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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Gonda District Map

Sravasti (श्रावस्ती) (Shravasti) was one of the Buddhist places visited by Xuan Zang in 636 AD. Alexander Cunningham has identified it with ancient Sahet-Mahet village in Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh. [1] The new district is Shravasti district.



Origin of the name

Mention by Panini

Srawasti (श्रावस्ती) is name of a River mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi under Nadyadi (नद्यादि) (4.2.97) group.[2]

V. S. Agrawala[3] writes that Panini mentions Śrāvastī (IV.2.97)

Shravasti (श्रावस्ती) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [4]


Visit by Fahian

James Legge[5] writes : Going on from Saket to the south, for eight yojanas, (the travellers) came to the city of Sravasti1 in the kingdom of Kosala,2 in which the inhabitants were few and far between, amounting in all (only) to a few more than two hundred families; the city where king Prasenajit3 ruled, and the place of the old vihara of Maha-prajapti;4 of the well and walls of (the house of) the (Vaisya) head Sudatta;5 and where the Angulimalya6 became an Arhat, and his body was (afterwards) burned on his attaining to pari-nirvana. At all these places topes were subsequently erected, which are still existing in the city. The Brahmans, with their contrary doctrine, became full of hatred and envy in their hearts, and wished to destroy them, but there came from the heavens such a storm of crashing thunder and flashing lightning that they were not able in the end to effect their purpose.

As you go out from the city by the south gate, and 1,200 paces from it, the (Vaisya) head Sudatta built a vihara, facing the south; and when the door was open, on each side of it there was a stone pillar, with the figure of a wheel on the top of that on the left, and the figure of an ox on the top of that on the right. On the left and right of the building the ponds of water clear and pure, the thickets of trees always luxuriant, and the numerous flowers of various hues, constituted a lovely scene, the whole forming what is called the Jetavana vihara.7

When Buddha went up to the Trayastrimsas heaven,8 and preached the Law for the benefit of his mother, (after he had been absent for) ninety days, Prasenajit, longing to see him, caused an image of him to be carved in Gosirsha Chandana wood,9 and put in the place where he usually sat. When Buddha on his return entered the vihara, Buddha said to it, “Return to your seat. After I have attained to pari-nirvana, you will serve as a pattern to the four classes of my disciples,”10 and on this the image returned to its seat. This was the very first of all the images (of Buddha), and that which men subsequently copied. Buddha then removed, and dwelt in a small vihara on the south side (of the other), a different place from that containing the image, and twenty paces distant from it.

The Jetavana vihara was originally of seven storeys. The kings and people of the countries around vied with one another in their offerings, hanging up about it silken streamers and canopies, scattering flowers, burning incense, and lighting lamps, so as to make the night as bright as the day. This they did day after day without ceasing. (It happened that) a rat, carrying in its mouth the wick of a lamp, set one of the streamers or canopies on fire, which caught the vihara, and the seven storeys were all consumed. The kings, with their officers and people, were all very sad and distressed, supposing that the sandal-wood image had been burned; but lo! after four or five days, when the door of a small vihara on the east was opened, there was immediately seen the original image. They were all greatly rejoiced, and co-operated in restoring the vihara. When they had succeeded in completing two storeys, they removed the image back to its former place.

When Fa-hien and Tao-ching first arrived at the Jetavana monastery, and thought how the World-honoured one had formerly resided there for twenty-five years, painful reflections arose in their minds. Born in a border-land, along with their like-minded friends, they had travelled through so many kingdoms; some of those friends had returned (to their own land), and some had (died), proving the impermanence and uncertainty of life; and to-day they saw the place where Buddha had lived now unoccupied by him. They were melancholy through their pain of heart, and the crowd of monks came out, and asked them from what kingdom they were come. “We are come,” they replied, “from the land of Han.” “Strange,” said the monks with a sigh, “that men of a border country should be able to come here in search of our Law!” Then they said to one another, “During all the time that we, preceptors and monks,11 have succeeded to one another, we have never seen men of Han, followers of our system, arrive here.”

Four le to the north-west of the vihara there is a grove called “The Getting of Eyes.” Formerly there were five hundred blind men, who lived here in order that they might be near the vihara.12 Buddha preached his Law to them, and they all got back their eyesight. Full of joy, they stuck their staves in the earth, and with their heads and faces on the ground, did reverence. The staves immediately began to grow, and they grew to be great. People made much of them, and no one dared to cut them down, so that they came to form a grove. It was in this way that it got its name, and most of the Jetavana monks, after they had taken their midday meal, went to the grove, and sat there in meditation.

Six or seven le north-east from the Jetavana, mother Vaisakha13 built another vihara, to which she invited Buddha and his monks, and which is still existing.

To each of the great residences for monks at the Jetavana vihara there were two gates, one facing the east and the other facing the north. The park (containing the whole) was the space of ground which the (Vaisya) head Sudatta purchased by covering it with gold coins. The vihara was exactly in the centre. Here Buddha lived for a longer time than at any other place, preaching his Law and converting men. At the places where he walked and sat they also (subsequently) reared topes, each having its particular name; and here was the place where Sundari14 murdered a person and then falsely charged Buddha (with the crime). Outside the east gate of the Jetavana, at a distance of seventy paces to the north, on the west of the road, Buddha held a discussion with the (advocates of the) ninety-six schemes of erroneous doctrine, when the king and his great officers, the householders, and people were all assembled in crowds to hear it. Then a woman belonging to one of the erroneous systems, by name Chanchamana,15 prompted by the envious hatred in her heart, and having put on (extra) clothes in front of her person, so as to give her the appearance of being with child, falsely accused Buddha before all the assembly of having acted unlawfully (towards her). On this, Sakra, Ruler of Devas, changed himself and some devas into white mice, which bit through the strings about her waist; and when this was done, the (extra) clothes which she wore dropt down on the ground. The earth at the same time was rent, and she went (down) alive into hell.16 (This) also is the place where Devadatta,17 trying with empoisoned claws to injure Buddha, went down alive into hell. Men subsequently set up marks to distinguish where both these events took place.

