The Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa, Part 6

BY: SUN STAFF - 9.5 2017

The Prince Faints in the Heat 
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection

A serial exploration of the island of Jambudvipa and the sixteen Great States residing there.

The Malla Kingdom

The Malla Kingdom is frequently mentioned in Buddhist and Jain works. The Mallas were a powerful dynasty in the northern regions. It is mentioned in Mahabharata that Panduputra Bhimasena (Bhima Pandava) is said to have conquered the chief of the Mallas while on his expedition in eastern India.

During the Buddhist period, the Malla Kingdom was a Kshatriya dominion consisting of nine territories, which corresponded to their nine confederated clans. These republican states were known as Gana. Two of these confederations -- one with Kusinara (modern Kasia near Gorakhpur) as its capital and the second with Pava (modern Padrauna, 12 miles from Kasia) as the capital -- had become very important at the time of Buddha.

Kusinara and Pava are very important in the history of Buddhism and Jainism since Buddha and Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara took their last meals at Kushinara and Pava/Pavapuri respectively. Buddha was taken ill at Pava and died at Kusinara, whereas lord Mahavira took his Nirvana at Pava puri. It is widely believed that Lord Gautam died at the courtyard of King Sastipal Malla of Kushinagar (Kushinara).

The Indian texts agree substantially over the Buddha's last days. He became seriously ill near Vaisali but was able to reach the Malla country, near Kusinagara, where Cunda, the smith, prepared him the mysterious sukaramaddava which again made him ill. Proceeding to Kusinagara, he lay down on his right side between two sala trees, his head to the north, and the trees flowered unseasonably. Ananda attended, grieving, gods assembled and the Mallas of Kusinagara were summoned, coming in great numbers. The ascetic Subhadra was the Buddha's last convert.

When the Buddha was dead, Brahma, Indra and the monk Anuruddha (Aniruddha) recited verses, monks grieved and the Mallas came to honour his body. They could not lift it for the cremation until Anuruddha had indicated the gods' wishes and it would not burn until Mahakasyapa, informed on the road by an ajiwika, had arrived with his followers and it then caught fire spontaneously. The Mallas took possession of the remains and would yield none to claimants among the neighbouring tribes who prepared to fight, until a brahmana had effected a peaceable division; then each erected a stupa in his own territory to enshrine a share.

In the picture above, as the Sun continues to send forth his fierce rays, the prince, exhausted and dehydrated by the heat, faints in his mother's arms. The king tries to revive him. Two peacocks fly overhead and with their extended tails, shelter the king and his family from the fierce heat. Below, Harishchandra is dressed in a blanket with a long stick in the hand, arriving at the cremation ground in the company of Virabahu. His duties will be to collect the garments of the dead and the tax for the use of the cremation ground.

The Cremation Ground 
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection