Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “description of pataliputra (present patna)” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Appendix 7 - Description of Pāṭaliputra (present Patna)

Pāṭaliputra, presently Patna, below the point where the Gandak from the north and the Sone from the south flow into the Ganges (L. A. Waddell, Discovery of the exact site of Pātaliputra, Calcutta, 1892; AR, Arch Surv 1912–1913).

– In times gone by, the city was called Kusumapura or Puṣpapura “City of flowers’ (Hiuan tsang, T 2087, k. 8, p. 910c; Dīpavaṃsa, XI, v. 28; Mahāvaṃsa, IV, v. 31; Mahābodhivaṃsa, p. 153; later it was called Pāṭaliputra following the wedding of a young brāhmin with a branch of pāṭala or begonia (Hiuan tsang, ibid., tr. Watters, II, p. 87).

– Shortly before his death, the Buddha went to the village of Pāṭaligrāma where the ministers of Ajātaśatru, Sunīdha and Varṣakāra, built a fortress to serve as defense against the Vṛjis. The Buddha foretold the greatness of that city from that time on, but declaring that it would be menaced by the threefold perils of fire, flood and disharmony. Escorted by the two ministers, he went to the Ganges; the gate through which he left the city and the place where he crossed the Ganges received the names of Gautamadvāra ‘Gautama’s gate’ and Gautamatīrtha ‘Gautama’s ford’ respectively (Vinaya, I, p. 226–230; Dīgha, II, p. 84–89); Udāna, VIII, 6, p. 85–90; Chinese versions of Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, T 1, k. 2, p. 12; T 5, p. 162b–c; T 6, p. 177c; Ken pen chouo… tsa che, T 14, k. 36, p. 384c; Rockhill, Life, p. 127).

– Pāṭaliputra soon supplanted Rājagṛha and became the capital of Magadha under king Udāyin or Udāyibhadra, son of Ajātaśatru, the Kunika of the Jain sources (Vinaya, tr. Rh. D. – Oldenberg, II, p. 102). In any case, Muṇḍa, grandson of Ajātaśatru, made Pāṭaliputra his residence (Aṇguttara, III, p. 57; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 24, p. 679a). However, according to Hiuan tsang, T 2087, k. 8, p. 911a. it was a certain Aśoka (Kālāśoka?), great-grandson of Bimbasāra, who changed the capital of Magadha from Rājagṛha to Pāṭaliputra.

– Shortly after Kālāśika, the throne of Magadha passed to the Nanda dynasty, then to that of the Mauryas. Megasthenes, ambassador of Seleukos in the service of Candragupta, about 305 BC, has left for us a description of the city of Palimbothra (= Pāṭaliputra): “This city extends, on each side, in its greatest length, 80 stades (15 km.); in width, 15 stades (3 km.); a moat surrounds the entire city 6 plethres (180 m.) in width, 20 cubits (15 m.) in depth. The surrounding wall has 570 towers and 64 gates” (Arrien, X, 6; tr. P. Chartraine, Les belles Lettres, p. 37). These dimensions hardly agree with the information given by the Mppś which attributes to Pāṭaliputra a circumference of one yojana.