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     The Sacrifice of Vessantara


The Sivi's family is best known for its charitable trusts and forfeits in the Indian civilizations from the time being. Once, there was Bodhisatta who was born as Vessantara in the house of the Sivi in the Jetuttara kingdom. His father's name was King Sanjaya and Queen Phusati was his mother. He seemed to be a child miracle because he spoke on the very day when he was himself born. Amusingly, on the same day a white elephant was also born with him. This elephant was given the name Pacchaya. When he was born he also was gifted with the supernatural power to make the rain fall.

Vessantara’s craze for contributions was so powerful that the earth shuddered when he promised to make a great gift at the young age of eight. At sixteen he married Maddi. He had two children named as Jali and Kanhajina.

At that very time there was a great drought in Kalinga. So, eight Brahmins from Kalinga came to Vessantara to beg for his white elephant to make the rain fall in their country. Vessantara agreed to their request and donated the elephant to them. When the people of Jetuttara heard of this news they were extremely worried. Protesting, they went to the king and asked him to punish the prince by sending him to the forest of Vanka Giri. The want of the people finally succeed and Vessantara had to go away much to the refusal of the king. Before leaving out he obtained the king’s approval to hold an alms-giving ceremony called the “Gifts of Seven Hundreds. On the occasion he gave away seven hundred pieces of seven hundred kinds of things to the poor people in need.

 Vessantara took leave of his parents and was about to take leave from his wife Maddi. She decided to accompany him with her children Jali and Kanhajina.

They all left the palace in a royal chariot dragged by four horses. On the way four Brahmins met him and begged for his four horses. After giving the four horses to the Brahmins when he began to tie up the belt tightly round his waist to put himself under the burden and to drag the wagon there appeared four Yakkha in the form of red deer. They put their shoulders under the burden like well-trained excellent horses and drew his wagon. When Maddi was staring at them with joy and surprise the Bodhisatta said,
     Lo! the authority
     of the giving forest
     Of the hermitage
     That the best of the deer
     enlarge friendliness
     To the forest-guests
     So enthusiastically.

The queen, however, said,
    You may cover your virtues, and say so
    I call this to be your authority.
    Like the laughing lotuses,
    which beat the beauty of the stars mirrored in the water,
    Revealing so fully
    To the strange watch of the glowing Moon
    With its probing rays
    For the delightful titillation.


When they were thus engaged in the pleasing conversation they come across one more Brahmin beggar, who begged for the wagon. So, Vessantara had to share with his wagon, too. He then raise his son Jali in his arms, and Maddi lifted Kanhanjana; and thus they continued their journey on their foot itself. The sun was sizzling. So, The cloud spread over them to act as a roof. The trees extended their branches to offer them delicious fruits as a gift to their righteousness of contributions. When they were in a need for water, the lotus ponds appeared before them to fulfill their thirst. Moreover, the yakkhas reduced their way to protect them from efforts. As a result, walking through Suvannagiritala, Kantimara, Mount Aranjagiri, Dunnivittha, the capital of Cheta, Gandhamadana, the foot of Mount Vipula to the river Ketumati and then by crossing the river Nalika along the bank of lake Muchalinda and then atlast crossing a dense forest they finally reached Vanka Giri.

Vissakamma, the persuade of Sakka had already built two houses for them in the forest. One was for Vessantara and the other was for the rest of the family. The power of Vessantara was so strong that no wild animal came near their houses. Happily, they spent four months over there.

One day, one old Brahmin named Jujaka came to the house when Maddi had gone to the forest to bring some fruits for the family. Approaching Vessantara he begged for his two children because Amittatapana, his wife had demanded for two servants for herself. As Vessantara was widely known for his dana-Paramita the greedy Brahmin was purposely on exploiting the situation. Vessantara tried to encourage the Brahmin to change his mind in several ways. Still, he continued on accepting nothing but the two children. Knowing Jujaka’s mind the children were exceedingly terrified and ran away to a nearby pond and hid themselves.

They, still, arrived when their father called them. And at that time Vessantara had finally agreed to the sharp demand of Jujaka. The brahmin, then chanting some phrases of approval to the donor ordered the children to accompany him. The children, who did not want to leave their father to ask Jujaka to wait at least until the arrival of their mother. But sharp and mean Jujaka without wasting time caught hold the hands of the two delicate children with a creeper and forcibly dragged them to his destination. The bleeding and moaning children, however, screamed,

     Oh! the mother will certainly cry like the chataka (bird) upon return
     Whose little ones are killed.
     How would she act
     When she comes back with many roots and fruits                                       
     which she gathered from the forest for us
     But finds the houses empty.
     Oh father! I have many toys –
     Horses, elephants and chariots –
     Give half to mother to lessen her sadness.


When Maddi returned late in the evening with lots of roots and fruits and did not find her children around, she asked Vessantara about their young ones. But Vessantara kept silence. She then repeated the same question again and again, yet Vessantara did not say a single word. So, she again went inside the forest and looked for the children for the whole night. Next morning, when she returned she fainted. Vessantara then helped her to get back her consciousness. That was the time he described her about the children and repeated the the whole story. By then Maddi had gathered up the courage to tolerate the disturbance. Surprisingly, she praised Vessantara’s great act of dana-sila.

Their forfeit trembled the earth. And so did mount Sineru with all its magnificent charms. Amazed by this, Sakka, the lord of the devas inquired into the reason for all this what was happening. When he learnt the reason of the quakes owing to the forfeits of Vessantara he visited his place next morning to test the stability of his promise in the get-up of a mendicant and begged him for his wife. Even then Vessantara did not lose the resolve of his mind and accepted to donate Maddi as well. Besides, no anger leap even in the heart of Maddi. She did not weep. She rather looked confused and stood like a statue with her eyes fixed on her husband with a fresh load of suffering.

Approvingly, Sakka then said,
     Though a house-holder
     Yet giving up the most dearly loved children and wife in contributions
     With such disinterest;
     Can there be a greater illustration of nobility?


Now, it was the time for Sakka to expose his identity. He gave Maddi back to Vessantara. Besides, he offered eight advantages to the great donor, which included the get-together of his family; his recall to the father’s kingdom; and his ability to support.

In the same time, Jujaka had traveled sixty leagues and having lost his way he reached Jetuttara, though he planned to reach Kalinga. His uneven appearance and harsh behaviour with the two delicate children attracted the royal guards, who brought him before the king. King Sanjaya, when saw his grand-children and learnt their story he bought them back from the cruel brahmin in lieu of handsome gifts and seven-storeyed palace. But Jujaka could hardly enjoy those riches as he died of over-eating in a few days. The king along with Phusati, Jali and his army then marched to Vanka Giri to bring back his son and the daughter-in-law.

The white elephant Pacchaya also joined the parade as he had just returned from Kalinga as no one could suppress him there.

Lastly, after a month of merry-making in the forest they all returned to the kingdom, happily and enjoyed their life with great joy.

 

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