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Kakkaṭaka Jātaka (No.267)

Once a golden crab as large as a threshing floor lived in Kuliradaha in the Himavā, catching and eating the elephants who went into the lake to drink. In terror they left the district. The Bodhisatta, being born among the elephants, took leave of his father, and went back into the lake with his friends. The Bodhisatta, being the last to leave the water, was caught by the crab’s claws; hearing his cries of pain, all the other elephants ran away except his mate, whom he entreated not to leave him.

Realising her duty, the she-elephant spoke to the crab words of coaxing and of flattery; the crab, fascinated by the sound of a female voice, let go his hold. Whereupon the Bodhisatta trampled him to death. From the two claws of the crab were later made the Ānaka and the Ālambara drums (q.v.)

The story was related in reference to the wife of a landowner of Sāvatthi. Husband and wife were on their way to collect some debts when they were waylaid by robbers. The robber chief, wishing to possess the wife for her beauty, planned to kill the husband. The wife expressed her determination to commit suicide if her husband were killed, and they were both released. The she-elephant of the Jātaka was the landowner’s wife (J.ii.341‑5).

This Jātaka is illustrated in the Barhut Stupa (Cunningham; Bharhut plate xxv.2).

The Kakkaṭa Jātaka is mentioned (DhA.i.119) among those taught by the Buddha giving instances where Ānanda offered his life for that of the Bodhisatta. The reference is evidently to the Suvaṇṇakakkaṭaka Jātaka (q.v.)

The story is also found in the Saṃyuttanikāya Commentary (SA.ii.167), but there the Bodhisatta’s life is saved not by his mate but by his mother.

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