When the team led by Prof. E B Cowell translated the Jātakaṭṭhavaṇṇanā Also known as the Jātakaṭṭhakathā. into English in the late 19th century it was a breakthrough effort that took decades to complete, and laid a strong foundation for the translation of the rest of the texts in the Pāḷi canon.

Most of the interest in these early translations was in their folk-story character, how many of them had entered into traditional stories in the west, and how they migrated from culture to culture. Consequently they were much less interested in doctrinal matters, which became very apparent when updating the translation last year. See The Jātaka Translation, revised by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu elsewhere on this website.

They were also not so interested in such things as the grammatical explanations provided in the commentary, and they didn’t translate the gāthāvaṇṇanā (explanations of the verses), even though it makes up roughly 20% of the commentary, and the translators only rarely quoted some of what they found the more interesting material from these sections.

Although the early dictionaries, like Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary and A Critical Pāli Dictionary, did utilize the Jātaka word definitions considerably, up and till now no one has translated the word commentaries into English in full. It is this gap that the present work seeks to fill with a new translation of the 500 verses of the first three books, together with their explanations, which takes us up to Jātaka 300.

Text and Translation

The text used for this translation in essentially that found on Cst4 (Cst), which is a digitalisation of the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyaṇa Tipiṭaka from the Burmese tradition. I have occasionally compared this with PTS (Faüsboll, 1877-1896), and rarely I have preferred the PTS reading. All such changes are recorded in the footnotes.

The text, which is published in full elsewhere on this website, has been reformatted, repunctuated and redivided in accordance with the standards I have developed, and does not match that found on Cst4. The equivalent PTS page numbers, which are added for reference, are placed in curly braces, and are in the form {}. Most of the word commentaries are from the Jātaka verse under consideration, but some have been brought in from other volumes, when we are referred to them by the original story. These are marked with green text.

In what follows the canonical materials are shown in black text, as are, for instance, all the verses, which are considered canonical, and other quotations from the canon found in the commentary.

The commentary is shown in blue for Pāḷi and red for the translation. When a word from the verse is quoted verbatim, I have placed it in italics. I also use italics when filling in sections when quoting from the canon. They were marked with in the original, but I believe the bhāṇaka would have filled them in, as I do here. The two usages should be easily distinguishable.

The Cowell-led translation, although it managed to get the gist of the verses over most times, was not at all accurate or precise in its translation, so this work also acts as a corrective there, and perhaps also as a warning about how loose some of the early translations were.

The translation of the verses is in metered English. Siloka verses are generally translated with 8-syllable lines, but I have sometimes taken the pair of lines together as one 16-syllable line. Occasionally these verses are translated as 6-syllabic lines. Tuṭṭhubha (11 syllables in Pāḷi), and Jāgatī (12-syllables) are normally translated into 10-syllabic lines, as are the Mattacchandas verses, and occasionally with 12-syllabic lines. See below for an analysis of the verses.

Unlike the Dhammapada, for instance, where the verses stand as ethical statements in and of themselves, the verses from the Jātakas often refer back to the story itself, and are only properly understood within that context, so I have included a synopsis of the story for reference. For the complete story I refer the student to my revised translation of the Jātaka.

Elsewhere I have also retranslated in full the first three Jātakas, and also two others, Ja 273 and 526, which were only partially translated in the Cowell translation.

At present I am publishing the verses and commentary from the first book (Ekanipāta, 150 verses) of the Jātaka, and will add in verses from the second (200 verses), and third book (150 verses), which are out for review at the moment, as soon as they are ready.

Quotations from the Tipiṭaka

As will be seen below the commentaries are sometimes of great interest, though it is true that many times they are also fairly mundane. Of the 150 verses in the first book, only Ja 5 has no commentary on the verse, and some have extensive disquisitions.

The word commentary on the first Jātaka (Apaṇṇakajātaka), quotes the Apaṇṇakasutta (AN 3.16) in its commentary, and the (Abhidhamma) Vibhaṅga (para 809, PTS pg. 317), besides having many other interesting comments. This Jātaka and Ja 2, Ja 3, Ja 273 and Ja 526 I have translated in full, including the word commentaries, elsewhere on the website.

Other places where the Mūla texts are quoted include the following:

Ja 2, includes a section from SN 2.22; a versification of a section found in MN 70, and passim.

