Hinduism & Buddhism in India
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Chapter II: Ancient India - Birthplace of Hinduism & Buddhism.
Hinduism and Buddhism
There is a nice analogy which was told to me while visiting a Thai monastery many years ago. Buddhism and Hinduism are like two siblings raised in the same household, such as a brother and sister may have a certain family resemblance. A visitor would not mistake one for the other. And just like siblings they may differ in opinion in many things even to the point of arguing. Yet they still love and respect each other.
If the household of these siblings is the Ancient Indian sub-continent then that is the logical place to start. Before looking at Hinduism or Buddhism in the following chapters it is necessary to look at the Ancient Indian civilization and culture prior to any written records as both of these "religions" have their origins in the ancient history of the Indian sub-continent.
The references used are some of the earliest written works and the study will look at these in greater detail in the chapter concerning Hinduism and its teachings. The reader should note that modern science is now re-examining many of the statements made in these earlier works due to discoveries made by modern research which has scientific facts as its proof.
For this section I have chosen to follow the consensus of opinion, and for that reason, the dates given here are those found in other references. We must begin by stating that the Indian continent was first populated 250,000 years ago. When the original thesis paper was written, the first major civilization was considered to be the Harrapan civilization that occupied the Indus Valley where Baluchistan was a farming community from 3500 BCE (this may well have been pre-dated by the 9000 BCE Gulf of Cambay civilisation once more is known about it)
The consensus held by scholars and historians, is that ancient India's indigenous people were a dark skinned race. There are prehistoric cave paintings and rock art, which provide the basis for these assertions. This is said to be a 40,000-year-old cave painting seen on a white silica sandstone rock shelter depicting existence of human civilization is seen in Banda district 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of New Delhi, India. The painting below depicts hunting by cave dwellers in the Paleolithic age. These caves were discovered recently. Notice the horse with rider.
A 40,000 Year Old Cave Painting (AP Photo/Shekhar Srivastava)
Origins of the Indus Valley Civilization
The geography of India is one of many extremes. The land mass encompasses desert, mountains, forest, and jungle. All of these environments were susceptible to unpredictable periods of flood, drought, and monsoons. Though India contained some of the most extreme geological and climatic features, these difficult conditions were also an asset to the development of its early civilizations. The Himalayas provided a natural protective barrier from any nomadic or military invasions from the north, and other mountain ranges provided similar protection in the west and east. The account of the Indus valley and its people, (also known as the Harappa civilization), is a story of a people intricately tied to their environment. The waterways of the Indus valley provided an excellent resource for trade, commerce, and agriculture. Throughout India's history, the rivers were crucial to the inhabitants of the region.
As is found with most societies, especially non-nomadic ones, a rise in the cultivation of agrarian resources often leads to a surplus. Other factors permitting, this normally leads to an eventual population increase. As far as we can surmise, the development of civilization in the Indus valley followed this pattern ie. a static society, fertile soil , good harvest and no major wars or pestilence diminishing the populace.
The diverse geography of ancient India resulted in an increase of both the quantity and the specialization of agrarian crops. Faunal remains around the era of 3000 BC shows such trends and suggests that the Indus valley civilizations were benefiting from the rich alluvial soil of the Indus River. This region produced high yields of cereal grains, cultivated crops and plant materials. By 2,700 BCE, the presence of a state level society was evident, complete with hierarchical rule and large-scale public works (irrigation, etc.).
Such large-scale growth in so short a period can be attributed to two factors:
- The unique and rich environmental resources India provided,
- An organized civilization, which took direct control of its natural environment.
By 3000 BCE turmeric, cardamom, pepper and mustard were harvested in India. The Harappans who occupied Harappa and Mohenjodero in the Indus Valley, were of mixed stock They had club wheat, barley, sheep and goats from the Iranian Plateau and cotton from Southern Arabia or North East Africa. Sumer had trade links with the Indus Valley via Hindu Kush by 3000 BCE. and by sea from 2500 BCE, thus linking the Harappans with both Sumerians and Egyptians, where cumin, anise and cinnamon were used for embalming by 2500 BCE We can summarize by saying the Indus valley was populated by a dark skinned race of indigenous people who had a structured hierarchical agrarian society, the floods of the local rivers providing rich alluvial topsoil, which replenished the minerals on cultivated land. The non-nomadic conditions coupled with the harvest surplus were conducive to growth population.
Why then, can we assign some stories of ancient India to the period of nearly 10,000 BCE? Are there any material facts or evidence?
Pre-Harappan Evidence Found in Gulf of Cambay
VADODARA, INDIA, July 19, 2004: In an underwater exploration in the Gulf of Cambay, National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), scientists discovered almost 9,500-year-old bricks made of clay and straw. Archaeological experts of the MS University who, too, are involved in a part of the exploration near Surat and the coast of Gulf of Cambay, however, feel that a further insight into the size of the bricks can confirm its age and its period.
The bricks, believed to be pre-Harappan, have been identified to be of the Holocene age. In the NIOT surveys in the 17 sq km area, stone artifacts like blade scrapers, perforated stones and beads were found. The bricks, according to NIOT scientists, were used for construction. It indicates that the people of that age led an advanced form of life.
The artifacts found on the seabed, 20 to 40 ft below the present sea level, consisted of housing material. "It is important to confirm the brick size as people of the pre-Harappan age made bricks in the ratio of 1:2:3. A confirmation on the brick size can add more credence to the discovery," says head of the archeology and ancient history department V. H. Sonawane.
WARANGAL, INDIA, Feb 12, 2002 - Mysterious Sunken City Found Near Surat Michael Cremo recently attended a meeting of ranking Indian governmental officials at which Murli Monohar Joshi, Minister for Science and Technology, confirmed the archeological find by an Indian oceanographic survey team. Could the recent discovery of a sunken city off the Northwest Coast of India near Surat revolutionize our concept of history?
Michael A. Cremo, historian of archeology and author of "Forbidden Archeology", claims that all the history textbooks would have to be rewritten if this ancient find proves to be of Vedic origin. Radiocarbon testing of a piece of wood from the underwater site yielded an age of 9,500 years, making it four thousand years older than earliest cities now recognized.
According to Cremo, "The ancient Sanskrit writings of India speak of cities existing on the Indian subcontinent in very primeval times. "Although historians tend to dismiss such accounts as mythological, these new discoveries promise to confirm the old literary accounts." Michael Cremo is acknowledged as a leading authority on anomalous archeological evidence. Asserting the recent find may be just the first step, he says, "It is likely that even older discoveries will follow." The cultural identity of the people who inhabited the underwater city is as yet unknown. Most historians believe that Sanskrit-speaking people entered the Indian subcontinent about 3,500 years ago, from Central Asia. Other historians accept India itself as the original home of Sanskrit-speaking people, whose lifestyle is termed Vedic culture because their lives were regulated by a body of literature called the Vedas.
