Beautiful, virgin and young-the girl had the sensuousness that few matched.Was she the next City Bride?What is the story?Welcome to India
India celebrated her 67th Republic Day on January 26th, this year.For us, it was a milestone.It was time to pause and appreciate the journey of our nation from a one democracy to our present one.Yes, more than 2500 years back, we had a republic but, not many in India and abroad know about it.The capital of this republic was Vaishali.
Vaishali was hemmed in by the powerful kingdoms of Magadh, Kosal and many others. Hers was a tenuous existence as Vaishali was a prosperous city.and every other neighbour was eyeing her wealth.
Actually, Vaishali was the capital of the Vajji confederacy. A luxurious city with lots of lotus ponds and more than 7000 pleasure houses, Vaishali was coveted for its riches by its neighbours.Today, very little is left of its ancient riches and ponds.
The kingdom of Vaishali occupied large parts of the Himalayan-Gangetic area of today’s Bihar.It is said that there was a great expanse of a forest, called Mahavan that extended from the northern banks of the Ganga to the Himalayan foot hills.But, let us get back to the amazing story of Vaishali.
The republic of Vajjis was ruled by more than 7000 representatives and each one of them came from a noble family.These representatives were elected officials but, not every one could stand for elections.So, the Vajjis were more an oligarchy than a model democracy.
Once elected, these representatives were anointed with the holy waters of a pond called Abhishek Pushkarini. Travellers to Vaishali can still see this more than 2500 year old pond.
But, Vaishali is also known for an astonishing custom- that of appointing the most beautiful virgin as the Bride of the City!
The most famous bride was Amrapali and her life has inspired several movies and novels.
The city bride was available to anyone who bid the highest price for her company, so you can guess the amount of money that these glorified courtesans made.It was an inhuman rule.There was no other option for the unfortunate chosen girl but to agree with this insane custom.The representatives of the republic justified this barbaric practice in the name of avoiding jealousy among the citizens !
Amrapali was no exception to this rule and she detested it.Each night, she had to submit her beautiful body to the highest lover.It was glorious rape.
Filled with revulsion, Amrapali approached the powerful King of Magadh, Bimbisar with an offer- if he liberated her from the clutches of Vajjis , she would help him overcome them.After all, who other than the beautiful and sensuous Amrapali knew the insides out of all the 7000 plus senators of the republic!A deadly fight ensued between the Vajjis and the Magadhis but, the valiance and bravery of the democrats were no match with the guile of their adversaries. The Vajjis lost the war and their republic was over run by the imperial forces.Amrapali had exacted her revenge, finally.
Vaishali was the birthplace of Lord Mahavira , one of the 24 tirthankaras of Jainism.Lord Gautam Buddha is also said to have delivered some sermons in Vaishali.Amrapali had offered one of her gardens to Buddha for his sermons.It is entirely possible that Lord Buddha borrowed some of his concepts regarding Buddhist assemblies from the Vajji democracy.
The present day village of Basrah in Vaishali district of Bihar has been identified by Alexander Cunningham with the ancient city of Vaishali.
As I wrote earlier, Amrapali has captured the imagination of Hindi movie directors. A movie by the same name was produced in the 1960s and the actress who played the role of the courtesan was Vaijyanthimala. Just enjoy one of its lilting songs;
You will agree with me that it has a haunting feel, isn’t it? In this track, Amrapali is seen pining for her lover Bimbisar.
Why the name Vaishali?
There are two theories why the city was so named.One theory says that it was named after an ancient king called, Vishal.However, a Buddhist commentator, Buddhaghosa says that because the city was huge or vishal, it was named Vaishali.
How to reach?
- Air: The nearest airport is Patna (70 Kms).
- Rail: Hajipur on the north eastern railway station (35 Kms) from Muzaffarpur Railway station (40 Kms)
- Road: Vaishali is well connected by road to Patna (56 Kms), Muzaffarpur (36 Kms) and Hazipur (35 Kms)
I would strongly recommend you to visit this offbeat but amazing destination for the sheer historicity of the place.Imagine coming face to face with places associated with a history of more than 2500 years! I am sure, it would give you goosebumps.For more interesting stuff, you may click this link;
This is the official website of Bihar government tourism development corporation.
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