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Friday, 17 February 2017

King Ajatashatru of Magadha

King Ajatashatru also known as Kunika, son of King Bimbisara of the Haryanka Dynasty.
King Ajatashatru also known as Kunika, was son of King Bimbisara of the Haryanka Dynasty. He ruled Magadha from 491 to 461 BCE. He was very ambitious and a powerful king. King Ajatashatru was a great warrior and a contemporary of both Mahavira and Gautama Buddha. He forcefully took over the kingdom of Magadha from his father and imprisoned him. Like his father, Ajatashatru also believed in the expansion of land and he followed policies of conquest and expansion. Magadha extended its territories in almost all the directions after the king Bimbisara’s rule and became the most powerful kingdom in North India under the rule of Ajatashatru.


Birth

Ajatashatru was referred as Vaidehi putra, in both Jain and Buddhist inscription. According to Jain inscription, Ajatashatru was born to King Bimbisara and Queen Chelna. According to Buddhist inscription Ajatashatru was born to Bimbisara and Kosala Devi.Ajatashatru was referred as Vaidehi putra, in both Jain and Buddhist inscription. According to Jain inscription, Ajatashatru was born to King Bimbisara and Queen Chelna. According to Buddhist inscription Ajatashatru was born to Bimbisara and Kosala Devi. But it is to be noted that both the queens were called "Vaidehi" in both the inscriptions.
In Childhood due to an infection Ajatashatru got a boil on his little finger and the king Bimbisara sucked it and once while sucking finger, the boil burst inside the king's mouth, but due to affection for his child he did not spit the pus out, rather swallowed it.
The Jain records state that he had 8 wives, the foremost among them being Padmavati, Dharini and Subhadra, while the Buddhist traditions indicate that he had 500 wives, the chief being Princess Vajira. Both the Buddhists and Jain traditions say that he had a son, Udayabhadda or Udayabhadra.

Early Life

The scythed chariot, a war chariot which had a blade on both ends of the axle was invented by Ajatashatru and was used by him to fight against the Licchavi Republic.Ajatashatru was poisoned by Devadatta (Gautam Buddha’s cousin who tried to kill Buddha at several occasions) to kill his own father. He forcefully took over the kingdom of Magadha from his father and imprisoned him in 461 BCE. Rajagriha was the capital of Magadha and was naturally fortified by 5 hills which stood surrounding the city. But it was later changed to Pataligrama by Ajatashatru.


As Bimbisara, father of Ajatashatru had conquered the eastern state of Anga, Ajatashatru had concentrated towards the north and the west. King Ajatshatru began his career of conquests by declaring war against his own maternal uncle Prasenajit, the King of Kosala. The City of Kasi was given to Bimbisara as dowry by Maha-kosala. After the murder of Bimbisara, Prasenajit took the city back. This resulted in a war between Ajatashatru and Prasenajit, in which Prasenajit was first defeated but became successful later. As Ajatashatru happened to be his nephew, Prasenajit spared his life. In a peace treaty Prasenajit married his daughter Vajira to him.
King Ajatshatru began his career of conquests by declaring war against his own maternal uncle Prasenajit, the King of Kosala. He fought a war with Chetaka of Vaishali(Licchavi/Vrijji) republic. The scythed chariot, a war chariot which had a blade on both ends of the axle was invented by Ajatashatru and was used by him to fight against the Licchavi Republic. The war continued for 16 years but in the end Ajatshatru came out successful and Vaishali republic was annexed to the Magadhan Empire.


Totally he had conquered 36 republics in and around his kingdom and had established the supremacy of Magadha on whole of eastern India.

Later Life

Ajatashatru’s early life was full of wars and violence. But in the later part of his life, he filled his soul with grief and repentance.
It is generally believed that perhaps he started as a follower of Jainism but later on he changed his loyalty from Jainism to Buddhism.  It is somewhat difficult to say whether King Ajatshatru was a Jain or a Buddhist by faith. The texts of both these religious sects try to show him, like his father Bimbisara, as a follower of their respective faiths. It is generally believed that perhaps he started as a follower of Jainism but later on he changed his loyalty from Jainism to Buddhism.  
In order to cleanse his heart from all sins, he surrendered himself at the feet of Lord Buddha, where he found peace and he was completely dedicated towards the Buddhist faith. His dedication was so complete that he was made the chief claimant of Buddha’s relics after the death of Lord Buddha. Ajatashatru subsequently built stupas all over the capital and renovated 18 monasteries in memory of Lord Buddha. He was the one who had established the first Buddhist General Council in 487 B.C.

Death

He also suffered a fate similar to his father and was assassinated by his son Udaybhadra in 461 BC.

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