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Revisiting India's Gautama Buddha Era

A collection of Images with Photo descriptions recalling the Buddha times of India

 

 

Rajgir Gijjakuta Hill, Rajgir

Gautama Buddha's earliest Centre for Propagation of Dhamma and the home town of Arhat Sariputta and Moggallana.

 

Rajgir was earlier at Gautama Buddha's time was called as Rajagaha or Rajagruha. It was also called by names of Vasumathie, Kushagrpura and Girivrujja or Giribbaja. Buddhist scriptures mention about Five famous mountains surrounding Rajgir. In Pali, they have been named Vebbara, Pandava, Vepulla, Gijjakuta and Isigili. At present the mountains around Rajgir are being called as Vibhara, Vipula, Rathna, Jatta, Shyla, Udaya and Sona. Rajgir is situated about 100km south east of Patna. Rajgir was one of the sixteen states Maha Bharatha.During the time of the 5th Century BC, Rajgir had become the Capital city of Maghada kingdom. King Bimbisara was the ruler of Maghada and was amongst the four Shakthishali rulers of Uttara Bharatha at that time. The other rulers were King Prasenajith (Pasenadi) of Kosala state, King Udayana of Vathsya state and King Pradeyatha (Pajjota) of Avanthi estate.Gautama Buddhas two great diciples, Sariputta and Moggallana were from Rajgir. Gautama Buddha spent many rainy seasons at Rajgir. This was Lord Buddha's main centre of spreading the Dhamma and King Bimbisara who ruled the state then also became an ardent follower of Gautama Buddha. He offered the royal garden Veluvana to Buddha where a temple was built later for the Buddha and the monks. The royal physician Kaumarabrutya Jeewaka became a follower of Buddha and offered his Mango grove to Lord Buddha.

 

 

King Bimbisara Trail

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Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

 

This Road which is named as King Bimbisara Road, begins at the bottom of the Hill had been about 20 feet wide. King Bimbisara has built this road to visit Gautama Buddha, when the Buddha was residing at Gijjakuta. Two brick stupa can be found on the way to Gijjakuta.

 

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Along the trail to Gijjakuta

 

Stairway to Gijjakuta Hill

 

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Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

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The trail and the surrounding Rocks

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Gijjakuta summit

Gijjakuta where Lord Buddha  stayed

 

 

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Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

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Rajgir

There are two caves found in the rock summit and Gautama Buddha stayed in one of those rock caves during the time he spent at Gijjakuta. Very important Sutta discoursrs had been done here by Lord Buddha at this summit.

 

Jeewaka Mango Grove

Rajgir Rajgir

 

jeewaka Mango Grove and park Maddakucchi near Rajagaha, at the foot of Gijjhakuta

 

King Bimbisara Jail

 

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Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

 

This had been the jail, King Ajasatta imprisoned his father King Bimbisara. The rubble walls have a thickness of about 2 meters and the area is about 60 mts x 60 mts. Cells made up of stone had been found here.From his prison cell, King Bimbisara had been able to have a glimpse of Lord Buddha, staying at Gijjakuta hill.

 

Veluvana Temple

 

Veluvana Temple

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Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

Rajgir Rajgir Rajgir

 

Veluvana Temple was gifted to Gautama Buddha and the Bikku by King Bimbisara. When gautama Buddha was staying at Veluvana temple, Sariputta and Moggallana met Lord Buddha and got ordained.

 

Rajgir Hills

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Rajgir

There are five prominent hills surrounding Rajgir and mentioned in Pali scripture as Webhara, Pandava,Vepulla, Gijjakuta and Isigili.

 

Excerpts on Maddakucchi, Magadha, Rajagaha, Veluvana, and Bimbisara from Dictionary of Pali Proper Names • G.P. Malalasekera

Maddakucchi

A park near Rajagaha, at the foot of Gijjhakuta. It was a nature reserve (migadaya) where deer and game could dwell in safety. When Devadatta, wishing to kill the Buddha, hurled a rock down Gijjhakuta, it was stopped midway by another rock, but a splinter from it fell on the Buddha’s foot, wounding it severely. As the Buddha suffered much from loss of blood, the monks took him on a litter to Maddakucchi, and from there to the Jivaka-ambavana, where he was treated by Jivaka (Vin.ii.193f; DhA.ii.164ff; J.iv.430; Mil.179). It is said (S.i.27f) that seven hundred devas of the Satullapa group visited the Buddha there and told him of their great admiration for his qualities. Mara tried to stir up discontent in the Buddha, but had to retire discomfited (S.i.110; this visit of Mara is referred to at D.ii.116).