Further, at the place where the discussion took place, they reared a vihara rather more than sixty cubits high, having in it an image of Buddha in a sitting posture. On the east of the road there was a devalaya18 of (one of) the contrary systems, called “The Shadow Covered,” right opposite the vihara on the place of discussion, with (only) the road between them, and also rather more than sixty cubits high. The reason why it was called “The Shadow Covered” was this:— When the sun was in the west, the shadow of the vihara of the World-honoured one fell on the devalaya of a contrary system; but when the sun was in the east, the shadow of that devalaya was diverted to the north, and never fell on the vihara of Buddha. The mal-believers regularly employed men to watch their devalaya, to sweep and water (all about it), to burn incense, light the lamps, and present offerings; but in the morning the lamps were found to have been suddenly removed, and in the vihara of Buddha. The Brahmans were indignant, and said, “Those Sramanas take out lamps and use them for their own service of Buddha, but we will not stop our service for you!”19 On that night the Brahmans themselves kept watch, when they saw the deva spirits which they served take the lamps and go three times round the vihara of Buddha and present offerings. After this ministration to Buddha they suddenly disappeared. The Brahmans thereupon knowing how great was the spiritual power of Buddha, forthwith left their families, and became monks.20 It has been handed down, that, near the time when these things occurred, around the Jetavana vihara there were ninety-eight monasteries, in all of which there were monks residing, excepting only in one place which was vacant. In this Middle Kingdom21 there are ninety-six21 sorts of views, erroneous and different from our system, all of which recognise this world and the future world22 (and the connexion between them). Each had its multitude of followers, and they all beg their food: only they do not carry the alms-bowl. They also, moreover, seek (to acquire) the blessing (of good deeds) on unfrequented ways, setting up on the road-side houses of charity, where rooms, couches, beds, and food and drink are supplied to travellers, and also to monks, coming and going as guests, the only difference being in the time (for which those parties remain).

There are also companies of the followers of Devadatta still existing. They regularly make offerings to the three previous Buddhas, but not to Sakyamuni Buddha.

Four le south-east from the city of Sravasti, a tope has been erected at the place where the World-honoured one encountered king Virudhaha,23 when he wished to attack the kingdom of Shay-e,23 and took his stand before him at the side of the road.24

1 In Singhalese, Sewet; here evidently the capital of Kosala. It is placed by Cunningham (Archaeological Survey) on the south bank of the Rapti, about fifty-eight miles north of Ayodya or Oude. There are still the ruins of a great town, the name being Sahet Mahat. It was in this town, or in its neighbourhood, that Sakyamuni spent many years of his life after he became Buddha.

2 There were two Indian kingdoms of this name, a southern and a northern. This was the northern, a part of the present Oudh.

3 In Singhalese, Pase-nadi, meaning “leader of the victorious army.” He was one of the earliest converts and chief patrons of Sakyamuni. Eitel calls him (p. 95) one of the originators of Buddhist idolatory, because of the statue which is mentioned in this chapter. See Hardy’s M. B., pp. 283, 284, et al.

4 Explained by “Path of Love,” and “Lord of Life.” Prajapati was aunt and nurse of Sakyamuni, the first woman admitted to the monkhood, and the first superior of the first Buddhistic convent. She is yet to become a Buddha.

5 Sudatta, meaning “almsgiver,” was the original name of Anatha-pindika (or Pindada), a wealthy householder, or Vaisya head, of Sravasti, famous for his liberality (Hardy, Anepidu). Of his old house, only the well and walls remained at the time of Fa-hien’s visit to Sravasti.

6 The Angulimalya were a sect or set of Sivaitic fanatics, who made assassination a religious act. The one of them here mentioned had joined them by the force of circumstances. Being converted by Buddha, he became a monk; but when it is said in the text that he “got the Tao,” or doctrine, I think that expression implies more than his conversion, and is equivalent to his becoming an Arhat. His name in Pali is Angulimala. That he did become an Arhat is clear from his autobiographical poem in the “Songs of the Theras.”

7 Eitel (p. 37) says:—“A noted vihara in the suburbs of Sravasti, erected in a park which Anatha-pindika bought of prince Jeta, the son of Prasenajit. Sakyamuni made this place his favourite residence for many years. Most of the Sutras (authentic and supposititious) date from this spot.”

8 See chapter xvii.

9 See chapter xiii.

10 Arya, meaning “honourable,” “venerable,” is a title given only to those who have mastered the four spiritual truths:—(1) that “misery” is a necessary condition of all sentient existence; this is duhkha: (2) that the “accumulation” of misery is caused by the passions; this is samudaya: (3) that the “extinction” of passion is possible; this is nirodha: and (4) that the “path” leads to the extinction of passion; which is marga. According to their attainment of these truths, the Aryas, or followers of Buddha, are distinguished into four classes — Srotapannas, Sakridagamins, Anagamins, and Arhats. E. H., p. 14.

