vaishali

Vaishali was the capital of Vajjian confederacy, reputed to be the first republic in the world, where the leaders were elected from the aristocratic class. The confederacy consisted of eight groups who lived in harmony due to their strong practice of Dhamma and their application of the Buddha’s seven guidelines for preventing decline in the government. The people of Vaishali loved the Buddha and always extended him warm hospitality. The Buddha spent his fifth and last rain retreats here, and he either was found to be meditating or teaching around the city’s shrines, or spent time at Ambapali’s Mango Grove, or in the Great Forest (Mahavana).

LICCHVI STUPA

After the Buddha passed away in Kushinagar, his ashes were divided into eight portions and distributed among eight regional kingdoms (the Licchvis of Vaishali, Ajatsatru of Magadh, Sakya of Kapilvastu, Koliyas of Ramagram, Bulis of Alakapa, a Brahmin of Vethdweep, and Mallas of Pava and Kusinagar), where they were enshrined as eight Mahastupas. The stupa at Vaishali was built by the Licchavis to enshrine of their remains. Some 300 years later, Asoka excavated the stupa and distributed them to all the stupas he had built throughout his empire.  In 1958, the Licchavistupa was opened by Kashi Prasad Jayaswal Research Institute (Patna) who found a small soap stone casket containing burnt bone, a copper coin, a shell, two glass beads and a small gold plate. These treasures were taken to Patna Museum and can still be seen there. All that a pilgrim can see at the LicchviStupa site is its foundation only.

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MAHAVAN KUTHAGARASHALA

Kutagarashala represents the spot where the Buddha used to stay during the rainy season spent at Vaishali. Here the Buddha gave numerous teachings and the site is famous for hosting the legendary scene of the Buddha admitting women into the Sangha. Located in Kolhua village, the site is also popular wherein a local monkey chief had offered a bowl of honey to the Buddha and later also helped the Sangha to dig the water tank – Ramakund - that still exists. The event is cited as one of the most significant events of his life. It is the also the location where the Buddha announced his approaching mahaparinirvana.

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ANANDA RELIC STUPA

The stupa commemorates the Buddha’s cousin and a committed attendant of 25 years standing. The stpa was excavated in the late 1970s, and small sheets of gold and semi precious stones were found along with the stone relic casket containing Ananda’s mortal remains.

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ASOKAN PILLAR

AsokanPillar  stands next to the Ananda Stupa and the local claim that it was erected by King Asoka who got it from Chunargarh through a boat route of a river touching the spot then.

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AMVARA VILLAGE

The village of Amvara, located in the west of Kutagarashala, is believed to be the spot where Ambapali’s Mango Grove, which she gifted to the Buddha, stood once. Ever since she was a child, Ambapali was considered the most beautiful girl in Vaishali. All the Licchvi princes wanted to marry her, and always competed for her attention. Realizing the impossibility of only one of them possessing her, they decided to make her the lady of the Court, (Nagarbadhu). The first time Ambapali encountered the Buddha, she found hime completely serene and composed. Most men who had looked at her either had lust or embarrassment in their eyes.
Seeing how much she suffered inside, the Buddha looked her with a non-judgmental and compassionate eyes. The Buddha said, “Ambapali, beauty arises and passes away like all other transient phenomena. Fame and fortune are no different. Do not lose yourself in the world of senses.” Heraing these words, Ambapali was greatly moved. She requested the Buddha to take her in the fold of Sangha. That was followed by one of the foremost intense debate in the Sangha on gender equality.

Legend has that Mahapajapati, the Buddha aunt and foster mother, very much wanted to join the Sangha and led a contingent of hundred Sakyan princes with similar sentiments, and they all shaved their heads, donned the mendicant’s robe, and walked barefoot from Kapilvastu to Vaishali barefoot where the Buddha was staying. With their feet blistered and swollen, when they arrived at the gates of Kutagarashala, their wills were still unshaken.
At the effective intervention of Ananda, the Buddha consented to ordain women into the Sangha on the condition that they follow certain rules in order to protect them from potential dangers.  Mahapjapati, the Buddha’s wife, and Ambapali joined the Sangha among others. Living the life of bhikkunis, they practiced the Dhamma diligently, and several of them in course of time tasted the fruits of liberation.

At the end of his final rains retreat in Beluvagamaka, a small village outside Vaishali, the Buddha became severely ill. He bore the violent pains with equanimity and awareness, never complaining for a moment. He shared with Ananda his wish to pass away in three months time. Ananda was thunderstruck, but the Buddha counseled him to remain calm and remember the impermanence principle. That day the Buddha announced his imminent passing and gave his last sermons. After the final instructions, the Buddha left Vaishali and crossed through the villages of Bhandagama, Hatthigama, and Jambugama before stopping at Kessaputta (Kesaria).

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