As described in Pali Canon, Patacara was a notable female figure in Buddhism who lived during the 6th century BCE in present day Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India. She was the foremost exponent of the Vinaya, the rules of monastic discipline. In various Buddhist texts, the life history and struggle of childbirth and loss has been attributed to Patacara but some of the texts mention to be of Kisa Gotami.
Life History of Patacara
Patacara was born in a very wealthy family of Savatthi in the Kosala Kingdom. She was very beautiful and hence was named as Roopwati, the most beautiful girl of the whole town. Her parents were overprotective in nature. Therefore she gained each and every luxury she needed. Even though her wishes were fulfilled in no time, she was unhappy internally. Most of the time, she felt loneliness and no freedom to get out of the palace. As time passed by, she fall in a deep love with one of her parent's servant, amarshanath. He was young, good-looking and innocent boy, who had a lower social status. Though Amarshanath had no feeling with Roopwati.
Once, Patacara requested to visit nearby village. Being fearful and uncertain about the circumstances experience by Roopwati, her father didn't allow her. But later with persistent request, her father gave her permission and also requested Amarshanath to look after her.
Roopwati enjoyed the visit a lot since she spent her days within the courtyard of her home. At this moment, they both had an intimate intercourse which made her pregnant. Learning this, Roopwati planned to elope secretly with her love Amarshanath. But he rejected the proposal and also showed he had no intention to betray his owners. So she emotionally requested him and also inform him about the pregnancy.
They both secretly eloped along with some money and ornaments. As they reached to the village of remote area, they settled there to the hut of poor farmers. Even though they lead a poor life-style of farmers to earn bread, they lead a simple and happy life.
As Roopwati reached the time for delivery, she wished to visit her parents' house. She also wished to give her first child at her parents' house. She also justified and explained the love of child by their parents. But Amarshanath refused stating that her parent would surely torture or imprison him. Roopwati believed that her husband will not accompany her to her parent's home. So, she tried to visit her parent's home all by herself. When Amarshanath know about her behavior, he followed her and tried to persuade her to return. But he was not able to make her agree to return. They went to Savatthi, but Roopwati gave birth to a baby boy on the way. So there was no reason to visit Savatthi and they returned back. They resumed their life in the village.
Later she again became pregnant. This time she requested her husband to take her to her parent's home. But her husband didn't approve her visit. So he again went to visit her parent's home by herself along with her son. As Amarshanath learnt that Roopwati went to visit Savatthi, he followed her with the objective to return her back. But he was not able to persuade her. On the way an heavy storm hit, with much thunder, lightning and rain. Roopwati also experienced her birth pains. She asked her husband to construct some shelter. Therefore, Amarshanath went down to the forest to chop some saplings. During that time a poisonous snake bit him. Amarshanath died instantly. Meanwhile Roopwati gave birth to a second son. Next morning, she found her husband lying dead. Seeing this, she blamed herself for his death.
Loss of family
She continued her journey along with her two children. On the way she came near to the river Amravati which they had to cross in order to reach Savatthi. She asked her old son to stay on the shore while she carried the baby across to the other shore. She crossed the river and put the baby on the shore and returned to accompany her first son. On the midway, a vulture swooped on the baby and flew off. Roopwati seeing this, screamed loudly. On the other hand, her elder son believed she was calling him. So, entered the water. He was swept off by the strong current.
Losing both of her son, she alone continued her journey to her parent's home. On the way she was informed that her parents and brother had been killed after their house collapsed during the storm. Devastated and depressed, Roopwati goes insane. She crazily started to howl and undress herself. Due to the wild behavior, the people began to throw stones at her. They also began to named her crazy women and tortured her. She gradually become unaware about the importance and conduct of clothes and also the societal norms and values. Hence, the people named her Patacara, meaning one who is unaware of the importance and conduct of clothes.
Life of Patacara as a Buddhist Nun
When the Buddha was staying at the Jetavana, Anathapindika's monastery, Patacara was running through Savatthi naked and disconsolate. She prostrated at the feet of the Buddha and then described her family tragedies. The Buddha explained the Buddhist doctrines. After listening to the teaching of Buddha, Patacara immediately understood the nature of impermanence. When she was asked to tell her actual name, she felt awkward. She realized her actual name, Roopwati meaning beauty. She also realized that her condition was completely opposite of her name. Therefore, she introduced herself as Patacara.
She then involved in the sangha for further learning. She became a sotapanna, the first stage of arahanthood. The Buddha said that she was the foremost keeper of the Vinaya amongst the Nuns. She was also the female counterpart of the monk Upali. Her interest in the Rules of Conduct of the monastic life was attributed to her reflections on her former indulgences.
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