Matali, aka: Matalī, Mātali; 11 Definition(s)


Matali means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Kathā (narrative stories)

Mātali (मातलि) is a messenger of Indra, according to the Kathāsaritsāgara, chapter 9. When a war arose between the gods and asuras, and Indra sent Mātali as a messenger to King Śatānīka, begging for aid.

The Kathāsaritsāgara (‘ocean of streams of story’), mentioning Mātali, is a famous Sanskrit epic story revolving around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the vidyādharas (celestial beings). The work is said to have been an adaptation of Guṇāḍhya’s Bṛhatkathā consisting of 100,000 verses, which in turn is part of a larger work containing 700,000 verses.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Kathāsaritsāgara
Kathā book cover
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Kathās (कथा) are special kind of Sanskrit literature: they are a kind of a mix between Itihāsa (historical legends) and Mahākāvya (epic poetry). Some Kathās reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of the historical deeds of the Gods, sages and heroes.


Mātali (मातलि).—The charioteer of Indra;1 attacked by Jambha in the Devāsura war; attacked by Pāka; in chariot, surrounded by all the Devas against Tāraka on the other side; wounded by three darts of Tāraka; his mudgara thrown on the chariot, went to pieces. Mātali did not die;2 acted as the charioteer of Rāma in his war with Rāvaṇa.3

  • 1) Matsya-purāṇa 148. 81.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa VIII. 11. 16-18, 22; Matsya-purāṇa 153. 161, 181, 193; 174. 10.
  • 3) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 10. 21.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

Mātali (मातलि) had the talent to run the horses with speed equal to that of the wind, mind etc. Flying like a bird, the chariot was going in the sky. They flew over many towns and forests.

(Source): Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (purāṇa)
Purāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Itihāsa (narrative history)

Mātali (मातलि) is a name mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. III.164.23, III.167.7, III.170.5) and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. Note: The Mahābhārata (mentioning Mātali) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 ślokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.

(Source): JatLand: List of Mahabharata people and places
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Itihāsa (इतिहास) refers to ‘epic history’ and represents a branch of Sanskrit literature which popularly includes 1) the eighteen major Purāṇas, 2) the Mahābhārata and 3) the Rāmāyaṇa. It is a branch of Vedic Hinduism categorised as smṛti literature (‘that which is remembered’) as opposed to śruti literature (‘that which is transmitted verbally’).

General definition (in Hinduism)

Matali is the chariotteer of Indra. He is often employed by Indra as a messenger on his behalf.

(Source): Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

Mātalī (मातली): Charioteer of Indra who took Arjuna to the kingdom of gods.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

Mātali (मातलि).—The charioteer of Indra. He took Arjuna to the heavenly planets. (Vana Parva in Mahābhārata)

(Source): ISKCON Press: Glossary

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

The name given to the chariot driver (sahgahaka) of Sakka. The Matali of the present age had a son, Sikhandhi, with whom Bhadda Suriyavaccasa, daughter of Timbaru, was in love; but later she transferred her affections to Pancasikha (D.ii.268). Matali is Sakkas constant companion and accompanies him everywhere, more as a confidant than as a servant. See, e.g., the conversation reported at S.i.221, 224, 234ff.; and Vv.iv. 9.

Thus, he was by Sakkas side in the war against the Asuras and drove his chariot when he fled with his bride Sujata. The chariot is called Vejayanta ratha and is drawn by one thousand Sindh horses (DhA.i.279f.; J.i.202f). Matali often accompanied Sakka on his journeys to the world of men, changing his form e.g., to that of a fish in the Culladhanuggaha Jataka, a brahmin in the Bilarakosiya Jataka and in the Suddhabhojana Jataka, and a big black dog in the Mahakanha Jataka. On several occasions he was sent by Sakka to fetch human beings to Tavatimsa e.g., Guttila, Nimi, Makhadeva and Sadhina and he proved an excellent guide, pointing out to the visitors the places of interest passed on the way.

When the Buddha descended from Tavatimsa, after preaching there the Abhidhamma, he was accompanied, on the left, by Matali, offering celestial scents, garlands and flowers (DhA.iii.226). Both in the Bilarakosiya and the Sudhabhojana Jatakas (q.v.) Matali is spoken of as the son of Suriya. Ananda is said to have been Matali during several lives (J.i.206; iv.180; v. 412; vi.129); so also Maha Kassapa (J.iv.69). In the Mahasamaya Sutta (D.ii.258), Matali is described as a Gandhabba chief, while in the Atanatiya Sutta (D.iii.204) he is mentioned among the chief Yakkhas to be invoked by followers of the Buddha in time of need.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names
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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).


mātalī : (m.) name of Indra's charioteer.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Mātali (मातलि).—Name of the charioteer of Indra.

Derivable forms: mātaliḥ (मातलिः).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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