Ja 112 Amarādevīpañha
The Question of Lady Amarā (1s)
Alternative Titles: Amarādevīpañhajātaka (Cst); Channapathapañhā (Comm)
There is no story of the present. When Mahosadha reaches the age of sixteen he sets about finding a wife for himself. He comes across a beautiful young maiden, and through riddling discovers her as wise as he is, and a suitable person to take to wife.
The Bodhisatta = (paṇḍita) Mahosadha.
Present Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 112 Amarādevīpañha,
Compare: Mvu ii p 115 Amarā.
Keywords: Riddles, Wisdom, Women.
“Cakes and gruel.” This question too will be found in the same Jātaka [Ja 546].
From that day the Bodhisatta’s glory was great, and queen Udumbarā managed it all. When he was sixteen she thought: “My young brother has grown up, and great is his glory; we must find a wife for him.” This she said to the king, and the king was well pleased. “Very good,” said he, “tell him.” She told him, and he agreed, and she said: “Then let us find you a bride, my son.” The Great Being thought: “I should never be satisfied if they choose me a wife; I will find one for myself.” And he said: “Madam, do not tell the king for a few days, and I will go seek a wife to suit my taste, and then I will tell you.” “Do so, my son,” she replied.
He took leave of the queen, and went to his house, and informed his companions. Then he got by some means the outfit of a tailor, and alone went out by the northern gate into north town. Now in that place was an ancient and decayed merchant family, and in this family was a daughter, the lady Amarā, a beautiful girl, wise, and with all the marks of good luck. That morning early, this girl had set out to the place where her father was plowing, to bring him rice-gruel which she had cooked, and it so happened that she went by the same road.
When the Great Being saw her coming he thought: “A woman with all lucky marks! If she is unwed she must be my wife.” When she beheld him she also thought: “If I could live in the house of such a man, I might restore my family.” The Great Being thought: “Whether she be wed or not I do not know: I will ask her by hand-gesture, and if she be wise she will understand.” So standing afar off he clenched his fist. She understood that he was asking whether she had a husband, and spread out her hand. Then he went up to her, and asked her name. She said: “My name is that which neither is, nor was, nor ever shall be.” “Madam, there is nothing in the world immortal, and your name must be Amarā [Immortal].” “Even so, master.” “For whom, madam, do you carry that gruel?” “For the god of old time.” “Gods of old time are one’s parents, and no doubt you mean your father.” “So it must be, master.” “What does your father do?” “He makes two out of one.” Now the making of two out of one is plowing. “He is plowing, madam.” “Even so, master.” “And where is your father plowing?” “Where those who go come not again.” “The place whence those who go come not again is the cemetery: he is plowing then near a cemetery.” “Even so, master.” “Will you come again today, madam?” “If it comes I will not come, if it comes not I will come.” “Your father, I think, madam, is plowing by a riverside, and if the flood comes you will not come, if it comes not you will.”
After this interchange of talk, the lady Amarā offered him a drink of the gruel. The Great Being, thinking it ungracious to refuse, said he would like some. Then she put down the jar of gruel; and the Great Being thought: “If she offer it to me without first washing the pot and giving me water to wash my hands, I will leave her and go.” But she took up water in the pot and offered him water for washing, placed the pot empty upon the ground not in his hands, stirred up the gruel in the jar, filled the pot with it. But there was not much rice in it, and the Great Being said: “Why, madam, there is very little rice here!” “We got no water, master.” “You mean when your field was in growth, you got no water upon it.” “Even so, master.” So she kept some gruel for her father, and gave some to the Bodhisatta. He drank, and gargled his mouth, and said: “Madam, I will go to your house; kindly show me the way.” She did so by reciting a verse which is given in the First Book:
1. “By the way of the cakes and gruel, and the double-leaf tree in flower, by the hand wherewith I eat I bid you go, not by that wherewith I eat not: that is the way to the market-town, that secret path you must find.” The commentator explains thus: “Entering the village you will see a cake-shop and then a gruel-shop, further on an ebony tree in flower (koviḷāro, Bauhinia Variegate): take a path to the right (south).”