11 This is the first time that Fa-hien employs the name Ho-shang {.} {.}, which is now popularly used in China for all Buddhist monks without distinction of rank or office. It is the representative of the Sanskrit term Upadhyaya, “explained,” says Eitel (p. 155) by “a self-taught teacher,” or by “he who knows what is sinful and what is not sinful,” with the note, “In India the vernacular of this term is {.} {.} (? munshee [? Bronze]); in Kustana and Kashgar they say {.} {.} (hwa-shay); and from the latter term are derived the Chinese synonyms, {.} {.} (ho-shay) and {.} {.} (ho-shang).” The Indian term was originally a designation for those who teach only a part of the Vedas, the Vedangas. Adopted by Buddhists of Central Asia, it was made to signify the priests of the older ritual, in distinction from the Lamas. In China it has been used first as a synonym for {.} {.}, monks engaged in popular teaching (teachers of the Law), in distinction from {.} {.}, disciplinists, and {.} {.}, contemplative philosophers (meditationists); then it was used to designate the abbots of monasteries. But it is now popularly applied to all Buddhist monks. In the text there seems to be implied some distinction between the “teachers” and the “ho-shang;”— probably, the Pali Akariya and Upagghaya; see Sacred Books of the East, vol. xiii, Vinaya Texts, pp. 178, 179.

12 It might be added, “as depending on it,” in order to bring out the full meaning of the {.} in the text. If I recollect aright, the help of the police had to be called in at Hong Kong in its early years, to keep the approaches to the Cathedral free from the number of beggars, who squatted down there during service, hoping that the hearers would come out with softened hearts, and disposed to be charitable. I found the popular tutelary temples in Peking and other places, and the path up Mount T’ai in Shan-lung similarly frequented.

13 The wife of Anatha-pindika, and who became “mother superior” of many nunneries. See her history in M. B., pp. 220-227. I am surprised it does not end with the statement that she is to become a Buddha.

14 See E. H., p. 136.Hsuan-chwang does not give the name of this murderer; see in Julien’s “Vie et Voyages de Hiouen-thsang,” p. 125 — “a heretical Brahman killed a woman and calumniated Buddha.” See also the fuller account in Beal’s “Records of Western Countries,” pp. 7, 8, where the murder is committed by several Brahmacharins. In this passage Beal makes Sundari to be the name of the murdered person (a harlot). But the text cannot be so construed.

15 Eitel (p. 144) calls her Chancha; in Singhalese, Chinchi. See the story about her, M. B., pp. 275-277.

16 “Earth’s prison,” or “one of Earth’s prisons.” It was the Avichi naraka to which she went, the last of the eight hot prisons, where the culprits die, and are born again in uninterrupted succession (such being the meaning of Avichi), though not without hope of final redemption. E. H. p. 21.

17 Devadatta was brother of Ananda, and a near relative therefore of Sakyamuni. He was the deadly enemy, however, of the latter. He had become so in an earlier state of existence, and the hatred continued in every successive birth, through which they reappeared in the world. See the accounts of him, and of his various devices against Buddha, and his own destruction at the last, in M. B., pp. 315-321, 326-330; and still better, in the Sacred Books of the East, vol. xx, Vinaya Texts, pp. 233-265. For the particular attempt referred to in the text, see “The Life of the Buddha,” p. 107. When he was engulphed, and the flames were around him, he cried out to Buddha to save him, and we are told that he is expected yet to appear as a Buddha under the name of Devaraja, in a universe called Deva-soppana. E. H., p. 39.

18 “A devalaya ({.} {.} or {.} {.}), a place in which a deva is worshipped — a general name for all Brahmanical temples” (Eitel, p. 30). We read in the Khang-hsi dictionary under {.}, that when Kasyapa Matanga came to the Western Regions, with his Classics or Sutras, he was lodged in the Court of State-Ceremonial, and that afterwards there was built for him “The Court of the White-horse” ({.} {.} {.}), and in consequence the name of Sze {.} came to be given to all Buddhistic temples. Fa-hien, however, applies this term only to Brahmanical temples.

19 Their speech was somewhat unconnected, but natural enough in the circumstances. Compare the whole account with the narrative in I Samuel v. about the Ark and Dagon, that “twice-battered god of Palestine.”

20 “Entered the doctrine or path.” Three stages in the Buddhistic life are indicated by Fa-hien:—“entering it,” as here, by becoming monks ({.} {.}); “getting it,” by becoming Arhats ({.} {.}); and “completing it,” by becoming Buddha ({.} {.}).

21 It is not quite clear whether the author had in mind here Central India as a whole, which I think he had, or only Kosala, the part of it where he then was. In the older teaching, there were only thirty-two sects, but there may have been three subdivisions of each. See Rhys Davids’ “Buddhism,” pp. 98, 99.

22 This mention of “the future world” is an important difference between the Corean and Chinese texts. The want of it in the latter has been a stumbling-block in the way of all previous translators. Remusat says in a note that “the heretics limited themselves to speak of the duties of man in his actual life without connecting it by the notion that the metempsychosis with the anterior periods of existence through which he had passed.” But this is just the opposite of what Fa-hien’s meaning was, according to our Corean text. The notion of “the metempsychosis” was just that in which all the ninety-six erroneous systems agreed among themselves and with Buddhism. If he had wished to say what the French sinologue thinks he does say, moreover, he would probably have written {.} {.} {.} {.} {.}. Let me add, however, that the connexion which Buddhism holds between the past world (including the present) and the future is not that of a metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, for it does not appear to admit any separate existence of the soul. Adhering to its own phraseology of “the wheel,” I would call its doctrine that of “The Transrotation of Births.” See Rhys Davids’ third Hibbert Lecture.

