General History Thread


Dharma Dispatcher
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Nov 10, 2020
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In Ancient BHARATVARSH, there was an examination board called Sastrakara-Pariksha. This board approved all new grammatical/scientific/economic/philosophical treatises created for public welfare. It was held every year. Panini likely presented his Aṣṭādhyāyī here first.


The Greeks––Megasthenes and Diodorus commented on this and became witness to all great scientists, philosophers presented their works here for royal patronage, where they were discussed. It was also called simply Sabha .


The great grammarian, Pāṇini was likely good friends with the Brahmin Vararuchi, the minister of the Nanda kings. Panini had made such a good treatise, it was considered superior above all by all scholars. Pāṇini visited Pāṭaliputra to present his work at the royal court.


The scholars & scientists who made things that were deemed very beneficial for the public welfare received great gifts of gold, tax exemptions and a lot of recognition. Their names were etched down forever & their works were distributed all over India for all Aryas to memorize.


Yuan Chwang says 1000 pieces of gold were given as reward to those who mastered the Aṣṭādhyāyī. Pāṇini said someone who had a successful exposition of a śāstra at this sabhā was sannayana as in bestowal of honor (for this occasion)



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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY) is on an ambitious project “to bring Indian history out of its imperial past and provide it with references from a national historical and cultural perspective".

The project aims to restructure British-imposed eras and re-categorise them in the Indian historical context.

In addition to this, the affiliate is working to bring out a “comprehensive history of the country" in eight volumes by 2024. a year before the Sangh celebrates 100 years of its existence.

Speaking to, Balmukund Pandey, national organisation secretary, ABISY, said about working on the project that the references that exist are distorted and thus unproductive.

The aim is to form committees in every district and bring in facts and findings from them. We have activated our teams in every district to give us references about the histories of their areas. Out of 650 districts, we have covered 350. If we take the Medieval period, it is basically Muslim-dominated and Delhi-centric. We will expand on this. We have an elaborate history. Take the example of the Ahom Kings. Had they not been there, many Buddhist nations of Southeast Asia would be Islamic nations. King Prithu stopped Bakhtiyar Khilji in Assam. In the south, Raja Krishnadevaraya ruled for many years. He was a Hindu King," Balmukund said.

How it will be publicised

There are two steps to this process, according to the organisation. The first is to collect references, and the second is to do research on them.

According to Balmukund Pandey, the University Grants Commission (UGC) too has sought the expertise of ABISY historians.

The need arose as the valiant past of the country was not taught or brought to the fore. Wherever we won the battles are not part of history. This is to correct many distortions. For example, when we study Rajput history, there is no need to only study Akbar, Babur, and Aurangzeb. Efforts are being made to balance the history by bringing in achievements of other kings like Ahoms," added the Sangh functionary. “We are ready to give our research to NCERT as well if they want it. We have study material ready. Real history is being brought forward."

On opposition allegations of changing history, Balmukund said history can’t be changed. “There are new findings in research and that should be updated on the basis of new findings. British-era historians called Bhagat Singh a terrorist but today he is called a revolutionary. We can’t change the fact that his name was Bhagat Singh or the date he was hanged on. And if doing this is tagged as changing history by RSS, we are proud of it," he said.

The RSS functionary said there is no attempt to rewrite history but only to present the existing history in view of new findings.

Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav

The RSS affiliate is bringing out 75 books on India’s unsung heroes. A series is being planned along with 100 seminars conducted throughout the country. In addition, Balmukund Pandey said that there will be a mahadhiveshan (mega convention) in December.

“From December 25 to 28, there will be a mahadhiveshan in Sasaram. There will be a focus on ‘self-awakening’. Vivekananda, Veer Savarkar, and Khudiram Bose weren’t fighting to get a post. But there was a movement to awaken people to free their motherland," he said.


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Dharma Dispatcher
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History of Pātaliputra

The city has been named in various texts of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, and has been known by various names such as ‘Pātalaigrama’, ‘Pushpa-pura’, ‘Kusum-pura’, etc.
The origin of the name of Pātaliputra is unclear.

Some scholars consider it from the word ‘patali’ = a species of rice known as Bignonia suaveloens.
The origin of Pātaliputra as a city starts around 490 BCE, when Ajatshatru was ruling Magadha and was fighting against the Vijji(Vajji) Confederacy.

Emperor Ajātshatru

He constructed a fort at the place where Ganges and Son met, under his ministers Vassakara and Sunipa.
Buddha while speaking to his disciple Ānanda in the ‘Digha Nikaya’ :
“As far as Aryans dwell, this city of Pātaliputra will be a foremost city.”
In the ‘Patali-sutta’, he says:
“Pātaliputra will emerge as a great city, but will be troubled by fire, floods & civil discord
After Ajatshatru, his son Udāyan (461-445 BCE) shifted the Magadhan capital from Rājgriha ( modern Rajgir) to Pātaliputra.
The city of Rājgriha was constructed under an architect named as Pandit Mahāgovinda, under the kingship of Bimbisara.

Cyclopean Walls of Rajgir
In the next few centuries, Pātaliputra became the capital of succeeding dynasties like the Sisunaga, Nandas, Mauryans, Sungas and the Guptas.

During the time of Chandragupta Maurya, a Greek ambassador named Megasthenes visited the imperial court at Pātaliputra and has recorded some great information about the city.

Apart from Megasthenes, several other ancient writers have written on length about the great city.
Megasthenes on Pātaliputra
” The city of Pālibortha is protected by a moat which has a depth of 30 cubits (60 feet), and a width of 6 plethra ( 200 yards).”
” The moat received the sewage of the city.”
” The city was protected by a massive timber palisade surrounding it along the moat.”

” The palisade was pierced by loopholes through which archers were to shoot. The city had 64 gates and 570 towers.”

” It is in the shape of an oblong, with a length of 60 stades ( 15 km) & a breadth of 15 stades (2.5 km).”

Excavated Palisade Wall of Pātaliputra

” Pālibortha is situated at confluence of Ganges and Sonus rivers.”
” It is in the shape of an oblong, with a length of 60 stades ( 15 km) & a breadth of 15 stades (2.5 km).”

The Royal Palace at Pātaliputra

“The palace is adorned with glided pillars clasped round with a vine embossed in gold, while silver images of those birds which most charm the eye diversify the workmanship.”
“The palace is full of tame peacock & pheasants, shady groves & trees set in clumps with branches woven together by some special cunning of horticulture, trees that are always green, they never grow old and never shed their leaves.”
“Some trees are native, and some are brought from other lands with great care & these adorn the palace and give it glory. Birds are there free and unconfined.
“The birds come of their own accord, and have their nests and resting places on branches, birds of various kinds.”
The Greek historians tells us that the palaces at Susa or Ecabatana are no match for the splendour & luxury of the Indian palace at Pātaliputra.

‘Mudra-rakshsa’ mentions that the name of the palace was ‘Suganga-prasada’.

It is to be noted that perhaps the same place stood through next 600 years and has been described by Fa-Hien, when he visited India in early 5th century AD.

After the Mauryas, Pātaliputra was occupied by the Sungas, who ruled most of North India till 1st century BCE.

After them, the Kānvas were based at the city and till 3rd century AD, it was occupied by small rulers.
The next great Indian empire after the Mauryas was also based at Pātaliputra.

It was the Guptas, who ruled the major portions of the subcontinent for more than 200 years, from 319-550 AD.
A reference to the city is in Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudra Gupta which states that:

A King of Kota ( kota-kula) was ‘captured’ by Samudra Gupta’s army, while he was ‘playing’ ( kridata) at his capital city of Pātaligramā.’
From their imperial darbar (Upsthana) at Pātaliputra, Samudra Gupta and his successors launched various campaigns throughout the subcontinent, and made the far regions, even distant South pay homage to them.

Fa-Hien visited the city between 399-412 AD, & has left a vivid account of the general conditions of the country.

He visited the great monasteries situated at Pātaliputra and met great teachers such as Raivata. He also copied various Buddhist texts available at the monastery.

After the Guptas, the centre of political administration changed and it was no longer Pātaliputra.

The major cities were up North at Kannauj, and afterwards shifted towards Bengal.

Perhaps Pātaliputra was heavily damaged during floods, which occured during mid-5th century AD, and made Skanda Gupta shift the capital to Ayodhya.

