Sujata lived in a village called Senani in Uruvela ( near present Bodh Gaya) She was beautiful but unmarried daughter of a rich landowner. She started offering prayers on the advice of villagers who believed in a tree dwelling god at a nearby Nuga (banyan) tree near the Neranjara river; who would grant her desire for a good husband, who would shower her with love and gifts. In time it was granted. She then went on to pray for a baby boy. This wish too was granted. Along with her friend Punna she would take an offering of a milk-rice dish for the tree god on Veshaka day (full moon). Sujata was the owner of many cows. She would feed her cows with sweet creepers to get the most nourishing milk. She would use this milk for making the rice-milk porridge.
One day Punna went to the tree at dawn and saw a man sitting there and informed Sujata. She thought her tree god to whom she had been offering prayers had somehow turned human! Both were very excited. Sujata brought the rice-milk porridge in a golden bowl to offer to him. As she approached she saw that he was handsome but very thin, weak and emaciated, but sitting in meditation. She bowed and offered the porridge to him. At first he was reluctant but accepted it finally. The man was none other than the ‘Buddha in waiting’. This was a great moment because it ended his severe ascetism of six years. He then took a bath in the river and threw the golden bowl saying that if he were to get enlightened the bowl would go upstream and if not , it would go downstream.The bowl went upstream !
Later after attaining enlightenment the Buddha revisited the village and Sujata became his first female lay disciple.
Sujata offering rice-milk, painting,Wat Pangla,Thailand.
By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (018 Sujata offers Rice Balls) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Sujata offering rice-milk, depiction on ivory.
By Nomu420 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Sujata offering rice-milk,painting in Sri Dalada Maligawa,Sri Lanka.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/indi/6800220412 by Indi Samarjiva