Esukárí, king of Benares, had no sons. His chaplain, hearing that the deity of a certain banyan tree had the power of giving sons, went to the tree and threatened to cut it down unless Esukárí had a son. The tree deity consulted Sakka, who persuaded four devas to be born as the sons, not of Esukárí, but of his chaplain. On the day when the chaplain came to cut down the tree, the deity told him of Sakka's decision, and also warned him that the sons would not live the household life. In due course the sons were born and were named Hatthipála, Gopála, Assapála and Ajapála. Various devices were adopted to prevent them from turning to the ascetic life. But when Hatthipála grew up he insisted on leaving home and becoming an ascetic, heedless of the entreaties both of his father and of Esukárí. His brothers, when their time came, acted in the same way. Later, their parents joined them. The king sent for all their wealth, but the queen, being wise, made him realize by means of a simile the folly of such an act. Together they left the world and joined Hatthipála and his family. The citizens followed their example till the whole city was empty.
Hatthipála preached to them and they all became ascetics. His company covered an area of thirty leagues, and with it he went to the Himálaya, where Vissakamma, acting under Sakka's orders, built for them a hermitage extending over thirty six leagues, on the bank's of the Ganges. Soon after, other kings who, with their followers, had gone, one after another, to take Benares, realizing their folly, joined Hatthipála and became ascetics.
The story was related in reference to the Buddha's Great Renunciation. Suddhodana was Esukárí, Mahámáyá his queen, Kassapa the chaplain, Bhaddá Kapilání his wife, Anuruddha Ajapála, Moggallána Gopála, Sáriputta Assapála and the Buddha himself Hatthipála.
The large concourse that followed Hatthipála is called Hatthipálasamágama, and in it were several who later attained arahantship in Ceylon - Phussadeva of Katakandharakara, Mahásangharakkhita of Uparimandalakamalaya, Maliyamahádeva, Mahádeva of Bhaggagiri, Mahásíva of Vimantapabbhára, and Mahánága of Kálavallimandapa (J.iv.473-91; referred to at J.i.45). A Burmese monk of Ava, Ratthasára by name, born in 1468, composed a metrical version of the Hatthipála Játaka. Bode, op. cit., 44.