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Kāsi

1. Kāsi (Kāsika).– One of the sixteen great nations (Mahājanapadā) (A.i.213, etc.), its capital being Bārāṇasī.

At the time of the Buddha, it had been absorbed into the kingdom of Kosala, and Pasenadi was king of both countries (D.i.288; M.ii.111). The Mahā Vagga (Vin.i.28l), however, mentions a Kāsika-rājā (king of Kāsi?) who sent a robe to Jīvaka. Buddhaghosa (see Vinaya Texts ii.195, n.2) says that this was a brother of Pasenadi and son of the same father. He was probably a sub-king of Pasenadi. Pasenadi’s father, Mahākosala, on giving his daughter in marriage to Bimbisāra, allotted her a village of Kāsi (Kāsigāma, q.v.) as bath money (J.iv.342; J.ii.403; SA.i.110,120 f, etc.) Even at this time, however, the memory of Kāsi as an independent kingdom seems to have been still fresh in men’s minds. It is very frequently mentioned as such in the Jātakā and elsewhere. Kāsi was once ruled by the Bhāratas, one of whom, Dhataraṭṭha, was its king in the time of Reṇu (D.ii.235 f). There seem to have been frequent wars between the countries of Kāsi and Kosala, victory belonging now to one, now to the other. In one such war, Dīghīti (q.v.), the Kosala king, was defeated by the king of Kāsi, but Dīghīti’s son Dīghāvu won back the kingdom (Vin.i.334; J.iii.487; DhA.i.46). In another war the Kāsi king, Mahāsīlava, was taken captive by the ruler of Kosala, but his kingdom was later restored to him (J.i.262, etc; see also i.409; UdA.123).

The traditional name of the king of Kāsi from time immemorial was evidently Brahmadatta (q.v.), and references to kings of that name abound in the Jātaka stories. Sometimes the king is referred to merely as Kāsi-rājā. Among other kings of Kāsi mentioned are Kikī (M.ii.49) and Kalābu (J.iii.39). The extent of the Kāsi kingdom is given as three hundred leagues (J.v.41; also iii.304, 391).

The capital of Kāsi is generally given as Bārāṇasī, but it is said that when Asoka was king of Kāsi his capital was in Potali (J.iii.155), and another king, Udayibhadda, had his seat of government in Surundha (J.iv.104 ff). It is possible that these cities did not form part of the regular kingdom of Kāsi, but became annexed to it during the reigns of some of the more powerful kings.

Kāsi was evidently a great centre of trade and a most populous and prosperous country. Frequent mention is made of caravans leaving Kāsi to travel for trade. One highway went through Kāsi to Rājagaha (Vin.i.212) and another to Sāvatthi (Vin.ii.10; Mhv.v.114). Kāsi was famed for her silks, and Kāsi-robes were most highly esteemed as gifts, each robe being valued at one hundred thousand. (See, e.g., J.vi.151, 450; see also Aḍḍhakāsī Therī). Mention is also made of the perfumes of Kāsi.¹

Besides those already referred to, other names of places mentioned in literature as belonging to Kāsi, are Vāsabhagāma, Macchikāsaṇḍa (the work town of Anāthapiṇḍika), Kīṭāgiri and Dhammapālagāma (s.v. Mahādhammapāla Jātaka) Kāsi and Kosala are frequently mentioned together (e.g., A.v.59).

¹ Kāsi-vilepana (cosmetics), J.i.355; and Kāsi-candana (sandalwood perfume), A.iii.391; UdA.332.

2. Kāsi, or Kāsika.– A city, the birthplace of Phussa Buddha (Bu.xix.14; J.i.41). There he taught the Buddhavaṃsa (BuA.193). The city is probably to be identified with Bārāṇasī, which is sometimes referred to as Kāsipura (e.g., DhA.i.71; J.v.54; vi.165; M.i.171; DhsA.35; Cv.xli.37). It is also called Kāsipurī (PvA.19).

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