Ja 6 quotes from AN 3.40, and from the Paṭisambhidāmagga (PTS vol. 1 p. 122), MN 49 Brahmanimantanikasutta, and the (Abhidhamma) Vibhaṅga 18.6.1 (PTS p. 422). It also an original and interesting disquisition on the doctrinal terms hiri-ottappa, conscience and concern.

Ja 9 quotes the first 2 lines of Thag 73, and the two lines that make up the verse strike me as genuine, though not now found in the canon.

Ja 61 quotes Ja 534 Mahāhaṁsajātaka, vs. 30, calling it a discourse (sutta).

Ja 70 quotes Dhammapada 103, also calling it a discourse (sutta).

Ja 96 quotes the Dhammapada verses 35-39, followed by verse 33; it also quotes DN 31 Siṅgālasutta; Ja 514 Chaddantajataka, vs 8; Ja 377 Setaketujātaka, vs. 2, and Khp 6, Snp 2.1 Ratanasutta.

A special note must be made of the quotation at Ja 262 Mudupāṇijāṭaka, as the discourse quoted is no longer found in the form in the Tipiṭaka. A very similar discourse is found at AN 2.62, but there two items, and here three are listed.

Reuse of the Verses

Many of the verses have been reused elsewhere in a variety of ways. Sometimes a verse in one Jātaka recurs in other Jātakas, sometimes with small variations, such as a change of name, or a change of one word.

For instance, the verse from Ja 8 Gāmanijātaka also appears much later in the collection in Ja 538 Mūgapakkhajātaka vs. 30 and 41; the verse from Ja 41 Losakajātaka is also found in Ja 42 Kapotajātaka, Ja 43 Veḷukajātaka and Ja 378 Darīmukhajātaka vs. 3. The verse in Ja 51 Mahāsīlavajātaka is also found in Ja 52 Cullajanakajātaka, Ja 124 Ambajātaka, Ja 483 Sarabhamigajātaka and Ja 539 Mahājanakajātaka.

Sometimes a verse appears in other parts of the Tipiṭaka. So the verse from Ja 35 Vaṭṭakajātaka is also found in the retelling of the same story in the Cariyāpiṭaka, Cp 29:10; Ja 10 Sukhavihārijātaka can also be found in Thag 11.1 vs. 4; and the Ja 31 Kulāvakajātaka verse is found at SN 11.6 vs. 1, etc.

And we also find verses that occur both within and outside the Jātaka collection. For instance the verse from Ja 12 Nigrodhamigajātaka occurs again in the Jātakas at Ja 445 Nigrodhajātaka, vs. 10, and in the Apadāna at Tha-ap 537, vs. 17. The verse from Ja 55 Pañcāvudhajātaka is also found in the following story Ja 56 Kañcanakkhandhajātaka, as well as one of the verses at Ja 156 Alīnacittajātaka, and outside the Jātakas it occurs at Iti 17 vs. 3 and Thag 16 vs. 7.

As there are nearly 7,000 verses in this collection, I didn’t think it was necessary to examine all of them. The results for the first book are shown in the table below. Only those Jātakas where verses recurred are shown, and only whole verses, not partial matches, but this should give an idea of how widespread reuse has been:

