A public executioner of Rājagaha. He had copper-coloured teeth and tawny skin, and his body was covered with scars. He wished to join a band of thieves, but, for some time, the ringleader refused to admit him on account of his inordinately cruel looks. In the end he was admitted; but when the thieves were captured and no one could be found willing to kill as many as five hundred of them, Tambadāṭhika agreed to do it for a reward, and slew all his colleagues. He was afterwards appointed public executioner and held the post for fifty-five years. When he became too old to behead a man with one blow, another was appointed in his place, and he was deprived of the four requisites to which he had, for so many years, been entitled — old clothes, milk porridge made with fresh ghee, jasmine flowers, and perfumes.
On the day on which he was deposed from office, he gave orders for milk porridge to be cooked, and having bathed and decked himself out, he was about to eat when Sāriputta, out of compassion for him, appeared at his door. Tambadāṭhika invited the elder in and entertained him hospitably. When Sāriputta began the words of thanksgiving, his host could not concentrate his thoughts, being worried by memories of his past wickedness. Sāriputta consoled him by representing to him that he had merely carried out the king’s orders. At the end of the discourse, Tambadāṭhika developed the qualities necessary for becoming a Stream-winner. When Sāriputta left, Tambadāṭhika accompanied him on his way, but on the way back he was gored to death by a cow.
The cow was a yakkhinī who also killed Pukkusāti, Bāhiya Dārucīriya, and Suppabuddha (DhA.ii.35; UdA.289).
The Buddha said he had been reborn in the Tusita world. DhA.ii.203 ﬀ.