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Bhātikābhaya

Also called Bhātika or Bhātiya. Son of Kutakaṇṇatissa and king of Sri Lanka for twenty-eight years (38‑66 A.C.) He was called Bhātika or Bhātiya because he was the elder brother of Mahādāthika Mahānāga. He was very pious, and once had the whole of the Mahā Thūpa covered with sandalwood paste in which were embedded sweet smelling flowers. On another occasion he covered the whole thūpa with flowers and sprinkled them with water drawn by machines from the Abhayavāpi. He made a plaster covering for the Mahā Thūpa into which were mixed many, cartloads of pearls. A net of coral was made and thrown over the cetiya, and in its meshes were fastened lotus flowers of gold, as large as wagon wheels. One day the king heard the sound of the chanting of Arahants in the relic chamber of the Mahā Thūpa, and he lay down resolving not to rise until he had seen them. The theras made a door by which he could enter, and, having seen the glories of the chamber, he described them for the benefit of the people, making figures in illustration of his descriptions. Bhātikābhaya did many other works of merit, held Vesākha festivals, organized offerings for the Bodhi tree, and showed great hospitality to the monks at various places. He was succeeded by his brother Mahādāṭhika Mahānāga (Mhv.xxxiv.38 ff; MT.553 f).

Bhātikābhaya once heard of a skilful judgment being given by Abhidhammika Godha Thera and laid down a rule that all disputes should be taken to the elder for settlement (Sp.ii.307). On another occasion he appointed a brahmin minister, named Dīghakārāyana, to settle a controversy between the monks of Abhayagiri and those of the Mahā-vihāra (Sp.iii.583). He had a queen called Sāmadevī who was the daughter of a cattle butcher. A large number of cattle butchers were once brought before the king, but as they were unable to pay the fine demanded, he appointed them as scavengers in the palace. One of them had a beautiful daughter, and the king fell in love with her and married her. Owing to her, her kinsmen, too, lived in happiness (VibhA.440).

Bhātikābhaya once heard the Appamāda Sutta (see A.v.21 f) in which the Buddha had declared that, of all perfumes, that of jasmine was the strongest. In order to test this the king filled a room with the four kinds of perfume and then placed in it handfuls of various flowers, including jasmine. He then left the room and shut the door. After a while he entered again, and the first scent which greeted him was that of jasmine. Convinced of the truth of the Buddha’s statement, he fell prostrate and worshipped him (AA.ii.819).

It is said (SA.ii.180) that the king once asked a reciter to tell him of an auspicious stanza (jayamaṅgala) connected with all the Three Jewels. After thinking for a while, he recited the stanza beginning “Divā tapati ādicco, ratti ābhāti candimā,” (S.ii.284). At the end of the first line (pāda), the reciter saluted the setting sun, at the end of the second the rising moon, at the end of the third the Saṅgha, and at the end of the stanza he stretched his hands upwards in salutation of the Mahā Thūpa. The king asked him to hold his hands there and placed in them one thousand pieces.

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