Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

004 – The Story of Chaddanta Elephant

The Story of Chaddanta, Amravati Chaddanta with other elephants Chaddanta-Jataka, Bharhut

Once the Bodhisatta was born as the king of Chaddanta elephants. [Chaddanta (literally “having six tusks”) and Uposatha were the two highest classes of elephants often referred to in the Pali sources]. The body of the elephant king was pure white with red face and feet. He lived in a golden cave (Kanchana-guha) on the bank of a lake. He had two queens, namely, Mahasubhadda and Chullasubhadda.

Once after bathing in the lake and frolicking in the forest with his queens and attendants he sportingly hit a fully blossomed sal tree. Incidentally, the dry leaves, twigs and red ants from the tree fell on Chullasubhadda but the flowers and the pollen of the tree rained on Mahasubhadda. This made Chullasubhadda feel insulted and desert her husband. Chaddanta, however, tried to look for her but failed.

In course of time, Chullasubhadda died and was reborn in a royal family of the Madda kingdom. Later, when she grew up she was married to the king of Varanasi and became his chief consort. Still, she remembered her humiliation in the kingdom of Chaddanta. So, she hatched a plot to get Chaddanta’s tusks cut off; and convinced the Varanasi king to obtain his tusks for her. The king in turn summoned all the hunters of the kingdom and finally assigned the task to Sonuttara.

Nonetheless, it took seven years, seven months and seven days for Sonuttara to find the Chaddanta’s abode. There he stealthily dug a pit and covered it with dry leaves and twigs. When the elephant passed over it he shot him with a poisoned arrow. The elephant was to charge against him but when he saw Sonuttara clad in a saffron robe of a monk he recoiled and did not harm the hunter. Affected by the victim’s extreme religiosity the cruel hunter’s heart changed and he narrated the entire story to the elephant out of sheer respect.

The Story of Chaddanta, Goli The Story of Chaddanta-Jataka, Sanchi

As the hunter was not strong enough to cut off the Chaddanta’s tusks he himself held the saw in his tusk and cut them off and handed over to the hunter.

When the chief consort of Varanasi saw the Chaddanta’s tusks being brought by Sonuttara she fainted and died because she could not bear the shock.


Chaddanta Jataka Jataka Pali No.514; Saddanta in Sanskrit version.

J.S.Speyer suggests an allegorical explanation of the story in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft Ixxv.2 305 ff.

Feer gives a careful study of the story based on the comparison on five different versions – two in Pali, two in Chinese and one in Sanskrit, Journal Asiatique V. 1895.