23 Or, more according to the phonetisation of the text, Vaidurya. He was king of Kosala, the son and successor of Prasenajit, and the destroyer of Kapilavastu, the city of the Sakya family. His hostility to the Sakyas is sufficiently established, and it may be considered as certain that the name Shay-e, which, according to Julien’s “Methode,” p. 89, may be read Chia-e, is the same as Kia-e ({.} {.}), one of the phonetisations of Kapilavastu, as given by Eitel.

24 This would be the interview in the “Life of the Buddha” in Trubner’s Oriental Series, p. 116, when Virudhaha on his march found Buddha under an old sakotato tree. It afforded him no shade; but he told the king that the thought of the danger of “his relatives and kindred made it shady.” The king was moved to sympathy for the time, and went back to Sravasti; but the destruction of Kapilavastu was only postponed for a short space, and Buddha himself acknowledged it to be inevitable in the connexion of cause and effect.

Visit by Xuanzang in 636 AD

Alexander Cunningham[6] writes that The ancient territory of Ayodhya, or Oudh, was divided by the Sarju or Ghagra river into two great provinces ; that to the north being called Uttara Kosala, and that to the south Banaodha. Each was again

[p.408]: subdivided into two districts. In Banaodha these are called Pachham-rat and Purab-rat, or the western and eastern districts ; and in Uttara Kosala they are Gauda (vulgarly Gondu) to the south of the Rapti, and Kosala to the north of the Rapti, or Rawati, as it is universally called in Oudh. Some of these names are found in the Puranas.

Thus, in the Vayu Purana, Lava the son of Rama is said to have reigned in Uttara Kosala; but in the Matsya Linga and Kurma Puranas, Sravasti is stated to be in Gauda. These apparent discrepancies are satisfactorily explained when we learn that Gauda is only a subdivision of Uttara Kosala, and that the ruins of Sravasti have actually been discovered in the district of Gauda, which is the Gonda of the maps. The extent of Gauda is proved by the old name of Balrampur on the Rapti, which was formerly Ramgarh-Gauda. I presume, therefore, that both the Gauda Brahnans and the Gauda Tagas must originally have belonged to this district, and not to the mediaeval city of Gauda in Bengal. Brahmans of this name are still numerous in Ajudhya and Jahangirabad on the right bank of the Ghagra river, in Gonda, Pakhapur, and Jaisni of the Gonda or Gauda district on the left bank, and in many parts of the neighbouring province of Gorakhpur. Ajudhya, therefore, was the capital of Banaodha, or Oudh to the south of the Ghagra, while Sravasti was the capital of Uttara Kosala, or Oudh to the north of the Ghagra.

The position of the famous city of Sravasti, one of the most celebrated places in the annals of Buddhism, has long puzzled our best scholars. This was owing partly to the contradictory statements of the" Chinese pilgrims themselves, and partly to the want of a good

[p.409]: map of the province of Oudh. In my account of Visakha or Ajudhya, I have compared the bearings and distances recorded by Fa-Hian and Hwen Thsang with those preserved in the Buddhist annals of Ceylon, and I have shown conclusively that Fa-Hian' s distance from Sankisa and his bearing from Shachi or Saket are both erroneous.

We know from Hwen Thsang and the Buddhist books of Ceylon that Sravasti was to the north of Saket or Ajudhya, or in other words that it was in the district of Gauda or Uttara Kosala, which is confirmed by the statements of no less than four of the Brahmanical Puranas. And as Fa-Hian also says that Shewei or Sewet was in Kosala, there can be no doubt whatever that Sravasti must be looked for within a few days' journey to the north-ward of Saket or Ayodhya. According to Fa-Hian the distance was 8 yojanas, or 56 miles, which is in-creased by Hwen Thsang to 500 li, or 83 miles.[7] But as the latter pilgrim reduced the Indian yojana to Chinese measure at the rate of 40 li per yojana we may correct his distance by the nearest round number of 350 li, or 58 miles, to bring it into accordance with the other.

Now, as this is the exact distance from Ajudhya of the great ruined city on the south bank of the Rapti, called Sahet-Mahet, in which I discovered a colossal statue of Buddha with an inscription containing the name of Sravasti itself, I have no hesitation in correcting Hwen Thsang' s distance from 500 li to 350 li, as proposed above.

The ruined city of Sahet-Mahet is situated between Akaona and Balrampur, at 5 miles from the former and 12 miles from the latter, and at nearly equal dis-

[p.410]: tances from Bahraich and Gonda.[8] In shape it is an almost semicircular crescent, with its diameter of one mile and a third in length curved inwards and facing the north-east, along the old bank of the Rapti river. The -western front, which runs due north and south, for three-quarters of a mile, is the only straight portion of the enclosure. The ramparts vary considerably in height ; those to the west being from 35 to 40 feet in height, while those on the south and east are not more than 25 or 30 feet. The highest point is the great north-west bastion, which is 50 feet above the fields. The north-east face, or shorter curve of the crescent, was defended by the Rapti, which still flows down its old bed during the annual floods. The land ramparts on the longer curve of the crescent must once have been defended by a ditch, the remains of which yet exist as a swamp, nearly half a mile in length, at the south-west corner. Everywhere the ramparts are covered with fragments of brick, of the large size peculiar to very ancient cities ; and though I was unable to trace any remains of walls except in one place, yet the very presence of the bricks is quite sufficient to show that the earthen ramparts must once have been crowned by brick parapets and battlements. The portion of the parapet wall, which I discovered still standing in the middle of the river face, was 10 feet thick. The whole circuit of the old earthen ramparts, according to my survey, is 17,300 feet, or upwards of 3 miles. Now this is the exact size of 20 li, or 3-2/3 miles, which Hwen Thsang gives to the palace alone ; but, as the city was then deserted and in ruins, he must have mistaken the city itself for the palace.

[p.411]:It is certain at least that the suburbs outside the walls must have been very limited indeed, as the place is almost entirely surrounded with the remains of large religious buildings, which would have left but little room for any private dwellings. I am therefore quite satisfied that the city has been mistaken for the palace ; and this mistake is sufficient to show how utterly ruined this once famous city must have been at so distant a period as the seventh century, when the place was visited by Hwen Thsang. As Fa-Hian describes the population as already very inconsiderable in A.D. 400, while the Ceylonese annals speak of Khiradhara, king of Sawatthipura between A.D. 275 and 302, the great decline of Sravasti must have taken place during the fourth century, and we may perhaps not be far wrong in connecting it with the fall of the Gupta dynasty in A.D. 319.

Sravasti is said to have been built by Raja Sravasta[9] the son of Yuvanaswa of the Solar race, and the tenth in descent from Surya himself. Its foundation there- fore reaches to the fabulous ages of Indian history, long anterior to Rama. During this early period it most probably formed part of the kingdom of Ayodhya, as the Vayu Purana assigns it to Lava, the son of Rama.

When Sravasti next appears in history, in the time of Buddha, it was the capital of King Prasenajit, the son of Maha Kosala. The king became a convert to the new faith, and during the rest of his life he was the firm friend and protector of Buddha. But his son Virudhaka hated the race of the Sakyas, and his invasion of their country and subsequent massacre of 500 Sakya maidens, who had been selected for

[p.412]:his harem, brought forth the famous prediction of Buddha, that within seven days the king would be consumed by fire. As the story has been preserved by Buddhists, the prediction was of course fulfilled, and upwards of eleven centuries afterwards, the tank in which the king had sought to avoid the flames was pointed out to the credulous Hwen Thsang.[10]

We hear nothing more of Sravasti until one century after Kanishka, or five centuries after Buddha, when, according to Hwen Thsang, Vikramaditya, king of Sravasti, became a persecutor of Buddhists, and the famous Manorhita, author of the Vibhasha Sastra, being worsted in argument by the Brahmans, put himself to death. During the reign of his successor, whose name is not given, the Brahmans were overcome by Vasubandhu, the eminent disciple of Manorhita. The probable date of these two kings may be set down as ranging from A.D. 79 to 120. For the next two centuries Sravasti would seem to have been under the rule of its own kings, as we find Khiradhara and his nephew mentioned as Rajas between A.D. 275 and 319. [11] But there can be little doubt that during the whole of this time Sravasti was only a dependency of the powerful Gupta dynasty of Magadha, as the neigh-bouring city of Saketa is specially said to have belonged to them. "Princes of the Gupta race," says the Vayu Purana, "will possess all those countries; the banks of the Ganges to Prayaga, and Saketa, and Magadha."[12] From this time Sravasti gradually declined.

[p.413]:In A.D. 400 it contained only 200 families; in A.D. 632 it was completely deserted ; and at the present day the whole area of the city, excepting only a few clearances near the gateways, is a mass of almost impenetrable jangal.

There is a difference in the name of the city, which Fa-Hian gives as She-wei., while Hwen Thsang writes it, as correctly as is possible in Chinese syllables, She-lo-fa-si-ti or Sravasti. But this difference is more apparent than real, as there can be little doubt that Shewei is only a slight alteration of the abbreviated Pali form of Sewet, for Sawatthi, which is found in most of the Ceylonese books. Similarly the modern name of Sahet is evidently only a variation of the Pali Sewet. The other name of Mahet. I am unable to ex- plain ; but it is perhaps only the usual rhyming addition of which the Hindus are so fond, as in ulta-pulta, or " topsy-turvy," which many people say is the true meaning of Sahet-mahet, in allusion to the utter ruin of the whole place. But some say that the name was originally Set-met, and as this form seems to be a corruption of Sewet, it is probable that Sahet-Mahet is only a lengthened pronunciation of Set-met. One man alone, a Muhammadan in charge of the tomb of Pir Barana close to the ruined city, affirmed that the true name was Savitri, which is so close to the correct Pali form of Sawatthi as to leave but little doubt that it preserves the original name of the place.

Hwen Thsang assigns to the kingdom of Sravasti a circuit of 4000 li, or 667 miles, which is about double the actual size of the territory lying between the Ghagra river and the foot of the mountains ; but as he assigns the same dimensions to the territory of Nepal,

[p.414]:it is probable that in his time the two western districts of Malbhum and Khachi, in the hills to the north, may at that time have belonged to Sravasti. The territory of Sravasti would thus have comprised all the country lying between the Himalaya mountains and the Ghagra river, from the Karnali river on the west to the mountain of Dhaolagiri and Faizabad on the east. The circuit of this tract is about 600 miles, or very nearly the same as the estimated measurement of Hwen Thsang.


