Once, in Bārāṇasī, there lived Mahādhanaka, the son of a rich man. His parents had taught him nothing, and after their death he squandered all their wealth and fell into debt. Unable to escape his creditors, he summoned them and took them to the banks of the Gaṅgā, promising to show them buried treasure. Arrived there, he jumped into the river. He lamented aloud as he was being carried away by the stream. The Bodhisatta was then a golden hued deer living on the banks of the river, and, hearing the man’s wailing of anguish, he swam into the stream and saved him. After having ministered to him, the deer set him on the road to Bārāṇasī and asked him to tell no one of the existence of the Bodhisatta.
The day the man reached Bārāṇasī, proclamation was being made that the Queen Consort, Khemā, having dreamed of a golden deer teaching her, longed for the dream to come true. Mahādhanaka offered to take the king to such a deer and a hunt was organized. When the Bodhisatta saw the king with his retinue, he went up to the king and told him the story of Mahādhanaka. The king denounced the traitor and gave the Bodhisatta a boon that henceforth all creatures should be free from danger. Afterwards the Bodhisatta was taken to the city, where he saw the queen. Flocks of deer, now free from fear, devoured men’s crops; but the king would not go against his promise and the Bodhisatta begged his herds to desist from doing damage.
The story was told in reference to Devadatta’s ingratitude and wickedness. Devadatta was Mahādhanaka and Ānanda the king. J.iv.255‑63; the story is included in the Jātakamālā (No.26).