A City Dating Back to 7500 BCE
As was announced on January 16, 2002 from New Delhi, Indian scientists have made an archaeological discovery that dates back to 7500 BCE. This suggests, as a top government official said, that the world's oldest cities came up about 4,000 years earlier than is currently believed. The scientists found pieces of wood, remains of pots, fossil bones and what appeared like construction material just off the coast of Surat.
Science and Technology Minister Murli Manohar Joshi told a news conference. He said, "Some of these artifacts recovered by the National Institute of Ocean Technology from the site, such as the log of wood date back to 7500 BCE, which is indicative of a very ancient culture in the present Gulf of Cambay, that got submerged subsequently." Current belief is that the first cities appeared around 3500 BCE in the valley of Sumer, where Iraq now stands. A statement issued by the government said. "We can safely say from the antiquities and the acoustic images of the geometric structures that there was human activity in the region more than 9,500 years ago (7500 BCE)," said S.N. Rajguru, an independent archaeologist. Malleswaram boasts of many temples, but none is so shrouded in controversy and mystery as this one is. The ancient Nandeeshwara temple at Malleswaram 17th cross was discovered only three years ago, but it has stood for 7,000 years on that spot. Being buried over the years has not diminished its aura at all. It still draws huge crowds all day.
According to residents living nearby, the temple was completely buried and the land above it was a flat stretch. "Three years ago, a politician tried to sell this plot. But people objected on the grounds that the land should first be dug through to see if they could find something," says the priest, Ravi Shankar Bhatt. Therefore, when they started digging up the land, they found buried underneath, this temple. It was in perfect condition, preserved by the thick layers of soil. This underground temple was enclosed within a stone cut courtyard supported by ancient stone pillars.
At the far end of the courtyard, a Nandi was carved out of a black stone with eyes painted in gold. From its mouth a clear stream of water flowed directly on to a Shivalinga made out of the same black stone at a lower level. There were steps that led to a small pool in the centre of the courtyard where the water flowed and collected. The pool's centre had a 15 feet deep whirlpool.
Everything remains the same today. Nobody knows where the water comes from and how it passes from the mouth of the Nandi idol on to the Shivalinga. Nobody knows how the whirlpool came into being. The source of water, the sculptor, even the time when it was built remains a mystery. "There has been no scientific explanation for the source of water to date," says resident Shivalingaiah. "Some say it was built by Shivaji Maharaj. Some say it's older. However, of one thing we were sure, the temple has remained untouched over the years. We found it exactly as it might have been before it was covered by soil," he adds. On Shivaratri day, overwhelming crowds gather at this temple. Some perform the 'milk puja'. Others just come to marvel at a temple.
A Malleswaram committee has been specifically created to look after the temple. Committee president C Chandrashekhar functions along with a 11-member committee. "We are slowly introducing improvements in the temple to keep it in good shape. A lot of people come even from other parts of Bangalore," he says. The committee's next step is to build a gopuram in the temple premises.
Mehgarh 6,000 BCE
Mehgarh is located 125 miles west of the Indus valley, and provides early evidence of village dwelling level within the Indus Valley. The initial site is quite small and exhibits evidence of crop farming, with produce such as Asiatic wheat. The site also shows use of domestic goats and extensive trade with the west. Traded goods included turquoise, copper, and cotton from as far away as Arabia. By 5,000 BCE the dwellings of the Mehgarh went from simple semi-permanent housing to mud brick, and then large permanent housing.
The economy was largely dependent upon trade. Such trends, specifically emphasizing trade, continued well into 4,000 BCE when the culture clearly identified as Harappan became evident.
5000 Year Old Harappan Township Found in Haryana
Evidence of a township of the 5,000-year-old Indus Valley Civilisation (Harappan Era) has been found during excavations near Bhirdana village in Fatehabad district of Haryana . The excavations are being carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).The ASI had earlier discovered the presence of same townships of the Indus Valley Civilisation at two other places, Kunal and Banawali, in the district. The evidence found at Bhirdana includes many structures made of mud bricks, peculiar of the Harappan era; a well, a fortification wall, pottery and other antiquities. Mr L.S. Rao, Superintending Archaeologist of the ASI, who is leading the team of excavators here, informed that the team, comprising a Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, three Assistant Archaeologists and other officials like photographers, draftsmen, artists, and surveyors, was working on the excavation site spread across 62,500 square meters and situated on a mound.
Fifteen students of Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi, have also been assisting the team. The excavations, being carried out under the `Saraswati Heritage Project' of the Union Government, were part of a series of such excavations being made to unearth the old civilisations on the bank of the ancient Saraswati river. The Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Haryana, had protected the area of the present excavations. Mr Rao said the area where the excavations were being carried out was the bank of the Saraswati. The whole riverbed had been converted in to agricultural lands with the passage of time, he added that the ASI based its findings on the antiquities collected during the excavations on the surface of the mound. Pottery, among the antiquities, is the main criteria for ascertaining the civilization.
The excavators have also discovered a 2.4-metre-wide wall considered to be the fortification wall of the township on the excavation site. Ms Ankum, from Nagaland, a student of the Institute of Archaeology, who was manning the fortification area, said a clinching evidence of the township was that the earth outside the wall comprised of virgin soil while the one inside the fortification wall had all the evidence of structures. Mr Prabhash Sahu, Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, explained that it was a horizontal excavation and the whole mound had been divided into four parts for convenience. Mr Rao said the residents of the area were cooperative and were showing keen interest in the excavations.
First Harappan Burial site Found in Sinauli, Uttar Pradesh
SINAULI, June 28, 2006: Imagine for a moment that you're a farmer, leveling your field, when suddenly your plough hits something hard. You wipe away the dust and discover it's a bone, hardened over time. You dig some more and discover the remnants of pottery next to an ancient human skeleton.This is what happened to Sattar Ali while working in the sugarcane fields in Sinauli village near Baghpat in western UP, some 75 km from Delhi. Although he didn't know it at that time, Ali had chanced upon an ancient burial ground of the late Harappan period, believed to be more than 4,000 years old. Matters would have rested there had not a local youth, Tahir Hussain, informed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) about it. Since August last year, ASI's excavations have been going on in full swing. Dharamvir Sharma, superintending archaeologist, ASI, says, "The findings here are very important and have the potential to change the way we look at the history of Asia."
