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The Mahavamsa

The Great Chronicle of Lanka
from 6th Century BC to 4th Century AD

Translated from Pali
by Wilhelm Geiger



WHEN the great king had reverentially greeted the whole brotherhood he invited them, saying: 'Even till the cetiya is finished accept ye alms from me.' The brotherhood would not consent; when he then by degrees' prayed (them to accept) for a week he won acceptance, for one week, by the half of the bhikkhus. When he had obtained this from them he, satisfied, had pavilions set up in eighteen places around the place of the thupa and commanded there, for one week, lavish gifts to the brotherhood. Then he gave the brotherhood leave to depart.

Thereupon commanding that the drums be beaten he called the master-builders together with all speed; in number they were five hundred. And one of them answered the king, on his asking: 'How wilt thou make (the thupa)?' 'Taking a hundred workmen I will use one waggon-load of sand in one day.'

The king rejected him. Thereon they offered (to work with) one half less and yet one half less again, and (at last with) two ammanas of sand. These four master-builders also did the king reject. Then an experienced and shrewd masterbuilder said to the king: 'I shall pound (the sand) in a mortar, and then, when it is sifted, have it crushed in the mill and (thus will use) one ammana (only) of sand.'

And on these words the lord of the land, whose courage was like to Indra's, consented, with the thought: There will be no grass nor any such thing on our cetiya, and he questioned him saying: 'In what form wilt thou make the cetiya?' At that moment Vissakamma entered into (and possessed) him. When the master-builder had had a golden bowl filled with water, he took water in his hand and let it fall on the surface of the water. A great bubble rose up like unto a half-globe of crystal. He said: 'Thus will I make it.' And well-pleased the king bestowed on him a pair of garments worth a thousand (pieces of money) and ornamented shoes and twelve thousand kahapanas.

'How shall I have the bricks transported without laying burdens on the people?' Thus pondered the king in the night-time; when the gods were aware of this they brought night after night bricks to the four gates of the cetiya and laid them down there, always as many as sufficed for one day. When the king heard this, glad at heart, he began work on the thüpa. And he made it known: 'Work shall not be done here without wage.' At every gate he commanded to place sixteen hundred thousand kahapanas, very many garments, different ornaments, solid and liquid foods and drink withal, fragrant flowers, sugar and so forth, as well as the five perfumes for the mouth.

'Let them take of these as they will when they have laboured as they will.' Observing this command the king's work-people allotted (the wages).

A bhikkhu who wished to take part in the building of the thupa took a lump of clay which he himself had prepared, went to the place of the cetiya, and deceiving the king's work-people, he gave it to a workman. So soon as he received it he knew what it was, perceiving the bhikkhu's design.

A dispute arose there. When the king afterwards heard this he came and questioned the workman.

'Sire, with flowers in the one hand the bhikkhus are used to give me a piece of clay with the other; but I can only know (just so much) whether he be a bhikkhu from another land or of this country, Sire.'

When the king heard this word he appointed an overseer to show him the ascetic who had offered the lump of clay. The other showed him to the overseer and he told the king. The king had three pitchers with jasmine-blossoms placed in the courtyard of the sacred Bodhi-tree and bade the overseer give them to the bhikkhu. When the bhikkhu, observing nothing, had offered them, the overseer told him this while he yet stood there. Then did the ascetic understand.

A thera living in Piyañgalla in the Kotthivala district, who also wished to take part in the work of building the cetiya and who was a kinsman of that brick-worker, came hither and when he had made a brick in the size (such as was used there) after having learned (the exact measure) he, deceiving the work-people, gave it to the workman. This man laid it on its place (in the thupa), and a quarrel arose (on this matter). When the king knew this he asked: 'Is it possible to recognize the brick?' Although the workman knew it, he answered the king: 'It is impossible.' To the question:

'Dost thou know the thera?' he answered: 'Yes.' So that he might be made known the king placed an overseer near him. When the overseer had thereby come to know him he went, with the king's consent, and visited the thera in the Katthahala-parivena and spoke with him; and when he had learned the day of the thera's departure and the place whither he was going, and had said to him: 'I am going with thee to thy village,' he told the king all. The king commanded that a pair of garments, worth a thousand (pieces of money), and a costly red coverlet he given to him, and when he had (also) commanded to give him many things used by samanas, and sugar and a nali of fragrant oil withal, he laid his command upon him.

