spies, who went and informed Canda Pajjota. The latter straightway dispatched armies on both flanks of his enemy, allowing the space between them to remain open. Udena, unaware of his enemy’s approach, continued to pursue the elephant. He recited his spell and played his lute, but all to no purpose. The wooden elephant, driven with great speed by the men concealed within its belly, made as if it failed to hear the charm and continued its flight. The king, unable to overtake the elephant, mounted his horse. On and on sped the horse, galloping so rapidly that by degrees the army of the king was left far behind and the king was quite alone. Then Canda Pajjota’s men, who were posted on both flanks, captured Udena and turned him over to their king. Udena’s army, perceiving that their leader had fallen into the hands of the enemy, built a stockade just outside of Ujjeni and remained there.

Canda Pajjota, having thus captured Udena alive, clapped him into prison behind closed doors and kept wassail for three days. On the third day Udena asked his keepers, “Friends, where’s your king?” “Carousing, for, says he, ‘I’ve landed my enemy.’” “What does your king mean by acting like a woman? He has captured a royal adversary and surely ought either to release him or to kill him. He has brought humiliation upon us and is ‘carousing’ indeed!” The keepers went and reported the incident to the king. The king came and asked, “Is it true that you said thus and thus?” “Yes, your majesty.” “Very well, I will release you. They say you have such and such a charm; will you give it to me?” “Certainly I will give it to you; but when you receive it, will you pay me homage?” “I pay you homage? I’ll not pay you homage.” “Then I’ll not give it to you.” “In that case I will have you executed.” “Do so; you are lord of my body, not of my mind.”

When the king heard Udena’s defiant answer, he thought to himself, “How in the world can I get the charm. I have it. I’ll have my daughter learn it from him, and then I’ll learn it from her. It would never do to let anyone else learn a charm like this.” So he said to Udena, “Will you divulge the charm to another, if the other will pay you homage?” “Yes, your majesty.” “Well then, we have in our house a hunchbacked woman. She will sit behind a curtain; you remain outside and have her repeat the charm.” “Be she hunchback or cripple, I will teach her the charm, provided she will pay me homage.”

Then the king went to his daughter Vasuladatta and said, “Dear daughter, there is a certain leper who knows a priceless charm. You sit behind a curtain, and he will remain outside and repeat it to you. You get it from him, for it would never do to let anyone else learn it, and then I will get it from you.” After this sort, for fear of their making love, did Canda Pajjota feign that his daughter was a hunchback and Udena a leper. So Vasuladatta seated herself behind a curtain, and Udena remained outside and caused her to repeat the charm.

One day Udena repeated the words of the charm over and over again to Vasuladatta, but the latter was unable to reproduce it correctly. Thereupon Udena cried out, “Dunce of a hunchback, your lips are too thick and your cheeks too pudgy! I’ve a mind to beat your face in! Say it this way!” Vasuladatta replied in anger, “Villain of a leper, what do you mean by those words? Do you call such as I ‘hunchback’?” Udena lifted the fringe of the curtain and asked, “Who are you?” Said the maiden, “I am Vasuladatta, daughter of the king.” “When your father spoke to me, he described you as a hunchback.” “When he spoke to me, he made you out a leper.” Both said, “He must have said it for fear of our making love.” Then and there within the curtain they made love, and from that time on there was no learning charms or getting lessons. The king regularly asked his daughter, “Daughter, are you learning your lessons?” “Yes, father.”

Now one day Udena said to Vasuladatta, “My dear, a husband can do that which neither father nor mother nor brothers nor sisters can do. If you will save my life, I will give you a retinue of five hundred women and make you my chief consort.” “If you will carry out your promise without fail, I will save your life.” “My dear, I will do so without fail.” “Very well, husband.” So she went to her father, saluted him, and stood respectfully on one side. Her father asked her, “Daughter, is your task completed?” “Not quite completed, father.” “What do you require, daughter?” “We must have at our disposal a door and a mount, father.” “Why this request?” “Father, this is what my teacher says: ‘In order to work the charm, a certain medicinal herb is necessary, and this must be obtained at night at a time indicated by the stars.’ Therefore whenever we are obliged to go out, whether it be early or late, we must have a door and a mount at our disposal.” “Very well,” said the king, giving his consent. They secured permission to use a certain door at any time they pleased.

Now the king was possessed of the five conveyances: a female elephant named Bhaddavati, which could travel fifty leagues a day; a slave named Kaka, who could travel sixty leagues a day; two mares, Celakanthi and Munjakesi, which could travel a hundred leagues a day; and an elephant named Nalagiri, which could travel a hundred and twenty leagues a day.

Now one day the king went out to amuse himself in the garden. “Now’s the time to flee,” thought Udena. So he filled several big leather sacks with gold and silver coins, placed the sacks on the back of the female elephant, assisted Vasuladatta to mount, and away they went. The harem guards saw what was happening and went and told the king. The king sent out a force in pursuit. “Go quickly,” said he. When Udena perceived that a force had set out in pursuit, he’ opened a sack of gold and scattered the coins -along the way. His pursuers stopped to pick up the coins and then hurried along. Then he opened a sack of silver and scattered the coins along the way. While his pursuers delayed because of their greed for silver, Udena reached his own stockade built without the city. When his men saw him coming, they surrounded him and escorted him back to Kosambi. When he arrived there, he sprinkled Vasuladatta and raised her to the rank of chief consort.


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