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Kaṭṭhavāhana

1. Kaṭṭhavāhana.– A king. A previous birth of Bāvarī. Kaṭṭhavāhana had been a very clever carpenter of Bārāṇasī, having under him sixteen thousand and sixteen assistants. They paid periodical visits to the Himavā forests, felled trees, and having prepared the timber which was suitable for building purposes, brought it down the Gaṅgā and erected houses for the king and for the people.

Growing tired of this work, these carpenters made flying machines of light wood, and going northwards from Bārāṇasī to Himavā, established by conquest a kingdom, the chief carpenter becoming the king. He came to be called Kaṭṭhavāhana, the capital was named Kaṭṭhavāhana-nagara and the country Kaṭṭhavāhana-raṭṭha. The king was righteous and the people very happy and the country prospered greatly. Later Kaṭṭhavāhana and the king of Bārāṇasī became sincere friends, and free trade, exempt from all taxes, was established between the two countries. The kings sent each other very costly and magnificent gifts.

Once Kaṭṭhavāhana sent to the king of Bārāṇasī eight priceless rugs in eight caskets of lacquered ivory, each rug being sixteen cubits long and eight cubits wide and of unsurpassed splendour. The Bārāṇasī king, wondering how he could adequately return the courtesy, decided to let his friend learn the great news of the appearance in the world of the Buddha (Kassapa), the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. This message was written on a gold leaf and the leaf enclosed in many caskets, one inside the other, the innermost casket being made of the seven kinds of jewels and the outermost of costly wood. The caskets were placed on a splendid palanquin and sent on the back of a royal elephant, accompanied by all the insignia of royalty. All along the route the honours due to a king were paid to the casket, and Kaṭṭhavāhana himself escorted the elephant from the frontiers of his kingdom to the capital. When Kaṭṭhavāhana discovered the message, he was overjoyed, and sent his nephew with sixteen of his ministers and sixteen thousand followers to investigate the matter and convey his greetings to the Buddha.

The envoys arrived at Bārāṇasī only after the Buddha’s death, but hearing from the Buddha’s disciples of the Doctrine he had proclaimed to the world, the ministers and their followers entered the Order, while Kaṭṭhavāhana’s nephew was sent back to report the news to the king, taking with him the Buddha’s water-pot, a branch of the Bodhi tree and a monk versed in the Dhamma. The king, having learnt the Dhamma, engaged in various works of piety until his death, after which he was born among the Kāmāvacara devas. SnA.ii.675 ff

2. Kaṭṭhavāhana.– King of Bārāṇasī. He was the Bodhisatta, son of Brahmadatta, king of Bārāṇasī, and of a faggot-gatherer, whom the king met in a grove, singing as she picked up the sticks. His story is related in the Kaṭṭhahāri Jātaka. J.i.133 ff; DhA.i.349; J.iv.148.

3. Kaṭṭhavāhana.– A king. He had been a master builder and built for Bodhirājakumāra, a palace called Kokanada, unrivalled in its splendour. In order to prevent the building of a similar palace for anyone else, the prince decided to make away with the master builder at the conclusion of his work, and confided his plan to his friend Sañjikāputta. The latter, being most distressed at this suggestion of wanton cruelty, warned the builder who, procuring seasoned timber with sap well dried, under pretence that it was needed for the palace, shut himself up and fashioned a wooden Garuḷa-bird, large enough to hold himself and his family. When his preparations were complete, the builder with his family mounted the bird and rode away through the air to the Himavā, where he founded a kingdom and became known as King Kaṭṭhavāhana (DhA.iii.135 f).

The story of the building of the palace is mentioned in the introduction to the Venasākha Jātaka (J.iii.157), but there we are told that the prince put out the builder’s eyes, and no mention is made of the wooden bird and the subsequent story.

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