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Vaishali
Ashoka pillar at Vaishali, Bihar, India 2007-01-29.jpg
Capitol of the Asokan pillar at Vaishali
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India Bihar locator map.svg
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Vaishali
Location of Vaishali
in Bihar and India
</center>
Coordinates Template:IndAbbr 25°59′N 85°08′E / 25.99°N 85.13°E / 25.99; 85.13
Country Template:Flag
State Bihar
District(s) Patna
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)

Vaishali or Vesali (Pali) was the capital city of the Licchavi, one of world's first democratic republics, in the Vajjian Confederacy (Vrijji) mahajanapada, around the 6th century BC. It was here that Gautama Buddha preached his last sermon before his death ca 483 BCE, then in 383 BCE the Second Buddhist council was convened here by King Kalasoka. Also in 599 BCE the 24th Jain Tirthankara, Mahavira was born and brought up in Vaishali republic, making it an important place in both religions.[1][2][3]

At the time of the Buddha, Vaishali, which he visited on many occasions, was a very large city, rich and prosperous, crowded with people and with abundant food. There were seven thousand seven hundred and seven pleasure grounds and an equal number of lotus ponds. Its courtesan, Amrapali, was famous for her beauty, and helped in large measure in making the city prosperous[4]. The city had three walls, each one gávuta away from the other, and at three places in the walls were gates with watch towers. Outside the town, leading uninterruptedly up to the Himalaya, was the Mahavana,[5] a large, natural forest. Nearby were other forests, such as Gosingalasála.[6]

The city finds mention in the travel accounts of Chinese explorers, Fa Hian (4th century CE) and Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang ) (7th century CE), which were later used in 1861 by British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham to first identify Vaishali with the present village of Basrah in Vaishali District, Bihar.[7][8]

Etymology

Vaishali derives its name from King Vishal of the Mahabharata age [9]. The city was also called Visálá[10]. Buddhaghosa, the a 5th-century Indian Theravadin Buddhist commentator and scholar says, that Vesali was so called because it was extensive or Vishal[11][12].

History

Ancient india

The Vajji or Vrijji Mahajanapada, 600 BCE

Ablution bath, Vaishali

Abhishek Pushkarini, the coronation tank, near Buddha Relic Stupa, Vaishali

Even before the advent of Buddhism and Jainism, Vaishali was the capital of the vibrant republican Licchavi state.[13] In that period, Vaishali was an ancient metropolis and the capital city of the republic of the Vaishali state, which covered most of the Himalayan Gangetic region of present-day Bihar state, India. However, very little is known about the early history of Vaishali. The Vishnu Purana records 34 kings of Vaishali, the first being Nabhaga, who is believed to have abdicated his throne over a matter of human rights and believed to have declared: "I am now a free tiller of the soil, king over my acre." The last among the 34 was Sumati, who is considered a contemporary of Dasaratha, father of the Hindu god, Lord Rama [9].

Numerous references to Vaishali are found in texts pertaining to both Jainism and Buddhism, which have preserved much information on Vaishali and the other Maha Janapadas. Based on the information found in these texts, Vaishali was established as a republic by the 6th century BC, prior to the birth of Gautama Buddha in 563, making it the world's first republic [9].

In the republic of Vaishali, Lord Mahavira was born. Gautama Buddha delivered his last sermon at Vaishali and announced his Parinirvana there. Vaishali is also renowned as the land of Ambapali (also spelled as Amrapali), the great Indian courtesan, who appears in many folktales, as well as in Buddhist literature. Ambapali became a disciple of Buddha. [14]

A kilometre away is Abhishek Pushkarini, the coronation tank. The sacred waters of the tank anointed the elected representatives of Vaishali. Next to it stands the Japanese temple and the Vishwa Shanti Stupa (World Peace Pagoda) built by the Nipponzan Myohoji sect of Japan. A small part of the Buddha's relics found in Vaishali have been enshrined in the foundation and in the chhatra of the Stupa.

Near the coronation tank is Stupa 1 or the Relic Stupa. Here the Lichchavis reverentially encased one of the eight portions of the Master's relics, which they received after the Mahaparinirvana. After his last discourse the Awakened One set out for Kushinagar, but the Licchavis kept following him. Buddha gave them his alms bowl but they still refused to return. The Master created an illusion of a river in spate which compelled them to go back. This site can be identified with Deora in modern Kesariya village, where Ashoka later built a stupa. Ananda, the favourite disciple of the Buddha, attained Nirvana in the midst of the Ganga outside Vaishali.