According to the Commentaries (e.g., S.A.i.61; cp. J.iii.121f), Maddakucchi was so called because it was there that Bimbisara’s queen, mother of Ajatasattu, tried to bring about an abortion when she was told by soothsayers that the child in her womb was destined to bring about Bimbisara’s death. She went into the park unknown to the king and violently massaged her womb, but without success. The king heard of this and forbade her to visit the park.

Once when Maha Kappina was at Maddakucchi, doubts arose in his mind as to the necessity of joining the assembly of monks for the holding of uposatha, he himself being pure. The Buddha read his thoughts, appeared before him, and urged upon him the necessity of so doing (Vin.i.105).

Maddakucchi was difficult of access for monks, who came from afar late at night, wishing to put Dabba Mallaputta’s powers to the test, would often ask him to provide lodging there for them. Vin.ii.76; iii.159.

 


Magadha

One of the four chief kingdoms of India at the time of the Buddha, the others being Kosala, the kingdom of the Vatsa and Avanti. Magadha formed one of the sixteen great countries (Mahajanapada) and had its capital at Rajagaha or Giribbaja where Bimbisara, and after him Ajatasattu, reigned. Later, Pataliputta became the capital. By the time of Bimbisara, Atga, too, formed a part of Magadha, and he was known as king of Atga Magadha (see, e.g., Vin.i.27 and ThagA.i.544, where Bimbisara sends for Sota Kolivisa, a prominent citizen of Campa, capital of Atga). However, prior to that, these were two separate kingdoms, often at war with each other (e.g., J.iv.454f). Several kings of Magadha are mentioned by name in the Jatakas — e.g., Arindama and Duyyodhana. In one story (J.vi.272) the Magadha kingdom is said to have been under the suzerainty of Atga. In the Buddha’s day, Magadha (inclusive of Atga) consisted of eighty thousand villages (Vin.i.179) and had a circumference of some three hundred leagues (DA.i.148).

Ajatasattu succeeded in annexing Kosala with the help of the Licchavis, and he succeeded also in bringing the confederation of the latter under his sway; preliminaries to this struggle are mentioned in the books (e.g., D.ii.73f., 86).

Under Bimbisara and Ajatasattu, Magadha rose to such political eminence that for several centuries, right down to the time of Asoka, the history of Northern India was practically the history of Magadha. (A list of the kings from Bimbisara to Asoka is found in Dvy.369; cp. DA.i.153; Mbv.96, 98).

At the time of the Buddha, the kingdom of Magadha was bounded on the east by the river Campa (Campa flowed between Atga and Magadha; J.iv.454), on the south by the Vindhya Mountains, on the west by the river Sota, and on the north by the Ganges. The latter river formed the boundary between Magadha and the republican country of the Licchavis, and both the Magadhas and the Licchavis evidently had equal rights over the river. When the Buddha visited Vesali, Bimbisara made a road five leagues long, from Rajagaha to the river, and decorated it, and the Licchavis did the same on the other side. DhA.iii.439 f; the Dvy. (1p.55) says that monks going from Savatthi to Rajagaha could cross the Ganges in boats kept either by Ajatasattu or by the Licchavis of Vesali.

During the early Buddhist period Magadha was an important political and commercial centre, and was visited by people from all parts of Northern India in search of commerce and of learning. The kings of Magadha maintained friendly relations with their neighbours, Bimbisara and Pasenadi marrying each other’s sisters. Mention is made of an alliance between Pukkusati, king of Gandhara and Bimbisara. When Candappajjota of Ujjeni was suffering from jaundice, Bimbisara sent him his own personal physician, Jivaka.

In Magadha was the real birth of Buddhism (see, e.g., the words put in the mouth of Sahampati in Vin.i.5, patur ahosi Magadhesu pubbe dhammo, etc.), and it was from Magadha that it spread after the Third Council. The Buddha’s chief disciples, Sariputta and Moggallana, came from Magadha. In Asoka’s time the income from the four gates of his capital of Pataliputta was four hundred thousand kahapatas daily, and in the Sabha, or Council, he would daily receive another hundred thousand kahapatas (Sp.i.52). The cornfields of Magadha were rich and fertile (Thag.vs.208), and each Magadha field was about one quarter of a league (gavuta) in extent. Thus AA.ii.616 explains the extent of Kakudha’s body, which filled two or three Magadha village fields (A.iii.122).

