27: The Consecrating of the Lohapasada

HEREUPON the king called to mind the tradition known to all, and duly handed down: `The thera rich in merit, ever intent on meritorious works, who formed his resolves in wisdom, who converted the island did, as is known, speak thus to the king, my ancestor: “Thy descendant, the king Dutthagamani, the wise, will hereafter found the Great Thupa, the splendid Sonnamali[1] a hundred and twenty cubits in height, and an uposatha-house, moreover, adorned with manifold gems, making it nine stories high, namely the Lohapasada.”

Thus thought the ruler of the land, and finding, when he made search, a gold plate kept in a chest and laid by in the palace with such a written record thereon, he commanded that the inscription be read aloud: `When one hundred and thirty-six years have run their course, in future time will Kakavanna’s son, the ruler of men, Dutthagamani, build this and that in such and such wise.’ When the king had heard this read he uttered a cry of joy and clapped his hands.[2] Then early in the morning he went to the beautiful Mahamegha-park, and when he had arranged a gathering together of the brotherhood of the bhikkhus he said to them: `I will build for you a pasada[3] like to a palace of the gods. Send to a celestial palace[4] and make me a drawing of it.’ The brotherhood of the bhikkhus sent thither eight (theras) who had overcome the asavas.

In the time of the sage Kassapa[5] a brahman named Asoka, who had set out eight ticket-meals[6] (to be apportioned) to the brethren, commanded his serving-woman named Birani: `Give of this continually.’ When she had given these gifts faithfully her whole life long she left this (world) and was reborn as a lovely maiden in a gleaming palace, floating in the air, (and she was) continually served by a thousand nymphs. Her gem-palace was twelve yojanas high[7] and measured forty-eight yojanas round about; it was adorned with a thousand jutting window-chambers, nine-storied and provided with a thousand chambers, gleaming with light, four-sided, with a thousand shell-garlands and with windows as eyes and provided with a vedika (adorned) with a network of little bells. In the middle of the (building) was the beautiful Ambalatthika-pásáda, visible from every side, bright with pennons hung out. When the theras, going to the heaven of the thirty-three (gods), saw that (palace) they made a drawing of it with red arsenic upon a linen cloth, and they returned, and being arrived they showed the linen to the brotherhood. The brotherhood took the linen and sent it to the king. When the king full of joy saw it he went to the splendid áráma and caused the noble Lohapásáda to be built after the drawing.

At the time that the work was begun the generous (king) commanded that eight hundred thousand gold pieces should be placed at each of the four gates; moreover, at each gate he commanded them to lay a thousand bundles of garments and many pitchers filled with ball-sugar, oil, sugar-dust, and honey, and proclaiming, `No work is to be done here without reward,’ he had the work done (by the people) appraised, and their wage given to them.

The pásáda was four-sided, (measuring) on each side a hundred cubits, and even so much in height. In this most beautiful of palaces there were nine stories, and in each story a hundred window-chambers. All the chambers were overlaid with silver and their coral vedikás[8] were adorned with manifold precious stones, gay with various gems were the lotus flowers[9] on the (vedikás) and they (the vedikas) were surrounded with rows of little silver bells.

A thousand well-arranged chambers were in the pásáda, overlaid with various gems and adorned with windows. And since he heard of Vessavana’s[10] chariot which served as a car for the women, he bad a gem-pavilion set up in the middle (of the palace) fashioned in like manner. It was adorned with pillars consisting of precious stones, on which were figures of lions, tigers, and so forth, and shapes of devatás; a bordering of pearl network ran round the edge of the pavilion and thereon was a coral vediká of the kind that has been described above.

Within the pavilion, gaily adorned with the seven gems, stood a shining beauteous throne of ivory with a seat of mountain-crystal, and in the ivory back (was fashioned) a sun in gold, a moon in silver, and stars in pearls, and lotus-blossoms made of various gems were fitly placed here and there and Játaka-tales in the same place[11] within a festoon of gold.

On the exceedingly beautiful throne covered with costly cushions was placed a beautiful fan of ivory, gleaming (magnificently), and a white parasol with a coral foot, resting on mountain-crystal and having a silver staff, shone forth over the throne. On it, depicted in the seven gems, were the eight auspicious figures[12] and rows of figures of beasts with jewels and pearls in between; and rows of little silver bells were hung upon the edge of the parasol. Palace, parasol, throne, and pavilion were beyond price.