Pataliputra as a Centre of Learning:

According to Mahavmsa Tika, Chanakya came all the way from Taxila to Pātaliputra in pursuit of learning & disputation centred at that imperial capital ( vadam pariyesanto purpphapuran ganiva).
It is an extraordinary compliment paid to Pātaliputra as the intellectual capital of India in those days when a scholar of encyclopaedic learning like Chanakya, himself a product of Taxila, should seek to win fresh laurels at this centre of learning called Pātaliputra.
Eminent creative authors and geniuses like Varsha & Upavarsha, Panini & Pingala, and Vyadi, Vararuchi & Patanjali, achieved everlasting fame by passing their exams at Pataliputra.

Pātaliputra School of Metal Art:

Pātaliputra was also famous for its schools of metal-working.

A famous e.g is the Sultanganj Buddha, which was made in 5th-6th century AD, and is located presently at Birmingham museum.

Sultanganj Buddha

After the demise of Guptas in mid-6th century AD, Pātaliputra lost its importance, and major cities of India shifted towards Kannauj in the North and afterwards towards Bengal.

In past 2500 years, no Indian city had such an important role to play, except Pātaliputra.

For a thousand years, from 5th century BCE, it was a epicenter of political, cultural, scientific and educational transformation of the country.


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The Rise of Magadha


The article would describe on the Magadha as an Imperial Power from 6th century BCE to 1st century BCE and would include the political, cultural advancement of India under the hegemony of Magadha, which made India a superpower in ancient times.

Magadha, in ancient times corresponded to region of present day Patna, Nālandā, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Navada in present day Bihar.

The region was bounded on the North by Ganges, to the South by Chota Nagpur plateau, in the west Champa river & on the east by Son river.

The earliest reference to Magadha occurs in Atharveda, where it is described along with Gandhara, Anga, Mujawant, etc.

It is also described extensively in Mahabharata and Ramayana.

In Ramayana, it is the place where Sugreeva sent his army to locate Sita.

There is less information on the earliest kings of Magadha.

It was only during Mahabharata era that we hear of famous King Jarasandha, who made Magadha as an imperial power.

Son of Brihadartha, Jarasandha was also the father-in-law of Kansa, the king of Mathura, and hence that makes him a relative of Krishna.

Ruling from Girivraja ( Rajgir), he attacked Mathura many times.

He was killed by Bheem in a wrestling bout.

Jarasandha was replaced as a king by his son named Sahdeva, who was killed at the famous battle at Kurukshetra. He was succeeded by Somadhi.

The Vayu Purana mentions that the descendants of Jarasandha ruled for 2600 years.

Jarasandh ka Akhada, at Rajgir
The Brahmanda Purana states that the last of Jarasandha’s descendants named Vipunjayā/Ripunjayā was assassinated by his minister named Punika, who then made his son Pradyota king of Magadha.

Thus started the Pradyota dynasty which ruled for next 138 years, till at least 642 AD.

The last of the Pradyota dynasty king Varttivarddhana, was deposed by Sisunaga, who started the Haryanka dynasty, which made Magadha an imperial power.

Bimbisara (c. 542-491 BCE)

Bimbisara with Buddha
One of the most famous and powerful kings of India belonged to Haryanka dynasty.

He was Bimbisara, who gained the throne of Magadha at the young age of 15 and extended the kingdom of Magadha through his military and diplomatic prowess.

After gaining the throne in c. 542 BCE, Bimbisāra’s first conquest was the kingdom of Anga, corresponding to the area of Bhagalpur and parts of Bengal.

This conquest gave Magadha the control over the routes to Ganges Delta, & access to east coast of India.

Bimbisāra’ used marriage alliances to strengthen the position of Magadha as the most powerful Māhājanapadas of India.

His first wife was Kosala Devi, who was the sister of Prasenjit, King of Kosala.

Kosala Devi gave birth to Ajatshatru, the successor of Bimbisāra’.

As a marriage gift, he received the region of Kāshi ( modern Varanasi).

His second wife was Chellana, the Lichchhavi princess, his third wife was Kshema, who was the daughter of Madra clan of Punjab ( modern Sialkot).

The Mahāvagga states that Bimbisāra had 500 wives.

Bimbisāra also had a relationship with the famous Amrapali of Vaishali, with whom he had a son named as Vimala Kodnana.

Both mother and son later became the disciples of Buddha.

Bimbisāra re-bulit the city of Rājgriha ( abode of the kings).

The architect of the city was Pandit Mahāgovinda.

New cyclopean walls were constructed, along with city gates.

After evening, the gates were closed & not even the king was allowed to enter.

Cyclopean Walls built by Bimbisara

Pukkusati, the king of Gandhara sent Bimbisāra an embassy.

His court is said to have included Sona Kolivisa, Sumana, Koliya , Kumbhaghosaka and Jivaka, who was a great physician.

Bimbisāra is a highly respected figure in Buddhism and Jainism as well.

He is said to have met both Mahavira and Buddha.

He built monasteries as per Buddha’s instructions & also sent his physician Jīvaka to attend to Buddha.

As per accounts, Bimbisāra was assassinated by his own son Ajātshatru, who was impatient to rule.

He imprisoned his father and perhaps killed him, or Bimbisāra committed suicide in jail as per Jain accounts.

The remains of a building at Rajgir was excavated in the 19th century & is called ‘ Bimbisara Jail’.

While excavating this place in the 19th century, Archeologists found skeleton of a man in fetters inside this compound.

Bimbisara’s Jail Ajatshatru ( 491-461 BCE)

(491-461 BCE) was the successor of Bimbisāra.

He was the contemporary of Xerxes-I (486-465 BCE), the Persian emperor of Achaemenid dynasty.

Under Ajātshatru, the military might of Magadha truly manifested.

He is generally credited with the inventions of two types of military weapons; ‘rathamusala‘ (scythed chariot) and the ‘mahashilakantaka‘ ( a machine for hurling heavy objects, or a improvised catapult).

Ajātshatru extended the dominion of Magadha, & the petty Republican states were crushed under his might.

His famous war was with the Vajji confederacy led by a branch of Lichcchavis, who inhabited parts of Mithila with their capital at Vaishali.

The legends indicate that Ajātshatru sent one of his ministers, Vassakara in disguise to Vaishali in order to create dissension among the Vajjis.

It is also indicated that it took his spies 16 years in order to achieve their task.

Once the task of creating dissension was complete, Ajātshatru unleashed his army and conquered the Vajjians.

He then conquered other parts of ‘Aryavrata’ and his arms went up towards Satluj river.

Ajātshatru is also credited with laying the foundations of a great city called ‘Patāliputra’.

He constructed a fort at the confluence of Ganges & Son river, in order to battle the Vajjis.

In a few decades that small fort grew up to a magnificent city.

The first Buddhist Council, was also held under Ajātshatru, after the death of Buddha in c. 483 BCE.

The story of the first gathering is recorded in the Buddhist text ‘ Vinaya Pitaka’.

Ajātshatru died in around 461 BCE, after ruling for 30 years.

The Buddhist sources indicate that Ajātshatru was murdered by his son Udayabhadra or Udayan.

Ajātshatru had murdered his own father to gain the throne.

Similarly, his son also murdered him and then ascended the throne of Magadha.

Fort of Ajatshatru, where his ashes were placed

To be continued.


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Other Kings of Haryanka Dynasty

or Udayan succeeded Ajātshatru in 461 BCE.

He is credited for shifting the capital of Magadha from Rajgir to Pātaliputra.

He also defeated the kings of Avanti.

Buddhist sources indicate that he was murdered by his son Anuruddha for the throne.

Udayan (461- 445 BCE)
Anuruddha was also murdered by his son Munda, who ruled for few years.

He too, was murdered by his son Nāgādāsākā, who ruled for 25 years from c. 438 BCE.

Nāgādāsākā, was a corrupt ruler & the people of Magadha rose up in revolt against this king.

People, tired of parricide among the Haryanka dynasty rulers, deposed the king & installed one of his ministers, Sisunaga as the new king

Sisunaga started a dynasty after his name.

Sisunaga Dynasty

(413-395 BCE) was an amātya ( minister) of the last Haryanka dynasty ruler, Nāgādāsākā.

He was also a governor at Kāshi ( Varanasi).

He shifted the capital back to Rājagriha, and made his son Viceroy of Kāshi.

He is credited with the final annexation of Avanti, by defeating Avantivardhana, and thus bringing an end to almost hundred years of warfare between these two powers.