The names of several places in Magadha occur in the books — e.g., Ekanala, NaIakagama, Senanigama, Khatumata, Andhakavindha, Macala, Matula, Ambalatthika, Pataligama, Natanda, and SaIindiya.

Buddhaghosa says (SNA.i.135 f ) that there are many fanciful explanations (bahudha papañcanti) of the word Magadha. One such is that king Cetiya, when about to be swallowed up by the earth for having introduced lying into the world, was thus admonished by those standing round — “Ma gadhat pavisa;” another that those who were digging in the earth saw the king, and that he said to them: “Ma gadhat karotha.” The real explanation, accepted by Buddhaghosa himself, seems to have been that the country was the residence of a clan of warriors (khattiya) called Magadha.

The Magadhabhasa is regarded as the speech of the Noble Ones (e.g., Sp.i.255). If children grow up without being taught any language, they will spontaneously use the Magadha language; it is spread all over Niraya, among lower animals, petas, humans, and devas (VibhA.387f).

The people of Atga and Magadha were in the habit of holding a great annual sacrifice to Maha Brahma in which a fire was kindled with sixty cartloads of firewood. They held the view that anything cast into the sacrificial fire would bring a thousand fold reward. SA.i.269; but it is curious that in Vedic, Brahmana and Sutra periods, Magadha was considered as outside the pale of Ariyan and Brahmanical culture, and was therefore looked down upon by Brahmanical writers. However, it was the holy land of the Buddhists. See VT.ii.207; Thomas: op. cit., 13, 96.

Magadha was famous for a special kind of garlic (Sp.iv.920) and the Magadha nala was a standard of measure. (e.g., AA.i.101).

Magadha is identified with the modern South Behar. See also Magadhakhetta.


Rajagaha

A city, the capital of Magadha. There seem to have been two distinct towns; the older one, a hill fortress, more properly called Giribbaja, was very ancient and is said¹ to have been laid out by Mahagovinda, a skilled architect. The later town, at the foot of the hills, was evidently built by Bimbisara.²

However, both names were used indiscriminately,³ though Giribbaja seems, as a name, to have been restricted to verse passages. The place was called Giribbaja (mountain stronghold) because it was surrounded by five hills4 — Pattava, Gijjhakuta, Vebhara, Isigili, and Vepulla — and Rajagaha, because it was the seat of many kings, such as Mandhata and Mahagovinda.5 It would appear, from the names given of the kings, that the city was a very ancient royal capital.6 The Commentaries7 explain that the city was inhabited only in the time of Buddhas and Cakkavattis; at other times it was the abode of yakkhas who used it as a pleasure resort in spring. The country to the north of the hills was known as Dakkhitagiri.8

Rajagaha was closely associated with the Buddha’s work. He visited it soon after the Renunciation, journeying there on foot from the River Anoma, a distance of thirty leagues.t Bimbisara saw him begging in the street, and, having discovered his identity and the purpose of his quest, obtained from him a promise of a visit to Rajagaha as soon as his aim should be achieved.¹° During the first year after the Enlightenment therefore, the Buddha went to Rajagaha from Gaya, after the conversion of the Tebhatika Jatilas. Bimbisara and his subjects gave the Buddha a great welcome, and the king entertained him and a large following of monks in the palace. It is said that on the day of the Buddha’s entry into the royal quarters, Sakka led the procession, in the guise of a young man, singing songs of praise of the Buddha. It was during this visit that Bimbisara gifted Veluvana to the Order and that the Buddha received Sariputta and Moggallana as his disciples.¹¹ Large numbers of householders joined the Order, and people blamed the Buddha for breaking up their families. However, their censure lasted for only seven days. Among those ordained were the Sattarasavaggiya with Upali at their head.

