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July 20/21, 356 BC - June 10/11, 323 BC = 33 yrs

She lived about 600 (or 500) BCE. Usually it is difficult to find specific information about women from such early times, but she was an important figure in Vaishaalee, or Vesaalee (in Paalee) an ancient city of India that was the capital of the Lichchhivi and the Vajjian Confederacy and she later became an important disciple of Buddha Her name appears to come from two Sanskrit words, “Aamra”, means mango and “Paalee”, means leaves. She is known as Ambapaalee also. This is usually interpreted as "a child of the mango grove". It is believed that she was given this name since she was found at the foot of a mango tree, in a royal garden of Vaishaalee.

Tradition holds that she was very beautiful. She became a well known courtesan of Vaishaalee and it is said that she did much to increase the prestige and importance of the city. She was very intelligent and had a great yearning for truth. When Buddha came to the area, she went to hear him. It is said that even he was struck with her wisdom. During their first encounter, Aamrapaalee invited Buddha and his disciples to dine with her; an invitation he accepted despite knowing that she was a courtesan and the advice of others who thought he should not go.

Having heard him talk, she gave her lands to him and his followers. She became a disciple of the Buddha and is said to have attained the status of Arhat (a perfected person).

Aamrapaalee and Gautam Buddha
Once Buddha came to Vaishaalee with his many followers and stayed in the mango groves of Aamrapaalee. When Aamrapaalee heard that Buddha, the Enlightened One, has come in her city and is staying in her mango grove, she was filled with joy. She sat in her carriage and went to him till she could go by carriage, then she arrived where Buddha was staying and sat near his feet. She went there in a very plain dress, without any jewelry and expensive clothes on. Buddha thought - "Although this woman is the beloved of all people and King, still her heart is calm. This is rear in the world, because normally women of the world love vanity and lack wisdom; but she, even though brought up in luxury she has mastered the wisdom. Then Buddha delivered her a sermon. She got very happy and requested him to take meal at her place with his disciples next day. Buddha agreed.

When a Lichchhivi Prince heard that the Blessed One has come and is staying in a mango grove of Aamrapaalee, he also went to meet him. He went with his people, adorned in rich dress and expensive jewelry. When Buddha saw him coming he said to his disciples that who have not seen gods, could see the Lichchhivi as they were dressed like gods. The Prince also went in his carriage till the point he could go in carriage, then he walked to Buddha and sat near his feet with respect. Buddha delivered religious sermon to him, The Prince said - "Will you come to our palace and have a meal with us tomorrow?" Buddha replied - "O Lichchhivi, I have promised to Aamrapaalee for tomorrow." At this the Prince got up and keeping him on  his right, while going from there, he went away. When they came home they said - "Oh, A worldly woman has outdone us."

Next day Aamrapaalee cooked sweet rice and cakes and announced to Buddha that the time of meal had come. Buddha took his bowl and came to Aamrapaalee's mansion. Aamrapaalee offered them seats and then food. She waited upon them till they ate no more. When Buddha had finished his food, she brought a low stool and sat near him and said - "Lord I wish to present this mansion to the order of Bhikkhu of which Buddha is the chief." Buddha accepted it with joyous heart, rose from his seat and went away.

In Popular Culture
Aamrapaalee has also been the subject of a biopic, "Amrapali" (1966), starring Vyjayanthimala and Sunil Dutt.

Bollywood actress Hema Malini produced, directed, and starred in a TV Series called Women of India which showed the story of Aamrapaalee. The music for the Aamrapaalee segment of the TV Series was composed by composer Hridaynath Mangeshkar, in conjunction with composer Ravindra Jain.

Aachaarya Chaturasen Shaastri has written a novel too on her life - "Vaishaalee Kee Nagar Vadhoo"


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/20/12