Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

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

039 – The Wisdom of Vidhura Pandita

The Naga king and his wife Vimala. The Naga court, Ajanta

Once there lived a wise man named Vidhura Pandita. He became the minister of king Dhananjaya, who ruled the kingdom of Kuru with Indapatta (modern Indrastha of the Delhi region) as his capital. The king was virtuous; and so were the other three contemporary kings, namely, Sakka, the king of the devas; Varuna, the king of the Nagas; and Venateyya the king of the Supannas or garudas (large golden eagles).

Once all the four kings met in a garden on some occasion, where each claimed to be the most virtuous. So, the dispute began, which was not resolved by them. So, they requested Vidhurapandita, the wisest person of the time to settle the dispute. Vidhura satisfied all of them by telling that each was equal just like the four spokes of a wheel. Pleased, the Naga king offered him a jewelled ornament from his own neck; and the other kings also rewarded him with some precious gifts.

When the king of the Nagas returned to his palace and Vimala, his consort noticed that his neckalace was missing she demanded an explanation. The king narrated the whole story and praised the wisdom of the Kuru minister for having resolved the dispute of the four virtuous kings. Charmed, Vimala craved to meet the minister. She asked the king, “O lord! Bring me the heart of Vidhura if you love me.” She then feigned illness.

That was the time when the yakkha (yaksa) General Punnaka was flying over the Naga kingdom on his white winged horse and saw the Naga princess Irandati amusing herself on a swing adorned with flowers and singing a melodious song all by herself in the royal garden. No sooner than he looked at her he lost his heart to her. So, he descended there and introduced himself to her. The princess, too, was equally charmed by his looks.

Yaksa General Punnaka flying on his horse
The Naga princess Irandati amusing herself in a swing in the royal garden.

Soon she was to catch the attention of the Yakkha General Punnaka, Ajanta

The General then went to the Naga king to ask for the Irandati’s hand. As the yakkhas were far more powerful than the Nagas the Naga king could not reject his proposal outrightly on the ground by stating that the yakkhas and Nagas belonged to two different species. He, therefore, obtained some time for consideration of the proposal. So, on one hand, he did not overlook the love for his daughter, who persisted for the marriage; and on the other he did not incur any hostility of his chieftains. Yet, he was indecisive.

So, he consulted his minister, who was cunning and jealous of Vidhurpandita’s wide-popularity. The minister advised him to ask Punnaka to bring the heart of the Vidhurapandita as a condition for the princess’s hands. The king accepted the suggestion as it was to fulfil the wish of the ailing Queen Vimala, too.

Punnaka accepted the condition for the marriage and went to the court of Dhananjaya in Indapatta. As he knew the king’s weakness for gambling he challenged him for a game of dice. He offered his wonderful steed and an all-seeing-gem at stake. Tempted for the gem when the king fumbled for his stake, Punnaka asked him to put his most precious gem, which was none but Vidhurapandita. The game of the dice was thus on. Soon the king lost; and Vidhurapandita was put at the disposal of the Yakkha General. Vidhura’s wife Anujja fainted when she heard that her husband was to be taken away by the Yakkha General.

Flying on his horse with Vidhura on his back Punnaka reached a secluded place on a dark hillock called the Kalapabbata and dismounted upon it. There, he drew his sword out of the sheath and with a lightning speed struck it in the abdomen of his captive. The sword, however, did not hurt Vidhura; and was broken. Surprised, Punnaka asked the reason for this miracle but Vidhura told him that the answer to such a query would made at an appropriate time. Punnaka then wished to set him free and take him to Indapatta. But the virtuous minister so desirous to practise charity desired to help Punnaka. So, he preferred to accompany him to the Naga kingdom.

Vidhurapandita, giving sermon to the Naga king Varuna (top left)

Vimala, the Naga Queen waiting for Vidhurapandita to hear his discourses (top middle), Ajanta

Delightful reunion of Punnaka and Irandati (shown through the window). Punnaka’s horse is sitting outside his chamber (centre)

Vidhurapandita, giving sermon to the Naga king Varuna, Ajanta

When Punnaka and Vidhura entered the Naga kingdom they were given a warm reception. The entire Naga kingdom was then decorated with flags and banners. Festoons adorned the house-tops and floral gates were erected all over the path to receive the prospective groom.

When the malicious Naga minister sought an explanation from Punnaka for not having killed Vidhura to bring his heart, Punnaka said, “As I won the costliest jewel of Indapatta from the Kuru king I did not find a matching casket for it”. The reply made the Naga minister dumb-founded.

In the Naga world, Vidhura first gave discourses to King Varuna and then to his consort Vimala. Both were delighted at his preaching.

Soon, Punnaka and Irandati were married, and lived happily.

Finally, Punnaka took Vidhura back to Indapatta and presented him the all-seeing-gem. Thus, Vidhura had the two best jewels of the time in his crown: one from the Naga king Varuna; and the other from the yakkha General Punnaka.

The Thai version


(Anujja is identified with Yashodhara; Varuna as Sariputta; Supanna king as Moggallana; Dhananjaya as Ananda; and Sakka as Anuruddha)

See Vidhura Pandita Jataka Jataka Pali No.546 (No.546 in some editions). Also called Punnaka-Jataka. Cf. Dhumakari jataka. See Atanatiya Sutta Digha Nikaya 3.204.