Jātaka Number and Name

Verse Parallels

Ja 8 Gāmanijātaka The Story about (Prince) Gāmani

Ja 538:30 ≠ Ja 538:41

Ja 10 Sukhavihārijātaka The Story about the One who lives Happily

Thag 11.1:4

Ja 12 Nigrodhamigajātaka The Story about the Deer (named) Nigrodha

Ja 445:10 ≠ Tha-ap 537:17

Ja 30 Muṇikajātaka The Story about (the Pig) Muṇika

Ja 286:1

Ja 31 Kulāvakajātaka The Story about the Nest

SN 11.6:1

Ja 35 Vaṭṭakajātaka The Story about the Young Quail

Cp 29:10

Ja 36 Sakuṇajātaka The Story about the Bird

Ja 432:7

Ja 37 Tittirajātaka The Story about the Partridge

Vin Cv 6

Ja 41 Losakajātaka The Story about (the Unfortunate Monk) Losaka

Ja 42 ≠ Ja 43 ≠ Ja 378:3

Ja 42 Kapotajātaka The Story about the Pigeon

Ja 41 ≠ Ja 43 ≠ Ja 378:3

Ja 43 Veḷukajātaka The Story about (the Viper) Veḷuka

Ja 41 ≠ Ja 42 ≠ Ja 378:3

Ja 46 Ārāmadūsakajātaka The Story about Spoiling the Park

Ja 47

Ja 47 Vāruṇijātaka The Story about Spoiling the Drinks

Ja 46

Ja 51 Mahāsīlavajātaka The Story about One with Great Virtue

Ja 52 ≠ Ja 483:1 ≠ Ja 539:14

Ja 52 Cullajanakajātaka The Short Story about (King) Janaka

Ja 51 ≠ Ja 124 ≠ Ja 483:1 ≠ Ja 539:14

Ja 55 Pañcāvudhajātaka The Story about (Prince) Pañcāvudha

Ja 56 ≠ Ja 156 Iti 17:3 Thag 16:7

Ja 56 Kañcanakkhandhajātaka The Story about the Block of Gold

Ja 55 ≠ Ja 156 Iti 17:3 Thag 16:7

Ja 57 Vānarindajātaka The Story about the Lord of the Monkeys

Ja 224:1

Ja 59 Bherivādajātaka The Story about the Drummer

Ja 60

Ja 60 Saṅkhadhamanajātaka The Story about the Conch Blower

Ja 59

Ja 61 Asātamantajātaka The Story about the Disagreeable Charms

Ja 536:47

Ja 64 Durājānajātaka The Story about what is Difficult to Know

Ja 519:26 ≠ Ja 536:59

Ja 65 Anabhiratijātaka The Story about Discontent

Ja 464:9 ≠ Ja 536:34

Ja 71 Varaṇajātaka The Story about the Temple Tree

Thag 3.3:1 ≠ Thag 3.15:1

Ja 72 Sīlavanāgajātaka The Story about the Virtuous Elephant

Ja 438:1

Ja 73 Saccaṅkirajātaka The Story about the Assertion of Truth

Ja 482:7 ≠ Ja 547:516

Ja 74 Rukkhadhammajātaka The Story about the Way of Trees

Ja 492:18

Ja 75 Macchajātaka The Story about the Fish

Cp 30:7

Ja 82 Mittavindajātaka The Story about (the Merchant) Mittavindaka

Ja 369:2

Ja 86 Sīlavīmaṁsanajātaka The Story about the Enquiry into Virtue

Ja 290:1 ≠ Ja 330:1

Ja 87 Maṅgalajātaka The Story about the Omens

Snp 2.13:2

Ja 90 Akataññujātaka The Story about Ingratitude

Ja 409:5

Ja 91 Littajātaka The Story about what is Smeared (with Posion)

DN 23:1

Ja 94 Lomahaṁsajātaka The Story about the Bristling Hair

MN 12:1

Ja 95 Mahāsudassanajātaka The Story about (King) Mahāsudassana

DN 16:23 ≠ DN 17:1 ≠ SN 6.15:2 ≠ SN 15.20:2

Ja 96 Telapattajātaka The Story about the bowl of Oil

MNidd 16.:28

Ja 99 Parosahassajātaka The Story about More than a Thousand (Fools)

Ja 99 ≠ Ja 101

Ja 100 Asātarūpajātaka The Story about the Form of the Disagreeable

Ud 2.8:1

Ja 101 Parosatajātaka The Story about More than a Hundred (Fools)

Ja 99

Ja 102 Paṇṇikajātaka The Story about the Greengrocer

Ja 217:2

Ja 103 Verijātaka The Story about Enemies

Ja 404:1

Ja 104 Mittavindajātaka The Story about (the Merchant) Mittavindaka

Ja 369:4 ≠ Ja 439:4

Ja 124 Ambajātaka The Story about the Mangoes

Ja 51 ≠ Ja 52 ≠ Ja 483:1 ≠ Ja 539:14

Ja 136 Suvaṇṇahaṁsajātaka The Story about the Golden Goose

Vin. Bhikkhunī Pāc. 1:1

Ja 138 Godhajātaka The Story about the Iguana

Ja 325 ≠ Dhp 394

Ja 141 Godhajātaka The Story about the Iguana

Ja 397:3

Commentarial Methods

There are various types of definition that are employed in the Jātakapadavaṇṇanā. A non-exhaustive list, with examples, includes the following:

More regular form
(Ja 21):
ye kukkurā ti ye sunakhā.
those hounds means those dogs.