Shishunaga was succeeded by his son Kakarvani Kalasoka.

Under him, the second buddhist council took place, 100 years after the death of Buddha, in c. 383 BCE.

Kalarvani Kalasoka was killed by his barber minister, Mahapadma Nanda.

Banabhatta in ‘Harscharita’ says that Kalasoka was:

“killed by a dagger thrust into his throat, in the neighborhood of his city, Pātaliputra”.
Q. Curtis Rufus states that:

“The father of Agrammes ( Dhana-Nanda) was a barber scarcely staving of hunger by his daily earnings, but who, because of his handsome personality had gained the affection of the Queen and got a position at the court.”

“Afterwards, however, he treacherously murdered his sovereign & then under the pretence of acting as guardian of royal children, usurped the royal throne. “

“He afterwards killed the nine sons of king & married his queen, and begot the present king who is detested held cheap by his subjects. “

Nandas (c. 382 – 322 BCE)

The Nandas, under Mahapadma Nanda was the next dynasty of Magadha.

They were rich, avaricious, ‘adharmik'( as the Puranas state).

They were perhaps the first empire builders of India.

Mahapadma Nanda, as per Puranas is called a ‘ Second Parashurama’.

He uprooted the Kshatriya dynasties of Ikshvakus, Surasenas, Haihayas, Panchalas, Kalingas, etc and made Magadha a supreme power.

A vast empire of Magadha was created under Māhāpadma Nanda, who also occupied Kalinga and took away the Royal treasures and the statue of first Jain Tirthankar.

The Nandas also made an aqueduct at Kalinga.

Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela, mentions Nandas
His successor Dhana-Nanda (c. 350-322 BCE), was legendary for his wealth and his anti-people policies, if the Greek, Jain, Buddhist, and South Indian accounts are anything to go by.

A Tamil poem refers to his wealth “which having accumulated first in Pātali hid itself in the floods of the Ganges.”

The ‘Katha-Saritsagara’ speaks of ‘990 million gold pieces of Nandas’.

He was called ‘Dhana -Nanda’ by the way of contempt because he was “addicted to hoarding treasure”, as per Mahavamsa Tika.

He is stated to have buried his treasures in a rock-bed at the Ganges in Pātaliputra.

Dhana Nanda, was notorious for his avarice, the possessor of “riches to the amount of 80 kotis( 1 koti= 10 million = 1 crore) and given to “levying taxes on skins, gums, trees and stones”.

Dhana-Nanda had enough power & pelf, but he lacked popularity.

Chandragupta, himself reported to Alexander that he was “hated by his subjects” and Alexander had this report confirmed by Indian Kings like Porus (Paurava) & Phegelas (Bhagala).

His unpopularity is due as much to the original sin of his father & to his tyrannical rule and exactions.

Thus, his power was tottering to its fall. It was not broad based upon people’s will.

In 322 BCE, he was forcibly removed by Chanakya, who installed Chandragupta as king.

Maurya Dynasty (322-184 BCE)

The Mauryan dynasty succeeded the Nandas.

The Mauryan empire has been called the ‘ first empire of India’.

It was under the Mauryas that India was unified politically for the first time in recorded history.

Chandragupta Maurya, with his guru Kautilya achieved the political unification of the country for the first time in recorded history.

His empire ranged from Aria ( Herat) to Bengal, and from southern Karnataka to Mysore.

On 305 BCE, when Seleukos Nikator, one of the generals of Alexander tried to invade India, he was defeated and had to cede the areas of Herat, Kabul valley, Baluchistan and Kandahar to Chandragupta.

Afterwards, Seleukos sent Megasthenes as his ambassador to Pātaliputra.

After Chandragupta, his son Bindusara got the throne of Magadha and ruled for 25 years.

He was able to preserve the empire, albeit there were rebellions in his kingship, when Taxila revolted & he had to send one of his sons, Ashoka to quell it.

There was period of four years from 273 BCE, which was a period of civil war between the sons of Bindusara.

Ashoka, one of his sons defeated all his opponents and became the third emperor of Mauryan dynasty in 269 BCE.

The only political event of Ashoka’s reign was the Battle of Kalinga fought in the year 261 BCE.

The battle made Ashoka give up conquests and furthermore, he became a zealous follower of Buddha, after his conversion at least 2.5 years before the battle.

Ashoka is also remembered for his Rock and pillar edicts, 35 in number, where he has promoted his works and his affliction to the Buddhist order.

Under Ashoka, the third Buddhist Council was held in c. 250 BCE.

Ashokan Pillar
Ashoka also is a builder of cities. The city of ‘Shrinagari’, modern Srinagar was founded by Ashoka.

He also sent ambassadors to the Greek world and his remembered for his public works & protection of animals.

Ashoka died in 232 BCE, and the empire disintegrated less than 50 years after his death.

The last Mauryan emperor, Brihidartha was assassinated while reviewing his troops by his commander-in-chief, Pushyamitra Sunga.

Pushyamitra started a new dynasty in 184 BCE.

To be continued.


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Sunga Dynasty (184-73 BCE)

As per the Ayodhya inscription of 1st century BCE, Pushyamitra Sunga is credited with holding two Ashvamedha Yajñas.

Ayodhya inscription
Pushyamitra was succeeded by his son Aginimitra in 149 BCE, and ruled for 8 years.

This king has been immortalised by Kalidasa in his epic play ‘Mālvikagnimitram’.

Other kings followed Agnimitra. One of them was Vasumitra, who defeated the Greeks in a cavalry engagement on the banks of the Indus.

Vasumitra was assassinated while watching a play in his capital city in 124 BCE. Bhāgabhadra, was the penultimate emperor of Sunga dynasty.

He maintained diplomatic relations with the Indo-Greeks, who sent him an ambassador named Heliodorus in c. 100 BCE

Devābhuti was the last ruler of Sunga dynasty, who was said to overfond of women.

He was assassinated by his minister named Vasudeva who started a new dynasty in 73 BCE.

After ruling for more than 40 years, the last ruler of Kanva dynasty named Susarman was killed by Balipuccha, who founded the Andhra dynasty in 27 BCE.

Thus, more than 500 years of Magadha dominance came to a halt.

Magadha would again revive 350 years later, under the Guptas.

Social Conditions

Society was based on orthodox Hindu system which divided it among 4principal castes (varnas) & many lower castes ( avara-varna).

Kautilya in Arthashastra ( Book 3, chpt 1) describes offsprings of various castes, Ambastha, Ugra, Chandala, etc.Megasthenes divides Indian society in to 7 classes, and gives particular emphasis to sophists or ‘sramanas’.

As per Megasthenes, sophists ( Brahmins) are the most respected class of people and even the king takes advice from them.

Megasthenes on Kshatriyas:

“Fighting men who are maintained at the King’s expense and hence they are always ready, when occasion calls, to take the field; for they carry nothing of their own with them but their own bodies.”

As per Megasthenes:

“The Indians neither put out money at usury, nor know how to borrow.”

” It is contrary to established usage for an Indian to do or suffer a wrong and therefore they neither make contracts nor require securities. Their houses are usually unguarded.”


Pātaliputra Capital

This is a rectangular capital with classical Greek designs, which was found on the ancient site of Pātaliputra.

The capital has a height of 33.5 inches and weighs around 900 kg.

The design of the capital is influenced by Hellenistic art and may have been constructed by craftsmen, who came all the way from the Greek world.

This also proves the strengthening of Indo-Greek intercourse which had started after the invasion of India by Alexander.

The Didarganj Yakshi s one of the finest examples of very early Indian stone statues.

The figure is 6’4″ tall, carved out of single piece of stone. The life-size standing image is a tall, free-standing one, made of sandstone with the well-polished surface. An eg of Mauryan art.

Didarganj Yakshi
The Lion Capital of Ashoka is a sculpture of four lions standing back to back.

The structure sits on a lotus & is carved of a single block of polished sandstone.

Standing 7 feet high, the structure is the national emblem of India.

Lion Capital of Sarnath
The Lomash Rishi Caves are man-made caves, located at Jehanabad district in Bihar.

Lomash Rishi Caves
The cave was bulit during Ashokan times and is dedicated to Ajvikas, a heretical sect.

There are inscriptions found at the cave, including one of Ashoka and of his successors.

Script and Language

The script of the times consisted of Brahmi, as per Ashokan inscriptions.

However, the script in NW was Kharotshi, Greek and Aramaic.

