The Legend of Susunago (Buddhist Version)

Who is this statesman named Susunago ? By whom was he brought up? He was tho son of a certain Licchavi raja of Vesali. He was conceived by a courtesan (“Nagarasobhini” literally “a beauty of the town”) and brought up by an officer of state. The foregoing is recorded in the Atthakatha of the priests of the Uttaravihara (of Anuradhapura). Such being the case, and as there is no want of accordance between our respective authorities, I shall proceed to give a brief sketch of his history.

Upon a certain occasion, the Licchavi rajas consulted together, and came to the resolution, that it would be prejudicial to the prosperity of their capital, if they did not keep up the office of ” Nagarasobhini tharantaran” (chief of courtesans). Under this persuasion, they appointed to that office a lady of unexceptionable rank. One of these rajas, receiving her into his own palace, and having lived with her, there, for seven days, sent her away. She had then conceived unto him. Returning to her residence, she was delivered, after the ordinary term of pregnancy. The issue proved to be an abortion. Deeply afflicted, and overwhelmed with shame and fear, causing it to be thrown into a basket, carefully covered with its lid, and consigning it to the care of a female slave, she had it placed, early in the morning, at the Sankharatanan (where all the rubbish and sweepings of a town are collected). The instant it was deposited there (by the slave), a certain nagaraja, the tutelar of the city, observing it, encircling it in its folds and sheltering it with its hood, assumed a conspicuous position. The people who congregated there, seeing (the snake), made the noise “su”, “su” (to frighten it away); and it disappeared. Thereupon a person who had approached the spot, opening (the basket) and examining it, beheld the abortion matured into male child, endowed with the most perfect indications of greatness. On making this discovery, great joy was evinced. A certain chief who participated in this exultation, taking charge of the infant removed him to his house; and on the occasion of conferring a name on him, in reference to the shouts of “su”, “su” above described, and to his having been protected by the nagaraja, conferred on him the name of “Susunago”.

From that time protected by him (the chief), and in due course attaining the wisdom of the age of discretion, he became an accomplished acharayo; and among the inhabitants of the capital, from his superior qualifications, he was regarded the most eminent person among them. From this circumstance, when the populace becoming infuriated against the raja Nagadasako deposed him, he was inaugurated monarch, by the title of Susunago raja.

MAHAVAMSA COMMENTARY

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