(Ja 48):
Cetā ti Cetaraṭṭhavāsino corā.
Cetā (thieves) means the thieves from the country of Cetā.

Playing on words (homynym)
(Ja 56):
Pahaṭṭhamanaso ti tāya eva vinīvaraṇatāya pahaṭṭhamānaso, suvaṇṇaṁ viya pahaṁsitvā.
Cheerful in his mind means being free from hindrances he is cheerful in his mind, like gold that is beaten.

(Ja 40):
Tatthāyaṁ piṇḍattho:
In this connection, this is the substance of it:
followed by a prose restatement of the verse.
(Ja 44):
Matiyā upeto ti paññāya samannāgato.
Endowed with wisdom means endowed with wisdom.

(Ja 45):
medhāvī ti paṇḍito ñāṇī vibhāvī.
intelligent means, wise, knowledgeable, understanding.

(Ja 34):
Na maṁ jālasmi bādhanan-ti yam-pi me jālasmiṁ bādhanaṁ ahosi.
Not the being caught in a net means it is not me being caught in a net.
(Ja 44):
Matiyā upeto ti paññāya samannāgato.
Endowed with wisdom means endowed with wisdom.
(Ja 67):
Tattha, ucchaṅge, deva, me putto ti deva, mayhaṁ putto ucchaṅge yeva.
Herein, king, (I can find) a son on my lap means king, (I can find) a son on my lap.

Explaining a vocative
(Ja 15):
Kharādiye ti taṁ nāmena ālapati.
Kharādiya, he calls him by name.

Folk etymology
(Ja 36):
Jagatiruhan-ti jagati vuccati pathavī,
Tree means jagati is said to be the earth,

tattha jātattā rukkho jagatiruho ti vuccati.
as trees are born there jagatiruha (tree) is said.

(Ja 39):
Tattha, yassā ti yassa kassaci puggalassa.
Herein, he who means whatever person.

Analysing a compound
(Ja 61):
Lokitthiyo ti loke itthiyo.
Worldly women means women of the world.

Case usage
Accāsanassā ti, karaṇatthe sāmivacanaṁ.
For one sitting too long, this is a genitive in the instrumental sense.

Explaining (bad) grammar
(Ja 45):
Yañ-ce bālānukampako ti ettha yan-ti liṅgavipallāso kato.
Is a fool with compassion, here with yaṁ, a change of gender has been made.

Atha vā yan-ti paṭisedhanatthe nipāto, no ce bālānukampako, ti attho.
Or, yaṁ is a particle with a negative meaning, if not a fool with compassion, this is the meaning.

(Ja 82):
Pāsāṇāsīno ti vattabbe,
Pāsāṇāsīno should be said,

byañjanasandhivasena makāraṁ ādāya: Pāsāṇa-m-āsīno ti vuttaṁ.
but because of the junction of letters -m- is inserted, and pāsāṇa-m-āsīno is said.

By no means are all words or phrases explained only those considered to be difficult, or ambiguous by the commentator, and as he says at Ja 13:

Sesam-ettha uttānattham-eva.
The meaning of the rest is clear.

Ito paraṁ pana ettakam-pi avatvā,
From here on without saying this much again,

yaṁ yaṁ anuttānaṁ taṁ tad-eva vaṇṇayissāma.
only whatever is not clear will be explained.

Metres of the Verses

There are very few surprises in this analysis of the 150 verses that make up the first book of the Jātakas. The Siloka verse form dominates (72%), as it does throughout the Tipiṭaka, and there are just 13 verses in Tuṭṭhubha (9%) and 2 in Jagatī (1%). The Mattacchandas metres Vetālīya and Opacchandasaka account for just 6 verses (4%). The Old Gīti is represented by one verse; and there are mixed metres in 8 of the verses (5%). Below is an analysis and breakdown of the verses:

Siloka (108 verses): 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 28, 30, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 45, 48, 49, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78, 81, 82, 88, 89, 90, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97, 98, 100, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150.

