Once upon a time, there lived King Vessantara, who ruled Sivirattha (land of Sivis). A virtuous man, he wanted to attain perfection and so donated all the precious things he had. On learning this, a ‘wicked brahmin’ from the neighbouring kingdom of Kalinga asks the king for the magical rain-bringing elephant, Peccaya. Vessantara gives it away, but earns the wrath of the people. Compelled by anger, his father Sanjaya banishes his son from glory, to the forests.
Vessantara over time also donates his chariot, horses and children to the wicked brahmin. Marvelled at his conduct, it was time for the Gods to test his generosity. This time, Lord Sakka in the guise of an ugly man appears before Vessanatara and asks for his wife, Maddi. The rest of the story is the prince’s attainment of perfection.
Of the 547 Jataka tales in Buddhism, and 10 perfections, Dana-sila (conduct of charity) by Vessantara is believed to be the last one.
The Jataka tales, life instances of the Bodhisattvas (the enlightenment being or the Buddha-to-be) are narrated by monks to devotees on full moon days. They are integral to the Buddhist culture.