श्रावस्ती (AS, p.915): विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर [13] ने लेख किया है ...बौद्ध काल की परम स्मृद्धिशाली नगरी और कौशल जनपद की राजधानी श्रावस्ती के खंडहर जिला गोंडा (उत्तर प्रदेश) में सहेत-महेत नामक ग्राम के निकट स्थित हैं. यह स्थान बलरामपुर रेलस्टेशन से 7 मील दक्षिण-पश्चिम में पक्की सड़क पर स्थित है. श्रावस्ती राप्ती नदी के तट पर बसी हुई थी. वाल्मीकि रामायण उत्तरकांड 107,17 में वर्णन है कि रामचंद्र जी ने (दक्षिण-) कौशल का अपने पुत्र कुश को और उत्तर कौशल का लव को राजा बनाया था-'कोसलेषु कुशं वीरमुत्तरेषु तथा लवम्, अभिषिच्य महात्मानावुभौ रामः कुशीलवौ' (7.107.17). उत्तर कांड 108,5 के अनुसार लव की राजधानी श्रावस्ती में थी, 'श्रावस्तीति पुरीरम्या श्राविता च लवस्य ह, अयोध्यां विजनां कृत्वा राघवो भरतस्तथा' अर्थात मधुपुरी में शत्रुघ्न को सूचना मिली कि लव के लिए श्रावस्ती नामक नगरी

[p.916]: राम ने बसाई है और अयोध्या को जनहीन करके (उन्होंने स्वर्ग जाने का विचार किया है). इस वर्णन से प्रतीत होता है कि श्रीराम के स्वर्गारोहण के पश्चात अयोध्या उजड़ गई थी और कौशल की नई राजधानी श्रावस्ती में बनाई गई थी. बौद्धकाल में श्रावस्ती के पश्चात अयोध्या का उपनगर साकेत, कौशल का दूसरा प्रमुख स्थान था.

कालिदास ने रघुवंश में लव को शरावती नामक नगरी का राजा बनाया जाना लिखा है-'स निवेश्य कुशावत्यां रिपुनागाङ्कुषं कुशं, शरावत्यां सतां सूक्तैर्जनिताश्रुलवं लवं' रघुवंश 15,97. इस उल्लेख में शरावती, निश्चियरूप से श्रावस्ती का उच्चारण भेद है. श्रावस्ती की स्थापना पुराणों के अनुसार, श्रवस्त नाम के सूर्यवंशी राजा ने की थी (देखें 'युग-युग में उत्तर प्रदेश', पृ. 40). लव ने यहां कौशल की नई राजधानी बनाई और श्रावस्ती धीरे-धीरे उत्तर कौशल की वैभव शालिनी नगरी बन गई.

सहेत महेत के खंडहरों से जान पड़ता है कि इस नगर का आकार अर्धचंद्राकार था. गौतम बुद्ध के समय यहां कौशल-नरेश प्रसेनजित् की राजधानी थी. बुद्ध के जीवन से संबंधित अनेक स्थलों के खंडहर यहां उत्खनन द्वारा प्रकाश में लाए गए हैं. इन स्थलों का पाली ग्रंथों के अतिरिक्त चीनी यात्री फाह्यान और युवानच्वांग ने भी उल्लेख किया है. इनमें प्रसेनजित् के मंत्री सुदत्त के तथा क्रूर दस्यु अंगुलिमाल (जो बाद में बुद्ध के प्रवचनों से प्रभावित होकर उनके धर्म में दीक्षित हो गया था) के नाम से प्रसिद्ध स्तूपों के तथा जेतवन-बिहार के खंडहर मुख्य हैं. जेतवन-बिहार को सुदत्त या अनाथपिंडक ने बुद्ध के जीवनकाल ही में बनवाया था. सुदत्त ने इस उपवन की भूमि को राजकुमार जेत से, उस पर स्वर्ण मुद्राएं बिछाकर, खरीदा था और फिर इस उपवन को बुद्ध को दान कर दिया था. जेत ने इन स्वर्ण मुद्राओं को प्राप्त कर इस धन से श्रावस्ती में सात तालों का एक प्रासाद बनवाया था जो चंदन, छत्र और तोरणों से सुसज्जित था. इसमें चारों ओर फूल ही फूल बिखरे रहते थे और इतना अधिक प्रकाश किया जाता था कि रात भी दिन ही प्रतीत होती थी. फाह्यान लिखता है कि एक दिन एक मूषक एक दीपक की बत्ती को उठा कर इधर-उधर दौड़ने लगा जिससे इस महल में आग लग गई और यह 7 मंजिला भवन जलकर राख हो गया. बौद्धों के विश्वास के अनुसार इस दुर्घटना का कारण वास्तव में जेत की लालची मनोवृति ही थी जिसके वशीभूत होकर उसने बुद्ध के निवास स्थान के लिए भूमि देने में आनाकानी की थी और उसके लिए इतना अधिक धन मांगा था. जेतवन के खण्डहरों में बुद्ध के निवासगृह गंधकुटी तथा कोशंबकुटी नामक दो विहारों के अवशेष देखे जा सकते हैं. बुद्ध श्रावस्ती

[p.917]: में 9 वर्ष रहे थे और यहां रहते हुए उन्होंने अनेक महत्वपूर्ण प्रवचन दिए थे. सहेत महेत के दक्षिण पश्चिम की ओर जेतवन विहार से आधा मील दूर सोमनाथ नाम का एक ऊंचा ढूह (स्तूप) है. जेतवन से एक मील दक्षिण-पूर्व में एक दूसरा टीला है जिसे ओराझार कहा जाता है. यह वही स्थान है जहाँ मिगार श्रेष्ठी की पुत्रवधू विशाखा ने अपार धनराशि व्यय करके पूर्वरमा नामक विहार बनवाया था.

