Vaishali today is a small village surrounded by banana and mango groves as well as rice fields. But excavations in the area have brought to light an impressive historical past. The epic Ramayana tells the story of the heroic King Vishal who ruled here. Historians maintain that one of the world’s first democratic republics with an elected assembly of representatives flourished here in the 6th century B.C. in the time of the Vajjis and the Lichchavis. While Pataliputra, capital of the Mauryas and the Guptas, held political sway over the Gangetic plain. Vaishali was a centre for trade and industry.
Lord Buddha visited Vaishali frequently and at Kolhua, close by, preached his last sermon. To commemorate the event, Emperor Ashoka, in the third century B.C. erected one of his famous lion pillars here. A hundred years after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha – Vaishali hosted the second great Buddhist council. Two stupas were erected to commemorate this event. Jainism, too, has its origins in Vaishali, for in 527 B.C., Lord Mahavir was born on the outskirts of the city, and lived in Vaishali till he was 22. Vaishali is then twice blessed and remains an important pilgrim center for both Buddhists and Jains, attracting also historians foraging for the past.
On the outskirts of Vaishali stood the grand double storied Buddhist monastery. Kutagarasala Vihara is the monastery where Buddha most frequently stayed while visiting Vaiśālī. It is located 3 kilometres from the relic Stupa, and on its ground can be found the Ānanda Stupa, with an Asokan pillar in very good condition (perhaps the only complete Asokan pillar left standing), and an ancient pond.
He extended spiritual enfranchisement to women by admitting them to the Holy Order which was founded here. Legend has it that on one of his visits, several monkeys dug up a tank for his comfortable stay and offered him a bowl of honey. This is regarded as one of the great incidents in the legends of Buddha, who announced his approaching Nirvana and preached his last sermon here.
The Lichchhavis came a long way to bid him farewell on his way to Kushinagara and finally, they were stopped by a river created by Buddha. He once again paused to have a last of his much loved city. As a piety for Vaishali, he had already given his alms bowl which remained here for long time. A life size-pillar beside a brick stupa at Kolhua commemorates Buddha’s last sermon and announcement of his approaching nirvana. the pillar is an extensively polished single piece of red sandstone, with a bell shaped capital and 18.30 meters in height. The top of the pillar comprise of a life size lion figure. The small tank beside the pillar is called the Ramkund.The lion faces north, the direction Buddha took on his last voyage. Adjacent to this is the tank associated with the monkeys offering honey. Nearby are the skeletal remains of a monastery where Buddha resided and a votive stupas dot the region. It was here that the Buddha announced the approaching of his Mahaparinirvana. During one of his visits here, the Buddha was offered a bowl of honey by a monkey.
Vaishali museum houses some of the archaeological remains discovered here. Facing the museum is the Abhishek Pushkarni which was holy to Lichchhavis. On one side of the lake is newly built Vishwa Shanti Stupa, a sixth in the series to be erected in India. Close to the museum is the shaded stupa which is supposed to have housed the casket relic with the ashes of Buddha.
Archaeologists have uncovered a good deal of Vaishali. It begins with a huge mound which is associated with the ancient Parliament referred to Raja Vaihala Ka Garh. Bawan Pokhar temple houses a rich collection of black basalt images dating back to the Gupta and Pala period. Another black basalt, four headed Shivling (Choumukhi Mahadeva) was discovered when a reservoir was being dug. Behind the bawan pokhar temple is a Jain temple famous for its image of the Trithankar. A little distance from these temples lies the Lotus Tank which used to be picnic spot of the Lichchhavis.
Further north at Lauria Areraj, 31 Kms from Motihari, lies one of the Ashokan Columns with six of his edicts. The column is devoid of its capital. Another Ashokan column along with the lion capital can be visited at Nandangarh, 23 kms from Bettiah. These pillars possibly mark the course of the ancient Royal highway from Patliputra to Nepal valley.
My father work in Vaishali district. It made me pay avisit to this heritage. Vaishali is culturally and historically well flourished. Especially this ashoka stambha and Anand Stupa lead us to a remarkable phase of Buddha’s life.I really enjoyed and felt proud of being a visitor of this place.
1. Bihar Tourism
3. Homage to Vaishali