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Amudhasurabhi – The Divine Begging Bowl In Manimekhalai

Amudhasurabhi is an inexhaustible vessel or the divine begging bowl in Buddhism, which would get filled with food whenever its possessor desired. Details of this vessel are to be found in the early Tamil poem Manimekhalai written in the early centuries of the present era by Seethalai Sathanar. The story of the vessel also served to expound the Buddhist ideal of dana (charity).

Legend has it that there once lived an ascetic named Aputra in Madurai begging in a Lakshmi temple. He always shared his food with poor and needy and had true knowledge of Vedas.

In a particular year, there was famine in the region when god Indra became angry. During this period of suffering, one day goddess Saraswati appeared and gave him the magic bowl, Amudhasurabhi. Manimekhalai refers to Sarasvati as the goddess of all things related to mind, and goddess of language, knowledge and arts.

Amudhasurabhi always filled up every day with mountains of food, which Aputra shared with the needy. The famine continued for 12 years, yet the bowl always filled up. Aputra, like a boy, mocked Indra because he had the magic bowl to help the needy. Indra takes revenge by making rains plentiful and showering everyone with so much prosperity that no needy were left. No one was poor, and Aputra felt frustrated that he had no one to donate food from his abundant magic bowl to.

Then, one day, people of Java (Indonesia) met him. Indra was not generous to them, and many were dying of hunger in Java. Aputra left for Java in a ship. A storm hits the ship, and Aputra lands on Manipallavam Island. Aputra died on that island.

Manimekalai the heroine of the epic found the same bowl there. Using Amudhasurabhi, she offered food to the needy.

Amudhasurabhi vessel would be filled with food only if it was held by one who led a virtuous life, was self-sacrificing and pure in thought.

Amudhasurabhi can be compared to the Akshaya Patra was gifted by Surya to Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas during the exile period. You can read the story here.