The language of the masses was Prakrit. Sanskrit was spoken by Brahmins and higher classes.


Coins have also been excavated at the site of ancient Pātaliputra. These are taken to be earliest known pre-Mauryan with ‘the hare & dog on Hill’ symbol.

Many of these coins were punched by Mauryas to make them ‘legal tender’ or kosa-pravesya, as Kautilya calls them.

There is a tradition about Nandas inaugurating a Royal measure (Nandoparakrāmani mānani), while their wealth may be due to their coinage & currency system.

These punches on the coins denote Sun, circle with 6 arms, 3 arrow heads, & symbol of peacock, tree, animal, like a bull, rhino & even fishes.

In some cases there are symbol of a sacred tree within a railing, which is perhaps a mark of Buddhist influence in the time of Ashoka.

Punch-marked coins of Magadhan times
Educational Centre

Ancient Magadha was also known for its highly evolved education system.

Pātaliputra was the intellectual capital of India in those days. Chanakya, Varsha, Upavarsha, Panini, Patanjali, etc all received everlasting fame by passing their finals at Pātaliputra.


The general conditions of transportation have been very well described. The Buddhist and Greek sources tell us a lot about the conditions of roads in Magadhan era.

Inland Roads:

The inland trade was carried on by carts and caravans.

According to Jataka, book 1, chpt 92, there were caravans travelling south-east from Sravasthi to Rajgriha and back ( about 300 miles), and also to “borders ” probably towards Gandhara.

Another important route was between Sravasti to Pataliputra, with 6 intermediate stops and frequent crossing of rivers. There were no bridges in those days but only fording places and ferries for crossing rivers.

Uttarpatha, was the main road connecting NW with Magadha, was an important road for transportation.

As a very frequently travelled road, it was free from dangers. One hears of students travelling in numbers to Taxila, unattended and unarmed ( Jataka, Book 2, chpt 277), for education.

Megasthenes talks about the Royal road connecting NW of India with Tampralipti in Bengal.

The road was constructed in eight stages and was well maintained by the Mauryan empire.

Reasons for the hegemony of Magadha:

There are three important reasons as to why Magadha became the greatest power of India.

These reasons are as under:

1) Elephants:

Forests like Andhvana of Kosala, Sitvahana of Maghada, Veluvana at Rajgriha, or the Prachina Vamsadaya of Sakya country, were full of wild elephants , which could be trained and drafted into the army.

These beasts were used in large numbers by the succeeding kings of Magadha.

Nandas had 3,000 war-elephants, The Mauryas had 9,000 and Sungas also had an elephant corps.

These elephants acted like modern tanks and their use continued well into the modern history.

2) Trade

The Uttrapatha, the ancient G. T Road of ancient India, criss-crossed North India and the major routes were Pataliputra, Sravastri, Rajagriha, which made Magadha a hot destination for trade.

Even the inland waterways were a major trade route in those days.

As per the Buddhist sources, these inland waterways were important as far as trade was concerned.

Even Kautilya bats for the these river routes as faster and more profitable route for trade.

3) Iron :

The area of Magadha, particularly the chota-nagpur area, was & still is, rich in many mineral ores.

Iron extracted from these ores were used to make weapons of all kinds along with agricultural tools that made Magadha one step ahead of competition.

Many important rivers of India like the Ganges, Son, etc criss-crossed Magadha, making the land very fertile and apt for growing variety of crops.

4) Fertile Land:

The economic prosperity of the region due to agriculture has been recorded by travelers such as Megasthenes.

Apart from this, Magadha was also the cradle of two of the most important religions of India, namely Jainism and Buddhism, and two of the greatest personalities India ever had, Buddha and Mahavira.

The political, social, economic life, architecture, education, trade, warfare, which made Magadha, a paramount power of ancient India.

It would not be an exaggeration to call Magadha as ‘ The Rome of Ancient India’.


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Pataliputra in Indian Literature:

The foundation of Pataliputra is traced in the Pali texts to the famous Emperor of Magadha, Ajatshatru ( 491-461 BCE).
Ajatshatru selected for a city, a convenient site on the Ganges & had it constructed under his chief ministers named, Vassakara and Sunidha.
The Buddha visited the city on the occasion of its foundation and made a prophesy about its future greatness:-
And among famous places of residence & haunts of busy men, this will become the chief, O Ananda, the city of Pataliputra, a centre for interchange of all kinds of ware, & will be threatened only by floods, fire and civil discord.”
Patanjali ( second century BC), in his ‘Mahabhashya’
describes Pataliputra as ‘anusonam Pataliputrah’, which means Patanjali knew Pataliputra as situated on the banks of river Sona.
The lofty buildings & parapets for which the city was known impressed Patanjali so much that he refers to them as grammatical examples
.Mudra- Rakshsa ( The signet ring of Rakshsa):- In this play, written by Vishakdatta in around 6th century CE, has an interesting description of Pataliputra.
It indicates that Pataliputra was situated on banks of Ganga & Sona rivers.
In the play, Chandragupta after taking the possession of Dhana-Nanda’s palace called ‘Suganga Prasada‘, sees from the palace, the beauty of river Ganga being led fast, as a declining stream, after the rains by the season of autumn towards the sea.
The Greeks use the term ‘Erannobaos’ which corresponds to Sanskrit ‘Hiranya-Vaha’, a name of Sona river.
Accounts of Fa-hien:- A Chinese traveller and author Fa-hien, vistited India around 399 AD . He saw the Mauryan palace.

Fa-Hien at Ashoka’s Palace

He describes the palace still in good condition and describes it as :-
” The king’s (Ashoka) palace in the city with its various halls, all built up by spirits who piled up stones, constructed walls & gates, carved designs, engraved & inlaid, after no human fashion, is still in existence.”
From Arthashastra:– ” Having studied Shastras & considered applications of its injunctions, Kautilya has thus laid down the procedure of the royal ordinances, in the interests of Narendra”. ( Narendra is supposed to be the nickname of Chandragupta, according to some traditions).


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The Nanda Dynasty ( 387/382/365/345 – 322 BCE)

The Nandas were a dynasty of ancient Magadha, which created a large empire from Beas river to Odhisa.
They were exceedingly rich, powerful and perhaps the first Sudra dynasty of India.

1) Vishnu Puran gives a date of 40 years of Nandas reign;

2) Matasya Purana gives 88 years ;

3) Tāranātha gives 29 years to Nanda dynasty.

Historians have given the dates which range from 387 BCE to 345 BCE.
Origins of Nandas : Buddhist Sources

Urgrasena Nanda or Mahapadma Nanda

The pali texts on the origin of Nandas present a glimpse on the origin of Nandas. His early life was quite romantic. Originally, he was from frontiers ( pachhanta-vasika).
He fell into hands of robbers who carried him captive and won him over to doctrine that pillage was preferable to tillage as pursuit.