Visits of the Buddha to Vaishali

Pilgrimage to
Buddha's
Holy Sites
Dharma Wheel
The Four Main Sites
Lumbini · Bodh Gaya
Sarnath · Kushinagar
Four Additional Sites
Sravasti · Rajgir
Sankissa · Vaishali
Other Sites
Patna · Gaya · Kosambi
Kapilavastu · Devadaha
Kesariya · Pava
Nalanda · Vikramshila · Varanasi
Later Sites
Sanchi · Mathura

Ellora · Ajanta
Ratnagiri · Udayagiri
Bharhut · Barabar Caves

Buddhist Altar, Vaishali

A Buddhist shrine amidst the Vihara, Vaishali

The Buddha first visited Vaishali in the fifth year after his Enlightenment, and spent the rainy season there[15]. The Buddhist Theravadin Commentaries give detailed descriptions of the circumstances of this visit[16]. Vesáai was inhabited by seven thousand and seven rajas, each of whom had large retinues, many palaces and pleasure parks. There came a shortage in the food supply owing to drought, and people died in large numbers. The smell of decaying bodies attracted evil spirits, and many inhabitants were attacked by intestinal disease. The people complained to the ruling prince, and he convoked a general assembly, where it was decided, after much discussion, to invite the Buddha to their city. As the Buddha was then at Veluvana in Rajagaha, the Licchavi Maháli, friend of King Bimbisara and son of the chaplain of Vesali, was sent to Bimbisara with a request that he should persuade the Buddha to go to Vesáli.

Bimbisára referred him to the Buddha himself, who, after listening to Maháli's story, agreed to go. The Buddha started on the journey with five hundred monks. Bimbisára decorated the route from Rájagaha to the Ganges, a distance of five leagues, and provided all comforts on the way. He accompanied the Buddha, and the Ganges was reached in five days. Boats, decked with great splendour, were ready for the Buddha and his monks, and we are told that Bimbisára followed the Buddha into the water up to his neck. The Buddha was received on the opposite bank by the Licchavis, with even greater honour than Bimbisára had shown him. As soon as the Buddha set foot in the Vajjian territory, there was a thunderstorm and rain fell in torrents. The distance from the Ganges to Vesáli was three leagues; as the Buddha approached Vesáli, Sakka came to greet him, and, at the sight of the devas, all the evil spirits fled in fear. In the evening the Buddha taught Ananda the Ratana Sutta, and ordered that it should be recited within the three walls of the city, the round of the city being made with the Licchavi princes. This Ananda did during the three watches of the night, and all the pestilences of the citizens disappeared. The Buddha himself recited the Ratana Sutta to the assembled people, and eighty four thousand beings were converted. After repeating this for seven consecutive days, the Buddha left Vesáli. (According to the DhA. account the Buddha stayed only seven days in Vesáli; KhA. says two weeks). The Licchavis accompanied him to the Ganges with redoubled honours, and, in the river itself, Devas and Nágas vied with each other in paying him honour. On the farther bank, Bimbisára awaited his arrival and conducted him back to Rájagaha. On his return there, the Buddha recited the Sankha Játaka.

It is not possible to know how many visits were paid by the Buddha to Vesáli, but the books would lead us to infer that they were several. Various Vinaya rules are mentioned as having been laid down at Vesáli[17]. The visit mentioned in the last context seems to have been a long one; it was on this occasion that the Buddha ordered the monks to turn their bowls upon the Licchavi Vaddha. Also other Vinaya rules were laid down at Vesáli[18]. It was during a stay in Vesáli, whither he had gone from Kapilavatthu, that Mahapajapati Gotami followed the Buddha with five hundred other Sakyan women, and, with the help of Ananda's intervention, obtained permission for women to enter the Order under certain conditions[19].

The books describe[20] at some length the Buddha's last visit to Vesali on his way to Kusinara. On the last day of this visit, after his meal, he went with Ananda to Cápála cetiya for his siesta, and, in the course of their conversation, he spoke to Ananda of the beauties of Vesáli: of the Udena cetiya, the Gotamaka cetiya, the Sattambaka cetiya, the Bahuputta cetiya, and the Sárandada cetiya[21], where a Kapinayha-cetiya is also mentioned. All these were once shrines dedicated to various local deities, but after the Buddha's visit to Vesáli, they were converted into places of Buddhist worship. Other monasteries are also mentioned, in or near Vesáli (for example Pátikáráma, Válikáráma).

Relicstupa-vaishali

The Relic Stupa of the Licchavis at Vaishali

The Buddha generally stayed at the Kutagarasala during his visits to Vesáli, but it appears that he sometimes lived at these different shrines [22]. During his last visit to the Cápála cetiya he decided to die within three months, and informed Mára and, later, Ananda, of his decision. The next day he left Vesáli for Bhandagama, after taking one last look at the city, "turning his whole body round, like an elephant"[23]. The rainy season which preceded this, the Buddha spent at Beluvagama, a suburb of Vesáli, while the monks stayed in and around Vesáli. On the day before he entered into the vassa, Ambapáli invited the Buddha and the monks to a meal, at the conclusion of which she gave her Ambavana for the use of the Order [24].

Among important suttas preached at Vesáli are the Maháli, Mahásíhanáda, Cúla Saccaka, Mahá Saccaka, Tevijja, Vacchagotta, Sunakkhatta and Ratana. After the Buddha's death a portion of his relics was enshrined in the City[25]. One hundred years later Vesáli was again the scene of interest for Buddhists, on account of the "Ten Points" raised by the Vajjiputtaká, (q.v.), and the Second Buddhist Council held in connection with this dispute at the Valikarama.