Sinauli's find is unique because this is the first Harappan burial site to be found in UP. More importantly, it's the first Harappan site where two antenna swords were found buried next to the skeletons. These were of the copper hoard culture, which has been a cause of debate among historians. These findings might just prove that the copper hoard was associated with the late Harappans, says Sharma.
The excavations have already yielded a rich haul. Almost 126 skeletons have been recovered, which indicates that the mound was a fairly large habitation. While some are broken, others are remarkably well preserved. One of the first skeletons to be discovered was found wearing copper bracelets on both hands. Some distance away, another was found buried along with an animal, presumably intended to be a sacrificial offering. Other finds include bead necklaces, copper spearheads, gold ornaments, and a few anthropomorphic figures which were typical of Harappan settlements. While these are all relative evidence of the late Harappan period, believed to be around 2000 BC, carbon dating of the skeletons would put a firm date on it.
Sinauli's findings might also prove that the Harappans were a part of the Vedic culture and followed prescribed Vedic practices. Sharma says, "All the skeletons have been found lying in the North-South direction, as prescribed by the Rig Veda. Near their heads have been found pots, which probably contained grains, ghee, curd and somarasa as an offering to Yama, the God of Death. This was in accordance with ancient Vedic burial practices, mentioned in the Shatpath Brahman." However, not all historians agree with this view. They feel it is too early to jump to conclusions without carbon dating being done.
The Early Harappan 4,000 BC to 3,000 BC
From the humble, but rapidly advancing beginning of the Mehgarh, came the eventual arrival of the early Harappan. The early Harappan evidenced very densely packed villages and village centers, all with extensive irrigation systems, and much the same subsistence pattern as the Mehgarh. The early Harappan people planted a wide variety of crops, including barley, and wheat, and did so according to the predictable cycles of the Indus River. The farmers of the Indus would plant their crops as the floods receded between June and September, and by early Spring harvested them.
The result of the Harappan civilizations emphasis on agriculture and irrigation lead to a plethora of irrigation systems around which human settlements were built. The settlements along the river were susceptible to periods of violent flooding. In such cases, stone walls were erected as flood barriers. Ironically, these flood barriers eventually became the city walls of some settlements.
The Harappan 2,500 BC. to 2,050 BC
From the Early Harappan arose such settlements as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, as well as numerous other settlements which spanned roughly 1,000,000 miles of the Indus Valley. The culture of the classical Harappan era surrounded the rivers of the Indus valley and was greatly dependent upon the valley and trade for its subsistence. Indicative of all Harappan sites are the fire mud brick houses and the net-like city plans that took generations to evolve.3
The Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the world's first great urban civilizations. It flourished in the vast river plains and adjacent regions in what are now Pakistan and western India. The earliest cities became integrated into an extensive urban culture around 4,600 years ago and continued to dominate the region for at least 700 years, from 2600 to 1900 BCE It was only in the 1920's that the buried cities and villages of the Indus valley were recognized by archaeologists as representing an undiscovered civilization.
Modern satellite images and field surveys indicate that the once mighty Saraswati River appears to have changed its course several times and became completely dry in approximately 1900 BCE. Some experts believe that the phonetically close affinities between the Deva Bhasha Sanskrit and several European languages may be due to natural calamities that may have caused the Indus Valley people to migrate out of India.
The Mohehjodaro in Sind was discovered in 1922 and Harappa in West Punjab a few years later. Although the two sites were about 600 km apart, these two civilisations covering an area in excess of a million square kilometers, were considered as one Indus civilisation in view of the similarity of the objects discovered in the ruins. A comparison of the archaeological remains of Indus Valley with the Vedic civilisation can be made from the Vedic hymns. These reveal almost one hundred per cent similarities between the two civilisations in food habits, animal rearing, cotton weaving, personal cleanliness, use of metals for weapons and ornaments, method of worship, practice of Yoga, cremation of dead, belief in immortality of soul and after-life etc.
Indian Trade and Maritime Sea Routes
India, situated at the central point of the ocean that washes its coasts on three sides, appeared destined for a maritime future. The majority of Western scholars have underestimated India's achievement with regard to commerce, shipbuilding, navigation, and sea travel. The Indian world stretched far beyond its borders, and it must be noted, that India had no policy of violent conquest to spread her influence. The antiquity of these voyages are most remarkable; regarding India's Western trade routes:- there is archaeological and historical evidence to show that as early as the 8th century BCE, there existed regular trade relations, both by land and sea, between India on the one hand and Mesopotamia, Arabia, Phoenicia, and Egypt on the other. The Eastern routes, which are the most pertinent to this study, can be traced back to the 7th century BCE using Chinese literary texts, which refer to their maritime trade activity.
The fact that this information is recorded and documented by non-Indian races, having nothing to gain by stating these ancient links, must lend substantial weight to the claims of Indian scholars and historians. The evidence may support many claims made by Hindus about the advanced culture that existed in India's ancient past. However, it is inconceivable that the Chinese, Egyptians, Romans etc wrote these articles to enhance or raise the status of what would have been a foreign power and alien religion.
We can confidently conclude that there was a time in the ancient past, when Indians were masters of the sea borne trade of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They built ships, navigated the sea, and held in their hands all the threads of international commerce, whether carried overland or sea. Sanskrit literature is replete with tales of merchants, traders, and men engrossed in commercial pursuits. Manu Smriti, the oldest law book in the world, lays down laws to govern commercial disputes having references to sea borne traffic as well as inland and overland commerce. Lord Elphinstone has written, "The Hindus navigated the ocean as early as the age of Manu's Code because we read in it of men well acquainted with sea voyages." Noted historian, R. C. Majumdar, observed: "The Indian colonies in the Far East must ever remain as the high watermark of maritime and colonial enterprise of the ancient Indians." It has been proved beyond doubt that the Indians of the past were not, stay-at-home people, but went out of their country for exploration, trade, and colonization.
For some of the oldest information we have to look in the ancient Rig Veda. One passage speaks of merchants going everywhere and frequenting every part of the sea for gain (L. 56.2) and another (I. 25.7) represents Varuna having a full knowledge of the sea routes. The Ramayana (translation in the English language by T.H. Griffith), refers to the Yavan Dvipa and Suvarna Dvipa (Java and Sumatra)* and to the Lohta Sayara or the Red Sea. The drama Sakuntala Ratnavali of King Harsha Sisupalvadha of Magha, relates stories of sea voyages of merchants and others. Ancient Indian books - the Kathasagara, the Jatakas and others - refer to these wondrous regions that set the imagination of civilized Indians on fire, to Suvarnabhumi, the fabulous "Land of Gold." Overall, the Indian influence on Southeast Asia proceeded peacefully. Local chiefs and petty chieftains were admitted into the caste structure as Ksatriyas through a ritual known as vratyastoma, performed by an Indian Brahmin. The Brahmin priests would, no doubt, have found it a relatively simple matter in persuading a local ruler to elevate his status and standing among his people.
