The moment you put your step in Bihar ‘s ancient rectangular brick build large “tilla” or mound known as Raja Vishal Ka Garh, you have an eerie feeling of having entered into a strange Xanadu where past has come alive before your very eyes. You feel you are in a large Janapada or ancient country of republicans where all major decisions of the state are taken through majority.
As the dawn’s cool breeze gently touches you while walking by the huge mound local people fondly call Raja Vishal Ka Garh in Vaishali, you have a strange feeling somebody invisible is humming the vintage Bollywood song “Koi Door Se Awaj De, Chale Aao…” Yes! Indeed, yes!
Named after the legendary King Vishal, this was the place where the world’s first parliament functioned vigorously some 3500 years ago. This was the seat of Vajji Confederacy. Vaishali was one of the 16 Mahajanapads or oligarchic republics of ancient Aryavarta – India.
The ancient ruins lie all around this mound, once a massive fort of King Vishal of Vaishali. Vaishali was the place where Lord Buddha and Tirthankar Mahavira walked by many a times nearly 2600 years ago. This was the place where beautiful Amrapali used to perform her stately dances innumerable times.
Yes. Coming to this Xanadu and not to talk of Amrapali is not possible.
This court dancer of ancient Vaishali had publicly announced that she was is the daughter of Lichhavi Republic on being selected to that position of Nagarbadhu: the main dancer of the state. Even her selection to that position too was done by majority vote after a dancing completion.
The Vibrant Vaishali Speaks Something about Bihar
As if you have gone back to those days of the past, you really hallucinate of an extremely beautiful dame and dancer – of course, Amrapali – walking leisurely through the thoroughfares of ancient Vaishali wearing glittering ornaments and gorgeous dress to go Raja Vishal Ka Garh or the parliament hall of ancient Lichhavis to perform her dance programme. Of course her maids, equally attired with colourful dresses and adorned with ornaments, following her.
As if your imaginations have taken a free flight just unknowingly, you seem to hear the sounds of Ghungroo or musical anklet tied to the feet of danseuse Amrapali. If you don’t have tastes for music and dance and have an inclination of a Yogi or recluse, you are not invited at the dancing programmes of Amrapali.
Of course Yogis irks her. Hence, you would feel she is singing a song that is meant for a Yogi like you: “Jao re jogi tum jaore, yeh hai prem-i-o ki nagri…..”
Raja Vishal Ka Garh really opiates you. Vaishali, as a functioning republic, used to sail smoothly with cultural events including dance and music, being a regular feature.
You really cannot fail to feel, somebody wearing an ancient dress with colourful headgear and gorgeous ornaments, as was worn by rich people when Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira trotted the patches of the land of Vaishali 2600 years ago, is frantically calling you to come closer, closer and closer.
You do have an uncanny feeling that the man is beaconing you as he is anxious to tell you something.
But who could it be? Could the man be a Raja of Vaishali? Of course you are right. Who could call you to come nearer and nearer at Raja Vishal Ka Garh, the place that had been the oldest parliament house of the world, other than an ancient Lichhavi Raja?
And he has a reason to beacon you. The Raja’s spirit may be restless for centuries together to narrate the glory of Raja Vishal Ka Garh as this was the place that happened to be the birthplace of democracy….and that too when the earth was torn by despot kings, absolute monarchs and mighty emperors who ruled as per their own whims and fancies. But the mighty Vajji Republic, 3500 years ago, functioned just like the present-day parliamentary system.
How many persons in the world has heard about this ancient-most temple of democracy where elected people – the Rajas – met regularly, took decisions by majority and had a leader with a council of ministers? Hardly anybody! And That is the tragedy.
The ancient Bihar contributed many things to the world, yet hardly anybody is aware of it. Many socio-political ideas and scientific theories sprouted in the soil of Bihar, yet not all know it.
Believe it, this state gave birth to many revolutionary concepts, political ideas and bold religious theories to the world when it were all alien to it. And to understand that, we have to undertake a journey through the meandering steps of time that has flown by over the last about four millenniums.
To begin our historical journey to find out the roles that ancient Bihar played over the centuries, let us make a tryst with the Lichhavi Raja who has come at our vision while trotting through the grassy land of Raja Vishal Ka Garh. In other words, let us focus the role of Bihar as the birth place of democracy and republican system.
