Monday, April 15, 2013

Vaishali : Legacy of the past

Unable to resist the temptation of enjoying the cool breeze of the light sunny day of the land loved most by Lord Buddha, I sat beneath a mango tree. The ruins of India’s first republican form of government lay very near me. The bright rays of sun were filtering through the leaves of mango tree.

The young owner of the small roadside dhaba named after Amrapali, narrates to me about this mango orchard once belong to the famous court dancer of Vaishali in whose mango orchard Buddha had come to take meal along with his disciples.

Nothing remains to be seen now. However every thing appeared very live . So live that it seems there hardly is a gap of 2550 years between the present phase and past one. Suddenly I felt Amrapali herself is standing before me while halting for a moment in her busy time of preparing food for Lord Buddha. The pride of feeding the Lord clearly reflected through her eyes.

The capital of the Lichchavi republic, Vaishali was very dear to Buddha. He created a ‘Bhikchu Sangh’ ( order of hermits) on the basis of the ‘Vajjisangh’ or as per Lichchavi tradition . Several times he came to Vaishali and delivered sermons at ‘kutgarshala’ to the people. He spent two rainy seasons at Vaishali and form the association of female monks also . Several laws of ‘Vinay’ were formulated here, and several people were converted here to Buddhism. In the Buddhist literature Vaishali deserves special status in which court dancer Amrapali also occupies a central place.

The last time when Lord Buddha came to Vaishali he was eighty – it was here that he had announced of taking ‘Mahaparinirvana’ meaning end of his mundane life. That was the day of Purnima (full moon) in the month of Magha. The ‘Mahaparinirvana sutta’ deals about it at length. The court dancer had come to know that Buddha was staying in her Mango orchard- The present one.She went their immediately along with her concerts. Amarpali paid her tributes to Lord, listen the discourses. Moved by it, she urged Buddha with folded hands that the Lord should accept her invitation for food. The Lord mutely approved of it. Lichchavis of Vaishali, also aware of the Lord arrival, came to the mango grove in chariots where they met Amarpali too. She told them of Buddhas approval to be her guest next day. Though not believing her fully, yet Lichchavis urged her to take substantial money from them to allow them to cook food for the Lord. They got an emphatic ‘no’ from her. She was not ready to bargain the great opportunity for the entire Vaishali republic so proud she was. On seeing the Lord coming to Amrapali’s house the Lichchavis people urged him to accept their food also. But he said no as he had agreed to received the invitation of harlot Amrapali. Buddha relished the very testy food prepared by Amrapali. At the end of the meal she said she is donating the mango grove to ‘Bhikchu Sangh’. The Lord accepted.

This is the same very mango grove, but hardly any remains are here. The ancestral house of Amrapali lay some where near this ambara chowk of present day vaishali. A sign board of archaeological department of Bihar also stand here confirming this fact.

Truly writer – thinker Nirmal Verma aptly said “ I think very often how sad is the city that has no ruins of the ancient past Living there is as harrowing as meeting a man who has lost his memory –has no past.” Little realizing the importance of ancient ruins, people of Vaishali destroyed them one by one, ironically Indian democracy was born in this semi-rural patch of land. Vaishali is the birth place of Indian republicanism. Even Ashoka Stamba also majestically stands at Kolhua village near here . It is known as ‘ Lion Capitol ‘ – insignia of Government of India. It was erected around 269-232 BC.

Vaishali is no less important to the Jainism. What is most gratifying, even Tirthankar Mahavir was also born at Vasukund near Vaishali. He was a son of Ruler of Siddharth and Trishala, Mahavir spent nearly thirty years in Vaishali before leaving his royal palace in 532 BC. After 12 years he attained supreme enlightenment at Vanijya village. He spent his twelve rainy season. At the age of 72 , Mahavir attained his nirvana at Pawa which is located in UP . On that occasion, the republicans Mallaya and Vaishali lighted earthen lamps to market. All together eighteen republican countries of contemporary India had participated in it. The Jainism sprawled far and wide from here. The sun was about to set . Few local boys were collecting dried leaves of the tree. In the gush of air the leaves use to move away very fast making the boys run after them . As you look around you find yellow rays emerging from the earth – this happen to be the massive fields of bloomed flowers of mustard. The blowing of breezes was causing strange sensation in my ears – they were very soft, poetic and rhythmic. Matching to this scenario , lay the luxurious rays of sun as far as eyes go.

It is in this backdrop that a dome shaped catches your eyes: the Vishwa Shanti Stupa wearing an absolute milky white coating. This 131 feets (in height) was raise in the memory of Lord Buddha. It is 6 feet higher than the Shanti Stupa of Rajgir. Niponjan Myojhee organization of Japan is credited with erecting it .