Professor A. L. Basham, who reduced India along with her culture to a wonder-land in his book Wonder That Was India has observed that: "certain over-enthusiastic Indian scholars have perhaps made too much of the achievements of ancient Indian seafarers, which cannot compare with those of the Vikings or of some others early maritime peoples." Is this comment a fair assessment of the facts? What was the Viking achievement? It is clear that the Vikings, during the period 800 to 1200 BCE, migrated to all the corners of Europe. They did not do this peacefully, and had no lasting cultural influence on the people they came into contact with. On the contrary, they lost their identity when settling under the influence of the superior cultures of the lands they visited.In comparison to this, both from the qualitative and quantitative viewpoints, what was the Indian achievement?
With regard to their contact with Southeast Asia Professor D. P. Singhal remarks, "Indians came into contact with the countries of Southeast Asia principally for commercial reasons. Wherever they settled, they introduced their culture and civilization. In turn, they were influenced by the indigenous culture, laying thus the foundation of a new culture in the region. Indian cultural contact with Southeast Asia covers a period of more than thirteen hundred years, and segments of Indian culture even reached eastwards of this region." 1
Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943) a Hungarian and author of several books including Ra`jatarangini: a chronicle of the kings of Kashmir and Innermost Asia."The vast extent of Indian cultural influences, from Central Asia in the North to tropical Indonesia in the South, and from the Borderlands of Persia to China and Japan, has shown that ancient India was a radiating center of a civilization, which by its religious thought, its art and literature, was destined to leave its deep mark on the races wholly diverse and scattered over the greater part of Asia." 2
Indians of old were keenly alive to the expansion of dominions, acquisition of wealth, and the development of trade, industry, and commerce. The material prosperity they gained in these various ways was reflected in the luxury and elegance that characterized their society. Some find allusion in the Old Testament, to Indian trade with the Syrian coast as far back as 1400 BCE, and we have noted the archaeological evidence shows Chinese links from the 8th century BCE. Recent excavations in the Philippines, Malay Peninsula, and Indonesia confirm early and extensive trade, which continued down to the historical period. This naval network enabled Indians to explore and colonize the islands in the Indian Archipelago.
Shortly after, there grew up a regular traffic between India and China, both by land and sea. India also came in close contact with the Hellenic world. We learn from ancient authority that in the processions of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.) were to be found Indian women, Indian hunting dogs, Indian cows, also Indian spices carried on camels, and that the vessels of the ruler of Egypt had a saloon lined with Indian precious stones. Everything indicates that there was a large volume of sea-trade between India and the western countries as far as African coast. From the coast the goods were carried by land to the Nile, and then down the river to Alexandria which was a great emporium in those days. There was a mercantile colony of Indians in an island off the African coast in the first century CE. The adventurous spirit of the Indians carried them even as far as the North Sea, while their caravans traveled from one end of Asia to the other.3
On journeys by sea, there were jalaniryamakas - guides who could predict the behavior of waters. In the sea-coast town of Shurparak, there was an arrangement to train persons with the help of the Niryamak Sutras. According to these verses, those persons who traveled together in a ship were called sanyatrika.
The Greater India with Islands
Comparing the achievements of the Indians and the Chinese in Southeast Asia, T. V. Mahalingam observes. "Though China also exercised a considerable influence over countries of Southeast Asia, Indian influence was more effective and durable for the Chinese always remained colonies of foreigners with little inclination to mix with the local population and in contrast to what the Hindus achieved, there is nowhere any trace of the taking-over of Chinese culture by the children of the soil."
His views have been upheld by John F. Cady who concluded that: "Indian cultural patterns in particular became widely disseminated during the early centuries CE, while Chinese influence, although culturally less contagious, virtually dominated from Sung times (960 and later) the trade and politics of the eastern seas."4
Amaury de Riencourt wrote: "The brightest sun shining over Southeast Asia in the first centuries CE was Indian Civilization. Waves of Indian colonists, traders, soldiers, Brahmins and Buddhist beat upon one Southeast shore after another. Great military power based on superior technical knowledge, flourishing trade fostered by the remarkable increase in maritime exchanges between India and these areas, the vast cultural superiority of the Indians, everything conspired to heighten the impact of the Indian Civilization on the Southeast Asian. Passenger ships plied regularly between the Ganges, Ceylon and Malaya in the middle of the first millennium CE. Indian settlers from Gujarat and Kalinga colonized Java, for instance, while others set out for Burma, Siam and Cambodia.
Old Indian books - the Kathasagara, the Jatakas and others - refer to these wondorous regions that set the imagination of civilized Indians on fire, to Suvarnabhumi, the fabulous "Land of Gold." On the whole, the Indianization of Southeast Asia proceeded peacefully. Local chiefs and petty chieftains were admitted into the caste structure as Ksatriyas through a ritual known as vratyastoma, performed by an Indian Brahmin. All over Southeast Asia tremendous ruins are strewn, testifying to the immense influence of Indian Civilization." 5
Ancient Indians knew Atlantic Ocean
Buddhist Jataka stories wrote about large Indian ships carrying seven hundred people. In the Artha Sastra, Kautilya wrote about the Board of Shipping and the Commissioner of Ports who supervised sea traffic. The Harivamsa informs us that the first geographical survey of the world was performed during the period of Vaivasvata.
The towns, villages and demarcation of agricultural land of that time were charted on maps. Brahmanda Purana provides the best and most detailed description of a world map drawn on a flat surface using an accurate scale. Padma Purana says that world maps were prepared and maintained in book form and kept with care and safety in chests.
Surya Siddhanta speaks about the construction of a wooden globe of earth and marking of horizontal circles, equatorial circles and further divisions. Some Puranas say that the map making had great practical value for the administrative, navigational, and military purposes. Hence, the method of making them would not be explained in general texts accessible to the public and were ever kept secret. Surya Siddhanta further informs us that the art of cartography is the secret of gods. This being the general thinking at those times, yet, there was one group of people who realized that the maps or the secret texts that contained the geographical surveys would not last a very long time. Only cryptology using words and names would last longer.6
The Indians built ships, navigated the sea, and monopolized the international trade by both sea routes and land route.Indian literature furnishes evidence with innumerable references to sea voyages and sea-borne trade and the constant use of the ocean as the great highway of international intercourse and commerce. The Scriptural books of the Hindu's will be looked at in greater detail in Chapter III. In the following section, the titles of some of these books are given as a heading. The books themselves will not be examined in great detail as the vast amount of ancient literature in India makes any study such as this difficult to write with absolute authority.
