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Vajjī

The name of a country and of its people. It was one of the sixteen great countries (Mahājanapada). The inhabitants appear to have consisted of several confederate clans of whom the Licchavī and the Videhā were the chief.

A passage in the Commentaries (e.g., DA.ii.519) — which states that among those responsible for the administration of justice in the Vajjī country (see Licchavī) were the Aṭṭhakulakā — has given rise to the conjecture that Aṭṭhakulakā meant heads of eight clans composing the Vajjian confederacy. There is no other evidence regarding the number of the clans. The Aṭṭhakulakā were probably a judicial committee.

As time went on the Licchavī became the most powerful of these clans (Licchavī Vajjiraṭṭhavāsīhi pasatthā) (e.g., MA.i.394), and the names Vajjī and Licchavī were often synonymous. See Licchavī; in the Trikandasesa, quoted by Cunningham (AGI. 509), Licchavi, Vaideha and Tirabhukti were synonymous. In one passage (A.iii.76) the Licchavi, Mahānāma, seeing that a band of young Licchavī who had been out hunting were gathered round the Buddha, is represented as saying, “These Licchavī will yet become Vajjī ” (bhavissanti vajjī). This probably only means that there was great hope of these young men becoming true Vajjī , practising the seven conditions of welfare taught by the Buddha, conditions which ensured their prosperity. However, see G. S.iii.62, n.1 and 3.

Vesāli was the capital of the Licchavī and Mithilā of the Videhā. In the time of the Buddha, both Vesāli and Mithilā were republics, though Mithilā had earlier been a kingdom under Janaka.

In the time of the Buddha, and even up to his death, the Vajjī  were a very prosperous and happy community. The Buddha attributed this to the fact that they practiced the seven conditions of welfare taught them by himself in the Sārandada Cetiya. The details of this teaching, and various other matters connected with the Vajjī, are given under Licchavī. However, soon after the Buddha’s death, (three years after the Buddha’s last visit to Vesāli, according to Buddhaghosa, DA.ii.522) Ajātasattu, with the help of his minister Vassakāra, sowed dissension among the Vajjī  and conquered their territory.

The Buddha travelled several times through the Vajjian country, the usual route being through Kosala,Malla, Vajji, Kāsi, Magadha, and thus back (See, e.g., S.v.348), and he taught the people, mostly in the Kūṭāgārasālā in Vesāli. Among other places besides Vesāli visited by the Buddha, are mentioned Ukkacelā, Koṭigāma (see, e.g., J.ii.232, where it is called a village of the Vajjī , on the Gaṅgā), Ñātika (in which were Giñjakāvasatha and Gosiṅgasālavanadāya), Beḷuvagāma (or Veḷuvagāma), Bhaṇḍagāma, Bhogagāma and Hatthigāma. Pubbavijjhana, the birthplace of Channa, is also mentioned as a village of the Vajjī  (S.iv.59). The Vaggumudā river flowed through Vajjian territory (Ud.iii.3).

In one context (UdA., p.382) Dhammapāla describes Udena as Vajjirājā. This is probably a mistake, for nowhere is Udena, who was king of the Vatsas (or Vamsas), called the king of the Vajjis. The Vajjī are mentioned in the Mahānāradakassapa Jātaka. It is significant that the first great schism in the Buddhist Order arose in Vajji, when the Vajjiputtakā brought forward their Ten Points. Even during the Buddha’s lifetime some monks of Vajji joined Devadatta (Vin.ii.199 f).

According to Hsouien Thsang, (Beal: op.cit., 77) who visited it, the Vajji (Vriji) country was broad from east to west and narrow from north to south. The people of the neighbouring countries were called Samvajji, or United Vajjis. For details see Cunningham, AGI. 512 ff.

The Commentaries contain a mythical account of the origin of the name Vajjī. See Licchavī.

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