1. Āḷavaka.– The king of Āḷavi. He was in the habit of holding a hunt once in seven days to keep his army in trim. One day when he was hunting, the quarry escaped from where the king lay in wait and, according to custom, it became the king’s duty to capture it. He, therefore, followed the animal for three leagues, killed it and, having cut it in half, carried it in a pingo. On his way back he happened to pass under the banyan tree which was the abode of the yakkha Āḷavaka. The yakkha had been granted a boon by the yakkha-
For the rest of the story see Āḷavaka Yakkha.
King Āḷavaka, with the help of the mayor of the town (Nagaraguttika) and his ministers, was able to keep his promise for some time, by sending criminals to the yakkha. The yakkha’s power was such that at the sight of him men’s bodies became as soft as butter. Soon there were no criminals left, and each household was forced to contribute one child for sacrifice to the yakkha.
Then women, about to bring forth children, began to leave the king’s capital. Twelve years passed in this manner and the only child left was the king’s own son, Āḷavaka Kumāra. When the king learnt this, he ordered the child to be dressed in all splendour and taken to the yakkha. The Buddha, with his Eye of Compassion, saw what was going to happen and went to the yakkha’s abode.
Āḷavaka was away at a meeting of the yakkhas in Himavā. His doorkeeper Gadrabha admitted the Buddha, after warning him of the yakkha’s unmannerly nature. The Buddha went in and sat down on Āḷavaka’s throne while Gadrabha went to Himavā to announce to his master the Buddha’s arrival. While the Buddha was there, teaching Āḷavaka’s women-
When Āḷavaka heard from Gadrabha and from Sātāgira and Hemavata of the Buddha’s visit, he was greatly incensed and uttering aloud his name, he hurried to his abode. There with all the various supernatural powers he could command he tried to dislodge the Buddha from his seat, but without success even his special weapon, the Dussāvudha being of no avail against the Buddha. Then, approaching the Buddha, Āḷavaka asked him to leave his house, which the Buddha did. He then summoned the Buddha back and he came. Three times this happened and three times the Buddha obeyed, judging compliance to be the best way of softening his wrath, but the fourth time the Buddha refused to return. Thereupon Āḷavaka expressed his desire to ask questions of the Buddha, hoping thereby to fatigue him. The Buddha agreed, and when he had answered all the questions to Āḷavaka’s satisfaction, the latter became a Stream-
At dawn, King Āḷavaka’s men brought the young prince, Āḷavaka-
When the king and the citizens heard that the yakkha had become a follower of the Buddha, they built for him a special abode near that of Vessavaṇa and provided him with endless gifts of flowers, perfumes, etc., for his use. The story of Āḷavaka, of which the above is a summary, is given in full in SnA.i.217‑40 and in SA.i.244‑59. It is also given in brief in AA.i.211‑12 and with some difference in detail.
Āḷavaka’s abode was thirty leagues from Sāvatthi, and the Buddha covered the whole journey in one day (SnA.i.220). The abode was near a banyan tree and on the ground (bhummatthaṃ), well protected with walls, etc., and covered on the top by a metal net, it was like a cart enclosed on all sides. It was three leagues in extent, and over it lay the road to Himavā by air (SnA.i.222). Ascetics, having seen the glittering palace, often called to find out what it was. Āḷavaka would ask them questions regarding their faith, and when they could not answer he would assume a subtle form and, entering their hearts, would drive them mad (SnA.i.228).
Āḷavaka shouted his name before starting from Himavā to vanquish the Buddha. He stood with his left foot on Manosilātala and his right on Kelāsakūṭa. His shout was heard throughout Jambudīpa and was one of the four shouts, mentioned in tradition, as having travelled so far (SnA.i.223; for the others see Puṇṇaka, Vissakamma and Kusa). Āḷavaka had a special weapon, the Dussāvudha, comparable to Sakka’s Vajirāvudha, Vessavaṇa’s Gadāvudha and Yama’s Nayanāvudha. It had the power, if it were thrown into the sky, of stopping rain for twelve years and if cast on the earth of destroying all trees and crops for a like period. If hurled into the sea it would dry up all the water, and it could shatter Sineru into pieces. It was made of cloth and is described as a vatthāvudha, and it was worn as a part of the yakkha’s upper garment (uttariya).
There are three salient features in the story of Āḷavaka that link it closely to the large circle of stories grouped by Professor Watanabe (J.P.T.S.1909‑10, pp.240 ﬀ) under the title of Kalmāsapāda stories:
The conversion of Āḷavaka is considered one of the chief incidents of the Buddha’s life ¹ (e.g., J.iv.180; vi.329; Mhv.xxx.84).
Āḷavaka’s name appears in the Aṭānāṭiya Sutta, among the yakkhas to whom followers of the Buddha should appeal for protection in time of need (D.iii.205). (See also Āḷavaka Sutta.)
¹ The Jayamaṅgala Gāthā celebrates the eight victories of the Buddha over: Māra the Evil One, Āḷavaka yakkha, the drunken, ferocious elephant Nāḷāgiri, the multi-
1. Āḷavaka Sutta.– Records the eight questions asked of the Buddha by Āḷavaka Yakkha and the answers given by the Buddha. It is said (SnA.i.228) that Āḷavaka’s parents had learnt the questions and their answers from Kassapa Buddha and had taught them to Āḷavaka in his youth; but he could not remember them and, in order that they might be preserved, he had them written on a gold leaf with red paint, and this he stored away in his palace. When the Buddha answered the questions he found that the answers were exactly the same as those given by Kassapa (SnA.i.231).
2. Āḷavaka Sutta.– A conversation between the Buddha and Hatthaka Āḷavaka in which the Buddha states that he is among those who enjoy real happiness. A.i.136 f.