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Māgaṇḍiyā

Daughter of the brahmin Māgaṇḍiya. When the Buddha rejected her father’s offer of marriage with her, her parents joined the Order, giving her in charge of her uncle, Cūḷa-Māgaṇḍiya. The latter took her to Udena, king of Kosambī, who made her his chief consort, giving her five hundred ladies in waiting. Māgaṇḍiyā was incensed against the Buddha for having called her a “vessel of filth,” and, when he came to Kosambī, she planned her revenge. Having discovered that Udena’s other queen, Sāmāvatī, and her companions were in the habit of watching for the Buddha through windows in the walls of their rooms, she told the king that Sāmāvatī and her friends were conspiring to kill him. For some time the king refused to believe this, but when the holes were shown to him, he had them closed up and the windows built higher.

This plan having failed, Māgaṇḍiyā hired a slave to revile and abuse the Buddha in the streets. Ānanda suggested to the Buddha that they should go elsewhere. The Buddha answered, “I am like the elephant who has entered the fray, I must endure the darts that come upon me. After seven days the abuse ceased. Māgaṇḍiyā then persuaded her uncle to send eight live cocks to the palace and sent a page with them to the king’s drinking place. When the king asked what should be done with them, she suggested that Sāmāvatī and her friends should be asked to cook them for him. This the king agreed to do, but the women refused to deprive an animal of its life. Māgaṇḍiyā said they should be tested, and sent word by the page that the cocks were to be cooked for the Buddha. The page was bribed to change the live cocks for dead ones on the way, and Sāmāvatī and her companions then cooked them and sent them to the Buddha. However, even then the king, though not knowing of the exchange, would not be convinced of Sāmāvatī’s disloyalty.

Māgaṇḍiyā then obtained a snake from her uncle with its fangs removed. This she inserted in the shell of the flute which Udena carried about, closing the hole with a bunch of flowers. Udena was in the habit of spending a week in turn with each of his three consorts. When he announced his intention of going to Sāmāvatī, Māgaṇḍiyā begged of him not to go, saying she had had a dream and feared for his safety. However, the king went and Māgaṇḍiyā went with him. As he lay asleep with the lute under his pillow she pulled out the bunch of flowers, and the snake lay coiled on his pillow. Māgaṇḍiyā screamed and accused Sāmāvatī of designs on the king’s life. This time Udena believed her, and placing Sāmāvatī and her friends in a line one behind the other, he sent for his bow, which could only be strung by one thousand men, and shot an arrow at Sāmāvatī’s breast. However, by the power of her goodness the arrow failed to pierce her. Convinced of her innocence, the king pleaded for her forgiveness and gave her a boon. She chose that the Buddha should be invited to come to the palace every day, but the Buddha would not accept the invitation and sent Ānanda in his place.

Once more Māgaṇḍiyā conspired with her uncle against Sāmāvatī. They had all the pillars of Sāmāvatī’s house wrapt in cloth, soaked in oil, and, when she and her women were inside, the house was set fire to. Sāmāvatī saw the flames spreading and exhorted her women to be self possessed, and they attained to various fruits of the Path. Udena questioned Māgaṇḍiyā very carefully, and became convinced of her share and that of her uncle in the crime. He then sent for all Māgaṇḍiyā’s relations saying that he wished to reward them. He buried them waist-deep in the palace grounds and covered them with straw; the straw was then set fire to, and when it was burnt he had their bodies ploughed with an iron plough. Pieces of flesh were ripped from Māgaṇḍiya’s body, fried like cakes in oil, and Māgaṇḍiyā was then forced to eat them.

DhA.i.201 f., 210 ff; UdA.383 f; cf. Dvy., 515 ff., where Māgaṇḍiyā is called Anūpamā.

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