II. PRINCE MAHAVIRA
1. The Land and the Parent:
India in the 6th Century B. C. was not under the political control of one single power. There was no Empireat that time which could bring all religions of the country under oneadministration. Instead India was divided and sub-divided into a number of large and small Kingdoms and principalities. Among such major Kingdoms those of Magadha, Anga, Kashi, Kosala, Vatsa, Panchala, Kalinga, Avanti, Gandhara, and Kamboja were more prominent in the northern and eastern Regions of India. Even among these Kingdoms, the Kingdom of Magadha in the east corresponding to the modern Bihar, enjoyed a very pre-eminent position and hence it was often described as the Empire of Magadha.This empire was ruled by the monarchs belonging to the Shishunaga Dynasty and its capital Rajagraha was the most leading city of the times. Naturally Magadha exerted much influence over the lives of the people in eastern India.
Along with the major Kingdoms there flourished a number of Ganarajyas or republics formed by different Kshatriya clans. The Ganarajyas were established mainly for securing protection against external attacks from the adjoining Kingdoms. These Ganarajyas were based on democratic traditions and were governed by the representatives of Kshatriya Clans. Such a representative was given the appellation of `Raja’ i.e. the King.
Among the Ganarajyas of the time, the Ganarajya of Videha was very famous. Videha corresponds to mostly with the modern Tirhut Division of Bihar State. In ancient times the region from the bank of the river Gandaka to the forest of Champaranya was called Videha or Tirabhukti. It was bounded on the East, West and South by three big rivers, the Kosi, the Gandaka and the Ganga, while the Nepal Tarairegions formed its northern boundary. This area comprises the present Districts of Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Champaran, Munger and Purnia of Bihar State. The capital of Videha was Vaishaii, the modern Basadh in Hajipur Sub-Division of Muzaffarpur District. This Videha Ganarajya was constituted by eight Rajas representing eight major Kshatriya clans, viz.
7. Ikshvaku, and
Among these eight Kshatriya clans, the Lichchhavi clan was very powerful and enjoyed the most respectable position. The I,ichchhavis were known for their bravery, wealth, education, beauty and other accomplishments. They always valued freedom and self-respect. They consistently opposed the attacks on their territory and preferred to lead an independent life. They were religious-minded parsons and for a long time they were the devout followers of Jainism. In view of this dominent position wielded by the Lichchhavis in the Videha Ganarajya, the latter was often referred to as the Lichchhavi Ganarajya. Similarly, Chetaka, the Raja or the representative of the Lichchhavi clan on the Videha Ganarajya or republic, was known as Ganarajya-pramukha, i.e., the main Raja of Videha Ganrajya.
Vaishali’ the capital of Videha and of the Lichchhavis was a very prosperous, beautiful and rich city. Hiuen-tsang, the famous chinese pilgrim, has described Vaishali as a great,extensive city abounding in palaces, temples, parks and lakes. lIt is stated that the population of Vaishali at that time was 1,68,000 and that there were about 8,000 big houses in the city. These big houses were just like palaces and to each such house was invariably attached a garden and a lake. It is, further mentioned that the city was divided into three distitlct. areas such as the Rich class areas, the Middle Class area and the Low Glass area. These areas could, be easily identified from the metal used in the construction of Domes in the area. It is also reported that in Vaishali city there were 7,000 Gold Domes, 14,000 Silver Domes and 21,000 Copper Domes. The city was always busy in varied political, religious, educational and cultural activities carried out through the agencies of Parishads or Councils. It is mentioned that eight such Parishads viz.
1. Shramana Parishad,
2. Brahmana Parishad (or Vidvat Parishad),
3. Grihapati Parishad
4. Chaturmaharajika Parishad
5. Trayamtrimsa Parishad,
6. Mara Parishad and.
7. Brahma Parishad,
were.usually working in the city.
Vaishali city was surrounded by `Upanagaras’ i.e. suburbs like Kundalpura, Vaniyagrama etc. Among these suburbs, Kundalapura was very adjacent to Vaishali and was known asan important centre of the Jnatrika Kshatria. Kundalapura is now known as Vasukunda or Vasukunda. Kundalapura has been referred to in Prakrit and Sanskrit books by different names like Kundaggama, Kundagrama, Kshatriya Kundagrama, Kundalipura, Kundapura, Sirikundagama, Kundala and Kundanagara. Vaishali and Kundalapura had not only close geographical ties but had very intimate political, social and religious ties. This intimacy could be gauged by the family and clan relationships between Chetaka, the GanarajaPramukha of Vaishali and Siddhartha, the Ganaraja of Kundalapura (Vaishali).
Chetaka, the Ganaraja-Pramukha of Videha republic wasrenowned as the great Lichchhavi King of Vaishali. In Jaina books he is referred to as the Kshatriya Prince belonging to Ikshvaku Vansha and Vasishtha Gotra. Chetaka was married to Bhadra or Subhadra. Both Chetaka and Subhadra were great devotees of Parshvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankar as the Lichchhavis were the devout followers of Jainism. They had ten princes and seven princesses. The names of ten princes were as follows :-
(1) Simha or Simhabhadra, (2) Dhana,
(3) Dantabhadra, (4) Upendra,
(5) Su0datta, (6) Sukumbhoja,
(7) Akampana (8) Supatanga,
(9) Prabhanjana and (10) Prabhasa.
All these princes were valiant and helped their father, King Chetaka in the defence of their territory. In fact, the eldest prince Simhabhadra was the Senapati, i.e. the Chief of the Army of Videha republic.