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The Pali is transliterated as Velthuis (aaiiuu.m'n~n.t.d.n.l). Alternatives:
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Dictionary of Paali Proper Names

by G.P. Malalasekera, D.Litt., Ph.D., M.A. (Lond.), O.B.E.

The Pali Text Society
No copyright

Baaraa.nasii, Benares




Baaraa.nasii: The capital of Kaasi-janapada. It was one of the four places of pilgrimage for the Buddhists - the others being Kapilavatthu, Buddhagayaa and Kusinaara - because it was at the Migadaaya in Isipatana near Baaraa.nasii, that the Buddha preached his first sermon to the Pan~ncavaggiyaa.[1] This was the spot at which all Buddhas set in motion the Wheel of the Law (Dhammacakka). It is the custom of Buddhas to travel by air from the Bodhi-tree to the scene of their first sermon, a distance of eighteen leagues,[2] but the present Buddha did all the journey on foot in order to be able to meet on the way the Aajiivaka Upaka (q.v.).

Benares was an important centre of trade and industry. There was direct trade between there and Saavatthii,[3](the road passing through Bhaddiya,[4]) and between there and Takkasiilaa.[5] It was the custom for enthusiastic young men of Benares to go to the university at Takkasiilaa,[6] but there seem to have been educational institutions at Benares also, some of which were older than even those of Takkasiilaa.[7] From Vera~njaa to Benares there seem to have been two routes: one rather circuitous, passing through Soreyya, and the other direct, crossing the Ganges at Payaagatittha. From Benares the road continued to Vesaali.[8] On the road from Benares to Raajagaha was Andhakavinda.[9] There seems to have been friendly intercourse between the chieftains of Benares and the kings of Magadha, as shown by the fact that Bimbisaara sent his own physician, Jiivaka, to attend to the son of the Treasurer of Benares.[10] The distance from Kosambii to Benares was thirty leagues by river.[11]

The extent of the city of Benares, including its suburbs, at the time when it was the capital of an independent kingdom, is often stated[12] to have been twelve leagues. The names of several kings are mentioned in the Jaatakas, among them being those of A'nga, Uggasena, Udaya, Kikii, Dhana~njaya, Mahaasiilava, Vissasena, and Sa.myama.[13] The name which occurs most frequently, however, is that of Brahmadatta, which seems to have been the dynastic name of the Benares kings. In the Mahaagovinda Sutta, the foundation of Baaraa.nasii is attributed to Mahaa-govinda, its first king being Dhatara.t.tha, contemporary of Re.nu.[14] The Ceylon Chronicles[15] mention the names of others who reigned in Benares - e.g., Duppasaha and sixty of his descendants; Asoka, son of Sama'nkara, [276] and eighty-four thousand of his descendants; also sixteen kings, ancestors of Okkaaka. The city itself had been known by different names at different periods; thus, in the time of the Udaya Jaataka it was called Surundhana; in that of the Sutasoma, Sudassana; in that of the Sonananda, Brahma-vaddhana; in that of the Kha.n.dahaala, Pupphavatii; in that of the Yuva~n-jaya, Rammanagara;[16] and in that of the Sa'nkha, Molinii.[17] It was also called Kaasinagara and Kaasipura,[18] being the capital of Kaasi. The Bhojaajaaniya Jaataka[19] says that "all the kings around coveted the kingdom of Benares." In the Brahaachatta Jaataka,[20] the king of Benares is mentioned as having captured the whole of Kosala. At the time of the Buddha, however, Benares had lost its great political importance. Kosala was already the paramount power in India, and several successful invasions of Kaasi by the Kosalans under their kings Va'nka, Dabbasena and Ka.msa, are referred to. The final conquest would seem to be ascribed to Ka.msa because the epithet Baaraa.nasiiggaha (conqueror of Benares) is an established addition to his name.[21]

Later, when Ajaatasattu succeeded in establishing his sway over Kosala, with the help of the Liicchavis, Kaasii, too, was included in his kingdom. Even in the Buddha's time the city of Benares was wealthy and prosperous and was included in the list of great cities suggested by Aananda as suitable places for the Parinibbaana of the Buddha.[22]

Mention is also made of a Baanaarasiise.t.thi[23] and a Santhaagaarasaalaa (Mote Hall), which was then, however, no longer being used so much for the transaction of public business as for public discussions on religious and philosophical questions.[24] Near Benares was a grove of seven siriisaka-trees where the Buddha preached to the Naaga-king Erakapatta,[25] and also the Khemiyambavana where Udena met Gho.tamukha;[26] on the other side of the river was Vaasabhagaama, and beyond that another village called Cunda.t.thila.[27]

The Buddha is several times spoken of as staying in Benares, where he preached several sermons[28] and converted many people including Yasa, whose home was in Benares,[29] and his friends Vimala, Subaahu, Pu.n.naji and Gavampati, all members of eminent families.[30] Isipatana (q.v.) became a monastic centre in the Buddha's time and continued so [277] for long after. From there came twelve thousand monks under the leadership of Dhammasena to be present at the ceremony of the foundation of the Mahaa Thuupa.[31]

In the past, Baaraa.nasii was the birthplace of Kassapa Buddha.[32] In the time of Metteyya Buddha, Baaraa.nasii will be known as Ketumatii, at the head of eighty-four thousand towns. Sa'nkha will be Cakkavatti there, but he will renounce the world and will become an arahant under Metteyya.[33] Baaraa.nasii evidently derives its name from the fact that it lies between the two rivers Bar.naa and Asi.[34]


[1] D. ii. 141.

[2] MA. i. 388; BuA. 242, etc.

[3] DhA. iii. 429.

[4] Vin. i. 189.

[5] DhA. i. 123.

[6] See, e.g., J. ii. 4; DhA. i. 250.

[7] KhA. 198; see also DhA. iii. 445, where Susima, Sa'nkha's son, goes from Takkasilaa to Benares for purposes of study.

[8] Sp. i. 201.

[9] Vin. i. 220.

[10] Ibid., 275 f.

[11] MA. ii. 929.

[12] E.g., J. iv. 377; vi. 160; MA. ii. 608.

[13] For details see s.v. The SNA. on the Khaggavisaana Sutta contains the names of several kings of Benares who renounced the world and became Pacceka Buddhas.

[14] D. ii. 235 f.

[15] MT. 127, 129, 130.

[16] J. iv. 119 f.

[17] J. iv. 15.

[18] E.g., J. v. 54; vi. 165; DhA. i. 87.

[19] J. i. 178.

[20] J. iii. 116.

[21] J. ii. 403.

[22] D. ii. 146.

[23] E.g., DhA. i. 412; iii. 87, 365.

[24] E.g., J. iv. 74; ascetics who came to the city found lodging for the night in the Potters' Hall (e.g., DhA. i. 39).

[25] DhA. iii. 230.

[26] M. ii. 158.

[27] PvA. 168.

[28] E.g., A. i. 110 f., 279 f.; iii. 392 ff., 399 ff.; S. i. 105; v. 406; Vin. i. 189, 216 f., 289.

[29] Vin. i. 15.

[30] Ibid., 19.

[31] Mhv. xxix. 31.

[32] Bu. xxv. 33.

[33] D. iii. 75 f.

[34] CAGI. 499 f.




SN 2.12.067

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