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Majjhimadesa

The country of Central India that was the birthplace of Buddhism and the region of its early activities. It extended in the east to the town of Kajaṅgala,¹ beyond which was Mahāsāla; on the south-east to the river Salalavatī; on the south west to the town of Setakaṇṇika; on the west to the brahmin village of Thūna; on the north to the Usīraddhaja mountain.

It is also noteworthy that in the Commentaries the Majjhimadesa is extended to include the whole of Jambudīpa, the other continents being Paccantima-janapadā. The term came also to be used in a generic sense. Thus, in Sri Lanka (Tambapaṇṇī-dīpa) Anurādhapura came to be called the Majjhimadesa.²

The Majjhimadesa was three hundred leagues (yojana) in length, two hundred and fifty in breadth, and nine hundred in circumference.³ It contained fourteen of the sixteen Mahājanapadā, that is to say all but Gandhāra and Kamboja, which belonged to the Uttarāpaṭha.

The people of Majjhimadesa were regarded as wise and virtuous.⁴ It was the birthplace of noble men (purisājanīyā) including the Buddhas,⁵ and all kinds of marvellous things happened there.⁶ The people of Majjhimadesa considered peacocks’ flesh a luxury.⁷

¹ Vin.i.197; J.i.49, 80; Mbv.12; Dvy.21 f, extends the eastern boundary to include Puṇḍavardhana, roughly identical with North Bengal. It is interesting to note that in early Brahminical literature (e.g. the Dharmasūtra of Baudhāyana), Āryāvarta, which is practically identical with what came to be called Madhyadesa, is described as lying to the east of the region where the Sarasvatī disappears, to the west of the Kālakavana, to the north of Pāripātra, and to the south of the Himavā. This excludes the whole of Magadha (Baudhāyana i. 1, 2, 9, etc.)

² AA.i.165. ³ DA.i.173. J.iii.115, 116. DhA.iii.248; AA.i.265.

SNA.i.197. VibhA.10.

The Central Region of Buddhist India

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