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Ambapāli, also known as "Ambapālika" or "Amrapāli", was a nagarvadhu (royal courtesan) of the republic of Vaishali in ancient India around 500 BC. Following the Buddha's teachings she became an Arahant. She is mentioned in the old Pali texts and Buddhist traditions. Legends surrounding her state the following:
Ambapali or Amrapali was of unknown parentage, and was given her name because at her birth she was found at the foot of a mango tree in one of the royal gardens in Vaishali. (Etymologically, the name, Ambapali or Amrapali, is derived from a combination of two Sanskrit words: "amra", meaning mango, and "pallawa", meaning young leaves or sprouts.)
Ambapali grew to be a lady of extraordinary beauty, charm, and grace. Many young nobles of the republic desired her company. To avoid confrontations among her suitors, she was accorded the status of the state courtesan of Vaishali. Stories of her beauty traveled to the ears of Bimbisara, who was at that time king of the hostile neighboring kingdom of Magadha. He attacked Vaishali, and for some days he took refuge in Amrapali house as a traveller. Bimbisara was a good musician. Before long, Amrapali and Bimbisara fell in love. When she learned that he was actually Bimbisara, the king of Magadha, Ambapali asked him to go away and stop the war. Bimbisara, smitten with love, really did stop the war. In the eyes of the people of Vaishali, this incident made him a coward King. Later, Amrapali bore him a son named Vimala Kondanna. Ajatashatru, Bimbisara's son, took a revenge by invading Vaishali.
At one time, Ambapali desired the privilege of serving food to Buddha. The Buddhist traditions state that Buddha accepted the invitation against the wishes of the ruling aristocracy of Vaishali. Ambapali received Buddha with her retinue, and offered meals to him. Soon thereafter, she renounced her position as courtesan, accepted the Buddhist faith, and remained an active supporter of the Buddhist order.
On growing up, Vimala Kondanna too became a Buddhist monk.
References; Khuddaka Nikaya, part 9 (Therigatha) Canto 13; Digha Nikaya 16 (Mahaparinibbanasutta - part 2, 16-26); Malalasekera: Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (s.v.)
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