The Buddha forbids his paternal and maternal relatives from warring over the water supply
This picture depicts an event that happened on one occasion when the Buddha went back to his home town, but this time by himself. He made this journey to prevent a war between the relatives of both sides of the family. On one side were his paternal relatives, the lords of Kapilavatthu. On the other side were the maternal relatives, the lords of Koliya, otherwise known as Devadaha. These two cities were on opposite sides of the Rohini River, and contention had arisen over the use of the river's water for irrigation. When the town that was upriver channeled off the water for their own fields, those who lived down river lost water. Both sides had held meetings but could reach no agreement. The situation had grown in intensity so that they were digging up each other's ancestry to insult each other.
"You wild dogs who just mate with each other!" One side was insulted like this on account of their tradition of allowing marriage between brother and sister.
"Mangy dogs!" The other side was insulted like this on account of their ancestor who caught leprosy and was banished to live in the forest.
Both sides had prepared armies of soldiers and weapons to go into battle. When the Buddha heard of this he went to see them to put a stop to the battle, convening a meeting of the lords of both sides of the dispute and asking them about the cause of the dispute.
The Buddha: What is the contention about?
The relatives: About water, Revered Sir.
The Buddha: Which is more valuable, water or human lives?
The relatives: Human lives are more valuable, Revered Sir.
The Buddha: So is what you are doing correct?
The relatives were all silent.
The Buddha: If the Tathagata (i.e. the Buddha) had not come today, a river of blood would have flowed.
Thus the relatives on both sides stopped preparing for war. The Buddha played an important role in this event, and it is for this reason that in later times a Buddha image was made in the posture known as "forbidding the relatives."
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