Jain religion at Vaishali

Vesáli was a stronghold of the last jain Tirthankar Mahavira aka Niganthas, and it is said that of the forty two rainy seasons of the latter part of Mahavira's ascetic life, he passed twelve at Vesáli[26]. Vesáli was also the residence of Kandaramasuka and Pátikaputta. Among eminent followers of the Buddha who lived in Vesáli, special mention is made of Ugga (chief of those who gave pleasant gifts), Pingiyani, Karanapali, Siha, Vasettha[27], and various Licchavis.

The Buddha's presence in Vesáli was a source of discomfort to the Niganthas, and we find mention of various devices resorted to by them to prevent their followers from coming under the influence of the Buddha.

Notable Buddhist sites in Vaishali

Buddha&#039;s ashes Stupa, Vaishali, Bihar

Buddha's ashes Stupa built by the Licchavis, Vaishali

Anandastupa

Ananda Stupa, with an Asokan pillar at Kolhua, Vaishali

Ashoka pillar at Vaishali, Bihar, India

Kutagarasala Vihara

Relic stupa

Near the coronation tank is Stupa 1 or the Relic Stupa. Here the Licchavis reverentially encased on of the eight portions of the Master's relics, which they received after the Mahaparinirvana. After his last discourse the Awakened One set out for Kushinagar, but the Licchavis kept following him. Buddha gave them his alms bowl but they still refused to return. The Master created an illusion of a river in spate which compelled them to go back. This site can be identified with Deora in modern Kesariya village, where Ashoka later built a stupa.

Kutagarasala Vihara

Kutagarasala Vihara is the monastery where Buddha most frequently stayed while visiting Vaishali. It is located 3 kilometres from the relic Stupa, and on its ground can be found the Ananda Stupa, with an Asokan pillar in very good condition (perhaps the only complete Asokan pillar left standing), and an ancient pond.

Coronation Tank

A few hundred metres from the Relic Stupa is Abhishek Pushkarini, the coronation tank. The sacred waters of the tank anointed the elected representatives of Vaishali.

World Peace Pagoda

Next to the coronation tank stands the Japanese temple and the Viśvā Śānti Stūpa (World Peace Pagoda) built by Japanese Nichiren Buddhist sect Nipponzan-Myōhōji. A small part of the Buddha's relics found in Vaishali have been enshrined in the foundation and in the chhatra of the Stupa.

Books

References

  1. Bindloss, Joe; Sarina Singh (2007). India: Lonely planet Guide. Lonely Planet. p. 556. ISBN 1741043085. http://books.google.com/books?id=T7ZHUhSEleYC&pg=PA556&dq=Vaishali#v=onepage&q=Vaishali&f=false. 
  2. Hoiberg, Dale; Indu Ramchandani (2000). Students' Britannica India, Volumes 1-5. Popular Prakashan. p. 208. ISBN 0852297602. http://books.google.com/books?id=DPP7O3nb3g0C&pg=PA208&dq=Vaishali#v=onepage&q=Vaishali&f=false. 
  3. Kulke, Hermann; Dietmar Rothermund (2004). A history of India. Routledge. p. 57. ISBN 0415329191. http://books.google.com/books?id=TPVq3ykHyH4C&pg=PA57&dq=Vaishali&lr=#v=onepage&q=Vaishali&f=false. 
  4. Vin.i.268
  5. DA.i.309
  6. A.v.134
  7. Leoshko, Janice (2003). Sacred traces: British explorations of Buddhism in South Asia: Histories of vision. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. ISBN 0754601382. http://books.google.com/books?id=NihYvWcJVL8C&pg=PA74&dq=Vaishali#v=onepage&q=Vaishali&f=false. 
  8. See Vincent Smith, J.R.A.S. 1907, p. 267f., and Marshall, Arch. Survey of India, 1903 4, p. 74
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Gupta, Om (2006). Encyclopaedia of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Gyan Publishing House. p. 2536. ISBN 8182053897. http://books.google.com/books?id=LXw9pgWvFxUC&pg=PA28&dq=Vaishali&lr=#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 
  10. E.g., AA.i.47; Cv.xcix.98
  11. e.g., Sp.ii.393
  12. visálíbhútatá Vesáli ti uccati); cf. UdA.184 (tikkhattum visálabhútattá; and MA.i.259
  13. Vaisali Encyclopedia Britannica.
  14. History of Vaishali
  15. BuA., p. 3
  16. KhpA.160ff.= SNA.i.278; DhA.iii.436ff.; cp. Mtu.i.253ff
  17. See, e.g., Vin.i.238, 287f; ii.118, 119 27
  18. see Vin.ii.159f.; iii. and iv. passim
  19. Vin.ii.253ff
  20. E.g., D.ii.95ff
  21. Cf. Mtu.i.300
  22. See D.ii.118
  23. nágápalokitam apaloketvá - D.ii.122
  24. D.ii.98; but see Dial.ii.102, n.1)
  25. D.ii.167; Bu.xxviii.2
  26. Jacobi: Jaina Sutras (S.B.E.) Kalpa Sútra, sect. 122
  27. A.iv.258

External links

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