Vaishali or the ancient city of Vesali located on the banks of the Gandak river in the state of Bihar beholds a rich history. Being the capital of the renowned kingdom of Lichchavi, it was a prosperous city, besides it has a strong connection with Buddhism and Jainism as well. Let’s know why Vaishali is important for Buddhism and is considered as a prime Buddhist pilgrimage site.

History

As per the great epic Ramayana, Vaishali is said to get its name from its brave ruler King Vishal. It is also known as the land of Ambapali (Amrapali), an Indian courtesan. However, Vaishali is majorly associated with Buddhism and Jainism. Besides being the place of birth of Lord Mahavir, the last Jain Tirthankara, legends state it to be one of the favorite places of Gautam Buddha. As such, Gautam Buddha visited it frequently while spreading his knowledge. It was in Vaishali that Gautam buddha established the first Bhikshuni Sangha. Also, it was the place where he preached his last sermon and announced his approaching Parinirvana.

 

Legend says that after Gautam Buddha announced his Pariniravana and set off to Kushinagar, many of his disciples started following him to Kushinagar to bid him farewell. He tried to stop them by giving them his alms bowl as a memory. But when they refused to pause, he stopped them by creating an illusion of a river. Also, there is folklore related to the place wherein it is said that once when Gautam Buddha came to Vaishali, some monkeys dug up a tank for him to ensure his comfortable stay and also offered him a bowl of honey.

Places to visit in Vaishali

At Vaishali, you will find several Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

Buddha’s Stupa

Buddha’s body relics were divided into eight parts of which one was received by the Lichchavis. These relics were then preserved in stone caskets that were placed in the stupas. These stupas are named as Stupa 1 and Stupa 2 according to their discovery during the excavation of the site. Though these stupas are currently in ruins, they are still visited by pilgrims and are highly revered.

The Ashoka Pillar

At Kolhua, the place where Buddha gave his last sermon and announced his approaching parinirvana stands a large pillar which was erected by Ashoka to mark the site. On the pillar stands a life-size figure of a Lion facing the north which is believed to be the direction of Buddha’s last journey. Besides, the pillar is a stupa and a pond which are also revered by Buddhists.

 

Abhishek Pushkarini (Coronation Tank)

Abhishek Puskkarini or the Coronation Tank is the sacred tank of Vaishali whose water is said to be holy. It is said that the water of the tank was used for the coronation of the kings of Vaishali. Even the elected representatives used to bath with the water to seek blessings.

Vishwa Shanti Stupa

Besides, the Coronation Tank stands a 125 feet high, beautiful white stupa resembling the serenity of Buddhism. Also known as the World Peace Pagoda, the Shanti stupa was built by the Buddh Vihar Society with the help of the Japanese Government. It is said that some portion of Buddha’s relics were preserved in the foundation and the Chhatra of the Stupa.

Kutagrasala Vihara

Kutagrasala Vihara is a monastery constructed at the place where Buddha often stayed while visiting Vaishali. The monastery is double-storeyed and at the ground lies Ananda Stupa that enshrines the remains of Buddha’s disciple Ananda.

How to reach Vaishali?

Vaishali being a major pilgrimage site with rich history receives travelers from around the world; as such the transportation system is well developed. You can reach the place via:

 

Air: The nearest airport to Vaishali is Patna which is around 38 km away. From there, you can take a taxi or hop on a bus to reach the site.

 

Rail: Hajipur Railway Station is the nearest station to Vaishali. Take a bus or taxi to reach the site or you can also opt for auto rickshaws as well.

 

Road: Being a prominent pilgrimage site, Vaishali is well connected to other surrounding cities. You can easily reach the place through your private vehicle or by taking a bus or taxi.

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