He went with the thera, and when Piyangallaka was in sight he made the thera sit down in a cool shady place where there was water, and when he had given him sugar-water and had rubbed his feet with fragrant oil and put sandals upon them, he gave him the necessaries (saying): 'For the thera who visits my house have I brought these with me, but the two garments for my son. All this do I give to thee now.' When with these words he had given those (necessaries) to the thera who, after receiving them, set out again upon his journey, he, taking leave of (the thera), told him, in the king's words, the king's command.

While the Great Thupa was built, people in great numbers who laboured for wages, being converted to the faith, went to heaven. A wise man who perceives that only by inner faith in the Holy One is the way to heaven found, will therefore bring offerings to the thupa.

Two women, who since they had also laboured here for hire, were re-born in the heaven of the thirty-three (gods), pondered when the thupa was finished, upon what they had formerly done, and when they both became aware of the reward of their deeds, they took fragrant flowers and came to do reverence to the thupa with offerings. When they had offered the fragrant flowers they did homage to the cetiya. At this moment came the thera Mahasiva who dwelt in Bhätivaka (with the thought): 'I will pay homage by night to the Great Thupa.' As he, leaning against a great sattapanna-tree, saw those women and without letting himself be seen stood there gazing at their marvellous splendour, he, when their adoration was ended asked them:

'Here the whole island shines with the brightness of your bodies; what works have ye done that ye have passed from this world into the world of gods?' The devatas told him of the work done by them in the (building of the) Great Thupa; thus does faith in the Tathagata bring a rich reward.

The three terraces for the flower-offerings to the thupa did the theras of miraculous power cause to sink down so soon as they were laid with bricks, making them equal to the surface of the soil. Nine times did they cause them to sink down when they were laid. Then the king called together an assembly of the brotherhood of bhikkhus. Eighty thousand bhikkhus assembled there. The king sought out the brotherhood, and when he had paid homage to them with gifts and had reverentially greeted them he asked the reason of the sinking down of the bricks. The brotherhood answered: 'In order that the thupa may not sink down of itself was this thipg done by the bhikkhus of miraculous power, O great king; they will do it no more, make no alteration and finish the Great Thüpa.'

When the king heard this, glad at heart he caused the work on the thüpa to be continued. For the ten flower-terraces ten kotis of bricks (were used). The brotherhood of bhikkhus charged the two samaneras, Uttara and Sumana, saying: 'Bring hither, to (make) the relic-chamber in the cetiya, fat-coloured stones." And they set out for (the land of) the Northern Kurus and brought from thence six massive fat-coloured stones measuring eighty cubits in length and breadth, bright as the sun, eight inches thick and like to ganthi blossoms. When they had laid one on the flower terrace in the middle and had disposed four (others) on the four sides, in the fashion of a chest, the (theras) of wondrous might placed the sixth, to serve (afterwards) as a lid, upon the east side, making it invisible.

In the midst of the relic-chamber the king placed a bodhi tree made of jewels, splendid in every way. It bad a stem eighteen cubits high and five branches; the root, made of coral, rested on sapphire. The stem made of perfectly pure silver was adorned with leaves made of gems, had withered leaves and fruits of gold and young shoots made of coral. The eight auspicious figures were on the stem and festoons of flowers and beautiful rows of fourfooted beasts and rows of geese. Over it, on the border of a beautiful canopy, was a network of pearl bells and chains of little golden bells and bands here and there. From the four corners of the canopy hung bundles of pearl strings each worth nine hundred thousand (pieces of money). The figures of sun, moon and stars and different lotus-flowers, made of jewels, were fastened to the canopy. A thousand and eight pieces of divers stuffs, precious and of varied colours, were hung to the canopy. Around the bodhi-tree ran a vedika made of all manner of jewels; the pavement within was made of great myrobalanpearls.

