Patacara came of a banker's family at Savatthi. In her youth she formed an intimacy with a servant of her house. On the day fixed for her marriage with another youth of equal rank she eloped with her lover and dwelt in a hamlet. There she used to perform household duties, and her lover used to bring wood from the forest and work in a field belonging to others. Shortly afterwards Patacara gave birth to a child, but at the time of the birth of her second child, a storm arose. Her husband went to a forest to cut grass and sticks. While he cut a stake standing on an ant-hill, a snake came from the ant-hill and bit him. He fell there and died. The next morning Patacara went to the forest with her two children and found her husband dead. She lamented and left the place. On her way to her father's house there was a river, the water of which was knee-deep. She lost her children while crossing the river. With tears of grief she came to Savatthi and learnt that her parents and brother had perished under the debris of the fallen house. She turned mad. Since then she did not wear clothing, and was therefore known as Patacara. One day the Exalted One saw her in that plight and said, "Sister! Cover your shamelessness." She regained her consciousness, and the Lord taught her that sons, parents and kinsfolk were no shelter, and asked her to discern this truth in order to make clear quickly the way to nibbana. Then she was established in the sotapattiphalam. She attained arhatship with analytical knowledge (Th. Commy., p.108 f; Manorathapurani, pp.356-360; cf. A.N., I, 25) Thereafter she preached the Buddha's dhamma and converted many afflicted women to the Buddhist faith.
The Therigatha Commy. says that Patacara had five hundred female disciples, who came of different families of different places. They were married, bore children and lived domestic lives. Overwhelmed with grief at the loss of children they went to Patacara, who asked them not to weep when the manner of birth and death was unkown to them. They were greatly moved by Patacara's teachings and renounced the world under her. They performed exercises for insight and soon became established in Arahantship with patisambhida.