Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh (early history)

by Prakash Narayan | 2011 | 63,517 words

This study deals with the history of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh (Northern India) taking into account the history and philosophy of Buddhism. Since the sixth century B.C. many developments took place in these regions, in terms of society, economic life, religion and arts and crafts....

The membership of the kula and its representation of an extended family unity has already been shown in detail. It is certain that the kula should also figure in the organization at the inter-group level (i.e. in social stratification). The following instances will illustrate the kula as a unit of inter-action at a group level.

One such instance is that of a horse-trainer who destroys an untrainable horse lest his teacher’s family (acariya kul) should lose status[1] (a vanno ahosita, literally means becoming without vanna). In another instance, the parents desire a son to be born in the family (kule jamanam) so that he may establish the family line permanently (kulavam ̣̣so ciram thapassati).[2] In the other instance we find many reasons given why the kula “having attained great possessions does not maintain wealth in permanence (kulani bhogesu mahantam pattanina ciratt ahakanam bhavanti).”[3] It is important to point out that in all these instances the different kulas are thought of as units and that in each case we may infer a preoccupation (however vague) with status or prestige.

There are a number of ways in which the kula figures as a unit in the system of stratification of the Buddhist society. One such way is when the term is used in conjunction with the basic conceptional (sometimes also real) social groups such as the brahmana, khattiya, vessa, sudda, gahapati, and so on. Thus we find the following statement: “there are four kulas, they are khattiya, brahmana, vessa, and sudda (kula nama cattaro kulani).[4] In another instance those who are born in high kula (uccakula pacchaato), are identified as the khattiya, brahmana, and gahapati, and described as being bright (joti hoti) but likely to go into darkness (tamo paryano) or brightness (joti par ayano). Those born in low kula (ni ca kula paccayano) are the candala, nesada, vena, rathakara, and pukkusaka, who are in darkness (tamo hoti) but likely to go into darkness or brightness.[5] In the third instance the Buddha refers to the khattiya kula, brahmana kula, and rajanna kula. And contrasts them with candala kula, rathakara kula and pukkusaka kula.[6] Ekusari, the brahmana, claiming the superiority of his class, refers to their kula and maintains that everyone, i.e. the khattiya, vessa and sudda should serve the brahmana.[7]

The brahmana kula has been given special importance. Thus, the Buddha in his conversation with the brahmana Vasettha refers to the latter as being born of a brahmana (brahmana jacca) belonging to a brahmana (brahmana Kulino) going from a brahmana kula house to houselessness (brahmana kulam agaram anagariyam pabbajito).[8]

The term kula of high status is used in order to indicate the economic status of the family. Thus, we find that the Buddha is referred to as belonging to a kula of high status (ucca kula), which is resolved gradually into (I) prime khattiya kula (adina khattiyakulani), (II) rich kula (addha kulani). Addha kula is, however, resolved into great riches and great fortunes (mahaddhana mahabhoga).[9] On one occasion the Buddha talks about men from (I) kula of high status (ucca kula), (II) great kula (maha kula), (III) kula of great riches (mahaboga kula) and (IV) kula which is extremely wealthy (ulara bhoga kula).[10] On another occasion the kulas of high status (uccakulani) are resolved into prosperous (mahasala) khattiya kula, brahmana kula, and gahapti kula[11] in this reference, prosperity is obviously associated with membership of the three social groups with high status, viz. khattiya, brahmana and gahapati.

The following example makes the fact clear that the high status of the kula and the individual belonging to it is correlated to the fact of birth. The Buddha apparently not liking the brahmana sundarika’s enquiry as regards his origin says, “Do not ask of the origin (jati), ask of the behaviour. Just as a fire can be born out of any wood, so can a saint be born in a kula of low status.[12] The well known saying, “not becomes a brahmana but by deed (na jacca Hoti brahmano...kammuno hoti brahmano)”, expresses the same attitude.

The Buddha explains as to why some human beings belong to low families (nicakulino hoti) and some to high families (uccakulino hoti). He says that a woman or a man who is callous (thaddho) conceited (atimani) and who does not respect and honour, wherever the honour and respect is due, is born after death in a low family whereas a person is born in a high family[13] by doing exactly the opposite to what is stated in the case of a behaviour of a low born. It is a fact that a person who is born is a low family may not hinder his spiritual growth.

It is apparent that the origin is recognised from both the parents when a well known brahmana or the Buddha is described as born well from both the sides, mother’s as well as father’s (ubhato sujato matito ca pitito).[14]

Footnotes and references:


Anguttara Nikaya.III.35.


Ibid., II.249.


Vinaya.III.184; IV.80, 177,272.


Anguttara Nikaya.III.85.


Ibid., II.178.


Digha Nikaya.III.81.


Ibid., I.115.


Majjhima Nikaya.II.37-38.


Ibid., III.177; Cf. Anguttara Nikaya.I.107.


Samyutta Nikaya.I.166, ma jatim pucca carananca puccha kattha have jayeti jatavedo nicakulino pi muni dhitima.


Majjhima Nikaya.III.205.


Ibid., I.113, 131.

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