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The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma


054 - Sankhapala: The Naga King

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Once the Bodhisatta was born as a prince of Rajagaha (modern Rajgir, Bihar) having the name Duyyodhana. When he came of age his father, who was the king of Rajagaha abdicated the throne in his favour and renounced the world to become an ascetic. He lived in a forest on the bank of the Kannapanna river, which flew from the Sankhapala lake near the mount Gandaka. The lake was named after the lord of the lake Sankhapala, a Naga (Serpent) king. Although Sankhapala was a Naga, yet he was kind and compassionate. He was also religious and was greatly impressed by the life-style and doctrine of the ascetic. Soon he became his disciple and visited him frequently to hear his discourses.

The ascetic giving sermon to the Naga king Sankhapala, the huge snake, Ajanta

The hunters dragging Sankhapala, Ajanta

One day Duyyodhana, the son of the ascetic and the king of Rajgir somehow happened to know the whereabouts of his father and visited his hermitage. There, he met Sankhapala and was impressed by his style and ideals and thought of becoming like him.

By and by Duyyodhana died and was reborn in the Naga world as a king bearing the same name – Sankhapala, because once he had desired to become like the Naga king. When he grew up his samskara (confections) made him renounce the world to retire on an ant-hill near the Kannapanna to keep the holy fast. As he was engrossed in the meditations sixteen men came and seized him and pierced his body with stakes to make holes to fasten him with ropes. Though strong, the king of the serpent did not show any anger to resist them. When the men were dragging him to the city a pious man name Alara felt pity for the snake and had him released.

Sankhapala, giving discourses

(Bodhisattava’s father is identified with Maha Kassapa; and Alara as Sariputta).

See Sankhapala Jataka Jataka Pali No. 524; Chariya Pitaka 2.10; See also M.A.2.617; BuA.50

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