In the 5th year after attaining his Enlightenment, The Buddha first came to Vaishali where he spent the rainy season. Present day Vaishali comprises a small town mainly consisting of rice fields, mango and banana groves. Extensive excavations carried out in this area have revealed its rich historical past. During the 6th century B.C. Vaishali was the flourishing city of the Lichchavis. According to many historians it was one of the first cities in the world to adopt a Republican form of Government.
Lord Buddha is said to have visited Vaishali at least three times and in the last visit at Kolhua, close by, he prophesised his approaching Nirvana while preaching his last sermon. To mark this event, Emperor Ashoka, erected a beautiful lion pillar here in the 3rd century B.C. During his stay in Vaishali, Mahapajapati Gotami came to the Buddha along with five hundred Sakyan women, to obtain permission from the Buddha for women to enter the Order. The Buddha after much thought granted such permission under certain conditions. It is said that on one of his visits to Vaishali, several monkeys offered The Buddha a bowl of honey which he accepted. This episode is regarded to be one of the great incidents in the life of the Buddha. After 100 years of the Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana - the 2nd Buddhist council was hosted in Vaishali in 383 B.C. In order to commemorate this event, two stupas were erected.
For the next 6 days The Buddha’s body was kept in state. Elaborate funeral preparations were carried out by the Mallas, (rulers of Kushinagar) under the supervision of Aniruddha, a follower and cousin of the Buddha. On the 7th day, the body was honored with garlands and perfumes and taken to the shrine sacred to the Mallas, the Mukutbandhana Chaitya (Rambhar Stupa), for cremation. The last rites were performed by Mahakashyapa, the most notable of Buddha’s disciples.
ATTRACTIONS IN VAISHALI
Vaishali is twice blessed as Jainism also has its origins here. Lord Mahavir was born near here in 527 B.C. and lived here till the age of 22. It is thus an important pilgrim destination center for both Buddhists and Jains.
The Relic Stupa (Stupa I)
The Relic Stupa, covered with a conical tin roof is surrounded by a well-landscaped garden and houses the casket relic which contains the ashes of the Buddha. It is here that the Licchavis encased their share of one eighth portion of the Buddha’s relics, received by them after the Mahaparinirvana.
Kutagarasala Vihara (Stupa II) Kutagarasala Vihara is a brick stupa. This site has revealed the extensive remains of a monastery built by the Lichchavis with an open courtyard and a verandah. It is where The Buddha normally lived while he was at Vaishali. It was here that a monkey offered honey to the Buddha. On the same premises can be found the Lion Pillar built by Emperor Ashoka. The pillar is made from a single piece of red sandstone and has a bell shaped capital, 18.3 m high. At the top of the pillar is placed the figure of a life-size lion. This pillar lies beside a brick stupa which commemorates the Buddha's last sermon. The lion on the top faces north towards Kushinagar, the direction the Buddha took while he was on his last journey. A small tank is also here which is known as Markatahrida, ie “Monkeys Tank” measuring 65 x 35 m which according to legend was dug by the monkeys.
At a few distance from the Relic Stupa is the Abhishek Pushkarini or the coronation tank. Surrounded by flowering trees and shrubs, the water of the reservoir was assumed to be holy in the older days and was used for anointing the rulers of Vaishali at their coronation.
The Vishwa Shanti Stupa
On the southern side of the coronation tank is the newly built Vishwa Shanti Stupa. It is the sixth to be built in India by the famous Japanese Buddhist monk Ven. Nichidatsu Fuji in 1996. Attached to it is a Japanese temple.
Near the Visva Shanti Stupa is a museum of the Archaeological Survey of India. It displays some of the archaeological findings that were discovered here during excavations.
Raja Vishal ka Garh
A huge mound having a circumference of about one Km and walls nearly 2m high with a 43m wide moat around it, is said to be the ancient Parliament house. In ancient times, about 7000 people’s representatives gathered here to discuss and legislate on laws related to daily problems of the people.