He enlisted himself as one of gangs of robbers together with his kinsmen and soon, became their leader.
Their gang started raiding the kingdoms of neighbourhood, & marching against the cities of frontiers, gave them the ultimatum, ‘either surrender your kingdom or give battle’ ( rajyam va dentu yuddham va )
Gradually, they aimed at supreme sovereignty.
A robber king, thus rose to be a ‘Maharajadhiraja’ ( King of Kings) of Magadha, with its capital at Pātaliputrā ( modern day Patna, Bihar).
The Buddhist text also call Nandas ‘ Chorapubas’ – dacoits of the old, and are not too fond of their kingship.
Jain Texts:
The Jain tradition, as recorded in the ‘Parishishta-parvan’ states that the first Nanda king was the son of a barber.
According to the text, the mother of the first Nanda king was a courtesan.
Evidence From Puranas:
The Puranas name the dynasty’s founder as Māhāpadma, and claim that he was the son of the last Saisunaga king, Mahanandin.
The Puranas also state that Māhāpadma’s mother was a Sudra.
Greek Evidence:
The Greeks call the king ruling in the parts, which they called as ‘Gangredei’ and Prassi’, as ‘Agrammes’, who was none other than Dhana-Nanda, the son of Mahāpadmā Nanda.
Q. Curtis Rufus states that:
” The father of Agrammes was a barber scarcely staving of hunger by his daily earnings, but who, from his being not uncomely in person, had gained affection of the queen ; and by her influence advanced to too,near a place in the confidence of the reigning monarch.”
” Afterwards, however, he treacherously murdered his sovereign and then under the pretence of acting as guardian of royal children, usurped the royal throne, and having put the young princes to death , begot the present king.”
Source: McCrindle’s ‘Invasion of India by Alexander’, Account of Curtius, page 189
“Afterwards, however, he treacherously murdered his sovereign and then under the pretence of acting as guardian of royal children, usurped the royal throne, and having put the young princes to death , begot the present king.”
Evidence from Harshcharitra:
Banabhatta, writing in the 7th century CE, states that the last king of Saisunaga dynasty was killed
by ” a dagger thrust into his throat, in the neighborhood of his city.”
Exploits of Māhāpadma Nanda:
Māhāpadma has been described as a ‘Second Parshurama’ who destroyed Kshatriya realms across ‘Aryavrata’ & established himself as the ‘Sole Sovereign’, whom none could challenge’ (anullanghita-sasanah).
Māhāpadma Nanda during his conquests”violently uprooted” Panchalas, Ikshavakus, Kasis, Haihyas, Kalingas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas and Vittihotras.
Towards the south also, the Nanda king extended his sovereignty.
The Nanda king conquered Kalinga, is established by the Hathigumpha inscription of King Kharavela.
It mentions ‘Nanda-Raja’ carrying away to Magadha as trophies of the first Jina and treasures of royal house.
The inscription also tell about an old aqueduct built by Nandas.
Hathigumpha Inscription
Power and Wealth of Nandas:-
The Nanda empire possessed immense power and resources.
Curtius estimates the military power of Nandas, at the time of Alexander ‘s invasion in 326 BCE at, 2,00,000 infantry, 2,000 four-horsed chariots, 20,000 cavalry & a formidable force of 3,000 elephants.
Dhana-Nanda’ (c. 322 BCE)

Dhana Nanda, son of Māhāpadma Nanda was notorious for his avarice, the possessor of “riches to the amount of 80 kotis( 1 koti= 10 million) and given to “levying taxes on skins, gums, trees and stones”.

He is called ‘Agrammes by the Greeks.
The form Agrammes is modified into Xandramas by Diodorus , & historians like F.W. Thomas takes it to be the equivalent of Chandramas.
He takes Agrammes to be Dhana Nanda , as his nick name and ‘Chandramas’ as his personal name.
He was called ‘Dhana -Nanda’ by the way of contempt because he was “addicted to hoarding treasure”, as per Mahavamsa Tika.
The ‘Katha- saritsagara’ speaks of Nanda’s “990 millions of gold pieces.”

He is stated to have buried all his treasure in a rock excavated in the bed of river Ganges.
The fame of his riches reached far south.
A Tamil poem refers to his wealth “which having accumulated first in Pātali hid itself in the floods of the Ganges.”
Source: S. K. Iyengar’s ‘Beginnings of South Indian History’, pg 89
Lack of Popularity of Dhana Nanda:
Nanda had enough power & pelf, but he lacked popularity.
Chandragupta, himself reported to Alexander that he was “hated by his subjects” and Alexander had this report confirmed by Indian Kings like Porus (Paurava) & Phegelas (Bhagala).
His unpopularity is due as much to the original sin of his father and to his tyrannical rule and exactions.
Thus, his power was tottering to its fall. It was not broad based upon people’s will.
Fall of Nandas
The Nandas were Sudras, who, as per texts, are not allowed to rule.
However, the way in which Māhāpadma usurped the throne by killing his master, and marrying his queen, plus the policies of Nanda kings, made sure that their dynasty would fall soon.
Dhana-Nanda insults Chanakya:
The popular legends describe that Chanakya went to Dhana-Nanda, in order to seek military help for help against Greek Invasion.
However, there is an additional legend as to why Dhana-Nanda insulted Chanakya.
Dhana-Nanda was a sort of person who used to hoard wealth.
Chankaya, after completing his studies at Taxila, went to Pātaliputra, as the city was a leading centre for learning and education in those days.
Chanakya found Dhana-Nanda, a changed man.

Instead of any more hoarding, he was now bent upon spending the money on charities organized through a machinery called ‘Danasala’, administered by a ‘Samgha’ whose president was to be a Brahmin.
Chanakya came to be chosen as the President of the ‘Samgha’.
But as fate would have it, Dhana-Nanda could not tolerate him for the ugliness of his features and manners, and dismissed him from that office.
Chanakya, incensed at the insult, cursed the king, threatened the ruin of his race, and escaped.

In his wanderings, he chanced to comes across a child named Chandragupta in a village ground, who was playing a game of Kingship with his friends.

By his prophetic vision, Chanakya realised the immense potential the child had, and took him away to Taxila, for formal education, for at least 8-9 years.
After defeating the Greek governors, Chanakya unleashed Chandragupta on Dhana-Nanda.
After suffering initial defeats, Chandragupta prevailed and Dhana-Nanda was defeated.
The fate of Dhana-Nanda is a matter of conjecture.

That there was a bloody battle is indicated in exaggerated term in ‘Milind-Panho’, which states that:
“100 kotis of soldiers (1 koti=10 million), 10,000 elephants, 5,000 charioteers” were killed in action & that Bhaddasala was the commander of Nanda’s army.
All texts indicate that Dhana-Nanda Nanda was killed. The Jain text however say that:
‘Dhana-Nanda, capitulated with his decreased resources ( kshina kosah), reduced strength (Bala), reduced wits (dhih), reduced prowess ( vikrama), and reduced spiritual merit ( punya).’
Jaint texts say that Dhana-Nanda was allowed to leave the city in two chariots, with his two wives and a daughter, and as much baggage he could carry.

His daughter, fell in love with Chandragupta at first sight and asked the permission of her father to marry him, to which Dhana-Nanda agreed.
Thus, ended the rule of Nandas, who by their policies of over-taxation, sins, avarice- behaviour, bought misery to their populace.

Dhana-Nanda never died!

We still see his manifestations in form of corruption, ‘tax-terrorism’, and anti-people policies going all around us.


Dharma Dispatcher
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@asaffronladoftherisingsun I read somewhere that Ashoka had embraced Buddhism prior to his Kalinga Invasion. Is this true?


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@asaffronladoftherisingsun any info about Dakshinapatha and modern areas or routes (pics) which were used in the past as part of this route?
There is Uttarapatha as well.

Dakshinapatha is mentioned in the Arthasastra of Kautilya. BHARAT had very advanced road network for trade was unavoidable for the richest country of world.




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During the time of the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century bce. There happened overland trade between BHARAT and several parts of the Hellenistic world went through the cities of the north-west on massive scale.Takshashila was well connected by roads with other parts of the Maurya empire. The Mauryas had maintained this very ancient highway from Takshashila to Pataliputra.


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BHARAT's road network is very celestial

Chandragupta Maurya had a whole army of officials overseeing the maintenance of this road as told by the Greek diplomat Megasthenes who spent fifteen years at the Mauryan court he mentions this in Indica. Takshashila was well connected by roads with other parts of the Maurya empire. The Mauryas had maintained this very ancient highway from Takshashila to Pataliputra.


He further mentions wrt Constructed in eight stages this road connected the cities of Purushapura, Takshashila, Hastinapura, Kanyakubja, Prayag, Pataliputra and Tamralipta, a distance of around 1,600 mi.Like Uttarapatha we had other MAHA important roads Dakshinapatha.

It originated from Sarnath, followed through Ujjaini and Narmada valley to Pratisthana in the Mahajanapada of Ashmaka (in modern Maharashtra), onwards to the western coast of India and running in the southern direction.

Celestial tier Uttarapatha along with Celestial tier Dakshinapatha intersected each other at Sarnath, a major place of exchange of goods and ideas in ancient India. No wonder why Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath. Or even no wonder to why Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Jn (earlier Mughalsarai) is one of the busiest.

MAHARASHI Panini in his Ashtadhyayi mentioned it for the first time as Uttarapathenahritam. Uttarapatha is referred to also in the Buddhist literatures like Jataka and Vinaya texts.

The distribution of Ashoka’s rock edicts at junctions of trade routes & in the border areas of the Mauryan Empire demonstrates an extensive system for trans-regional mobility in the middle of the third century bce.

Reference for Ashoka’s second edict talking about facilities for traveller on roadside (Uttarapatha). Scriptions of Asoka. New Edition by E. Hultzsch (in Sanskrit). 1925. p. 3.





A 9th century ad inscription found near Nalanda records the life journey of a Buddhist monk named Vīradeva who travelled from the northwest to Buddhist shrines and monasteries in northeastern BHARAT.

The claim by the eastern Indian ruler in an inscription at Hāthīgumphā (probably belonging to the late first century bce or earlier)indicates that the location of Uttarāpatha was understood in relation to his own domain.


A 9th century AD inscription found near Nalanda records the life journey of a Buddhist monk named Vīradeva who travelled from the northwest to Buddhist shrines and monasteries in northeastern Indi


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Spread of BHARAT's Knwledge and Learning to Foreign Countries.

The products of these universities, distinguished themselves by their work in foreign countries like Tibet, China & the islands of Indian Ocean.

The works of these self- sacrificing scholars in the extension of Indian learning & culture to foreign countries, so as to build up a Greater India beyond its geographical boundaries, is one of the greatest achievement in India’s history & a tribute to these centres of learning.

The Chinese Emperor Ming of Han ( 58-75 AD) was interested in Buddhism & sent an embassy of 18 persons to study its doctrines.

They returned with Buddhist holy books, statues & two Hindu monks named Kāsyapa Mātanga & Dharmaratna.

Kāsyapa was a Sramana of Central India & a Brahmin by birth, but was in Gandhara when the ambassadors invited him to visit China.

He faced all the difficulties of the journey. The Indian scholar and his associate picked up the local dialect of China on their journey and later regular Chinese in to which they translated a Buddhist sūtra and five other Sanskrit works.

These two Indian scholars were pioneers, who opened up the vast field of work in China and attracted many scholars from India.

These scholars include:

1) Samghavarman;
2) Dharmakala;
3) Kālaruchi;
4) Dharmapāla;
5) Vighna;
6) Lokaraksha;
7) Mahābala, and others.

Kashmir in those days was the stronghold of Buddhism and supplied China with many Indian scholars like Buddhayasyas, Dharmayaas, Dharmakshena, Buddhajiva, Dharmamitra, etc.

Between 500-600 AD saw a continued influx into China of Indian scholars among then the well known are: Dharmarvena, Buddhasānta, Gautama, Upasūnya, Vimokshena & others.

Between 500-600 AD saw a continued influx into China of Indian scholars among then the well known are: Dharmarvena, Buddhasānta, Gautama, Upasūnya, Vimokshena & others.

The 7th century also saw Xuanzang, I-tsing coming to India & returning with treasures of Indian learning.The 7th century also saw Xuanzang, I-tsing coming to India & returning with treasures of Indian learning.

Prabhakarmitra, a native of central India came to China in 627 AD and translated some Buddhist works. He died at the age of 69 in 633 AD.

Atigupta( o-ti-khu-to) of central India came to China in 652 AD and wrote “Dhārani-Samagraha-Sūtra”.

Divaraka was a monk of central India who translated 19 Buddhist works into Chinese.

Ratnachinta was a monk from Kashmir & translated 7 works during 693-706 AD.

Subhakara Simha was a monk from Nālandā who came to China in 716 AD & translated 4 works. He died in 735 AD at 99.

Two Indian scholars visited China in 980 AD. Their Chinese names are : ‘ Tien-si-tsai’ & ‘ Che-hou’. The former is stated to be from Kashmir or a native of Jalandhar ( jo-lan-to-lo).

In 20 years, he translated 18 works. He served with Dānapāla on the Board of Translators.

Dānapāla hailed from Udyāna and is said to have translated 111 Buddhist works into Chinese.

The visit of few more Indian scholars in the 11th century brings to close a glorious chapter of Indian history recording how the cultural contact between India & China had continued for well over 1,000 years and established Buddhism in China.


Contrary to the prevailing opinion, Indian scholars played a more active part than Chinese scholars ( except Fa-Hien, Xuanzang & I-tsing ), in introducing Indian thought into China and maintaining a fruitful cultural intercourse with that country.

The self sacrificing involved not merely facing physical risk of life attending the pilgrim’s progress from frontiers of India to China, along difficult land routes, inhospitable deserts, snowy mountains and through politically unstable lands.

It also meant a life of exile, where only a burning zeal of learning could keep alive the soul.

It again meant unusual linguistic capacity in mastering a difficult and strange language like Chinese.

Thus, the gradual growth of a Greater India was the work of these Indian centres of learning.

It is a romance of Indian history and a unique achievement in the annals of mankind.

We have all heard about Fa-Hien, Xuanzang, and I-tsing who came to india and wrote memorable accounts of their expeditions.

However, very few people know that between 100 AD to 11th century AD, there was an influx of Indian scholars who visited China.

The names of these scholars are as under:

1st Century AD

1) Kāsyapa Mātanga & Dharmaratna

From 100 – 500 AD

1) Samghavarman;
2) Dharmakala;
3) Kālaruchi;
4) Dharmapala;
5) Vighna;
6) Mahābala;
7) Lokaraksha

Between 500-600 AD

1) Dharmavena;
2) Buddhasānta;
3) Gautama;
4) Upasūnya;
5) Vimokshena

From 600- 11th century AD

1) Prabhakarmitra: Went to China in 627 AD, translated some Buddhist works, died in 633 AD.

2) Atigupta ( o-ti-khu-to), from central India. He came to China in 652 AD & wrote ‘Dharini-Samagrala-Sūtra’.

3) Divaraka: A monk from central India who translated 19 Buddhist works into Chinese;

4) Ratnachinta from Kashmir, who went to China and translated seven Buddhist works from 693 AD to 706 AD;

5) Subhakara Simha from Nālandā, who went in 716 AD and died in 733 AD;

6) Dānāpala, hailed from Udayāna & translated 111 Buddhist works into Chinese.

7) Two Indian scholars visited China in 980 AD. Their Chinese names are : ‘ Tien-si-tsai’ & ‘ Che-hou’.

The former is stated to be from Kashmir or a native of Jalandhar ( jo-lan-to-lo).

In 20 years, he translated 18 works & served with Dānapāla on the Board of Translators.

The visit of few more Indian scholars in the 11th century brought an end to a glorious chapter of Indian history recording the cultural contacts between India & China, which continued for well over 1,000 years and established Buddhism in China.

The political disturbances following the Muslim invasion of India, along with the destruction of Indian centres of learning by the invading muslim armies, interfered with these peaceful movements of scholars between India and China.



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Travels of Fa-Hien to BHARATVARSH( 399-412/413 AD):


In these troubled times, when the diplomatic relations between India & China are at its lowest point, let us reflect back 1600 years ago when a famous Chinese pilgrim and scholar named Fa-Hien came to India and has left a moving account on his travels and on the social conditions of India in early fifth century AD.

Fa-Hien, Xuanzang and Yi-Jing are the most famous of Chinese scholars who have visited India between the 5th to 7th century AD.

Between the 3rd century BCE – when Buddhism was first introduced to China to 9th century AD , there was an avalanche of scholars from China who visited India.

Many of the names of these scholars are lost in the mist of time. Ancient Chinese thought of India as an ‘ epicenter of knowledge’ and that is why these great scholars came to India to drink from that ‘ fountain of knowledge’.

Fa-Hien and His Travels to India

The efficiency of Gupta rule was demonstrated by the material and moral progress of the people of which glimpses are seen in the account of India by the Chinese Pilgrim, Fa- Hien between 399- 414 AD, in the time of Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya whose name, however, is not mentioned by him.

Fa-Hien( 337- 422 AD), however, was not the sole & solitary instance of this cultural intercourse between India & China. India, for long had been looked up to by China as the seat of saving knowledge & the highest wisdom which were eagerly & devoutly sought after by her best minds.

These were found in Buddhism of which India was the cradle. Buddhism became known in China as early as third century BC. Since then, it created a stir in Chinese religious circles & a movement towards India for drinking in her wisdom at it’s very sources.

In 399 AD, Fa-Hien organized a joint mission with several Chinese scholars like Hui- Ching, Tao – Cheng, Hui – Yang & Hui – Wei to travel together to India to understand Buddhism better, as he felt that Buddhist ‘ Disciplines’ were very imperfectly known in China.

On the way, this band of scholars met others , who had proceeded them on the same grounds. They were Chin – Yen, Hui – Chien, Song – Shao, Pao – Yun, Seng – Chin, and others.

Route of Fa-Hien

Tbe first country where they saw Buddhism being followed was Shan- Shan ( in modern China). Here “some 4000 priests belonging to Hinyayana sect.” ‘The common people of these countries, practice the religion of India’, states Fa-Hien.

