Cave No. 17
(No photo.) Identification: ? It is an episode from the life of the Buddha.—
When the Buddha Dīpaṃkara was residing near King Dīpa’s palace, a brahmin student, Sumati, received gifts from the neighbouring king on account of his exceptional acumen in Vedic studies. The gifts were a walking staff, a water bottle, a golden food bowl, a jewelled bedstead, 500 gold coins, and an adorned maiden. The youth graciously accepted the gifts but refused the maiden, who sadly traded her ornaments to a garland maker in return for lotuses being delivered daily to her for her worship activities.
Sumati gave his gifts to his teacher, who accepted all but the 500 coins. Then, he eagerly walked towards the capital, which was getting festooned for the arrival of the Buddha Dīpaṃkara. The king had ordered that all the flowers should be reserved for the Buddha.
Now, the garland maker, left with no flowers for the aforementioned maiden, gave her seven blue lotuses from his own pond. Hiding the lotuses in a jug, the maiden came across Sumati, who, unable to get any flowers, announced that he was willing to give away his 500 coins for a bunch. Initially resentful, the maiden decided to give five of her flowers to him when she learnt that he was going to offer them to the Buddha, on the condition that he would include her wish to be his wife for all further births in his prayers. As the Buddha approached the city, King Dīpa along with kings from neighbouring kingdoms and their entourage, escorted the Buddha to the gates where a huge crowd surged to welcome him. Suddenly, a downpour set in, driving the crowds away, and Sumati, who was unable earlier to get near, threw his five lotuses towards the Buddha. Miraculously, the flowers formed an aureole round the Buddha’s head; while the two flowers of the maiden formed a canopy over his ears.
Sumati kowtowed, fanning out his hair, so that the Buddha could walk on it thus avoiding the sludge left in the aftermath of the sharp shower. Sumati pronounced his wish to become a Buddha someday. The Buddha stepped on his tresses, enraging Sumati’s co-student, Mati. Buddha promised Sumati that he would be reborn as Buddha Śākyamuni, hearing which Sumati flew up to the skies. People witness to this miraculous event prayed to be the disciples of Buddha Śākyamuni. The smitten maiden, who wished to be Sumati’s wife in all subsequent lives, became the disciple of the Buddha in his last birth.