The Buddha spent his first Rains Retreat (vassa) in Rajagaha and remained there during the winter and the following summer. The people grew tired of seeing the monks everywhere, and, on coming to know of their displeasure, the Buddha went first to Dakkhitagiri and then to Kapilavatthu.¹²

According to the Buddhavatsa Commentary (p.13), the Buddha spent also in Rajagaha the third, fourth, seventeenth and twentieth vassa. After the twentieth year of his teaching, he made Savatthi his headquarters, though he seems frequently to have visited and stayed at Rajagaha. It thus became the scene of several important suttas, e.g., the Atanatiya, Udumbarika and Kassapasihanada, Jivaka, Mahasakutadayi, and the Sakkapañha Sutta.¹³ Many of the Vinaya rules were enacted at Rajagaha. Just before his death, the Buddha paid a last visit there. At that time, Ajatasattu was contemplating an attack on the Vajjians, and sent his minister, Vassakara, to the Buddha at Gijjhakuta, to find out what his chances of success were.¹4

After the Buddha’s death, Rajagaha was chosen by the monks, with Maha Kassapa at their head, as the meeting place of the First Convocation. This took place at the Sattapattiguha, and Ajatasattu extended to the undertaking his whole-hearted patronage.¹5 The king also erected at Rajagaha a cairn over the relics of the Buddha, which he had obtained as his share.¹6 According to the Mahavatsa,¹7 some time later, acting on the suggestion of Maha Kassapa, the king gathered at Rajagaha seven donas of the Buddha’s relics which had been deposited in various places — excepting those deposited at Ramagama — and built over them a large thupa. It was from there that Asoka obtained relics for his viharas.

Rajagaha was one of the six chief cities of the Buddha’s time, and as such, various important trade routes passed through it. The others cities were Campa, Savatthi, Saketa, Kosambi and Benares.¹8 The road from Takkasila to Rajagaha was one hundred and ninety-two leagues long and passed through Savatthi, which was forty-five leagues from Rajagaha. This road passed by the gates of Jetavana.¹t The Parayana Vagga²° mentions a long and circuitous route, taken by Bavari’s disciples in going from Patitthana to Rajagaha, passing through Mahissati, Ujjeni, Gotaddha, Vedisa. Vanasavhaya, Kosambi,Saketa, Savatthi, Setavya, Kapilavatthu, Kusinara, on to Rajagaha, by way of the usual places (see below).

From Kapilavatthu to Rajagaha was sixty leagues.²¹ From Rajagaha to Kusinara was a distance of twenty-five leagues,²² and the Maha Parinibbana Sutta gives a list of the places²³ at which the Buddha stopped during his last journey along that road — Ambalatthika, Nalanda, Pataligama (where he crossed the Ganges), Kotigama, Nadika (tt), Vesali, Bhandagama, Hatthigama, Ambagama, Jambugama, Bhoganagara, Pava, and the Kakuttha River, beyond which lay the Mango grove and the Sala grove of the Mallas.

From Rajagaha to the Ganges was a distance of five leagues, and when the Buddha visited Vesali at the invitation of the Licchavis, the kings on either side of the river vied with each other to show him honour.²4 The distance between Rajagaha and Natanda is given as one league, and the Buddha often walked between the two.²5

The books mention various places besides Veluvana, with its Kalandaka-nivapa vihara in and around Rajagaha — e.g., Sitavana, Jivaka’s Ambavana, Pipphaliguha, Udumbarikarama, Moranivapa with its Paribbajakarama, Tapodarama, Indasalaguha in Vediyagiri, Sattapattiguha, Latthivana, Maddakucchi, Supatittha cetiya, Pasatakacetiya, Sappasottikapabbhara and the pond Sumagadha.

At the time of the Buddha’s death, there were eighteen large monasteries in Rajagaha.²6 Close to the city flowed the rivers Tapoda and Sappini. In the city was a Potter’s Hall where travellers from far distances spent the night. e.g., Pukkusati;²7 it had also a Town Hall.²8 The city gates were closed every evening, and after that it was impossible to enter the city.²t

In the Buddha’s time there was constant fear of invasion by the Licchavis, and Vassakara (q.v.) is mentioned as having strengthened its fortifications. To the north east of the city were the brahmin villages of Ambasatta³° and Salindiya;³¹ other villages are mentioned in the neighbourhood, such as Kitagiri, Upatissagama, Kolitagama, Andhakavinda, Sakkhara and Codanavatthu (q.v.) In the Buddha’s time, Rajagaha had a population of eighteen crores, nine in the city and nine outside, and the sanitary conditions were not of the best.³² The Treasurer of Rajagaha and Anathapittika had married each other’s sisters, and it was while Anathapittika (q.v.) was on a visit to Rajagaha that he first met the Buddha.

