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The Maha Rart - the Great Birth

The most popular of the tales of the previous lives of the Buddha is the last one, the Vessantara Jataka. In this story the Buddha perfects renunciation, the last of the ten virtues of a Boddhisattva. The Thai version is divided into thirteen parts, which are often found illustrated in a set of murals on one of the side walls.

In his tenth life the future Buddha is born as Prince Vessantara. The prince begins his renunciation by giving away a magic white elephant that brings rain to his father's kingdom, and he is expelled. His wife, Princess Matsi, and their two children go with him. Early in his journey he gives away his horse and carriage and the family walks into the forest to live as hermits.

The Maha Rart - The Great Birth in Chiang Mai

Meanwhile a Brahmin called Chuchok has a young wife who is scolded by other lazier wives in her village for working too hard for her husband.

She begs her husband to seek out the prince and ask him the two children as slaves.

After several adventures in the jungle, Chuchok finds the prince. The children hide, but their father explains why they should go with Chuchok. Gods masquerading as wild animals prevent their mother from returning home and intervening.

Alarmed that he might also give away Princess Matsi to some unworthy person, Indra comes disguised as a Brahmin and asks for her. When Prince Vessantara gives her away, Indra reveals himself and asks the prince to look after her on his behalf.

Meanwhile Chuchok loses his way in the jungle and sleeps in a tree. The gods fear for the children and guard them during the night. Chuchok then comes upon the king and queen who recognize their grandchildren.

Chuchok accepts a big reward for them but later dies of gluttony. The king and queen invite Prince Vessantara back to the palace in Chiang Mai and he returns triumphantly.

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