Mark Allon, “A Gāndhārī Version of the Story of the Merchants Tapussa and Bhallika”


The story of the merchants Tapussa and Bhallika giving the Buddha his first meal after his gaining of enlightenment, including the episode of the Lokapālas’ gift of alms bowls in which to receive that gift, is well known throughout the Buddhist world. Versions of the legend are to be found in Sanskrit (e.g., in the Mahāvastu), Pali (e.g., in the Manorathapūraṇī), and Chinese and Tibetan (e.g., in the Saṅghabhedavastu). Recently, a Gandhāran version, which occurs in the Senior Collection of Kharoṣṭhī manuscripts, has been added to the list of parallels of this well-known tale, giving cause for a fresh examination of the Tapussa and Bhallika corpus. Such a study brings to light many interesting variations in the development of the legend across linguistic boundaries and suggests several reasons why the story might have acquired its apparently prominent position in the Buddha’s biography.