The people of Rajagaha, like those of most ancient cities, held regular festivals; one of the best known of these was the Giraggasamajja (q.v.) Mention is also made of troupes of players visiting the city and giving their entertainment for a week on end.³³

Soon after the death of the Buddha, Rajagaha declined both in importance and prosperity. Susunaga transferred the capital to Vesali, and Kalasoka removed it again to Pataliputta, which, even in the Buddha’s time, was regarded as a place of strategically importance. When Hiouen Thsang visited Rajagaha, he found it occupied by brahmins and in a very dilapidated condition.³4 For a long time, however, it seems to have continued as a centre of Buddhist activity, and among those mentioned as having been present at the foundation of the Maha Thupa were eighty thousand monks led by Indagutta.³5

 

Veluvana

1. Veluvana.– A park near Rajagaha, the pleasure garden of Bimbisara. When the Buddha first visited Rajagaha, after his Enlightenment, he stayed at the Latthivanuyyana.¹ The day after his arrival, he accepted the king’s invitation to a meal at the palace, at the end of which the king, seeking a place for the Buddha to live — “not too far from the town, not too near, suitable for coming and going, easily accessible to all people, by day not too crowded, by night not exposed to noise and clamour, clean of the smell of people, hidden from men and well fitted to seclusion“ — decided on Veluvana, and bestowed it on the Buddha and the fraternity. This was the first monastery (arama) accepted by the Buddha, and a rule was passed allowing monks to accept such an arama.² This was the only arama in Jambudipa, the dedication of which was accompanied by a tremor of the earth. It was the dedication of Veluvana that was quoted as precedent by Mahinda, when he decided to accept the Mahameghavana, at Anuradhapura, from Devanampiyatissa.³

The Buddha at once went to stay there, and it was during this stay that Sariputta and Moggallana joined the Order.4

Kalandakanivapa (q.v.) is the place nearly always mentioned as the spot where the Buddha stayed in Veluvana. There many Vinaya rules were passed — e.g., on the keeping of the Rains Retreat (vassa),5 the use of food cooked in the monastery,6 the picking-up of edible fruit in the absence of any layman to make it allowable,7 surgical operations on monks,8 the eating of sugar,t the rubbing of various parts of the body against wood,¹° the use of the kinds of dwelling,¹¹ and the use of gold and silver.¹²

During the Buddha’s stay at Veluvana, Dabba Mallaputta, at his own request, was appointed regulator of lodgings and apportioner of rations,¹³ and Sariputta and Moggallana brought back the five hundred monks whom Devadatta had enticed away to Gayasisa.¹4 The Buddha spent the second, third and fourth Rains Retreats (vassa) at Veluvana.¹5 It was a very peaceful place, and monks, who had taken part in the first Convocation, rested there, in Kalandakanivapa, after their exertions. It was there that they met Purata, who refused to acknowledge the authenticity of their Recital.¹6

Numerous Jatakas were taught at Veluvana — e.g., Asampadana, Upahana, Ubhatobhattha, Kandagalaka, Kalabahu, Kukkuta, Kumbhila, Kurutgamiga, Giridanta, Guttila, Cutadhammapala, Cutahatsa, Cutanandiya, Jambuka, Tayodhamma, Thusa, Dummedha, Dubhiyamakkata, Dhammaddhaja, Nigrodha, Parantapa, Pucimatta, Matgala, Manicora, Manoja, Mahakapi, Mahahatsa, Musika, Romaka, Rohantamiga, Rurumigaraja, Lakkhata, Latukika, Vanara, Vanarinda, Vinilaka, Virocana, Saccatkira, Sañjiva, Sabbadatha, Sarabhatga, Saliya, Sitgala, Silavanaga, Suvattakakkata, Hatsa, and Haritamata. Most of these refer to Devadatta, some to Ajatasattu, and some to Ananda’s attempt to sacrifice his life for the Buddha.

