|Emperor of the Magadha Empire|
Bimbisara welcomes the Buddha
Bimbisara (558 BC –491 BC) was a King, and later, Emperor of the Magadha empire from 542 BC till 492 BC and belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. His expansion of the kingdom, especially his annexation of the kingdom of Anga to the east, is considered to have laid the foundations for the later expansion of the Maurya Empire.
He is also known for his cultural achievements and was a great friend and protector of the Buddha. Bimbisara built the city of Rajagriha, famous in Buddhist writings. He was succeeded on the throne by his son Ajatashatru.
Contemporary of Buddha and Mahavira
Bimbisara was a contemporary of both Gautam Buddha and Vardhaman Mahavir.
According to Buddhist scriptures, King Bimbisara met the Buddha for the first time prior to the Buddha's enlightenment, and later became an important disciple that featured prominently in certain Buddhist suttas. He is recorded to have attained sotapannahood, a degree of enlightenment in Buddhist teachings.
Jain scriptures, on the other hand, described Bimbisara as a disciple of Mahavira who frequently sought his teachings. As per Jain texts, he is referred to as King Shrenika of Rajgriha (being the possessor of a large army). Bimbisara sent Jivaka to Ujjain for medical treatment of King Pradyota, the king of Avanti. He was Baldev in a previous life. Per scriptures, this soul is to become the first tirthankara of the next cycle.
Bimbisara used marriage alliances to strengthen his position.
His first wife was Kosala Devi, the daughter of Mahā Kosala the king of Kosala, and a sister of Prasenjit. His bride brought him Kashi, which was then a mere village, as dowry. This marriage also ended the hostility between Magadha and Kosala and gave him a free hand in dealing with the other states. His second wife, Chellana, was a Lichchhavi princess from Vaishali and daughter of King Chetaka. As per Indologist Hermann Jacobi, Vardhaman Mahavira's mother Trishala was sister of Chetaka. His third wife, Kshema, was a daughter of the chief of the Madra clan of Punjab. These marriage alliances paved the way for the expansion of Magadha Empire both westward and northward.
Although Bimbisara let the women in his palace visit Buddha in his monastery in the evenings; the women wanted a hair and nail stupa they could use to venerate the Buddha any time. After Bimbisara spoke with Buddha who complied with their request.
Annexation of Anga
Brahmadatta, king of Anga, is actually known to have defeated Bhattiya, king of Magadha and father of Bimbisara. Anga had, in this time, an ally in the king of Vatsas. Disarming the hostility of his northern and western neighbors by marriage alliances and shrewd policy, Bimbisara focused on Anga and annexed it by defeating Brahmadatta. He enacted Ajatashatru as his Viceroy at Champa, capital of Anga.
Anga is the only kingdom that Bimbisara annexed during his 52 years of reign.
According to the tradition, Bimbisara was imprisoned by his son Ajatashatru to ascend the throne of the kingdom of Magadha. Ajatashatru later ordered his father's release after the birth of his first child, but by then it was too late and Bimbisara had already died. This was reported to have taken place around 491 BC.
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|Emperor of Magadha