Route of Fa-Hien’s Travels
Next, the party passed through several regions, where they found ‘ ‘ all those who have ” left the family ” (priests and novices), study Indian books & the Indian spoken language.’
In the country of ‘Kara-Shahr’ ( in modern Xinjiang province of China), the Buddhist Hinyana monks numbered ‘over 4000’.

After undergoing ‘ hardships beyond comparisons’ on their journey through uninhabited tracts & across difficult rivers, the party came to Khotan (South Western Xinjiang province , in Western China), where the monks followed Mahayana Buddhism & numbered ‘tens of thousands’.

They were accommodated in the nearby Monastery, known by an Indian name of ‘Gomati’ where ‘at the sound of a large bell, 3,000 monks assembled to eat.’ There were 14 such large monasteries in Khotan.

There was in neighborhood another such Monastery, which was ‘250 feet high ‘ overlaid with gold and silver ‘and took 80 years to build and the reign of three kings.’

The next sect of Buddhism was Kashgar ( in Xinjiang province of China), where the scholars found the king holding a ‘ pancha-parishad’, for purpose of making offerings including ‘all kinds of jewels’. There were 1000 Hinayan monks, along with some sacred relics of Buddha.

From Kashgar, crossing snowy ranges, the travelers came to Northern India to a place called Darel ( location unknown), where
‘there were many Hinyana monks.’

Next, they had to negotiate ‘a difficult, precipitous & dangerous road’, with the Indus flowing along the deepest gorge. Coming down 700 rock steps , they crossed the Indus by ‘a suspension bridge of ropes, & met monks who anxiously asked Fa-Hien
‘ if he knew when Buddhism first went eastwards’, to which Fa-Hien replied ‘ Shamans from India began to bring the Sutras and Disciplines, across this river ( Indus), from the date of setting up the image of Maitreya Bodhisattva, 300 years after Nirvana’.

After crossing the Indus, the scholars came to the region called ‘Udyana’ where Buddhism was ‘ extremely flourishing’ , and the language used was that of Central India or Middle Kingdom’.

The next stage reached was Gandhara, followed by Taxila and Peshawar, where King Kanishka ‘built a pagoda over 400 feet high and which no other could compare in grandeur and dignity’.That is called as Kanishka Stupa.

The whole region was studied with monuments enshrining the relics of Buddha or incidents of his life: his footprints, the stone on which he dried his clothes, his alms-bowl, the spot where he cut his flesh to ransom a dove, or gave his body to feed a hungry tiger.

From here, Fa-Hien was left with only two companions; Hui – Ching & Tao- Cheng ; the rest all went back to China.

Fa-Hien and two companions, now crossed the little snowy mountain ( Safed Koh, in Eastern Afghanistan), where one of his companions, Hui-Cheng died of cold, saying to Fa-Hien: ‘ I cannot recover; you had better go on while you can; do not let us all pass away here.’

Gently stroking the corpse, Fa-Hien cried out in lamentation: ‘ It is destiny. But what is there to be done ‘ ?

Crossing the range, the scholars arrived in Afghanistan and found there about 3000 monks of both Hinyana and Mahayana schools.

A similar number of monks, they found at Bannu, whence travelling eastwards, they again crossed the Indus and came to country called ‘Bhida’ in the Punjab where Buddhism was flourishing.

Passing through Punjab with its’ many monestaries containing in all nearly 10,000 monks’, the scholars came to Mathura and found about‘ 20 monestaries with some 3,000 monks’ along the banks of Yamuna.

Social Conditions of India as per Fa-Hien

Fa- Hien now talks about the general condition of the country, as he saw it : ‘ the country to the South of Mathura, which is called the middle kingdom of the Brahmins, where people are prosperous & happy, without any official restrictions.’

‘ Only those who till the King’s lands have to pay so much on the profit they make. Those who want to go, may go and those who want to stop, may stop.’

‘The King in his administration uses no corporal punishment; criminals are merely fined according to the gravity of their offences.’

‘Even for the second attempt at rebellion, the punishment is only the loss of the right hand. The men of King’s body- guard have all fixed salaries.’

Throughout the whole country no one kills any living things, nor drinks wine , nor eats onions or garlic ; but Chandalas are segregated. ‘Chandal’ is their name for foul men ( lepers).’

In this country, they do not keep pigs or fowls, there are no dealings in cattle, no butcher’s shops or distilleries in their market places.’

‘As medium of exchange, they use cowries ( shell money). Only the Chandalas go hunting and deal in fish.’

Since the time of the Buddha ,’ the kings, elders built shrines & gave lands , houses, gardens with men & bullocks for cultivation. Binding title-deeds were written out, which subsequent Kings did not dare disregard.’

‘Rooms with bed and mattresses , food and clothes are provided for resident and travelling monks without fail; and this is the same in all places.’

‘Pious families organize subscriptions to make offerings to monks, various articles of clothing and things they need, after the annual Retreat.’

‘The Middle Kingdom’ mentioned by Fa-Hien was the stronghold of Hinduism and the heart of the Gupta Empire, where India’s civilization was seen at its best.

The observations of Fa-Hien shows how the people were allowed by the government considerable individual freedom not subglject to troubles and interference form its Officers in the shape of registrations, or other restrictions, economic liberty with unfettered mobility of labour,
so that the agriculturists were not tied to holdings; like bonded labourers; and humane criminal law.

The moral progress and the public spirit of the people are shown in the liberal endowments of religious and educational institutions.

These endowments took the permanent grants of lands, with full apparatus necessary for their cultivation by men and bullocks.

This shows that these cultural institutions had to mention efficient agricultural department to make out of their landed properties, cultivated fields as well as gardens or orchards, enough income to meet their expenditure.

The way of life was based on nonviolence ( ahimsa), with vegetarian diet, ruling out heating foods and spices such as onion and garlic, also distilleries, and butcheries.

Fa-Hien now visited the sacred places of Buddhism: ‘ Sankassa’ ( in Farrukhabad dist of UP), where Ashoka built a shrine and a pillar 60 feet high with a lion capital, with about 1000 monks & another 600-700 in a neighboring monastery.

At Sravasti, Fa- Hien arrived with his only companion Tao-Cheng. The monks asked Fa-Hien: ‘From what country do you come ‘ ? And when he replied ‘ From China’, the monks sighed and said: ‘Good indeed ! Is it possible that foreigners can come so far as this in search of the Faith?

‘Ever since the faith has been transmitted by us monks from generation to generation, no Chinese adherents of our doctrine have been known to arrive here.’

Fa-Hien saw at Sravasti, the famous Jetvana Vihara which he calls the ‘shrine of the Garden of Gold built by Suddata who spread out Gold money to buy the ground.’

Buddha’s hut at Jetvana Vihara
He saw all ‘ those spots where men of later ages have set up marks of remembrance’.

Further Observations on India by Fa-Hien

‘In the country, there are 96 schools of non-Buddhists, each with its own disciples , who also beg their food , buy do not carry alm-bowls’.

‘They ( people) further seek salvation by building alongside out-of-the-way roads, Homes of Charity, where food, drinks and clothes are offered to travellers.’

This is a remarkable testimony to public philanthropy inspired by the spirit of social service, the religion ( Hinduism), which inculcated worship of God as embodied in humanity ‘ Nara Narayana’ & expressed itself in building ‘ Dharamsalas’ open to all without distinction of Caste and Creed , to all sects, & also to the Buddhists.

Fa-Hien found Kapilvastu in wilderness, but with many of its monuments still intact.’ On the roads,wild Elephants & Lions are to be feared.’ He also visited Lumbini and Vaishali & crossing the Ganges, came to Pataliputra, the Capital of Gupta Empire.

‘At Pataliputra formerly ruled by King Ashoka, the palace of the King is still intact, its various halls & gates built by spirits who piled up stones, after no human fashion.’

Fa-Hien at Ashoka’s Palace
Up to Pataliputra, Fa-Hien was accompanied by his companion, Tao- Cheng. But now he too was to part from him.

Tao-Cheng was so much impressed by the ‘ shamans’ of India that he prayed that ‘ from this time forth until I become a Buddha, may I never live in another land.’

Tao- Cheng, therefore, remained in India & did not go back; but Fa- Hien’s object being to diffuse knowledge of the Discipline throughout the land of China, he ultimately went back alone.