Costly beds and chairs, according to rank, and carpets and coverlets of great price did he command them to spread about. The rinsing-vessel and the ladle (belonging thereto) were even of gold;[13] what need then to speak of the other utensils in the palace? Surrounded by a beautiful enclosure and provided with four gateways the pásáda gleamed in its magnificence like the hall in the heaven of the thirty-three (gods). The pasada was covered over with plates of copper, and thence came its name `Brazen palace’.

When the Lohapásáda was ready the king assembled the brotherhood, and the brotherhood came together as at the consecration-festival of the Maricavatti (vihára). Those bhikkhus who were yet simple folk stood on the first story, those learned in the tipitaka on the second, but those who had entered on the path of salvation and the others (stood) each on one of the third and higher stories,[14] but the arahants stood on those four stories that were highest of all.

When the king had bestowed the pasada on the brotherhood, after pouring forth the (ceremonial) water of presentation, he commanded, as before, a lavish gift of alms for a week. That which was spent by the generous king for the pasada, leaving aside all that which was beyond price, is reckoned at thirty kotis.

The wise who consider how marvellously precious is the giving of alms, while the gathering together of treasures (for oneself) is worthless, give alms lavishly, with a mind freed from the fetters (of lust), mindful of the good of beings.

Here ends the twenty-seventh chapter, called `the Consecrating of the Lohapasada’, in the Mahavamsa, compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious.

  1. I.e. ‘provided with golden garlands,’ now Ruwanwaeli. The usual designation in Mah. is Mahathupa.-1- [^]
  2. For the sense of apphoteti (= Skt. a-sphotayati) cf. Thupavamsa, 339-10: vamahattham abhujitva dakkhinahatthena apphotesi.-2- [^]
  3. See note to v. 14. The building was destined to contain the cells of the bhikkhus.-3- [^]
  4. By vimana are meant the palaces serving as abodes for the gods and happy spirits. Cf. the Vimanavatthu, note to 14. 58.-4- [^]
  5. The last Buddha before Gotama ; see 1. 10 ; 15. 125.-5- [^]
  6. Salakabhatta. See note to 15. 205.-6- [^]
  7. Here then we have a construction of several stories, diminishing in size towards the top (navabhumika!) after the style of the Assyro-Babylonian ziggarat (RHYS DAVIDS, Buddhist India, p. 70 foll. ; PERROT et CHIPIEZ, Histoire de l’ Art dans l’antiquite, ii, p. 390 foll.) Such a building is the Sat-mahal-prasada at Polannaruwa, although belonging to a later time. See TENNENT, Ceylon, ii, p. 588; BURROWS, Archaeological Report, x, 1886, p. 8 ; FERGUSSON, History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, 1910, i, p. 245; Arch. Survey of Ceylon, Annual Report, 1903 (Ixv, 1908), p. 14 foll. The word pasada serves now to designate the graduated galleries which form the base of thupas. See SMITHER, Anuradhapura, p. 20, &c.-7- [^]
  8. On the balustrades of the projecting windows, cf. the descriptions in FOUCHER, L’Art Gréco-Bouddhique du Gandhara, fig. 100 ; GRUNWEDEL, Buddhist. Kunst, fig. 27. See Appendix D, no. 30.-8- [^]
  9. For lotus-blossoms as a frequent ornament: FOUCHER, in the same work, fig. 97, 98 ; GRUNWEDEL, fig. 3 ; balustrade with leafornaments on cornices : FOUCHER, fig. 99.-9- [^]
  10. See note to 10. 89.-10- [^]
  11. On events in the former existences of the Buddha as a motive for decorative scenes see particularly FOUCHER, l.l., p. 270 foll. For arrangements in the manner described here, see CUNNINGHAM, Bharhut, plate xl foll.-11- [^]
  12. WIJESINHA enumerates the attha mangalikani: lion, bull, elephant, water-pitcher, fan, standard, conch-shell, lamp. The Thupavamsa, 6425, mentions sirivaccha as the first (cf. 30. 65).-12- [^]
  13. Acamakumbhi or acamanakumbhi-thus the Thupavamsa 542 is a vessel to hold water for washing the feet and hands, and is placed at the entrance of the temple (WIJESINHA). See M.V. I. 25. 19 ; C.V. V. 35. 4.-13- [^]
  14. That is, on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th stories stood those who had attained to the first three stages of the path: the sotapanna, the sakadagamino, and the anagamino. See notes to 1. 33, 15. 18 and 13. 17. ‘Simple folk’ in verse 44 is puthujjana, the unconverted, those who had not even entered on the path.-14- [^]
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