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Vissakamma, Vissukamma

A deva, inhabitant of Tāvatiṃsa. He is the chief architect, designer and decorator among the devas, and Sakka asks for his services whenever necessary. Thus he was ordered to build the palace called Dhamma for Mahāsudassana (D.ii.180) and another for Mahāpanāda (J.iv.323; DA.iii.856).

He also built the hermitages for the Bodhisatta in various births — e.g., as

Vissakamma also built the hermitage for Dukūlaka and Pārikā (J.vi.72).

On the day that the Buddha renounced the world, Sakka sent Vissakamma in the guise of a shampooer to bathe him and clothe him in his royal ornaments (J.i.60; DhA.i.70; BuA.232; he also constructed ponds in which the prince might bathe, AA.i.379); he also sent him to adorn Temiya on the day he left the kingdom (J.vi.12).

Vissakamma erected the jewelled pavilion, twelve leagues in compass, under the Gandamba, where the Buddha performed the Twin Miracle and built the three stairways of jewels, silver and gold, used by the Buddha in his descent from Tāvatiṃsa to Saṅkassa (J.iv.265 f). He built, the pavilions in which the Buddha and five hundred Arahants travelled to Uggapura, at the invitation of Cūḷasubhaddā. (DhA.iii.470; and again for the journey to Sunāparanta, MA.ii.1017).

When Ajātasattu deposited his share of the Buddha’s relics in a thūpa, Sakka ordered Vissakamma to construct around the thūpa a vālasaṅghātayanta (revolving wheel?) to prevent anyone from approaching the relics. Later, when Dhammāsoka (Piyadassī) wished to obtain these relics for his vihāra, Vissakamma appeared before him in the guise of a village youth and, by shooting an arrow at the controlling screw of the machine, stopped its revolutions (DA.ii.613, 614).

He constructed the jewelled pavilion in which Soṇuttara placed the relies he brought from the Nāga world until the time came for them to be deposited in the Mahā Thūpa, (Mhv.xxxi.76) and on the day of their enshrinement, Vissakamma, acting on Sakka’s orders, decorated the whole of Sri Lanka (Mhv.xxxi.34). He also provided the bricks used in the construction of the Mahā Thūpa (Mhv.xxviii.8). Sometimes he would enter into a workman’s body and inspire him with ideas — e.g., in designing the form of the Mahā Thūpa (Mhv.xxx.11). He was also responsible for the construction of the golden vase in which the branch of the Bodhi tree was conveyed to Sri Lanka (Mhv.xviii.24).

As in the case of Mātali and Sakka, Vissakamma is evidently the name of an office and not a personal name. Thus, in the Suruci Jātaka (J.iv. 325), Vissakamma is mentioned as a previous birth of Ānanda, while, according to the Dhammapada Commentary, the architect who helped Magha and his companions in their good works, was reborn as Vissakamma. DhA.i.272. The story given regarding Vissakamma in SNA.i.233, evidently refers to the Mahākaṇha Jātaka. The deva who accompanied Sakka in the guise of a dog in that Jātaka was Mātali and not Vissakamma.

See Visvakarma in Hopkins’ Epic Mythology.

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