The ancient Vaishali Republic functioned more or less in the fashion as prevailing within the Indian republic Day .The chief executive of the ancient republic comprised a Raja, a deputy Raja, army chief and minister of finance department. There used to be a committee of nine states that was responsible to look after the foreign affair . The building where the central legislature meetings/ session used to be convened , was known as Sansthagar – their parliament . It total membership strength was 7707. Members of parliament used to be called as Raja who would be coroneted by the people at a pond called , Abhishek Mangal Pushkarni. No person other than the Rajas could touch the water of that pond. It used to be guarded heavily, Besides an iron net used to cover the surface of the water so that no birds could touch its water . The legal system of the Lichhavi’s was extremely modern as there were several tires of upper and lower courts. So that an offender carried the chances of getting exonerated by any of them. The head of the State used to be Supreme authority of the entire legal systems.

Lord Buddha followed this pattern to form his Sangha or order of the monks. The Mahaparinirvana sutta – a major Buddhist literature says Vaishali played a very important role in the life of Lord Buddha who spent 488-487 BC phase here.

The decline of Vaishali republic started with the ever growing power of Ajatshatru the then emperor of Magadh who managed to destroyed the republic of Vaishali diplomatically through his minister Vassakaar . Vassakaar got success in making access to Lord Buddha , who was in haste to leave Vaishali for Kushinagar , where he breathed his last in Purnima 487 B.C. His mortal ashes were brought to Vaishali . The mortal remains were divided into eighty portions. The lichchavi’s also got one of the portion which they later entered into a stupa. This particular urn containing Buddha’s ash were discovered from the stupa from Harpurbasant village very near to vaishali in 1958.

Getting there: -

By Air – Nearest airport is Patna, connected to Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi and Lucknow.

By Rail – Nearest railhead is Hajipur.

By Road – Patna – 55 k.m. Muzaffarpur – 36 k.m. and Hajipur – 35 k.m.

Accommodation – It is best to spend night in Patna and make a day trip to Vaishali since there are no good hotel facilities.


The journey route of Prince Siddhartha, a subject matter of research since 1812 when the East India Company took very serious efforts to create a record of Bihar’s history with Buddha being its pivot, is claimed to have been discovered by a team of historians comprising Indian, Japanese and German scholars.

“Mahabhinishkramana”, the most important chapter of Jataka says after leaving his royal palace of Kapilavastu (now in Nepal), Siddhartha crossed the Anoma River to wander through the thick jungles, villages and different towns to reach Bodh Gaya where he attained the enlightenment beneath the Banyan Tree.

According to the ex-Director of K. P. Jaisawal Research Institute Dr. Jagdishwar Pandey, the Buddhist scriptures mentioned the names of those places trodden by Siddhartha to reach to Uruvilla or Bodhgaya, the historians could not draft the ancient itinerary followed by him as their names changed totally over the last 2550 years.

Dr. Phil Gustav Roth (German Indologist, Buddhist scholar and retired professor of Gottingen University), Prof. Zuiryu Nakamura (Japanese historian) and Dr. Pandey spent nearly 26 years to finally discover Siddhartha’s journey route with the exact names of cities, villages and jungles.

Their names existing in the 6th century B.C. when Siddhartha started his Odyssey changed in such a way that they do not at all match with the present ones. The Mughal era — 1526 to 1857— saw their total transformation with Arabic and Persian names replacing the ancient ones pronounced in the dialects like Maithili, Magahi, Angika, Bajjika and Bhojpuri.

Mahabhinishkramana, says Siddhartha left Kapilavastu on a full moon night of Asada month in a chariot driven by horse Kanthaka and guided by charioteer Chandak to reach Anoma River. On crossing that river, he ordered Chandak to return to Kapilavastu and he exchanged his robe for saffron ones of a hunter.

After shaving the hair with his sword, Siddhartha begin his jungle wandering to traverse through a large number of places to finally reach Bodhgaya. Nearly 25 places among them, including Vaishali, Kesaria, Bettiah, Lauria Areraj and Pataliputra, them are very important

The team of Dr. Pandey, Dr. Roth and Prof. Nakamura created the map of Siddhartha’s journey route in 1996 and named it as “Itinerary of The Buddha”. It is going to be published in Japan and Germany also very shortly. Both Dr. Roth and Prof. Nakamura have crossed 90.

Fa Hien and Hieun Tsang, the two famous Chinese travelers, also had traced the journey route from Kapilavastu to Bodh Gaya via flood ravaged northern and drought prone central parts of Bihar.

While Dr. Roth lived in Bihar for a very long stretch of time, Prof. Nakamura visited Nepal for 17 times to carry out researches on Buddha. This Japanese scholar also had lived in Bihar for a long time. These three historians made extensive archaeological excavations in Nepal and Bihar to discover the journey route of Siddhartha.