The books mention, in addition, various suttas that were taught there. Among those who visited the Buddha at Veluvana were several devaputtas: Dighalattha, Nandana, Candana, Sudatta, Subrahma, Asama, Sahali, Nitka, Akotaka, Vetambari and Manavagamiya; also the Dhanañjati brahmin; the Bharadvajas: Akkosaka, Asurinda, Bilatgika, Aggika, Acela Kassapa, Susima; the thirty monks from Pava;¹7 Theras, like Mahakappina, Aññakottañña (just before his death); Sotagahapatiputta, Samiddhi, Moliya Sivaka, Talaputa, Maticutaka, Mahacunda (during his illness),¹8 Visakha,¹t Abhayarajakumara, Goliyani, Vacchagotta, Bhumija, Samiddhi, Aciravata, Sabhiya, Vassakara, Suppabuddha, Pilittavaccha, Janussoti, and the princess Cundi; also Bimbisara’s wife, Khema, who went to Veluvana because she had heard so much of its beauty. Sariputta²° and Ananda visited the Buddha there on several occasions, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of others, and Ananda lived there for some time after the Buddha’s death, and during his stay there taught the Gopakamoggallana Sutta.²¹

It is said that Mara visited Veluvana several times²² in order to work his will on the Buddha. The Buddha was there when three of the monks committed suicide — Vakkali, Godhika, and Channa — and he had to pronounce them free from blame. News was brought to the Buddha, at Veluvana, of the illness of three of his disciples — Assaji, Moggallana, and Dighavu — and he set out to visit them and comfort them with talks on the doctrine. Near Veluvana was a wanderer’s park (paribbajakarama), where the Buddha sometimes went with some of his disciples in the course of his almsrounds. Two of his discussions there are recorded in the Cuta° and Maha Sakutadayi Suttas.

During the Buddha’s lifetime, two thupas were erected at the gate of Veluvana, one containing the relics of Añña Kottañña,²³ and the other those of Moggallana.²4

Veluvana was so called because it was surrounded by bamboos (vetu). It was surrounded by a wall, eighteen cubits high, holding a gateway and towers.²5

After the Buddha’s death, Dasaka, Upali’s pupil, lived at Veluvana, and there ordained Sonaka with fifty-five companions. From there Sonaka went to the Kukkutarama.²6

The dedication of Veluvana was among the scenes depicted in the Relic Chamber of the Maha Thupa.²7

On one side of the main building of the Veluvana vihara was a building called Ambalatthika.²8 There was also a dwelling-place (senasana), built for the use of monks practising austerities.²t

It is said that, after death, Vassakara was born as a monkey in Veluvana and answered to his name. He had been told during his lifetime that this destiny awaited him, and therefore took the precaution of seeing that the place was well supplied with fruit trees.³°

According to Hiouen Thsang,³¹ the Kalandaka nivapa (Karandavenuvana, as he calls it) lay one li to the north of Rajagaha.
2. Veluvana.– A bamboo grove in Kajatgala, where the Buddha once stayed. The disciples of Kajatgala, having questioned the Kajatgala-Bhikkhuti, went to the Buddha there and asked him to verify her answers.³²3. Veluvana.– A bamboo grove in Kimbila, where the Buddha stayed and was visited by Kimbila.³³4. Veluvana.– A monastery in Sri Lanka, built by Aggabodhi II. It was given by him to the Sagalikas.³4 It probably lay between Anuradhapura and Manihira, and Satghatissa once lay in hiding there disguised as a monk.³5 Jetthatissa III gave to the vihara the village of Kakkalavitthi.³65. Veluvana.– A monastery erected by Parakkamabahu I in the suburb of Vijita in Pulatthipura. It consisted of three image houses, each three storeys high, a thupa, a cloister, a two storeyed pasada, four gateways, four long pasadas, eight small ones, one refectory, one discourse hall, seven fire-hoses and twelve privies.³7

Bimbisara

King of Magadha and patron of the Buddha. He ascended the throne at the age of fifteen and reigned in Rajagaha for fifty-two years. The Buddha was five years older than Bimbisara, and it was not until fifteen years after his accession that Bimbisara heard the Buddha teach and was converted by him. It is said¹ that the two were friends in their youth owing to the friendship which existed between their fathers.²