The fifth chapter, which is the most interesting passage (I. 116. 3), mentions a naval expedition on which Tugra, the Rishi king, sent his son Bhujyu against some of his enemies in the distant islands; Bhujyu, however, is ship wrecked by a storm, with all his followers, on the ocean, "where there is no support, no rest for the foot or the hand," from which he is rescued by the twin brethren, the Asvins, in their hundred-oared galley. The Panis in the Vedas and later classical literature were the merchant class who were the pioneers and who dared to set their course for unknown lands and succeeded in throwing bridges between many and diverse nations. The Phoenicians were no other than the Panis of the Rig Veda. They were called Phoeni in Latin which is very similar to the Sanskrit Pani.
"May Usha dawn today, the excitress of chariots which are harnessed at her coming, as those who are desirous of wealth send ships to sea." From this verse we note that not only was there trade but that it was profitable.
The Ramayana also contains passages that indicate the intercourse between India and distant lands by the way of the sea. In the Kishkindha Kandam, Sugriva, the Lord of the Monkeys, in giving directions to monkey leaders for the quest of Sita, mentions, all possible places where Ravana could have concealed her. In one passage he asks them to go to the cities and mountains in the islands of the sea, in another the land of the Koshakarsa is mentioned as the likely place of Sita's concealment, which is generally interpreted to be no other country than China. (the land where grows the worm which yields the threads of silken clothes); a third passage refers to the Yava and Dvipa, and Suvarna Dvipa, which are usually identified with the islands of Java and Sumatra of the Malaya Archipelago; while the fourth passage alludes to the Lohita Sagara or the red sea. The Ramayana also mentions merchants who trafficked beyond the sea and were in the habit of bringing presents to the king.
In The Mahabharata the accounts of the Rajasuya sacrifice and the Digvijaya of Arjuna and Nakula mention various countries outside India with which she had intercourse.There is a passage in its Sabha Parva which states how Sahadeva, the youngest brother of the five Pandavas, went to several islands in the sea and conquered the Mlechchha inhabitants thereof. the well known story of the churning of the ocean, in the Mahabharata, in the boldness of its conception is not without significance.
In the Drona Parva there is a passage alluding to shipwrecked sailors who "are safe if they get to an island." In the same Parva there is another passage in which there is a reference to a "tempest-tossed and damaged vessel in a wide ocean." In the Karna Parva we find the soldiers of the Kauravas bewildered like the merchants "whose ships have come to grief in the midst of the unfathomable deep."
There is another sholka in the same Parva which describes how the sons of Draupadi rescued their maternal uncles by supplying them with chariots, "as the shipwrecked merchants are rescued by means of boats." In the Santi Parva the salvation attained by means of Karna and true knowledge is compared to the gain which a merchant derives from sea-borne trade. But the most interesting passage in the Mahabharata is that which refers to the escape of the Pandava brothers from the destruction planned for them in a ship that was secretly and especially constructed for the purpose under the orders of the kind-hearted Vidura. The ship was a large size, provided with machinery and all kinds of weapons of war, and able to defy storms and waves.
Besides the epics, the vast quantity of Sutra literature also is not without evidence pointing to the commercial connection of India with foreign countries by way of the sea. The following are remarks of the well-known German authority, the late Professor Buhler: "References to sea voyages are also found in two of the most ancient Dharam Sutras."
In Sanskrit books, we constantly read of merchants, traders and men engrossed in commercial pursuits. Manu Smriti, the oldest law book in the world, lays down laws to govern commercial disputes having references to sea borne traffic as well as inland and overland commerce. Manu (iii. 158) declares a Brahmin who has gone to sea to be unworthy of entertainment at a Shraddha. In chapter viii of Manu's Code there is an interesting sloka laying down the law that the rate of interest on the money lent on bottomry (The lender of money for marine insurance) is to be fixed by men well acquainted with sea voyages or journeys by land. In the same chapter there is another passage which lays down the rule of fixing boat-hire in the case of a river journey and a sea voyage.
However, perhaps the most interesting passages in that important chapter are those which are found to lay down the rules regarding what may be called marine insurance. One them holds the sailors collectively responsible for the damage caused by their faults to the goods of passengers, and other absolves them from all responsibility if the damage is caused by an accident beyond human control. Sir William Jones is of opinion that the Hindus "must have been navigators in the age of Manu, because bottomry (The lender of money for marine insurance) is mentioned in it. In the Ramayana, the practice of bottomry is distinctly noticed. "
The Puranas also furnish references to merchants engaged in sea-borne trade. The Varaha Purana mentions a childless merchant named Gokarna who embarked on a voyage for trading purposes but was overtaken by a storm on the sea and nearly shipwrecked. The same Purana contains a passage which relates how a merchant embarked on a voyage in a sea-going vessel in quest of pearls with people who knew all about them.
In addition to the religious works like the Vedas, the Epics, and the Sutras and Puranas, the secular works of Sanskrit poets and writers are also full of references to the use of the sea as the highway of commerce, to voyages, and naval fights. Thus in Kalidasa Raghuvamsa (canto 4, sloka 36) we find the defeat by Raghu of a strong naval force with which the kings of Bengal attacked him, and his planting the pillars of victory on the isles formed in the midst of the river Ganges. The Shakuntala also relates the story of a merchant named Dhanavriddhi whose immense wealth devolved to the king on the former's perishing at sea and leaving no heirs behind him.
In Sakuntala, we learn of the importance attached to commerce, where it is stated: "that a merchant named Dhanvriddhi, who had extensivecommerce had been lost at sea and had left a fortune of many millions." In Nala and Damyanti, too, we meet with similar incidents.The Sisupalavadha of the poet Magha contains an interesting passage, which mentions how Sri Krishna, while going from Dvaraka to Hastinapura, beholds merchants coming from foreign countries in ships laden with merchandise and again exporting abroad Indian goods.
