An arahant. He was a householder named Datta of Sāvatthi. On discovering that he had, though unwittingly, committed incest with both his mother and sister, he was overcome with anguish and left the world. He adopted a course of austerity, dwelling in a hut of palm leaves on the bank of the Ganges, hence his name. For a whole year he kept silence; in the second year he spoke but once to a woman who, in filling his bowl, spilt the milk, wishing to discover if he were dumb. In the third year he became an arahant.
In the time of Padumuttara Buddha he was a householder, and supplied drinks to monks (Thag.v.127-8; ThagA.i.248f).
It is said (ThagA.195f.; Thig.224f) that after Gangātiriya's conception his mother was driven out of her house in the absence of her husband, her mother-in-law suspecting her of infidelity. The child was born in a travellers' rest-house in Rājagaha, whither she had gone in search of her husband, and was taken away by a caravan leader who happened to see it when its mother was away bathing. Later the woman was carried away by a robber chief, by whom she had a daughter. One day, in a quarrel with her husband, she threw her daughter on the bed, wounding her on the head, and fearing her husband's wrath she fled to Rājagaha, where she became a courtesan and later mistress of Gangātiriya, who was unaware of his relationship to her. Some time afterwards he took to wife the robber's daughter as well. One day, while looking at the young wife's head, the older one saw the wound, and as a result of her questions learnt the truth. Filled with dismay, both mother and daughter became nuns, and Gangātiriya left the world as mentioned above.
Gangātiriya is perhaps to be identified with Udakadāyaka of the Apadāna. (Ap.ii.437; but the verses are also ascribed to Mahāgavaccha, ThagA.i.57).