बौद्ध और जैन साहित्य में श्रावस्ती को सावत्थी या सावत्थपुर कहा गया है. महापरिनिब्बान सुत्त (देखें सैक्रेड बुक्स ऑफ द ईस्ट,पृ.99) में श्रावस्ती और साकेत की गणना भारत के प्रमुख 7 नगरों में की गई है. जैन ग्रंथ है 'उपासकदशा' में श्रावस्ती की शरवन नामक बस्ती या सन्निवेश का उल्लेख है जहां आजीवक संप्रदाय के मुख्य उपदेष्टा गोसाल मंखलिपुत्र का जन्म हुआ था. जैनग्रंथ विविधतीर्थकल्प में श्रावस्ती का जैन तीर्थ के रूप में वर्णन किया गया है. श्री संभवनाथ की मूर्ति से विभूषित एक चैत्य यहां था जिसके द्वार पर एक रक्ताशोक दिखाई देता था. एक बौद्ध मंदिर भी यहां स्थित था जहां देवताओं के सामने घोड़ों की बलि दी जाती थी. इस स्थान पर भगवान संभवस्वामी को कैवल्य ज्ञान प्राप्त हुआ था. श्री महावीर स्वामी ने एक बार वर्षा काल यहां व्यतीत किया था और अनेक प्रकार की तपस्या की थी. महाराज जितशत्रु का पुत्र मद्र भी यहाँ आकर साधु हो गया था और तत्पश्चात उसे परम ज्ञान प्राप्त हुआ था.

जैन साहित्य में श्रावस्ती को चंद्रपुरी और चंद्रिकापुरी भी कहा गया है क्योंकि इसे तीर्थंकर चंद्रप्रभानाथ की जन्म भूमि माना गया है. तीर्थंकर संभवनाथ की भी यही जन्मभूमि है. कल्पसूत्र के एक उल्लेख से सूचित होता है कि अंतिम तीर्थंकर महावीर ने हैं मंखलिपुत्र गोसाल से श्रावस्ती में, संबंध विच्छेद होने के बाद सर्वप्रथम भेंट की थी. महावीर यहां कई बार आए थे.

चीनी यात्री फाह्यान और युवानच्वांग ने श्रावस्ती का विस्तृत वर्णन किया है. फ़ाहयान के समय (पांचवी सदी का पूर्वार्ध) में श्रावस्ती उजाड़ हो चली थी और यहां केवल 200 कुटुम्ब निवास करते थे. फाह्यान लिखता है कि यहां बुद्ध के समय प्रसेनजित् का राज्य था और तथागत से संबंधित स्मारक अनेक स्थलों पर बने हुए थे. उसने सुदत्त के विहार का भी वर्णन किया है और इसके मुख्य द्वार के दोनों ओर दो स्तम्भों की स्थिति बताई है जो संभवत: अशोक के बनवाए हुए थे. इनके शीर्ष पर वृषभ तथा चक्र की प्रतिमाएं जटित थी. फाह्यान को देखकर और उसे चीन से आया जान श्रावस्ती के निवासी विस्मित हुए थे क्योंकि उससे पहले उनके नगर में चीन से कभी कोई नहीं आया था. [p.918]: फाह्यान ने श्रावस्ती में 98 विहार देखे थे. युवानच्वांग के समय (7 वीं सदी के पूर्वार्ध में) तो यह नगरी सर्वथा ही खण्डहरों के रूप में परिणत हो गई थी और उसने केवल एक ही बौद्ध विहार को यहां स्थित पाया था. वास्तव में गुप्त काल में उत्तर-पूर्व भारत के बौद्ध धर्म के सभी प्राचीन केंद्र अव्यवस्थित तथा उजाड़ हो गए थे.

जैन जनश्रुति से तथा सहेत महेत के खंडहरों के अवशेषों से विदित होता है कि श्रावस्ती में जैनों का पर्याप्त समय तक प्रभाव रहा था. कई प्राचीन जैन मंदिरों के खंडहर मिले हैं. श्रावस्तीभुक्ति नामक भुक्ति का नाम उल्लेख गुप्त अभिलेखों से प्राप्त होता है. गुप्त काल में भी इसकी स्थिति श्रावस्तीनगरी के परिवर्ती प्रदेश में जिला गोंडा के आसपास रही होगी.