The expansion of Indian culture and influence both towards Central Asia and the south-east towards the countries and islands of the Pacific is one of the momentous factors of the period immediately preceding the Christian era. From the first century CE a systematic policy of expansion led to the establishment of Hindu kingdoms in Annam, Cochin-China, and the islands of the Pacific. The Ramayana knew of Java and Sumatra. Communication by sea between the ports of south India and the islands of the Pacific was well established many centuries before the Christian era. The discovery and colonization of Sumatra, Java and Borneo were the results of oceanic navigation. The allusions in the Ramayana to Java and Ptolemy's mention of Yava-dwipa in the first century CE clearly establishes the fact that Java had come under Indian influence at least by the beginning of the Christian era.
The reaction of this overseas activity on India was very considerable. An explanation of the immense wealth of the merchants who made such munificent endowments as witnessed by the inscriptions in the temples of the Satvahana period lies in the great overseas trade. Tamil literature of the first centuries, especially Silappadikaram and Manimekhalai also testify to this great overseas trade while in Kalidasa we have the allusion to ships laden with spices from distant lands lying in Kalinga ports.7 The Hitopadesha describes a ship as a necessary requisite for a man to traverse the ocean, and a story is given of a certain merchant, "who, after having been twelve years on his voyage, at last returned home with a cargo of precious stones."The Institutes of Manu include rules for the guidance of maritime commerce. Thus, the passage quoted indicates a well developed and not a primitive trade.
Significant also is the fact that Lieutenant Speake, when planning his discovery of the source of the Nile, secured his best information from a map reconstructed out of Puranas. (Journal, pp. 27, 77, 216; Wilford, in Asiatic Researches, III). It traced the course of the river, the "Great Krishna," through Cusha-dvipa, from a great lake in Chandristhan, "Country of the Moon," which it gave the correct position in relation to the Zanzibar islands. The name was from the native Unya-muezi, having the same meaning; and the map correctly mentioned another native name, Amara, applied to the district bordering Lake Victoria Nyanza.
"All our previous information," says Speake, "concerning the hydrography of these regions, originated with the ancient Hindus, who told it to the priests of the Nile; and all these busy Egyptian geographers, who disseminated their knowledge with a view to be famous for their long-sightedness, in solving the mystery which enshrouded the source of their holy river, were so many hypothetical humbugs. The Hindu traders had a firm basis to stand upon through their intercourse with the Abyssinians." 8
Some very definite and convincing allusions to sea voyages and sea-borne trade are also contained in the vast body of Buddhist literature known as the Jatakas, which are generally taken to relate themselves to a period of one thousand years beginning from 500 B.C. E. The Baveru Jataka without doubt points to the existence of commercial intercourse between India and Babylon in pre-Ashokan days. The full significance of this important is thus expressed by the late Professor Buhler: "The now well-known Baveru-Jataka, to which Professor Minayef first drew attention, narrates that Hindu merchants exported peacocks to Baveru. The identification of Baveru with Babiru or Babylon is not doubtful," and considering the "age of the materials of the Jatakas, the story indicates that the Vanias of Western India undertook trading voyages to the shores of the Persian Gulf and its rivers in the 5th, perhaps even in the 6th century B.C. just as in our days. This trade very probably existed already in much earlier times, for the Jatakas contain several other stories, describing voyages to distant lands and perilous adventures by sea, in which the names of the very ancient Western ports of Surparaka-Supara and Bharukachcha-Broach are occasionally mentioned." 9
Ms. Manning, author of Ancient and Mediaeval India Volume II, p. 353, writes: "The indirect evidence affordedby the presence of Indian products in other countries coincides with the direct testimony of Sanskrit literature to establish the fact that the ancient Hindus were a commercial people." 10
Sudas is stated in the Aitteriya Brahmana to have completely conquered the whole world. This conquest was not political; it means exploration of the whole earth. Puruvara navigated the ocean and explored 13 islands. 11Colonel James Tod (1782-1835) author of Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan: or the Central and Western Rajput States of India, says that one of the ancestors of Rama was Sagara also called the Sea-King whose sixty thousand sons were so many mariners. 12Sir William Jones wrote: " of this cursory observation on the Hindus which it would require volumes to expand and illustrate this is the result that they had an immemorial affinity with old Persians, Ethiopians, and Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Tuscans, the Scythians or Goth and Celts, the Chinese, Japanese and Peruvians." 13
There are references in Buddhist Jataka tales to ships sailing from Bhrigukachcha to Baveru (Babylon); in the Pali book Questions of Milinda, a merchant is described as having sailed to Alexandria, Burma, Malaya and China. Another story of the 6th and 7th century tells of a merchant having sailed to the "Island of Black Yavanas" maybe Zanzibar. 14 Professor Max Duncker, author of History of Antiquity, says, that ship-building was known in ancient India about 2000 BCE. It is thus clear that the Hindus navigated the ocean from the earliest times, and that they carried on trade on an extensive scale with all the important nations of the whole world. A. M. T. Jackson writes: "The Buddhist Jatakas and some of the Sanskrit law books tell us that ships from Bhroach and Supara traded with Babylon (Baveru) from the 8th to the 6th century BCE" 15
Rev. J. Foulkes says: "The fact is now scarcely to be doubted that the rich Oriental merchandise of the days of King Hiram and King Soloman had its starting place in the seaports of the Deccan, and that with a very high degree of probability some of the most esteemed of the spices which was carried into Egypt by the Midianitish merchants of Genesis." 16 Will Durant (1885-1981)American historian, would like the West to learn from India, tolerance and gentleness and love for all living things. He has observed:"Indian art had accompanied Indian religion across straits and frontiers into Sri Lanka, Java, Cambodia, Siam, Burma, Tibet, Khotan, Turkestan, Mongolia, China, Korea and Japan;"in Asia all roads lead from India." 17
Sir Charles Eliot (1862-1931), British diplomat and colonial administrator, in his book, says: In Eastern Asia the influence of India has been notable in extent, strength and duration. "Scant justice is done to India's position in the world by those European histories which recount the exploits of her invaders and leave the impression that her own people were a feeble dreamy folk, surrendered from the rest of mankind by their seas and mountain frontiers. Such a picture takes no account of the intellectual conquests of the Hindus. Even their political conquests were not contemptible and were remarkable for the distance if not for the extent of the territory occupied. For there were Hindu kingdoms in Java and Camboja and settlements in Sumatra and even in Borneo, an island about as far from India as is Persia from Rome." 18
Gordon Childe says: "The most startling feature of pre-historic Indian trade is that manufactured goods made in India were exported to Mesopotamia. At Eshunna, near Baghdad, typically Indian shell inlays and even pottery probably of the Indus manufacture have been found along with seals. After c. 1700 B. C. E. the traders of India lost commercial contact with the traders of Mesopotamia."S. R. Rao says that the Indian traders first settled in Bahrein and used the circular seal. Later on the different sections of the Indian merchants colonized the different cities of Mesopotamia after the name of their race. The Chola colonized the land where the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, approach most nearly and the banks touch the so called Median wall. They called their colony Cholades which later came to be known as Chaldea (i.e. the land of the Cholas) as a result of corrupt pronunciation. Similarly the Asuras of Vedic India colonized the city Asura after their name and later they established the Assyrian empire.
