The Jataka Tales - Previous Lives of the Buddha

The Jataka Tales are narratives about the previous lives of the Buddha (that is, before he was born for the last time to become the Buddha). In Thailand, the last 10 Jatakas (there are many, many more, a lot just involving animals) are often depicted along the longitudinal walls of temples. Thai mural paintings (both of the Jatakas, and of the Life of the Buddha) are often in various stages of disrepair. Almost all the paintings that are used as illustrations for the narrative of the 10 Jatakas below, are from Wat Yai Intharam in Chonburi province. Unfortunately, the Ubosoth of Wat Yai Intharam is not easily open to the general public. Some part of the paintings are likely a few hundred years old, some likely overpainted in subsequent years (not really sure, if anyone really knows exactly what is new and what is old).

All of the paintings follow certain rules in the composition of the images. There usually are some parts that make it easy to the believer or someone who has taken interest in Thai mural temple paintings, to recognize the particular Jataka in question. Going through the narratives, and the pictures shown, will make your next visit to a Thai temple much more interesting, since you will know what you are looking at.

The narratives (slightly modified) recounted come from the book : Ten Lives of the Buddha by Elizabeth Wray, Clare Rosenfield, Dorothy Bailey and Joe Wray (photography). Besides the stories here, this book, published first in 1973, gives a lot more information about the Jataka Tales in general, and Thai Temple Paintings.

A reprinted softcover version is still available through Amazon.

The pictures in the book are different from the pictures on this website. All pictures accompanying the Jataka Tales by Guido Vanhaleweyk, Bangkok.

The Ten Jataka Tales :

1. Temiya Jataka - Temiya, the mute Prince

2. Mahajanaka Jataka - Mahajanaka, the lost Prince

3. Sama Jataka - Sama, the devoted Son

4. Nimi Jataka - Nimi, the noble King

5. Mahosadha Jataka - Mahosadha, the clever Sage

6. Bhuridatta Jataka - Bhuridatta, the Naga Prince

7. Canda-Kumara Jataka - Canda-Kumara, the honorable Prince

8. Narada Jataka - Narada, the great Brahma

9. Vidhura-Pandita Jataka - Vidhura-Pandita, the eloquent Sage

10. Vessantara Jataka - Vessantara, the charitable Prince

More about Thailand at : Articles, and Web Directory
Content by Guido Vanhaleweyk, Bangkok.