Tuṭṭhubha (13 verses): 2, 5, 16, 22, 26, 31, 32, 44, 79, 83, 101, 102, 121, 131.

Jagatī (2 verses): 132, 133.

Vetālīya (4 verses): 14, 27, 91, 134.

Opacchandasaka (2 verses): 87, 144.

Old Gīti (1 verse): 96.

Mixed Verses (8 verses):

Siloka/Jagatī: 36, 41, 43 (3 verses).
Siloka/Tuṭṭhubha: 123 (1 verse).
Siloka/Vetālīya/Āpātalikā: 112 (1 verse).
Jagatī/Tuṭṭhubha: 42 (1 verse).
Opacchandasaka/Vetālīya/Tuṭṭhubha: 77 (1 verse).
Vetālīya/Opacchandasaka: 80, 111 (1 verse).

Of the Siloka the variations break down like this:

Siloka pathyā (173 pādayugas, 72%): 1b, 3ab, 4ab, 6ab, 7a, 8ab, 9a, 10ab, 11abc, 12ab, 13ac, 17ab, 18b, 20ab, 21ab, 23ab, 24b, 25a, 28ab, 30b, 33b, 34ab, 35b, 36c, 37a, 38ab, 39a, 40b, 41c, 43c, 45b, 48ab, 49ab, 53b, 54b, 55abc, 56abc, 57ab, 58ab, 59b, 60b, 61abc, 62ab, 63a, 64b, 65ab, 66ab, 67ab, 68b, 69ab, 71ab, 72ab, 73ab, 74ab, 75ab, 76ab, 78b, 81ab, 82b, 88ab, 89ab, 90ab, 92ab, 93ab, 94b, 95ab, 97ab, 98ab, 100ab, 103b, 104bc, 105ab, 106b, 107ab, 108ab, 109a, 110ab, 112a, 113b, 114b, 115b, 116ab, 117b, 118b, 119ab, 120ab, 122b, 124b, 125ab, 126ab, 127a, 128a, 129b, 130a, 135ab, 136ab, 137ab, 138a, 139a, 140b, 141ab, 142ab, 143b, 145a, 146ab, 147ab, 148b, 149ab, 150a.

Siloka mavipulā (19 pādayugas, 8%): 7b, 15b, 18a, 19b, 29b, 37b, 45a, 46b, 47b, 51b, 52b, 85a, 94a, 106a, 113a, 123a, 127b, 128b, 139b.

Siloka navipulā (17 pādayugas, 7%): 13b, 25b, 29a, 30a, 33a, 35a, 40a, 51a, 52a, 68a, 82a, 103a, 117a, 124a, 140a, 145b, 148a.

Siloka bhavipulā (11 pādayugas, 5%): 24a, 59a, 60a, 64a, 70ab, 104a, 118a, 138b, 143a, 150b.

Siloka ravipulā (7 pādayugas, 3%): 1a, 9b, 19a, 39b, 109b, 114a, 129a.

Siloka javipulā (5 pādayugas, 2.5%): 15a, 54a, 78a, 85b, 115a.

Siloka savipulā (5 pādayugas, 2%): 28b, 46a, 47a, 63b, 130b.

Siloka tavipulā (1 pādayuga): 53a.

I have also added an Appendix giving an extract of the actual word definitions found in the commentary.


Any work of this difficulty and complexity has to be reviewed by competent experts in the field before publication. I have been very fortunate indeed to have Prof Kapila Abhayavansa read the whole work through and make many valuable corrections, which has saved me from numerous mistakes.

Dr Junko Matsumura, though being inundated with other work, read through the first 17 of the translations, and this helped me enormously in understanding the structure of the language.

Dr Matsumura and Dr Aleix Ruiz-Falqués also read through a number of specific sentences I was having difficulty in interpreting, and that has helped me to understand them better.

I have many times spoken with Ven Shravasti Dhammika, who has wide knowledge both of ancient Indian culture and of the flora and fauna of the region, and this helped me understand context and specifics in these areas of research.

Of course, in such a large work, despite all the help I have received, there are sure to be inaccuracies remaining, and these are my fault alone. I would be grateful to anyone who can send corrections, and I always update promptly, and with acknowledgement of help received.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
July, 2022