Rows of vases (some) empty and (some) filled with flowers made of all kinds of jewels and filled with four kinds of fragrant water were placed at the foot of the bodhi-tree. On a throne, the cost whereof was one koti, erected to the east of the bodhi-tree, he placed a shining golden Buddha image seated. The body and members of this image were duly made of jewels of different colours, beautifully shining. Mahabrahma stood there holding a silver parasol and Sakka carrying out the consecration with the Vijayuttara shell, Pancasikha with his lute in his hand, and Kalanaga with the dancing -girls, and the thousand-handed Mara with his elephants and train of followers. Even like the throne to the east (other) thrones were erected, the cost of each being a koti, facing the other seven regions of the heavens. And even thus, so that the bodhi-tree was at the head, a couch was placed, also worth one koti, adorned with jewels of every kind.

The events during the seven weeks he commanded them to depict duly here and there in the relic chamber, and also the prayer of Brahma, the setting in motion the wheel of the doctrine, the admission of Yasa into the order, the pabbajja of the Bhaddavaggiyas and the subduing of the jatilas; the visit of Bimbisära and the entry into Rajagaha, the accepting of the Veluvana, the eighty disciples,' the journey to Kapilavatthu and the (miracle of the) jewelled path in that place, the pabbajjä of Rahula and Nanda, the accepting of the Jetavana, the miracle at the foot of the mango-tree, the preaching in the heaven of the gods, the miracle of the descent of the gods, and the assembly with the questioning of the thera, the Mahasamayasuttanta, and the exhortation to Rahula, the Mahamahgalasutta, and the encounter with (the elephant) Dhanapala; the subduing of the (yakkha) Alavaka, of the (robber) Anguli mala and the (naga-king) Apalala,' the meeting with the Parayanakas, the giving-up of life, the accepting of the dish of pork, and of the two gold-coloured garments, the drinking of the pure water, and the Parinibbana itself; the lamentation of gods and men, the revering of the feet by the thera, the burning (of the body), the quenching of the fire, the funeral rites in that very place and the distributing of the relics by Dona.' Jatakas also which are fitted to awaken faith did the noble (king) place here in abundance. The Vessantarajataka he commanded them to depict fully, and in like manner (that which befell beginning at the descent) from the Tusitaheaven even to the Bodhi-throne.'

At the four quarters of the heaven stood the (figures of) the four Great kings, and the thirty-three gods and the thirty-two (celestial) maidens and the twenty-eight chiefs of the yakkhas; but above these devas raising their folded hands, vases filled with flowers likewise, dancing devatas and devatas playing instruments of music, devas with mirrors in their hands, and devas also bearing flowers and branches, devas with lotus-blossoms and so forth in their hands and other devas of many kinds, rows of arches made of gems and (rows) of dhammacakkas; rows of sword-bearing devas and also devas bearing pitchers. Above their heads were pitchers five cubits high, filled with fragrant oil, with wicks made of duküla fibres continually alight. In an arch of crystal there was in each of the four corners a great gem and (moreover) in the four corners four glimmering heaps of gold, precious stones and pearls and of diamonds were placed. On the wall made of fat-coloured stones sparkling zig-zag lines were traced, serving as adornment for the relic-chamber. The king commanded them to make all the figures here in the enchanting relic-chamber of massive wrought gold.

The great thera Indagutta, who was gifted with the six supernormal faculties, the most wise, directed here all this, being set over the work. All this was completed without hindrance by reason of the wondrous power of the king, the wondrous power of the devatas, and the wondrous power of the holy (theras).

If the wise man who is adorned with the good gifts of faith, has done homage to the blessed (Buddha) the supremely venerable, the highest of the world, who is freed from darkness, while he was yet living, and then to his relics, that were dispersed abroad b him who had in view the salvation of mankind; and if he then understands: herein is equal merit; then indeed will he reverence the relics of the Sage even as the blessed (Buddha himself) in his lifetime.

Here ends the thirtieth chapter, called 'The Making of the Relic-Chamber', in the Mahavamsa, compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious.

 Top of Page | Index
 Chapter 01 | Chapter 02 | Chapter 03 | Chapter 04 | Chapter 05 | Chapter 06 | Chapter 07 | Chapter 08 | Chapter 09 | Chapter 10 |
 Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 |
 Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30 |
 Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Chapter 33 | Chapter 34 | Chapter 35 | Chapter 36 | Chapter 37

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last updated: 20-May-2003