Settlement in Early Historic Ganga Plain

by Chirantani Das | 143,447 words

This page relates “Jaina sources” as it appears in the case study regarding the settlements in the Early Historic Ganga Plain made by Chirantani Das. The study examines this process in relation to Rajagriha and Varanasi (important nodal centres of the respective Mahajanapadas named Magadha and Kashi).

Part 8 - Rājagṛha supreme seat (c): Jaina sources

The Jaina sources (Hemchandra’s Bhagavati sutra and Nirayavali sutra) inform us that Anga was a vassal state of Magadha and governed as a separate province under a Magadhan prince as Campā as the capital. In fact Bimbisāra’s son and successor Ajātaśatru started his career as the governor or viceroy of Aṅga, though the Jaina sources consistently represent him as the king of Aṅga. It is doubtful that among the queens of Bimbisāra who was the mother of Ajātaśatru. While tha Jatakan evidence presented the Kośalan princess as the mother of Ajātaśatru,[1] H. C. Raychaudhuri draws our attention to Jaina sources which calls Chellana daughter of Chetaka of Vaishali as the mother of Ajātaśatru. The Nikāyas call him Vedehiputta. It actually confirms his connection to Vaiśālī because the city was situated in Videha. From these opposing views it becomes really difficult to say decisively about Ajātaśatru’s mother. But the fact remains that Ajātaśatru had political rivalries with both kingdoms.

While still a viceroy of Aṅga Ajātaśatru had a problem with with the republics of Vriji-Licchavis over the possession of a minearal mine on the boundaries of two kingdoms.[2] Eventually after coming to power he decided to avenge them. From the Jaina sources we get to know how on trivial issues Ajātaśatru picked up a fight with these ganarajyas. Bimbisāra gifted a grand elephant and a bejweled necklace to his one son Vehalla. After his accession to the throne at the instigation of his wife Ajātaśatru demanded both gifts back. Vehhalla refused to comply and escaped to the kingdom of Vaiśālī. On this pretext Ajātaśatru launched a campaign on Vaiśālī. According to the Buddhist source Sumangalavilasini (Buddhaghosha’s commentary) the fight began over the possession of a mine of precious gems.[3]

Mahaparinibbanasutta of the Digha Nikaya described vividly Ajātaśatru’s preparation for this war. He sent his Brahmin minister Vassakara to consult the Buddha about what are his chances of victory. The Buddha pointed to their democratic practice of conducting regular assemblies. They live in amity and harmony which was their greatest strength. The Buddha said so long they would stick to their democratic principles it would be impossible to defeat them. But the Buddha added that they can be won by means of propaganda and setting them against each other. That implies sowing the seeds of dissension.[4] As a preparation for the struggle the Magadhan ministers Sunidha and Vassakara started to fortify Pataligama as a defence base against the enemies. People started to shift there and middle and low ranking officials also took abode there. That created the background of the rise of Pataliputra as the imperial seat of Magadha.[5]

Jātakas also inform a lot about Ajātaśatru’s rivalry with Magadha’s chief monarchical opponent Kośala. King Maha Kośala of Koshala gave his daughter the village of Kāśī as her bath money at the time of her marriage with Bimbisara. When Ajātaśatru killed His father the Kośalan queen died of grief. But Ajātaśatru continued to enjoy the revenue of this village. By that time Pasenadi became the king and he was not ready to let Ajātaśatru enjoy the revenue any more. Ajātaśatru also was not ready to leave his inheritance right. Then the fight between two states began.[6] Vaddhaki Sukara Jataka also states the same reason for the beginning of fight between the states but gives a good description of the struggle between uncle and nephew. Initially the aged Pasenadi was repeatedly beaten by his nephew. So he consulted the Buddhist monks at Jetavana monastery. With their counsel posted garrisons in the two hill forts and pretended as weak. Then they surrounded and captured Ajātaśatru and took his Daughter Vajira prisoner and married her to Pasenadi’s sister’s son and dismissed her with the same Kāśī village which was the reason for all these fights.[7]

The Bhadda śāla Jātaka describes how problems of internal politics of Kośala begot Ajātaśatru an opportunity to interfere into it. The Kośalan king wanted to be connected with the Śākya tribe out of reverence for the Buddha. Now the śākyas cheated them by marrying a beautiful Śākya girl named Vasabhakhattiya, born of a slave mother. That girl later gave birth to Vidudabha. On one occasion when Pasenadi–the Kośalan king was absent of the realm and meanwhile his new commander-in–chief Digha Charayana made Vidudabha the king of Kośala. Returning to his kingdom, the king learnt about the situation. He immediately proceeded for Rājagṛha to enlist help from Ajātaśatru who happened to be his nephew. Reaching Rājagṛha he found the city gates closed. He died there out of fatigue. But Ajātaśatru took the cause and picked up a fight with Kośala.[8]