However, according to the Pabbaja Sutta³ the first meeting between the Buddha and Bimbisara took place in Rajagaha under the Pandavapabbata, only after the Buddha’s Renunciation. The king, seeing the young ascetic pass below the palace windows, sent messengers after him. On learning, that he was resting after his meal, Bimbisara followed him and offered him a place in his court. This the Buddha refused, revealing his identity. The Commentary adds4 that Bimbisara wished him success in his quest and asked him to visit first Rajagaha as soon as he had attained Enlightenment. It was in fulfilment of this promise that the Buddha visited Rajagaha immediately after his conversion of the Tebhatika Jatila. He stayed at the Supatittha cetiya in Latthivanuyyana, to where Bimbisara, accompanied by twelve myriads (nahuta) of householders, went to pay to him his respects. The Buddha taught them, and eleven myriads, with Bimbisara at their head, became Stream-winners. On the following day the Buddha and hiss large retinue of monks accepted the hospitality of Bimbisara. Sakka, in the guise of a young man, preceded them to the palace, singing songs of glory of the Buddha. At the conclusion of the meal, Bimbisara poured water from a golden jar on the Buddha’s hand and dedicated Veluvana for the use of him and of his monks.5 From this moment up until the time of his death, a period of thirty-seven years, Bimbisara did all in his power to help on the new religion and to further its growth. He set an example to his subjects in the practice of the precepts by taking the uposatha vows on six days, of each month.6

Bimbisara’s chief queen was Kosaladevi (q.v.), daughter of Mahakosala and sister of Pasenadi. On the day of her marriage she received, as part of her dowry, a village in Kasi, for her bath money. Her son was Ajatasattu (q.v.)7 Bimbisara had other wives as well; Khema, who, at first, would not even visit the Buddha until enticed by Bimbisara’s descriptions of the beauties of Veluvana; and the courtesan Padumavati, who was brought from Ujjeni, with the help of a yakkha, so that Rajagaha might not lack a courtesan (nagarasobhiti). Both of these later became nuns. Padumavati’s son was Abhaya. Bimbisara had another son by Ambapali, known as Vimala Kottañña, and two others, by different wives, known as Silava and Jayasena. A daughter, Cundi, is also mentioned.8

Bimbisara’s death, according to the Commentaries, was a sad one.t Soothsayers had predicted, before the birth of Ajatasattu, that he would bring about the death of his father, for which reason his mother had wished to bring about an abortion. However, Bimbisara would not hear of this, and when the boy was born, treated him with the greatest affection.¹° When the prince came of age, Devadatta, by an exhibition of his psychic-power, won him over to his side and persuaded him to encompass the death of his father, Bimbisara’s patronage of the Buddha being the greatest obstacle in the path of Devadatta. The plot was discovered, and Bimbisara’s ministers advised him to kill Ajatasattu, Devadatta and their associates. However, Bimbisara sent for Ajatasattu and, on hearing that he desired power, abdicated in his favour. Devadatta chided Ajatasattu for a fool. “You are like a man who puts a skin over a drum in which is a rat,” and he urged on Ajatasattu the need for the destruction of Bimbisara.

However, no weapon could injure Bimbisara,¹¹ it was therefore decided that he should be starved to death, and with this end in view he was imprisoned in a hot-house (tapanageha) with orders that none but the mother of Ajatasattu should visit him. On her visits she took with her a golden vessel filled with food which she concealed in her clothes. When this was discovered she took food in her head-dress (moli), and, later, she was obliged to take what food she could conceal in her footgear. However, all of these ways were discovered, and then the queen visited Bimbisara after having bathed in scented water and smeared her body with the four kinds of sweets (catumadhura). The king licked her person and that was his only sustenance. In the end the visits of the queen were forbidden; but the king continued to live by walking about his cell meditating. Ajatasattu, hearing of this, sent barbers to cut open his feet, fill the wounds with salt and vinegar, and burn them with coals. It is said that when the barbers appeared Bimbisara thought his son had relented and had sent them to shave him and cut his hair. However, on learning their real purpose, he showed not the least resentment and let them do their work, much against their will. (In a previous birth he had walked about in the courtyard of a cetiya with shoes on, hence this punishment!) Soon after, Bimbisara died, and was reborn in the Catummaharajika world as a yakkha named Janavasabha, in the retinue of Vessavana. The Janavasabha Sutta records an account of a visit paid by Janavasabha to the Buddha some time after.

A son was born to Ajatasattu on the day of Bimbisara’s death. The joy be experienced at the birth of his son made him realise something of the affection his own father must have felt for him, and he questioned his mother. She told him stories of his childhood, and he repented, rather belatedly, of his folly and cruelty. Soon after, his mother died of grief, and her death gave rise to the protracted war between Ajatasattu and Pasenadi, as mentioned elsewhere.¹²

The books contain no mention of any special discourses taught by the Buddha to Bimbisara nor of any questions asked by him of the Buddha.¹³ Perhaps, like Anathapittika, his equal in devotion to the Buddha, he refrained from giving the Buddha extra trouble, or perhaps the affairs of his kingdom, which was three hundred leagues in extent,¹4 did not permit him enough leisure for frequent visits to the Buddha.