Bihar Is The Birth Place of Democracy
A Lichhavi Raja was not the king but a member of parliament. You have an eerie feeling that the Raja is beaconing you to proudly narrate the fact that it was Vaishali who gave to the mankind the world’s first functioning republican system? And that too nearly four millenniums ago.
You have an uncanny feeling that the Raja is pointing his finger towards the Abhishek Pushkarni. The name of this pond, considered as sacred by ancient Lichhavis, is named so as the Abhishek or coronation of a Raja would take place here. The waters of this tank would be used to anoint him. After his anointment, he would be eligible to enter the parliament.
In the morn’s tranquility, one really turns imaginative! Moreover, the surrounding is such that one cannot help but to imagine the long bygone scenes of the Lichhavi parliament with Rajas arguing and debating on important issues of Vaishali republic. One would feel like a ventriloquist, the Abhishek Pushkarni is echoing those sounds of arguments of mighty Rajas.
On turning over the pages of pages of Cullakalinga Jataka and Ekapanna Jataka, we find that there used to be 7,707 Rajas of the functioning democracy of Lichhavis. They would meet each year to elect one of their members as ultimate authority or ruler having a council of nine other Rajas to assist him in running the country. Was it not like our present day council of ministers?
These Buddhist scriptures say besides the elected ruler, there also used to be a Uparaja (deputy chief), Senapati (chief of army) and Bhandagarika (chancellor of exchequer). They were elected by the people through adult suffrage or public voting.
A little away from Abhishek Pushkarni, there is a mango grove—Amrapalivan. Nearly 2600 years ago, it was here where Lord Buddha stayed at the invitation of the most beautiful dancer of the Lichhavis: Ambapali or Amrapali.
She was Vaishali’s Nagar Badhu or royal courtesan. Amrapali was said to have been a great supporter of the republican system and opposed the total monarchy of Magadh with Ajatshatru as king. But Ajatshatru was extremely in love with her. It is believed Ajatshatru made at least 16 invasions on Vaishali to destroy its running republican system and also to snatch dancer Amrapali. Ultimately, he was successful. He had both Amrapali and Vaishali.
Amrapali, in the later part of her life, became a Buddhist “Bhikshuna” –monk. There are records that Lord Buddha greatly supported republican system of Lichhavis and never liked Magadhan version of absolute monarchy.
As the Buddhist text Mahaparinirban Sutra says, Ajatshatru wanted to destroy the Lichhavi republicanism and Vajji confederacy. So he wanted to attack Vaishali. But Vaishali was stronger than his Magadh Kingdom with Rajgir being its seat of power.
Extremely cunning, Ajatshatru sent his wily minister Vassakara to meet Lord Buddha to get some tips on how to overthrow Lichhavi republic. On getting Buddha’s audience, Vassakara asked the Lord what were the ways of trouncing Vaishali.
7 Golden Rules of Republicanism in Ancient Bihar
To this question, Gautam as Lichhavis were simply invincible as they followed seven golden rules:
- Regular meeting of Rajas for taking a decision through majority.
- Following ancient rule of Gana(tantra) or democracy.
- Sticking to tradition of the system (socio-political system).
- Respect to elders.
- Respect to women.
- Reverence to places of worship.
- Protection of persons of knowledge: saints, sages and seers.
This proves that Buddha strongly supported Lichhavi republicanism. Ajatshatru, in fact, wanted to know Buddha’s view on the strong points of Lichhavi Republic so that he could formulate his war plan against the Vaishali people accordingly.
Yes! Bihar’s greatest contribution to the world is the republican system. This system came into existence much before the Grecian system of democracy took birth.
Bihar Connection to Ancient Athens and Sparta !
It was only in the 6th century B.C. that the Grecian city states like Athens and Sparta adopted this political system. A few hundred years later, the Romans too borrowed the theory of democracy from Greece. Though Romans had senate and a representative government, it was basically ruled by the king as the supreme authority.
On turning the pages of human history of around 3500 years, we find that many glories are associated with Bihar be it cradling the democratic system, giving birth to two religions or offering path-breaking theories on astronomy.
To Be Continued…..
(By: CheckerNews Research Desk)
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