Birth and Early Life

Uppalavanna and Khema were the two main female disciples of the Buddha just like Sariputra and Mogallana were the chief male disciples. Uppalavana was the daughter of a wealthy merchant of Shravasthi. Her name meant ‘one with the hue of the blue lotus’. Some versions state that as she was very beautiful and many suitors came forward with an offer for marriage, she did not like to hurt anyone and preferred a life of a monk under Buddha. Another version states that she had spent her life in such suffering that she entered the life of a monk to transcend it.


It is said that she concentrated on the flame of the lamp in the monastery and attained Arahantship. She was foremost in supernormal powers and Buddha too acknowledged her knowledge and mastery.


Along with Khema she helped the Buddha in organizing and training of the female monks. She empathised with the suffering of the monks and helped them to transcend it.

Past Lives

She is said to have been associated with a number of Buddhas in her past lives and was spiritually advanced and therefore in this life she attained sainthood under Buddha. The Jataka tales mention a number of her stories with the Buddha as bodhisattva.


Uppalavanna with her supernormal powers and pleasing personality helped many female monks in their emancipation. Her compassion and gentleness endeared her to all and they strived to emulate her steadfastness and sincerity of purpose. Her great beauty made people realise the illusory nature of the body and the permanent happiness which is to be sought only in enlightenment or liberation.