Vaishali is situated in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, around 55 km off Patna, the capital of the state. Vaishali extends from latitude 25° in the North to longitude 85° in the East. The town, an important place for both the Buddhists and Jains, is well connected to other important cities in Bihar by road.
Believed to be the first republic in the world, Vaishali has taken its name from King Vishal of the Mahabharat age. He is said to have constructed a great fort here, which is now in ruins. Vaishali is a great Buddhist pilgrimage and also the birthplace of Lord Mahavira. It is said that the Buddha visited this place thrice and spent quite a long time here. The Buddha also delivered his last sermon at Vaishali and announced his Nirvana here. After his death, Vaishali also held the second Buddhist Council.
The great Lichchavi clan ruled Vaishali in the sixth century BC, and the empire extended up to the hills of Nepal. The Lichchavi state is considered to be the first republican state of Asia. According to the Jataka stories, (Buddhist story books giving the account of different births of the Buddha), Vaishali was ruled by some 7707 kings of the Lichchavi clan. Ajatshatru, the great Magadh King, annexed Vaishali in the fifth century BC and after that Vaishali gradually lost its glory and power.
Mahavira, the last Tirthankar of Jainism, was born in Kundupur near Vaishali. The father of Mahavira was King Siddartha and his mother Trishala was the sister of King Chetaka of Vaishali. Since the wealth of his father's kingdom had increased during the pregnancy, the child was called Vardhaman. He was named Mahavira because he showed great courage in a very young age. After the death of his parents at the age of 30, he renounced the world after fasting for two days under an Ashoka tree in Vaishali.
Vaishali is also famous as the land of Ambapali, the great Indian dancer who is related to many folktales. Ambapali was a beautiful and talented courtesan, who later took sanyas to follow the path of the Buddha.
Places to See :
Kolhua is the first important place when one starts exploring Vaishali. There is a huge iron pillar beside a brick stupa here, believed to be constructed by King Ashoka. The pillar was constructed to commemorate the last sermon of the Buddha here. Near the pillar are ruins of a monastery and a large tank where the Buddha used to reside during his stay here.
Vaishali Museum :
The Vaishali Museum is a great place for the tourists interested in archeology. The museum houses an array of remains discovered at the various sites in Vaishali. Close to the museum is a circular tin shed covering the remnants of the stupa, which once housed the Buddha's funeral ashes.
At one side of the museum is the Abhishek Pushkarani or the coronation tank of the Lichchavi's. A little distance away is Raja Vishal Ka Garh, an excavated site believed to be the remains of the ancient parliament house where the federal assembly of the Lichchavi government gathered to discuss and regulate the ancient republic.
Bawan Pokhar Temple :
The Bawan Pokhar Temple, built during the Pala period, stands on the northern bank of a tank known as Bawan Pokhar and enshrines beautiful images of several Hindu gods.
Vishwa Shanti Stupa :
A major attraction in Vaishali is the Vishwa Shanti Stupa (pillar of peace), one of the newest additions to this important site. This monument, built on the south bank of the coronation tank, is one of the highest in the world and has been built in collaboration with the Japanese government.
Nearby Places :
Vaishali is a part of the famous Buddhist Circuit comprising Sarnath, Kushinagar, Bodhgaya, and Kushinagar. Nearby cities such as Patna, Rajgir, and Bodhgaya are some of the places worth exploring. Madhubani, around 100 km from Vaishali, is famous for its paintings by the same name and can be reached easily by road.
Patna, the capital of Bihar is quite close by and is also worth a visit. It is one of the few cities in the world having a long and extremely rich history, as it was once the capital of the mighty Magadh empire.
Nearby cities such as Rajgir, Nalanda, and Bodhgaya are very important sites to explore if one has an interest in Buddhism and the culture and society during those days.
Four kilometers off Vaishali is Kundupur, the birthplace of Lord Mahavira. There is a plaque at the site proclaiming it to be the place where the 24th Tirthankar of the Jains was born.
Travel Information :
By Air : The nearest airport from Vaishali is Patna, 55 km away. One can take flights for Delhi, Calcutta, Kathmandu, Varanasi, and Lucknow from there.
By Rail : The nearest railhead is Hajipur, 35 km, which is well connected to major cities of India like Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Chennai, and Varanasi by regular trains.
By Road : Roads are the most suitable means to reach Vaishali. There are regular buses for Patna and other cities of North Bihar from Vaishali. Tourist coaches with guides are also available from Patna for a tour of Vaishali.