Though the literary evidences are not clear and any decisive view can’t be formed on this basis yet it appears that Magadhan imperial ambition led to rivalry with contemporary important kingdoms and republics. While Bimbisāra maintained a friendly relation with both the states since Bimbisāra required their friendly neutrality for his eastward aggression to Aṅga. Ajātaśatru’s time was different from that of Bimbisāra. He did not need their support rather these states became the targets of his imperial expansion. Therefore Magadhan imperialism took a much more militant form under Ajātaśatru and he instead of cautious and slow moves went for the policy of direct aggrandizement.

We know from Jaina Niryavali sutra that when Ajātaśatru prepared to attack Chetaka of Vaishali the latter appealed to eighteen republics, Kashi, Koshala, Lichchhavis,Mallakis to put up a strong resistance against Ajatashatru’s expansionist policy, for the sake of their existence. Eventually Ajātaśatru had to face this united force. Good relations existed between Koshala and Vaishali as mentioned in the Majjhima-Nikaya.[9] Therefore it is not impossible that a combined resistance was offered to Magadha. H. C. Raychaudhuri does not view this alliance as an isolated event but it was a common movement against Magadhan hegemony. The sruggle lasted for sixteen years and ultimately it ended in Magadha’s favour. With advanced war techniques and new weapons like Mahaśila kaṅtaga and Rathamuṣala, Ajātaśatru defeated the Vajjians.[10]

This defeat of the Vajjians marked the final triumph of monarchy over republics. The victory over Kāśī-Kośala gained Magadha an unquestionable authority over north Indian politics. The way to Magadhan supremacy was now clear.

Rājagṛha as the imperial seat under Bimbisāra and Ajātaśatru Rājagṛha was describe d a happy and prosperous town in the Jātakas. During the harvest time the fields are full with crops.[11] During festivities the city was decorated like the city of gods. On the Kartika festival the city was illuminated in the night and everybody participated in the festival.[12]

After Ajātaśatru’s death his son Udayi succeeded him. The village of Pāṭaligāma which Ajātaśatru started to build up as a defence against the Vajjians now made into a town named Pāṭaliputra alternatively known as Kusumapura and Udayi shifted his capital there. Probably the city was deserted because of outbreak of fire or some kind of epidemic.[13] In Hiuen Tsang’s account also we have similar description. He speaks of frequent outbreaks of fire or some kind of attack from the king of Vaiśālī which led the inhabitants to move somewhere else.[14] Nevertheless, the fact remains that once the capital was shifted to Pāṭaliputra the old Magadhan capital Rājagṛha lost its royal position which the town could never regain.We may turn our attention to other facets of Rājagṛha that not only formed its identity, but also provided the settlement logic of a nodal point with enlarged roles on regional and supra regional scale.

Footnotes and references:


E. B. Cowell ed. &translated from Pali by H.T Francis and R.A Neil, The Jātaka or Stories of The Buddha’s Former Births, vol.III, New Delhi, Cosmo Publications, 1979, no.338, Thusa Jātaka, no. 373, Muṣika Jātaka,pp.80, 142.


B.C. Law op.cit. 1946,p.11.


Sumangala Vilasini, Burmese edition, part II,99, cited by H.C.Raychaudhuri op.cit. p.106.


Maurice Walshe, The Long Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya,1995, Mahaparinibbana Sutta, pp.231-32.


Ibid, Mahaparinibbanasutta, 1.26, p.237.


E.B.Cowell ed & translated from Pali by W. H. D. Rouse, The Jātaka or Stories of The Buddha’s Former Births, vol. ll, Delhi, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1990, no. 239, Harita Mata Jataka, p.164.


Ibid,no. 283 Vaddhaki-Sukara Jataka, p.275.


E.B. Cowell, ed., &translated from Pali by W.H.D. Rouse, The Jātaka or Stories of The Buddha’s Former Births, vol. IV, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 1901, no. 465 Bhadda Shala Jataka,p.96


H.C. Raychaudhuri op.cit.1923, p.107.


B.C. Law op.cit.1946, p.11.


E.B. Cowell, ed., &translated from Pali by Robert Chalmers,The Jātaka or Stories of The Buddha’s Former Births, vol. I, Delhi, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1990, no.11, Lakkhana Jataka, p.35.


Ibid, no. 12, Nigrodhamiga Jataka, p.37.


A. Sen op.cit. p.49.


Thomas Watters, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, Vol. II, edited after his death by T.W. Rhys Davids and S. W. Bushell, Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1905, p.162.

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