Amrapali was a royal courtesan of the republic of Vaishali in ancient India around 500 BC. She was also known as Ambapalika or Ambapali. She is known for the donating her mango grove, Ambapali vana to the Sangha. When the Buddha visited her mango grove, he stayed there and then preached the famous Ambapalika Sutra. The main focus of this Sutra is following the four satipatthana, it will form the sole way that leads to the purification of beings, and to the realization of Nirvana. Following the teaching of Buddha, she became an arahant. The legend of Amrapali originated in the Buddhist Jataka Tales some 1500 years ago.
Life history of Amrapali
It is believed that Amrapali was born around 600-500 BCE. It is said that she was spontaneously born at the foot of a mango tree in one of the royal garden in Vaishali. Amrapali, as a young maiden, was exceptionally beautiful that's why a feudal lord, Mahanam was so enchanted by the young Amrapali's appearance that he abandoned his kingdom and moved to Ambara village in Vaishali.
Amrapali grew up as a talented girl. She had an extraordinary charm and grace. Due to this, many young nobles desired her company. Even the king of Vaishali, Manudev couldn't resist himself from the beauty of Amrapali. Hence he declared Amrapali as the bride of Vaishali or Nagharvadhu. She also earned the title of Vaishali Janpad Kalyani which is given to most beautiful and talented girl of the kingdom for a period of seven years. Since she was a Nagharvadhu, she had the right to choose her lovers, but she could not be committed to any one man.
Later she also became the Rajanartiki or court dancer. Her talent and beauty attracted many people from Vaishali and nearby areas. Therefore, the glory of Vaishali is often attributed to Amrapali's fame. It was believed that her treasury grew much larger than the treasuries of some kings.
Legends associated with Amrapali
There are many famous legends associated with Amrapali but the most famous one is associated with the Buddha.
In the Pali canon and other Buddhist scriptures, it has been mentioned that the Buddha, during his visit to Vaishali, shortly before his death, visited Amrapali at her mango grove. In some scriptures, it is mentioned that Amrapali attended his discourse which was organized at a nearby grove. She was so moved by the teachings that she invited the Buddha for a meal at her place. While others mentioned that the Buddha himself took shelter in her mango groves. Later Amrapali visited him and paid her obeisance. She invited him for the meal. He consented to her proposal with silence.
On the way back, Amrapali's chariot collided with the nobles of the Vaishali. They were also heading to invite the Buddha to dine with them. In the angry tone, the nobles called her a mango woman and asked her to move aside. In reply, she said that the Buddha will be visiting her house for a meal. Listening to the statement, the princes were upset and offered her golds in return for the privilege of hosting the Buddha. Amrapali refused the proposal and the Buddha also turned them down since he already promised to Amrapali.
When the Buddha and his disciples visited Amrapali's residence, Buddha advised his disciples to be mindful in her presence with the intention to prevent them from infatuation. Amrapali welcomed the Buddha and his disciples in her grand residence. The residence was decorated for this special occasion. After the meal, she offered her entire property including her groves to the Buddha and his order. Then after, the grove became the venue for several sermons on mindfulness. She also accepted the Buddhist way of life and became an arahant. She remained an active supporter of the Buddhist order. She dedicated her life to the service of the poor and the destitute.