It is said that he once visited four monks — Godhika, Subahu, Valliya, and Uttiya — and invited them to spend the rainy season at Rajagaha. He built for them four huts, but forgot to have them roofed, with the result that the gods withheld the rains until the king remembered the omission.¹5

Bimbisara’s affection for the Buddha was unbounded. When the Licchavis sent Mahali, who was a member of Bimbisara’s retinue, to beg the Buddha to visit Vesali, Bimbisara did not himself try to persuade the Buddha to do so, but when the Buddha agreed to go he repaired the whole road from Rajagaha to the Ganges — a distance of five leagues — for the Buddha to walk upon; he erected a rest house at the end of each league, and spread flowers of five different colours knee deep along the whole way. Two parasols were provided for the Buddha and one for each monk. The king himself accompanied the Buddha in order to look after him, offering him flowers and perfume and all requisites throughout the journey, which lasted five days. Arrived at the river, he fastened two boats together decked with flowers and jewels and followed the Buddha’s boat into the water up to his neck. When the Buddha had gone, the king set up an encampment on the river bank, awaiting his return; he then escorted him back to Rajagaha with similar pomp and ceremony.¹6

Great cordiality existed between Bimbisara and Pasenadi. They were connected by marriage, each having married a sister of the other. Pasenadi once visited Bimbisara in order to obtain from him a person of unbounded wealth (amitabhoga) for his kingdom. Bimbisara had five such — Jotiya, Jatila, Mettaka, Puttaka, and Kakavaliya; but Pasenadi had none. The request was granted, and Mettaka’s son, Dhanañjaya, was sent back to Kosala with Pasenadi.¹7

Bimbisara also maintained friendly relations with other kings, such as Pukkasati, king of Takkasila, Cattappajjota, king of Ujjeni, to whom he sent his own physician Jivaka to tend in his illness — and Rudrayana of Roruka.¹8

Among the ministers and personal retinue of Bimbisara are mentioned Sona-Kolvisa, the flower gatherer Sumana who supplied the king with eight measures of jasmine flowers, the minister Koliya, the treasurer Kumbbaghosaka and his physician Jivaka. The last named was discovered for him by the prince Abhaya when he was suffering from a fistula. The king’s garments were stained with blood and his queens mocked him. Jivaka cured the king with one single anointing; the king offered him the ornaments of the five hundred women of the palace, and when he refused to take these, he was appointed physician to the king, the women of the seraglio and the fraternity of monks under the Buddha.¹t

When Dhammadinna wished to leave the world, Bimbisara gave her, at her husband’s request, a golden palanquin and allowed her to go round the city in procession.²°

Bimbisara is generally referred to as Seniya Bimbisara. The Commentaries explain Seniya as meaning “possessed of a large following” or as “belonging to the Seniyagotta,” and Bimbisara as meaning “of a golden colour,” bimbi meaning gold.²¹

In the time of Phussa Buddha, when the Buddha’s three step-brothers, sons of King Jayasena, obtained their father’s leave to entertain the Buddha for three months, Bimbisara, then head of a certain district, looked after all the arrangements. His associates in this task were born as hungry ghosts (petas), and he gave alms to the Buddha in their name in order to relieve their sufferings.²²

During his lifetime, Bimbisara was considered the happiest of men, but the Buddha declared²³ that he himself was far happier than the king.

The kahapana in use in Rajagaha during Bimbisara’s time was the standard of money adopted by the Buddha in the formation of those rules into which the matter of money entered.²4

Bimbisara had a white banner and one of his epithets was Pattaraketu.²5 Nothing is said about his future destiny, but he is represented in the Janavasabha Sutta as expressing the wish to become a Once-returner (sakadagami), and this wish may have been fulfilled.²6

 

 

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Rajgir - Rajagaha

 

Landscape around King Bimbisara trail

King Bimbisara trail

Caves at Gijjakuta Hill

Gijjakuta Pabbata

Jeewaka Mango Grove

Bimbisara Jail

Veluvana Grove

Rajgir Hills

Excerpt from Dictionary of Pali Proper Names • G.P. Malalasekera

 

 

 


Buddhist Pilgrimages

Bodh Gaya - Buddhagaya

Varanasi - Benares

Kushinagar - Kusinara

Rajgir - Rajagaha

 

 




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