Fa-Hien found at Pataliputra one Mahayana and another Hinyana monestary. The former had a teacher named Raivata ‘ a strikingly enlightened man of much wisdom , there being nothing which he did not understand.’

Fa-Hien next visited Nalanda and Rajagriha. At Rajgriha , he visited several spots sacred to Buddhism, including the famous Vulture mountain known as Gridhakuta or ‘ Vulture Peak’ at Rajgriha, Bihar

Seeing the Vulture mountain, Fa-Hien’s feelings overcame him’, but he retained his tears and said : ‘Buddha formerly lived here & delivered his ‘ Surgama Sutra’. I, Fa-Hien born at a time too late to met the Buddha,can only gaze upon his traces & his dwelling-place.’

He next procced to Gaya and Bodh Gaya seeing all places associated with Buddha, and then retraced his steps towards Pataliputra and arrived at Benaras, and its deer park (Sarnath) where he found two monastaries with resident monks.

Stupa at Sarnath, Varanasi Return Journey of Fa-Hien

Now, he commenced his return journey home, coming back to Pataliputra and following the course of the Ganges downstream came to Champa., whence processing farther, he arrived at ‘Tamluk'( Midnapur District, West Bengal), ‘where there is a sea port.’

At Tamluk, he saw 24 monasteries and stayed for two years , copying the Sutras, drawing images and then set out on a ‘large merchant vessel’ , reaching Sri Lanka after 14 days.

He remained in Sri Lanka for 2 years and obtained some of the sacred works in Sanskrit, copies of Disciplines, selections from Canon , and Agamas.

From Sri Lanka, he took a Ship and reached Java ( Indonesia), where he saw Hinduism was flourishing, and the faith of Buddha’s religion was ‘in a very unsatisfactory condition.’

As he was reaching Indonesia, a great storm arose which threatened to blow the ship off-course. Fa-Hien prayed so that his years of work shouldn’t go waste.

Thankfully, the storm clouds blew away and Fa-Hien was able to reach Indonesia.

Fa-Hien remained in Java for 5 months and then returned to China on- board a large ship carrying ‘ over 200 souls.’

On the journey, storm clouds again threatened his ship and many passengers threatened to throw him overboard, as they thought that Fa-Hien was bringing bad luck to them.

However, a rich merchant stood by his side and again, Fa-Hien’s life was saved.

Thus, was completed, Fa-Hien’s remarkable journey on which he thus commented : ‘ Looking back upon what I went through, my heart throbs involuntarily, & sweat pours down. That in dangers, I encountered , I did not spare my body, was because I kept my objective steadily in view.’

Fa-Hien practically walked all the way from Central China , across the Gobi desert,over the Hindu Kush, & through India down to the mouth of Hooghly, where he took a ship for China, criss-crossing 30 different countries, spending 6 yrs travelling & 6 yrs on stay & study in India.

Fa-Hien had some interesting observations on Magadha: ‘ Of all the regions of India, this has the largest cities & towns. Its people are rich & thriving & emulate one another practising charity of heart and duty to one’s neighbour.’

Fa-Hien observes: ‘ The elders & gentry of the country have instituted in their capitals, free hospitals, where poor, crippled, destitute and helpless people come.’

‘They are well taken care of, a doctor attends them, food and medicine being supplied according to their needs. They all are made quiet comfortable, & when they are cured, they go away.’

Tactical Doge

𝕱𝖔𝖔𝖑𝖘 𝖗𝖚𝖘𝖍 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝖆𝖓𝖌𝖊𝖑𝖘 𝖋𝖊𝖆𝖗
Senior Member
Aug 28, 2019
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Our history textbooks are full of stories of royal sons killing fathers, brothers killing each other, murder and destruction. This is the history of Delhi, of many of the Sultans and Mughals. But elsewhere in India, there were great rulers who behaved with more honour and dignity and about whom we do not know much. One such dynasty was the Cholas, one of the longest ruling in the world, who were mentioned by Ashoka in the third century BCE.

The Grand Anicut or Kallanai was built by Karikala Chola between 100 BCE and 100 CE in Thanjavur District, and is one of the oldest water-regulatory structures in the world. It is a massive dam of unhewn stone across the Kaveri. A later Chola record from Tiruvaduturai refers to this construction as raising the banks of the Kaveri by Parakesari Karikala Chola. It was recently recognised as a World Heritage Irrigation Structure.

The famous seaport Kaveripattinam or Puhar was also built by Karikala. Apart from excellent maritime facilities, the port had facilities like stevedoring, customs clearance, storehouses, money exchange and so on. Horses were imported by sea in Puhar. Its greatness is testified to by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Ptolemy’s Geography, Pattinapalai and Silappadikaram. There were lighthouses for night navigation.

In the 10th century, after his elder brother and crown prince Adithya Karikala was assassinated and his father died, Chola prince Arulmozhivarman did not ascend the throne. His uncle was crowned instead. It was only after his uncle Uttama Chola’s death in 985 CE that Arulmozhi became the king and was given the title Rajaraja I or ‘King of Kings’. This was a very noble deed at a time when people were killing each other to become the king. Rajaraja built the great temple with a tall vimana or tower in Thanjavur. It is one of the greatest monuments of India.

His son Rajendra Chola was declared heir apparent and formally associated with his father in the administration of the Chola Empire in the final years of Rajaraja. When Rajaraja died in 1014, Rajendra was crowned king. He was a great warrior and conquered the Rashtrakutas and the Western Chalukyas. With the Cholas’ powerful maritime fleet, Rajendra conquered Southeast Asia. In 1017, his navy captured almst the whole of Sri Lanka.

he defeated the rulers of Odisha, Bihar and Bengal and captured north Karnataka and southern Maharashtra. He is said to have been welcomed by the local people for he brought good rule and administration.


From Chhattisgarh, he split his forces into two and sent one towards the Ganges in the north and the other to the northwest. Few people are aware that Rajendra Chola sent his army to assist his friend Paramara Bhoja of Malwa in Madhya Pradesh, which would likely have been to fight the invasion of Mahmud Ghazni and relieve the kingdoms that had fallen victim to the invasions. An inscription from Kulenur in Karnataka confirms that there was an alliance between Bhoja of Malwa, Rajendra Chola and Gangeya of Kalachuria.


In 1025, he invaded Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam with his navy. He defeated the Sri Vijaya kings of Indonesia and was hailed as Kadarakonda Cholan (Malaysia was known as Kadaram). The Bay of Bengal came under his total control.


Rajendra Chola did not destroy cities. Instead, he asked each king of the Gangetic region to bring a pot of Ganga water to his capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram near Thanjavur, and built the Chola Ganga Tank to hold the sacred water. He also built a beautiful temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram in honour of Siva. Here his humility is outstanding: he made this temple shorter than the one at Thanjavur out of respect for his father. His descendant Rajaraja II built the Airavateshwara temple at Darasuram. All the Chola kings built several beautiful temples in and around Thanjavur.


Rajendra was possibly the greatest conqueror in India. He used his navy to great effect to conquer lands outside India. Unfortunately, not much is known about shipbuilding in ancient India, except from the Yuktikalpataru (c. 12th century). The Agramandira class of ships, with cabins fitted towards the prows, were used in naval warfare. They were long, thin and of high speed. Chola inscriptions indicate that troops were transported by ships for battle at sea and on land. Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (first century CE) mentions three kinds of craft used in the south: light boats for local traffic, larger vessels of greater carrying capacity and huge ocean-going vessels for transporting goods, horses and men. Ships were built out of timber—blackwood, mango, khadira, silk cotton, cedar or teak. The planks of the hull were stitched together with palm fibre. The ship was navigated with a mast. Square or semi-rectangular sails were used, as depicted in the Ajanta paintings. Pirate ships also sailed the seas and a strong navy was essential to ward them off.


The Cholas brought in a single, centralised government for their empire. They had a well-planned army consisting of elephants, cavalry, infantry and navy. Land revenue and trade tax were their main sources of revenue and they issued coins in gold, silver and copper. They maintained hospitals for their people. The merchants organised themselves into guilds both in India and abroad and traded as far as China.


The art and architecture of the Cholas, especially stone and bronze sculpture, is incomparable. The dynasty gradually declined in the thirteenth century, although one branch was still ruling over the Philippines till 1565. It is necessary to teach every Indian about the great Cholas who once ruled over land and sea.

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