श्रावस्ती परिचय

श्रावस्ती भारत के उत्तर प्रदेश राज्य के गोंडा-बहराइच ज़िलों की सीमा पर स्थित यह जैन और बौद्ध का तीर्थ स्थान है। गोंडा - बलरामपुर से 12 मील पश्चिम में आधुनिक 'सहेत-महेत' गाँव ही श्रावस्ती है। पहले यह कौशल देश की दूसरी राजधानी थी। ऐसी पौराणिक मान्यता है कि भगवान राम के पुत्र लव कुश ने इसे अपनी राजधानी बनाया था। श्रावस्ती बौद्ध जैन दोनों का तीर्थ स्थान है, तथागत (बुद्ध) श्रावस्ती में रहे थे, यहाँ के श्रेष्ठी 'अनाथपिंडक' ने भगवान बुद्ध के लिये 'जेतवन विहार' बनवाया था, आजकल यहाँ बौद्ध धर्मशाला, मठ और मन्दिर है। परिचय मुख्य लेख : श्रावस्ती का परिचय माना गया है कि श्रावस्ति के स्थान पर आज आधुनिक 'सहेत-महेत' ग्राम है, जो एक-दूसरे से लगभग डेढ़ फर्लांग के अंतर पर स्थित हैं। यह बुद्धकालीन नगर था, जिसके भग्नावशेष उत्तर प्रदेश राज्य के, बहराइच एवं गोंडा ज़िले की सीमा पर, राप्ती नदी के दक्षिणी किनारे पर फैले हुए हैं। अनुश्रुतियों के अनुसार सूर्यवंशी राजा श्रावस्त के नाम पर इस नगरी का नामकरण कर श्रावस्ती नाम की संज्ञा दी गयी, तब से ये इलाका श्रावस्ती के नाम से जाना जाता है। जंगलों के बीच गुफ़ा में रहकर राहगीरों को लूटने के बाद उनकी ऊंगली काटकर माला पहनने वाले एक दुर्दांत डाकू अंगुलिमाल को राप्ती नदी के किनारे बसे इसी स्थान पर भगवान बुद्ध ने अपनी इश्वरीय शक्तियों के बल पर नास्तिक से आस्तिक बनाकर अपना अनुयायी बनाया था। ये वही इलाका है, जहाँ पर गौतम बुद्ध ने अपने जीवन काल के सबसे ज्यादा बसंत बिताये थे।

श्रावस्ती हिमालय की तलहटी में बसे भारत-नेपाल सीमा के सीमावर्ती ज़िले बहराइच से महज 40 किलोमीटर की दूरी पर स्थित है। उत्तर प्रदेश के इस ज़िले की पहचान विश्व के कोने-कोने में आज बौद्ध धर्म के प्रसिद्ध तीर्थस्थल के रूप में है। पौराणिक मान्यताओं के अनुसार इस ऐतिहासिक नगरी का प्राचीनतम इतिहास रामायण और महाभारत काल से जुड़ता है। महाकाव्यों के अनुसार पहले ये उत्तर कौशल की राजधानी हुआ करती थी। बौद्ध तीर्थ स्थल अनुश्रुतियों के अनुसार सूर्यवंशी राजा श्रावस्त के नाम पर इस नगरी का नामकरण कर 'श्रावस्ती' नाम की संज्ञा दी गयी, तब से ये इलाका श्रावस्ती के नाम से जाना जाता है। जंगलों के बीच गुफ़ा में रहकर राहगीरों को लूटने के बाद उनकी ऊंगली काटकर माला पहनने वाले एक दुर्दांत डाकू अंगुलिमाल को राप्ती नदी के किनारे बसे इसी स्थान पर भगवान बुद्ध ने अपनी इश्वरीय शक्तियों के बल पर नास्तिक से आस्तिक बनाकर अपना अनुयायी बनाया था। यह वही इलाका है, जहाँ पर गौतम बुद्ध ने अपने जीवन काल के सबसे ज़्यादा बसंत बिताये थे। श्रावस्ती के जेतवन इलाके में जगह-जगह खंडहरनुमा इमारत के तमाम अवशेष आस्था का केन्द्र बने हुए हैं, जहाँ पर देश के कोने-कोने से बौद्ध धर्मावलंबियों का जत्था पूरे हुजूम के साथ इस बौद्ध तीर्थ स्थल पर अपनी आस्था लेकर आता है। इस स्थान पर आज भी वह बोधिवृक्ष है, जहाँ बैठकर गौतम बुद्ध अपने अनुयायियों को उपदेश दिया करते थे। इसके साथ-साथ अनेकों स्तूप और 'सहेत-महेत' के भग्नावशेष आज भी यहाँ मौजूद हैं, जहाँ पर शांति के दूत गौतम बुद्ध की पावन स्थली पर दूर देश के पर्यटक अपनी आस्था लेकर आते हैं। इस नगरी में हर तरफ़ बौद्ध भिक्कु (भिक्षु) बैठकर ध्यान के साथ भगवान बुद्ध की राह पर शान्ति का पाठ करते नज़र आते हैं। यहाँ सात समन्दर पार से आने वाले बौधिष्ट भी आकर खुद को धन्य मानते हैं।

संदर्भ: भारतकोश-श्रावस्ती


  1. The Ancient Geography of India: I. The Buddhist Period, Including the ...By Sir Alexander Cunningham, p.409
  2. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.510
  3. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.72
  4. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.60, 72
  5. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms/Chapter 20
  6. The Ancient Geography of India/Sravasti, p.407-414
  7. Beal's ' Fah-Hian,' p. xx. 73 ; Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang,' ii. 292.
  8. See Map No. XI. for its position.
  9. "Wilson, ' Vishnu Purana,' book iv. p. 2 ; Hall's edit., vol. iv. p. 263.
  10. Julien's 'Hiouen Thsang,' ii. 306.
  11. Tumour, ia Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, vi. 865.
  12. Quoted in Wilson's 'Visnu Purana,' p. 479, note ; and Hall's edition, iv. 218.
  13. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.915