Malla (Ancient India)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Malla Mahajanapada
c. 600 BCE–c. 300 BCE
Malla and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
Malla and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
CapitalKasia in Kushinagar
Common languagesSanskrit
Historical eraBronze Age, Iron Age
• Established
c. 600 BCE
• Disestablished
c. 300 BCE
Today part ofIndia

Malla was an ancient Indian republic (Gaṇa sangha) that constituted one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) of ancient India. The republic is notable for being the chosen death place of Gautama Buddha at Kushinagar.


Conjectural reconstruction of the main gate of Kushinagara, city of the Mallas, circa 500 BCE adapted from a relief at Sanchi.
City of Kushinagara in the 5th century BCE according to a 1st-century BCE frieze in Sanchi Stupa 1 Southern Gate.

Malla was one of the solasa (16) mahajanapadas of ancient India mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya. It was named after the ruling clan of the same name. The Mahabharata (VI.9.34) mentions the territory as the Mallarashtra (Malla state). The Malla mahajanapada was situated north of Magadha. It was a small mahajanapada. The mahajanapada was divided into two main parts and the river Kakuttha (present day Kuku) was probably the dividing line. The capital of these two parts were Padrauna in Kushinagar and Kasia in Kushinagar.[1] Prior to Mahajanpad Era King Birsen, one of Malla King of Malla Bhumi or Malla Rashtra ( known as Malla Mahajanpada) ruled his empire from Kusinagara whose descendants established many small kingdoms Hathwa Raj, Bans Gaon Estate, Tamkuhi Raj and Majhauli raj. Bans Gaon Estate in Kushinagar District in Uttar Pradesh, Tamkuhi Raj in Kushinagar District in Uttar Pradesh, Majhauli raj in Deoria District in Uttar Pradesh and Hathwa Raj in Gopalganj District in Bihar.

War over the Buddha's relics[edit]

The Mallas defending the city of Kushinagara. Reflective of the frieze at Stupa 1, Southern Gateway, Sanchi, 1st century BCE to 1st century CE.
Leader of the Mallas of Kushinagara, under siege by the seven kings during the War of the Relics. Reflective of the frieze at Sanchi.

Kusinagara and Pava are very important in the history of Buddhism since Buddha took his last meal and was taken ill at Pava and went to his Mahaparinirvaṇa at Kusinagara. After his death, the Mallas wanted to keep the ashes, but the other kingdoms also wanting their part went to war and besieged the city of Kushinagara. Finally, an agreement was reached, and the Buddha's cremation relics were divided among 8 royal families and his disciples; centuries later they would be enshrined by King Ashoka into 84,000 stupas.[2][3] A famous view in Sanchi shows the siege of Kushinagara, giving a view of the city which has been relied on for the understanding of ancient Indian constructions.

The Mallas were a powerful clan of eastern India[4] at the time of Gautama Buddha and they are frequently mentioned in Buddhist and Jaina works. The Mahabharata (II.30.3) mentions that the second Pandava Bhima is said to have conquered the chief of the Mallas in course of his expedition to eastern India. The Mahabharata (VI.9.46) mentions Mallas along with the Angas, Vangas, and Kalingas as eastern tribes.[4] The Mallas were republican people with their dominion consisting of nine territories (Kalpa Sutra; Nirayavali Sutra), one of each of the nine confederated clans.

The Mallas, like the Licchavis, are mentioned by Manusmriti as Vratya Kshatriyas.[5] They are called Vasishthas (Vasetthas) in the Mahapparnibbana Suttanta. The Mallas were a brave and warlike people. Jainism and Buddhism found many followers among the Mallas. The Mallas originally had a monarchical form of government but later they switched to Gana (republic or non-monarchial) of which the members called themselves rajas. The Gana were taking decisions from their Santhagara. The Mallas appeared to have formed alliance with Lichchhavis for self-defense. They however, lost their independence not long after Buddha's death and their dominions were annexed to the Magadhan empire.

The two main towns of the Malla mahajanapada were Pava, where the 24th Jain lord Mahavira achieved Nirvana and Kusinara (Kushinagara), where Buddha went to his Mahaparinirvaṇa. The Cullavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka mentions another town named Anupiya. A fourth town called Uruvelakappa is mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya.[4] The fifth town was named as "Bhoganagara"[1].

War over the Buddha's Relics held by the city of Kushinagar, South Gate, Stupa no.1, Sanchi.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra (1972) Political History of Ancient India, University of Calcutta, Calcutta, pp. 85, 113
  2. ^ Lopez Jr., Donald S. "The Buddha's relics". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. ^ Strong, J.S. (2007). Relics of the Buddha. Princeton University Press. pp. 136–37. ISBN 978-0-691-11764-5.
  4. ^ a b c Law, B.C. (1973). Tribes in Ancient India, Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, pp.257-62
  5. ^ Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 By Tansen Sen
  6. ^ Hackin, J. (1994). Asiatic Mythology. p. 83ff. ISBN 9788120609204.


  • Sankrityayan, Rahul (2010). "Buddhacharya"- Life and Teachings of the Buddha (in Hindi). Gautam Book Centre. ISBN 9789380292175.
  • Gorakhpur Janpad aur Uski Kshatriya Jatiyon Ka Itihaas By Dr. Rajbali Pandey, pp. 291–292
  • Kshatriya Rajvansh by Dr. Raghunath Chand Kaushik
  • Bhagwan Buddh ke Samkalin Anuyayi tatha Buddha Kendra By Tripatkacharya, Mahopadhyaya Bikshu Buddhamitra, pp. 274–283.