Son of a chieftain of the Mallas in Kusinārā. He studied at Takkasilā with Mahāli and Pasenadi. On his return home, he wished to give an exhibition of his skill, and the princely families of the Mallas bound sticks of bamboo in bundles of sixty, inserting a strip of iron in each bundle; they then suspended the bundles in the air and challenged Bandhula to cut them down. He leapt up in the air and smote them with his sword, but on discovering the treachery of his kinsmen, he threatened to kill them all; his parents, however, dissuaded him, and he went to live in Sāvatthi, where Pasenadi appointed him Senāpati.
Bandhula's wife was Mallikā (known as Bandhula-Mallikā in order to distinguish her from the wife of Pasenadi). As she bore no children, Bandhula wished to send her back to her people; but when she went to bid farewell to the Buddha before her departure, he asked her to return to her husband. He accepted her, thereby showing his faith in the Buddha. Soon after she conceived a child, and her pregnancy longing was to enter the lotus tank used by the princes of Vesāli on their coronation and to drink its water. Bandhula took her to Vesāli, drove away the strong guards who were posted at the lotus tank, and let Mallikā enjoy it to her heart's content. When the Licchavi princes heard of this, they were greatly enraged and pursued Bandhula's chariot, in spite of the warning of Mahāli. When the chariots of the Licchavis came into line, Bandhula, in order to frighten them, twanged his bow; but as they still pursued him, he shot a single arrow, which pierced each of the five hundred Licchavis through his girdle without their being aware of the wound. Bandhula told them of their plight; but they refused to believe him until they loosed the girdle of the foremost and he fell down dead. Thereupon they returned to their homes, bade farewell to their families, and fell dead on the moment of loosening their armour.
Mallikā bore twin sons sixteen times; each of them became perfect in the various arts, and each had a retinue of one thousand men. One day, Bandhula retried a case, which had been unjustly decided by the judge and his decision was greatly applauded. The king, hearing the applause and learning the reason, appointed him judge. It is probably this incident, which is referred to at S.i.74 (Atthakarana Sutta); see also KS.i.101, n.3.
But the former judges poisoned the king's mind against Bandhula, and the king, listening to them, sent Bandhula and his sons to quell a frontier rebellion, giving orders that they should all be murdered on the way home. This was done, and the news of the massacre was brought to Mallikā while she was entertaining five hundred monks led by the two Chief Disciples (according to MA.ii.753 the Buddha was also present). Mallikā read the message, and placing it in a fold of her dress, went on with her duties. Sāriputta discovered her fortitude at the end of the meal and greatly praised her. Mallikā sending for her daughters in law, broke the news to them, urging them to harbour no resentment against the king. The king's spies, discovering this, brought the news to Pasenadi. The king was greatly moved, and having sent for Mallikā, begged her forgiveness and granted her a boon. She chose as her boon that she and her thirty two daughters in law should be allowed to return home to Kusinārā. Bandhula's nephew, Dīghakārāyāna, was appointed commander-in chief, but he never forgave the injury to Bandhula, and, in the end, brought about Pasenadi's deposition and consequent death (DhA.i.228f., 349 56; J.iv.148 ff.; MA.ii.753f).
Bandhula isi sometimes referred to as Bandhulamalla. (E.g., J.iv.148.)
Bandhula's wife, Mallikā, was one of the three persons possessing the Mahālatāpasādhana, the others being Visākhā and Devadāniyacora (but see DhA.i.412, where the daughter of Bārānasīsetthi is substituted for Devadāniya).
From the time of her husband's death Mallikā laid aside the pasādhana, but, on the day on which the Buddha's body was being removed for cremation, she washed the pasādhana in perfumed water and placed it on the body, which it completely covered. She expressed the wish that, as long as she remained in samsāra, her body should need no ornament. DA.ii.597.