Read the journey of Amrapali – From being a Nagar Vadu of Vaishali, love of Magadh Raja Bimbisara and his son Ajatashatru to finally becoming a Buddha’s Bhikkhuni!

The rare beauty Amrapali is seen lately on Zee TV Buddha. Although, her beauty is timeless, classic and nothing that can be compared to anything or anyone, her story is not only tragic but also sad. Not to forget, her biggest asset – her beauty becomes the main cause of her tragedy. No wonder, Amarpali at a very young age becomes a prostitute by the order of her state, the only women in the history to face such a fate. Her journey from a girl to prostitute and then a Bhikkhuni is long and involve lots of big names of that era.

Now that the Zee TV Buddha shows us her relationship with both, Bimbisara and his son Ajatashatru in bits and pieces, here we tell you the complete story of the Vaishali Nagar Vadhu – The Bride of the City along with the love of her life – A Buddhist Monk! 

Amrapali – The Girl Who Was Found Beneath The Mango Tree

A poor couple once found a baby girl beneath the mango tree in the royal gardens of Vaishali (capital of Lichchavis) area of ancient India during 500 BC. Her parentage like Buddha’s physician Jivaka is unknown. However, since she was found beneath the mango tree – Amra in sanskrit, she was named as Amrapali by her foster parents.

amrapali young Amrapali : The Journey from Nagar Vadhu (Bride of the City) to a Bhikkhuni (Female Monk)

Amrapali in her adolescence went on to become one of the most gorgeous woman of that time. Her extraordinary beauty and magnificent looks is described in Pali texts without forgetting to mention how all the men from kings to merchants to traders and senators – everyone wanted to marry this beauty, making her poor parents confused. No matter whom they selected the other would get angry.

Amrapali – The Nagar Vadhu (The Bride of the City) of Vaishali

Some of the stories (esp the boook the Legend of Amrapali) mentions that Vaishali’s king Manudev who fell in love with her beauty killed her childhood love and made her Nagarvadhu. While, I have doubts on this one the text mentioned in some of the Pali texts looks appropriate – It mentions that back then Vaishali was a democratic place where it had its own Parliament.

And so when the news of Amrapali reached the ears of the members of parliament they decided to sit and discuss over it. The result of their discussion was happiness to all so that the unity of Vaishali is maintained. This is how Amarpali became the nagar vadhu – the bride of the city where she had to make love to anyone and everyone.

amrapali nagar vadhu nandika dutt Amrapali : The Journey from Nagar Vadhu (Bride of the City) to a Bhikkhuni (Female Monk)

So, while, the entire city remained happy – Amarpali became a victim of her own beauty. She was given up the title of Janpath Kalyani, the most talented women of the kingdom for 7 years in which she not only got a palace of her own but also the right to choose her lover for physical relationship. But, with this, she also became a court dancer.

Amrapali and Bimbisara, The Magadh King

Bimbisara, the king of Magadh always had hostile relations with Vaishali and so when he wanted to see Amrapali, he had to disguise himself so that nobody recognizes him. Being a musician himself, Bimbisara not only could meet Amrapali but the two also fell in love with each other. Amrapali became the mother of Bimbisara’s son – Vimala Kondanna (He later became a Buddhist monk).

Once, Bimbisara attacked Vaishali and Amrapali got to know the real identity of Bimbisara when he took refuge at Amrapali’s place. She then told him to stop the battle, and he obliged to her request rather demand, because he was madly in love with her. He also wanted to make her the empress of Magadh, but she declined as Vaishali and Magadh were always enemies. No wonder, had she accepted Bimbisara’s proposals, both the state would war, killing thousands.

In the serial, it is shown Amrapali asks Bimbisara to come to Vaishali and Bimbisara refuses. However, it seems it was other way round.   Strangely, Bimbisara’s incident is picturised on Ajatashatru. Besides, Amrapali is not as beautiful as described in the text. No wonder Vaijantimala in the 1966 film Amrapali did justice when it came to the magnificent looks.

Amrapali and Ajatshatru, The Son of Bimbisara

Ajatshatru, the son of Bimbisara is said to be infatuated by the beauty of Amrapali. Amrapali too reciprocated his love. However when the people of Vaishali got to know about this, they imprisoned Amrapali. Ajatashatru was so infuriated by this act, that he burnt the state, killing almost everybody. Amrapali however was not impressed to see her liberty at the cost of her city, and so he renounced her love for Ajatashatru.

amrapali nagarvaadhu Amrapali : The Journey from Nagar Vadhu (Bride of the City) to a Bhikkhuni (Female Monk)

Well, it is nowhere stated whether Amrapali knew that Ajatashatru was his lover’s son, and that he was the one who had imprisoned his own father and even killed him. Or maybe this happened after he killed him. But, had Ajatashatru met Amrapali, I’m sure she would not somehow save Bimbisara from getting killed by his own son.

The Buddhist Monk Who Converted Amrapali into a Bhikkhuni

While, many kings and merchants fell in love with Amrapali, Amrapali fell in love with a Buddhist monk, the moment she saw him from her terrace. She then not only called him to eat at her place, but also requested him to stay the next 4 months, the rainy season in her house. The young monk replied to her that it was only possible if his master, the great Buddha allows it.

amrapali bhikkuni Amrapali : The Journey from Nagar Vadhu (Bride of the City) to a Bhikkhuni (Female Monk)

All the bhikkus were jealous of the young monk and the news reached Buddha before the young man could meet him in person and narrate the incident. Buddha, however, to everyone’s surprise allowed him to stay at Amrapali’s house. After 4 months, the bhikku came to Buddha and touched his feet, and behind him came Amrapali dressed in saffron robe as a Bhikkuni.

And what she said was something strange, “I couldn’t seduce your young monk but his spirituality seduced me to become like him.”

With Inputs from “Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu” a novel by Acharya Chatursen Shashtri,  “Buddhacharita” and Jataka Tales

Image Source: Bhikkuni, Amrapali Painting, Amrapali

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