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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas

Index

Mallikā

DPPN: Mallikā —Chief queen of Pasenadi, king of Kosala. She was the daughter of the chief garland-maker of Kosala, and was very good and beautiful. When she was sixteen she was, one day, on her way to the garden with some companions, carrying with her three portions of sour gruel in a basket. Meeting the Buddha, she offered them to him and worshipped him. The Buddha, seeing her wrapt in joy, smiled, and, in answer to Ānanda’s question, said she would be chief queen of Kosala that very day.[1]

It happened that Pasenadi, having suffered defeat at the hands of Ajātasattu that very day, was passing by and entered the flower garden, attracted by Mallikā's voice. Mallikā, seeing him coming, and noting his weariness, seized his horse’s bridle. The king, discovering that she was unmarried, dismounted, and, having rested awhile, his head on her lap, entered the town with her and took her to her own house. In the evening he sent a chariot for her, and with great honour and pomp brought her from her own home, set her on a heap of jewels and anointed her chief queen. From that day onward she was the beloved and devoted wife of the king and an undeviating follower of the Buddha.[2] The king found her sagacious and practical-minded and consulted her and accepted her advice when in difficulty — e.g., in the Asisadisa-dāna wherein he wished to excel his subjects, and again when he was troubled by evil dreams as narrated in the Mahāsupina Jātaka.[3] The Jātaka states how Mallikā saved many innocent lives from being sacrificed, and the Buddha declared that in a past life too, as Dinnā, she had saved the lives of a large number of people by her wisdom.[4]

Both Mallikā and Pasenadi’s other queen, Vāsabhakhattiyā, desired to learn the Dhamma, and, at their request conveyed through Pasenadi, the Buddha asked Ānanda to visit the palace regularly and teach them the Doctrine. Ānanda found in Mallikā an apt and ready pupil, conscientious in her work; Vāsabhakhattiyā, was not so devoted to her duties.[5] Mallikā's knowledge of the Dhamma made her wiser than Pasenadi [456] would have desired, and he once, in a moment of great affection, asked if anyone were dearer to her than her own " self." "No, Sire," was the answer; the king was evidently greatly disappointed, for he sought the Buddha, who explained to him that Mallikā, in making that answer, had uttered a great truth.[6] Mallikā, though an exemplary wife, was not without lapses. Reference is made to the quarrels she had with her husband, once, at least, on the question of conjugal rights,[7] as a result of which they both sulked and had to be reconciled by the Buddha. The Dhammapada Commentary[8] relates a ridiculous story about her misbehaviour with a dog in the bath-house. Pasenadi was a witness of this scene, but she was able to convince him that it was the fault of the lighting of the bath-house. Nevertheless, it is said that at the moment of her death she recollected this misdeed, and, as a result, was reborn in Avici. The king was overcome by grief at Mallikā's death, and, after the funeral rites, went to the Buddha to ask where she had been reborn. The Buddha, not wishing him to know, caused the king to forget the question, every time he came to the vihara, for a whole week, till Mallikā's suffering in Avici was over; then he allowed the question to be asked, and he was able to assure Pasenadi that she had been reborn in Tusita and to console him in his grief. It is said[9] that Pasenadi was on a visit to the Buddha when a man came with the whispered message that the queen was dead. It was a terrible shock, "his shoulders drooped, his mouth fell, and he sat brooding, unable to speak."

Mallikā had a daughter by Pasenadi[10]; no mention is made of a son. He is said to have been disappointed on hearing that the child was a girl; but the Buddha assured him that women were sometimes wiser than men.[11]

Mallikā is mentioned[12] as one of seven persons whose acts of devotion bore fruit in this life and whose fame reached even to the gods. Only one instance is on record of Mallikā asking a question of the Buddha. She wished to know why some women are plain, others beautiful, some rich, others poor. And the Buddha explained to her the reasons for these discrepancies.[13]

In the Piyajatika Sutta[14] Pasenadi is said to have taunted her because [457] "her recluse Gotama " had said that dear ones bring sorrow and tribulation. "If the Lord says so, it must be so," she replies; but secretly sends Nāḷijaṇgha to find out from the Buddha himself if he had said so and why. Having learnt the facts, she faces Pasenadi again, and convinces him too that the Buddha is right.

Mallikā had a garden, called the Mallikārama, in which was a Hall among the Deispyros-trees (tindukācīra) set apart for religious discussions between members of various sects (samayappavādaka).[15]

Mallikā is identified with Sujātā of the Sujātā Jātaka,[16] the Kinnarī in the Bhallatiya Jātaka[17] and Sambulā in the Sambulā Jātaka.[18] In all three births Pasenadi was her husband.

Mallikā is included in a list of eminent upasikas.[19]

 


[1] J. iii. 405; SA. i. 110 ff. It was to explain Mallikā's good fortune that the Kummāsapiṇḍa Jātaka was preached.

[2] DhA. iii. 121 f.

[3] DhA. ii. 8 ff. says that Mallikā called the king a simpleton for putting his faith in brahmins and took him to the Buddha, and while the king sat trembling, asked the questions for him and had them explained.

[4] DhA. ii. 15 f.

[5] Ibid., i. 382 f. For an incident connected with ṭnanda’s visit to the palace, see Vin. iv. 158 f.

[6] S. i. 75; Ud. v. 1.

[7] J. iv. 437; also J. iii. 20; in these quarrels the king was probably more to blame than Mallikā; it is said that until reconciled by the Buddha he ignored her very existence, saying that prosperity had turned her head.

[8] DhA. iii. 119 ff.

[9] A. iii. 57.

[10] Probably Vajīrī, who is spoken of as the king’s only daughter (M. ii. 110).

[11] S. i. 86 f.

[12] Mil. 115, 291.

[13] See Mallikā Sutta 1. {this is a reference to the D.P.P.N. entry. The Link is to the sutta.)

[14] M. ii. 106 ff.

[15] M. ii. 22; MA. 710; D. i. 178; see s.v. Ekasālā.

[16] J. iii. 22.

[17] J. iv. 444.

[18] J. v. 98.

[19] A. iv. 348.

 


 

References:

JAT 77: Mahāsupina Jātaka
JAT 269: Sujātā Jataka
JAT 504: Bhallatiya Jataka
JAT 519: Sambulā Jātaka.
JAT 415: Kummāsapiṇḍa Jātaka


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