Nimi (Vedic king)

Nimi is considered to be the first king of the Videha kingdom and was the ancestor to the Janaka lineage of Mithila. Nimi was the grandson of Manu and son of Ikshwaku.[1]

ReligionHinduism, Jainism or Buddhism

In Hindu textsEdit

According to Vishnupurana[2] and Brihad Vishnupurana[3] Nimi became the first King of Mithila.

Nimi's YagnaEdit

Once Nimi performed Yagna and invited Sage Vasishtha to be the main priest to conduct Yagna. However Sage vasishtha had already committed to conduct yagna for Lord Indra, he told Nimi that he would officiate as Head Priest after having conducted Lord Indra's Yagna and thus Nimi will have to wait. Nimi went away without replying. Sage Vashistha got impression that King Nimi has assented to wait for him.

Sage Vasishtha conducted Lord Indra's Yagna and rushed to preside at King Nimi's Yagna only to find that the Yagna was already being conducted. Sage Vasishtha got angry and cursed King Nimi that "he would cease to live in corporal form". Thus, King Nimi was left without his body to heaven with Sakra or Indra and stayed there for 9,000,000 years. After the Yagna was conducted successfully, the priests asked the Gods to return King Nimi in his corporal form. He returned and ruled Mithila righteously for 84,000 years

In Buddhist textsEdit

In several traditions, a righteous and edifying Videhan King Nimi or Nemi is mentioned, who travels to heaven and hell in a celestial chariot. The story is mentioned in one text of the Pāli Canon, and two Pāli post-canonical texts. The name Nimi or Nemi is explained as "he brings the lineage full circle like the rim (Pali: nemi) of a carriage wheel".[4] The story relates that a certain King Makhadeva tells his barber that the latter should warn him as soon as the king has his first grey hair, a common memento mori motif found in ancient Indian literature,[5] which goes back to the ancient Indian conception of stages of life.[6] Later on, when his first hairs go grey, and his barber tells him about that, the king goes forth to lead a spiritual life as a hermit, but not before he entrusts his son to do the same when his hair goes grey. The former king is later reborn in a heavenly world. He sees that his descendants all follow the same tradition of becoming hermits when they became old. He then decides to be reborn as the next descendant of the same dynasty, and has the name King Nimi. The story then goes on to say that this king is able to travel to heaven and hell at the invitation of the god Sakka. At the end of the story, King Makhadeva, later reborn as Nimi, is identified as a previous birth of the Buddha, and the barber and heavenly charioteer are identified as the disciple Ānanda.[7]

The story is mentioned in many other early Buddhist texts, both canonical and post-canonical.[8][9] Translator C. A. F. Rhys Davids compared the legend with Dante's Inferno.[10][8] The story of King Nimi visiting heaven and hell is iconic in traditional Thai art, and is easily recognizable for the average Thai person.[11] This story, as well as many similar stories that deal with cakravartin kings, attempts to establish that the spiritual life of renunciation is superior to the worldly life, and the solitary life superior to a married life.[12][13] Moreover, Asian religion scholar Naomi Appleton argues that there is a connection between the stories of the Videhan renouncing kings and the ideal of the solitary Buddha in Buddhism. Solitary Buddhas are often depicted renouncing their worldly life because of certain signs in their environment or on their body, as in the case of Makkhadeva.[13] Finally, according to the scholar Padmanabh Jaini, the story may also have influenced how Buddhist cosmology was interpreted.[14]

In post-canonical Pāli works, the belief is expressed that King Nimi belongs to a long line of Kings descending from Mahāsammata, the first king of humankind. The Buddha is believed to be a descendant of the same dynasty.[15]

In Jain textsEdit

In Jain texts, a similar motif as in Buddhist texts can be found, of a king called Nami.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdom. Author – Makhan Jha
  2. ^ Vishnupurana, Book IV
  3. ^ Brihad Vishnupurana in Mithila Mahatma Khand,
  4. ^ Appleton 2016, pp. 139–40, 164 n.9.
  5. ^ Bloomfield, Maurice (1916). "On Recurring Psychic Motifs in Hindu Fiction, and the Laugh and Cry Motif". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 36: 57–8. doi:10.2307/592669. JSTOR 592669.
  6. ^ Appleton 2016, p. 140.
  7. ^ Appleton 2016, p. 139, 165 n.14.
  8. ^ a b Analayo, Bhikkhu (2017). "The Repercussions Of Lack Of Proper Governance" (PDF). In Mahinda, D. (ed.). Justice and Statecraft: Buddhist Ideals Inspiring Contemporary World. Nāgānanda International Buddhist University. pp. 126–7.
  9. ^ Appleton 2016, p. 139.
  10. ^ Rhys Davids, C. A. F. (15 March 2011). "Review: The Jātaka, or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births. Vol. VI. Translated by E. B. Cowell and W. H. D. Rouse, M.A., Litt.D. Cambridge, 1907". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. 40 (2): 595. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00080837.
  11. ^ Brereton, B.P. (1986). Images of Heaven and Hell in Thai Literature and Painting (PDF). Conference on Thai Studies in Honor of William J. Gedney. pp. 41–2.
  12. ^ Bhikkhu, Analayo (2015). "The Buddha's past life as a princess in the Ekottarika-agama" (PDF). Journal of Buddhist Ethics. 22: 95.
  13. ^ a b Appleton 2016, p. 144.
  14. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh S. (July 1992). "Ākāravattārasutta: An 'apocryphal' sutta from Thailand". Indo-Iranian Journal. 35 (2–3): 198. doi:10.1007/BF00164932. S2CID 161230878.
  15. ^ Jory, Patrick (2002). "The Vessantara Jataka, Barami, And The Bodhisatta-Kings: The Origin and Spread of a Thai Concept of Power". Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 16 (2): 41–2. JSTOR 40860799.
  16. ^ Appleton 2016, p. 140–1.