Archaeological evidence of the use of indigo in the cloths of the Egyptians mummies, Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchandnzzar and Indian teak in the temple of the moon god at Ur shows the continuity of Indian commercial relations with the West. Rassam found a beam of Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C) at Birs Nimrud. In the second storey of the Temple of the Moon-God at ur rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus (555- 538 BCE) Taylor found "two rough logs of wood apparently teak".
The ancient Egyptian traders sailed there boats not only on the Nile but also ventured into the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and even into the Indian Ocean, for they are said to have reached "God's land" or the land of Punt (India). Similarly the Indian traders sailed their ships not only on the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, they also ventured into the Red Sea and even into the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. From the very beginning Indian traders had a very fair knowledge of all the ancient oceans and seas of the populated world. the Egyptians called India as "God's land" because India was in those days culturally very much developed. The priest of ancient Egypt required vast quantities of aromatic plants for burning as incense; frankincense, myrrh and lavender were also used for embalmment purpose. Herodotus has left us a sickening description of the great number of spices and scented ointments of which India was the center. Beauty products from India also attracted the women of Egypt. The cosmetic trade was entirely dependent on imports chiefly from India. The Pharaohs of the fifth and sixth dynasties made great efforts to develop trade relations with the land of Punt. Knemphotep made voyages to Punt eleven times under the captainship of Koui. This expedition was organized and financed by the celebrated Queen Halshepsut.19
Before trade with the Roman Empire, India carried on her trade chiefly with Egypt; whose king, Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) with whom Ashoka the Great had , founded the city of Alexandria, that afterwards became the principal emporium of trade between the East and West.M. A. Murray, the Egyptologist says in his book, " The splendor that was Egypt" that the type of men of Punt as depicted by Halshepsut's artists suggests an Asiatic rather than an African race and the sweet smelling woods point to India as the land of their origin. 20
This expedition really appears to have been a great commercial success. The queen proudly recorded on the walls of the temple of Deir-el-Bahri: "Our ships were filled with all marvelous things from Punt (India); the scented wood of God's land, piles of resin, myrrh, green balsan trees, ebony, ivory, gold, cinnamon, incense, eye-coloring, monkeys, grey dogs and panther-skins." These objects indicate Indian goods exported to Egypt.
Indian Society & Religious Teachers ( Pre-Buddhist India)
If the reader is serious about understanding Buddhism, and early Hindu Teachings, then it is vitally important that we examine the period immediately preceding Siddhattha Gotama's birth. The atmosphere at the convergence of the Vedic and non-Vedic period of Indian history is a major factor in understanding the teachings later propounded by Gotama the Buddha.
The word 'veda' means knowledge, and in this instance refers specifically to spiritual or sacred knowledge. The literature of the Upanishads and hymns of the ancient Rig Veda were not considered as mere odes but as musings on the transcendental reality beyond the physical and natural phenomena. The Sanskrit term for Vedic literature is 'sruti '- what has been heard. The ancient sages and rishis, while in spiritual trance had come into direct contact with celestial beings whom they considered as expressions of the divine principle or cosmic intelligence. The belief was that these 'texts' were not composed by gods or men but existed externally and were to be cognized by the ' listener ' Brahmins were the class of men whose duty and function was to preserve the 'sruti'. The whole of the Brahmanical society was based on this fact, and though the Brahmins were the minority, they had the greatest influence in society at that time. Many of the Buddha's teachings were aimed at the Brahmin class, and for this reason, it is necessary to have a basic knowledge of the Brahmin hierarchy of that time.
The subject matter of the Vedas, and their role in shaping ancient India could, and in fact does, fill many volumes. Here we attempt to summarize the salient points in order to present a picture of the mindset of the people. The ancient Aryans had a concept of eternal law called 'Rita'. Agni, the immortal fire god who served the gods, was said never to break this law. The Rig Veda III 34:9 then informs us that Indra gave protection to the Aryan color.
The Hymn to Purisha, ( cosmic man ), is the first instance of the caste system. The Yajur Veda, circa 10th century, contains collections of the ritual formulas for the priests to use in sacrifices, which is what 'yaja' means. It also explained the method for constructing altars for the new and full moon sacrifices and other ceremonies.
By instituting ceremonies that were more elaborate the priest class grew in wealth and number. The Soma ritual was the most important and could last for up to 12 years. The plant had to be purchased and imported and a ritual drama was re-enacted. This showed the Aryan buyer snatching back the calf, which was paid for the Soma plant, after the transaction. The plant was then placed in a cart and welcomed as an honored guest and king.
At the ceremony, the sacrificial animals were slain and cut up according to the rites before their meat was eaten. After various offerings and other ceremonies, the Soma juice was purified and toasted to different gods. The text goes on to list the ceremonial and sacrificial fees to be paid, usually gold, cows, goats and food etc. Agricultural ceremonies were common and the Purisha ceremony symbolized human sacrifice, though this may refer back to a time when the hunting and pastoral people did not allow enemies to live. The Brahmins had three duties, (obligations, or debts) to repay during his lifetime. These were
- Learning the Vedas - fulfilling his duty to the Seers and Rishis.
- Offerings and sacrifice - duty to the gods.
- Raising a family - duty to father.
Thus, they assured their livelihood by ensuring that penance, through religious ritual, was a prime social value. The Brahmin priests, acting in this role, helped by providing social stability.The Brahmanas, circa 900 - 700 BCE, are written in prose as sacerdotal commentaries on the 4 Vedas. Acting as a guide the information is often mythical and fanciful but they do give information about the social conditions and customs prevalent at the time. They serve as a transition from the Vedas to the Aranyakas and Upanishads. Caste, based on color ( varna ), was by now firmly established. The system was not as rigid as it was later to become.
The caste system was later to become hereditary, but this was probably not the case in earlier times. The basis of the system is a Hymn in the Rig Veda X:90, verse 12 of the Purusa- Sukta, or the hymn of the Cosmic Man.
