Vaishali (ancient city)
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Capital of the Asokan pillar at Vaiśālī
|• Official||Maithili, Hindi, Urdu|
|Time zone||UTC+5:30 (IST)|
It was the capital city of the Vajjian Confederacy of (Vrijji mahajanapada), considered one of the first examples of a republic around the 6th century BCE. Gautama Buddha preached his last sermon before his death in c. 483 BCE, then in 383 BCE the Second Buddhist council was convened here by King Kalasoka, making it an important place in both Jain and Buddhist religions. It contains one of the best-preserved of the Pillars of Ashoka, topped by a single Asiatic lion ( ).
The city finds mention in the travel accounts of Chinese explorers, Faxian (4th century CE) and Xuanzang (7th century CE), which were later used in 1861 by British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham to first identify Vaiśālī with the present village of Basarh in Vaishali District, Bihar.
Even before the advent of Buddhism and Jainism, Vaiśālī was the capital of the republican Licchavi state. In that period, Vaiśālī was an ancient metropolis and the capital city of the republic of the Vaiśālī 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 Vaiśālī. The Vishnu Purana records 34 kings of Vaiśālī, 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.
Vaiśālī is also renowned as the land of Amrapali, the great Indian courtesan, who appears in many folktales, as well as in Buddhist literature. Ambapali became a disciple of Buddha. Manudev was a famous king of the illustrious Lichchavi clan of the confederacy, who desired to possess Amrapali after he saw her dance performance in Vaishali.
A kilometer away is Abhishek Pushkarini, the coronation tank. The sacred waters of the tank anointed the elected representatives of Vaiśālī. 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 Vaiśālī 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. Ānanda, the favourite disciple of the Buddha, attained Nirvana in the midst of the Ganges outside Vaiśālī.
Visits of the Buddha to Vaiśālī
|The Four Main Sites|
|Four Additional Sites|
Vaishali is well known for its close association with the Buddha. After leaving Kapilavastu for renunciation, he came to Vaishali first and had his spiritual training from Ramaputra Udraka and Alara Kalama (Alark Ram). After the Enlightenment the Buddha frequently visited Vaishali. He organized his Bhikshu Sangha on the pattern of Vaishalian democracy. It was here that he established the Bhikshuni Sangha, initiating his maternal aunt Maha Prajavati Gautami into the order. His last Varshavasa (rainy season resort) was here and he announced his approaching Mahaparinirvana (the final departure from the world) just three months in advance. Before leaving for Kusinagara, where he died, he left his alms-bowl (Bhiksha-Patra) here with the people of Vaishali.
Jainism at Vaishali
The Svetambaras state that the final Tirthankara, Lord Mahavira, was born and raised in Kshatriyakund district, Vaiśālī to King Siddhartha. and Queen Trishala. According to Jain text Uttarapurāṇa, King Chetaka ruled as a Republican President in Vaishali and was a famous and complaisant king. He is mentioned as a staunch follower of Jainism. According to the text, Chetaka had ten sons and seven daughters. His sister Priyakarini (also known as Trishala) was married to Siddhartha. His daughter Chellana married Shrenik (also known as Bimbisara). As per Indologist Hermann Jacobi, Vardhaman Mahavira's mother Trishala was sister of King Chetaka. Vaiśālī was also the residence of Kandaramasuka and Pātikaputta.
Notable Buddhist sites in Vaishali
Near the coronation tank is Stupa 1 or the Relic Stupa. Here the Licchavis 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.
Kutagarasala Vihara is the monastery where Buddha most frequently stayed while visiting Vaiśālī. It is located 3 kilometres from the relic Stupa, and on its ground can be found the Ānanda Stupa, with an Asokan pillar in very good condition (perhaps the only complete Asokan pillar left standing), and an ancient pond.
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 Vaiśālī have been enshrined in the foundation and in the chhatra of the Stupa.
Vaishali museum was established in 1971 by Archaeological survey of India to persevere and display the antiquities found during exploration of sites with ancient Vaishali.
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