He reached the house by the way indicated; and Amarā’s mother saw him and gave him a seat. “May I offer you some gruel, master?” she asked. “Thank you, mother – sister Amarā gave me a little.” She at once recognized that he must have come on her daughter’s account.
The Great Being, when he saw their poverty, said: “Mother, I am a tailor: have you anything to mend?” “Yes, master, but nothing to pay.” “There is no need to pay, mother; bring the things and I will mend them.” She brought him some old clothes, and each as she brought it the Bodhisatta mended. The wise man’s business always goes well, you know. He said then, “Go tell the people in the street.” She published it abroad in the village; and in one day by his tailoring the Great Being earned a thousand pieces of money. The old dame cooked him a midday meal, and in the evening asked how much she should cook. “Enough, mother, for all those who live in this house.” She cooked a quantity of rice with some curry and condiments.
Now Amarā in the evening came back from the forest, bearing a faggot of wood upon her head and leaves on her hip. She threw down the wood before the front door and came in by the back door. Her father returned later. The Great Being ate of a tasty meal; the girl served her parents before herself eating, washed their feet and the Bodhisatta’s feet. For several days he lived there watching her. Then one day to test her, he said: “My dear Amarā, take half a measure of rice and with it make me gruel, a cake, and boiled rice.” She agreed at once; and husked the rice; with the big grains she made gruel, the middling grains she boiled, and made a cake with the little ones, adding the suitable condiments. She gave the gruel with its condiments to the Great Being; he no sooner took a mouthful of it than he felt its choice flavour thrill through him: nevertheless to test her he said: “Madam, if you don’t know how to cook why did you spoil my rice?” and spat it out on the ground. But she was not angry; only gave him the cake, saying: “If the gruel is not good eat the cake.” He did the same with that, and again rejecting the boiled rice, said: “If you don’t know how to cook why did you waste my property?” As though angry he mixed all three together and smeared them all over her body from the head downwards, and told her to sit at the door. “Very good, master,” she said, not angry at all, and did so. Finding that there was no pride in her he said: “Come here, madam.” At the first word she came.
When the Great Being came, he had brought with him a thousand rupees and a dress in his betel-nut bag. Now he took out this dress and placed it in her hands, saying: “Madam, bathe with your companions and put on this dress and come to me.” She did so. The sage gave her parents all the money he had brought or earned, and comforted them, and took her back to the town with him. There to test her he made her sit down in the gatekeeper’s house, and telling the gatekeeper’s wife of his plans, went to his own house. Then he sent for some of his men, and said: “I have left a woman in such and such a house; take a thousand pieces of money with you and test her.” He gave them the money and sent them away. They did as they were bid. She refused, saying: “That is not worth the dust on my master’s feet.” The men came back and told the result. He sent them again, and a third time; and the fourth time he bade them drag her away by force. They did so, and when she saw the Great Being in all his glory she did not know him, but smiled and wept at the same time as she looked at him. He asked her why she did this. She replied, “Teacher, I smiled when I beheld your magnificence, and thought that this magnificence was not given you without cause, but for some good deed in a former life: see the fruit of goodness! I thought, and I smiled. But I wept to think that now you would wrong against the property which another watched and tended, and would go to hell: in pity for that I wept.” After this test he knew her chastity, and sent her back to the same place. Putting on his tailor’s disguise, he went back to her and there spent the night.
Next morning he repaired to the palace and told queen Udumbarā all about it; she informed the king, and adorning Amarā with all kinds of ornaments, and seated her in a great chariot, and with great honour brought her to the Great Being’s house, and made a gala day. The king sent the Bodhisatta a gift worth a thousand pieces of money: all the people of the town sent gifts from the doorkeepers onwards. Lady Amarā divided the gifts sent by the king into halves, and sent one portion back to the king; in the same way she divided all the gifts sent to her by the citizens, and returned half, thus winning the hearts of the people. From that time the Great Being lived with her in happiness, and instructed the king in things temporal and spiritual.
This is the end of the Question of lady Amarā. Amarā was the wife of king Mahosadha; cf. Milindapañha, page 205. The Bodhisatta was Mahosadha, cf. Jātaka (text) i. p. 53. [At the point in the story reflected by this Jātaka, however, Amarā was simply a lady, and not yet a queen.]
last updated: November 2021