The Divyāvadāna or ‘Heavenly Deeds’ is a huge collection of 38 legendary biographies and retellings of events in the life of the Buddha.
The purpose of each story is to describe the results of good and bad deeds in former and future lives, but also to explain basic Dhamma in an entertaining way.
Written in Sanskrit and first composed in about the 3rd century CE, but added to gradually right up to about the 7th century, it became one of the most popular books among Indian Buddhists.
The stories from the Divyāvadāna were often depicted in painting and sculpture and continue to have an influence even today.
Rabrindranath Tagore’s famous play Chandalika, is based on the story of Prakriti from the Divyāvadāna, which is a critique of the caste system wrapped in a tale about love, detachment and magic.
Divine Stories: Divyādana, Pt.1,trans. Andy Rotman, 2008.