" His mouth was the Brahmin (white)
Arms were made Royal, (red)
His two thighs,
that which is the Vaisya (yellow)
from his feet
was born the Sudra" (black)
The cosmic man was equated (here) with society. The four classes listed clearly shows who comes at the top. The mouth to utter the Vedas literally assured the Brahmins position in this social structure. The arms, which represented strength and power, was composed of the warrior - king class known as Rajanya or Ksatriya. The Vaishyas were the thighs and loins of society. They represented the society's fertility and were composed of the producing class ie farmers and merchants. The Sudra, those serving the others were composed of the indigenous people, the Dasas. These were the lowest class of people and were not allowed to own property. (Females of the time, irrespective of caste, were not permitted to own property; and a Brahmin could take a wife simply by seizing her hand.) There was rivalry between the top two castes for prestige and power. The lower caste was forbidden to hear or study the Vedas and Upanishads.
The Upanishads, (those who sit near), implies listening closely to the doctrines expounded by a spiritual teacher. The oldest parts of the Upanishads are thought to date from around 700 BCE. The ascetics retreated to the forests with their students to study the spiritual doctrines. These ascetics placed less emphasis on sacrifices and rituals, which were being performed in the towns and cities. These Sages were not as wealthy as the Brahmins in the towns who served royalty and other wealthy patrons. The emphasis of teaching now shifted to wisdom and knowledge. The knower or inner person was known as the 'atman' or soul.
The 6th century BCE marked a historical epoch in the religious evolution of Northern India. The racial intellect of the time was forced to confront two opposing psychological trends. The solution lay in the emergence of a uniquely magnetic individual who could successfully synthesize the realism of the physical philosophers with the idealism of the ancient Vedas. Later in the thesis, I shall give details of other famous ascetics and their doctrines. For the present, it is sufficient we note that Indian society was filled with philosophers, mendicants, wanderers, hermits and ascetics. The mindset of the country was at a cultural crossroads, and this, was the atmosphere into which the Buddha was born.
RULERS AND TEACHERS OF PRE - BUDDHIST INDIA
In the sixth century BCE, India witnessed the origin and growth of Buddhism which subsequently became one of the worlds greatest international religions. A brief survey of the various conditions and the trend of thought in the midst of which it originated is a necessity for an adequate understanding of Buddhism.
India was divided into sixteen political divisions at, or shortly before, the advent of Buddhism. These sixteen divisions are technically known as Sodasa Mahajanapada in the Buddhist literature. The rulers of these Janapadas were in constant conflict with one another and that is why they could not establish a big kingdom. These sixteen Janapadas were Anga, Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Ceti, Vamsa, Kuru, Pancala, Maccha, Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhari, and Kamboja.
This map refers to India at the time of the Buddha, but the social landscape and districts prior Buddhism remained unchanged.
These Mahajanapadas were not local names, but names of tribes or peoples; they grew up in the vast area extending from Kabul to the Godavari. Of them only Assaka was situated on the Godavari in South India. These Janapadas are referred to in the Digha Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya, Culla Niddesa, Mahavastu and also in the Bhagavati Sutra of the Jains. But there is no unanimity in regard to their names. The 'Lalitavistara, refers to sixteen Janapadas without mentioning their names. A brief account of them is given here:
Anga : was once a powerful kingdom in India. It was also rich and prosperous. The first reference to the Angas is found in the Atharva-Veda where they find mention along with the Magadhas, Gandharis and the Mujavats apparently as a despised people. The Jaina Prajnapana ranks Angas and Vangas in the first group of Aryan peoples. The River Champa formed the boundaries between the Magadha in the west and Anga in the east and by the river Ganga on the north. Its capital Champa, formerly known as Malini, was located on the right bank of river Ganga, near its junction with river Champa. It was a very flourishing city and is referred to as one of six principal cities of ancient India (Digha Nikaya). It was also a great center of trade and commerce and its merchants regularly sailed to distant Suvarnabhumi. Anga was later annexed by Magadha in the time of Bimbisara.
Magadha : was an important centre of political, commercial and other activities. The ancient literature is also replete with accounts of the people of the then Magadha. The first reference to the Magadhas also occurs in the Atharva-Veda. The bards of Magadha are spoken of in terms of contempt in early Vedic literature. The Vedic dislike of the Magadhas in early times was because the Magadhas were not yet wholly Brahmanised. The Rigveda mentions a king Pramaganda as a ruler of Kikata. Yasaka declares that Kikata was a non-Aryan country. Later Vedic literature refers to Kikata as synonym of Magadha. With the exception of Rigvedic Pramaganda, no other king of Magadha appears to in Vedic literature. According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, king Brihadratha founded the earliest ruling dynasty of Magadha. Magadha came into prominence only under king Bimbisara and his son Ajatasatru. In the war of supremacy, which went on between the nations of Majjhimadesa, the kingdom of Magadha finally emerged victorious and became a predominant empire in Mid India.
The kingdom of the Magadhas roughly corresponded to the modern districts of Patna and Gaya in southern Bihar, and parts of Bengal in the east. It was bounded on the north by river Ganga, on the east by the river Champa, on the south by Vindhya Mountains and on the west by the river Sona. Its earliest capital was Girivraja or Rajagriha modern Rajgir in Patna district of Bihar. The other names for the city were Magadhapura, Brihadrathapura, Vasumati, Kushagrapura and Bimbisarapuri. It was an active center of Jainism in ancient times. The first Buddhist Council was held in Rajagriha in the Vaibhara Hills. Later on, Pataliputra became the capital of Magadha. It is said that in the Buddha's time it (inclusive of Anga) contained eighty thousand villages and was about twenty-three hundred miles in circumference.
Kasi : (also known as Kausika ; Kaushaka) : The Kasis were Aryan people who had settled in the region around Varanasi (modern Banaras). The capital of Kasi was at Varanasi. The city was bounded by the rivers Varuna and Asi on north and south which gave Varanasi its name. Prior to the Buddha, Kasi was the most powerful of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. Several Jatakas bear witness to the superiority of its capital over other cities of India and speak highly of its prosperity and opulence. The Jatakas also mention the long rivalry of Kasi with Kosala, Anga and Magadha. A struggle for supremacy went on among them for a time. Kasi was later incorporated into Kosala during Buddha's time. The Kasis, along with the Kosalas and Videhans are mentioned in Vedic texts and appear to have been a closely allied people.
Kosala : The country of Kosalas was located to the north-west of Magadha with its capital at Savatthi (Sravasti). It was located about 70 miles to north-west of Gorakhpur and comprised territory corresponding to the modern Awadh (or Oudh) in Uttar Pradesh. It had the river Ganga for its southern boundary, the river Gandhak for its eastern boundary and the Himalaya Mountains for its northern boundary. King Pra
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