The Mauryas

Buddhist Sources

1. Sri Lankan Chronicles

Among the various Buddhist sources, the most prominent are the ones from Sri Lanka as those are among the most ancient ones extant now.

Dipavamsa – This is the earliest historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, written about in fourth century CE. The author of the work is unknown, and many believe that it is not composed by one single author. However, Hermann Oldenberg, who translated it in English, based upon its style and composition, tells us that it was composed by a single person. That single author, had the earlier Sri Lankan chronicles, Atthakathas, before himself while composing Dipavamsa.

Excerpts related to Indian chronology from “The Dipavamsa: An Ancient Buddhist Historical Record” by Hermann Oldenberg

Chapter V

At that time (when hundred years of Buddha’s nibbana completed, second Buddhist council at Vesali) Asoka, the son of Susunaga, was king; that prince ruled in the town of Pataliputta.

In the future time, after a hundred and eighteen years, a certain Bhikkhu will arise, a Samana able (to surpass the schism of that time). Descending from Brahma’s world he will be born in the human race, originating from a Brahmana tribe, an accomplished master of all mantras (Vedas). His name will be Tissa, his surname Moggaliputta; Siggava and Candavajji will confer on the youth the Pabbajja ordination. Then, having received the Pabbajja ordination and attained the knowledge of the sacred texts, Tissa will destroy the Titthiya doctrine and establish the (true) faith. A royal chief called Asoka will govern at that time in Pataliputta, a righteous prince, an increaser of the empire.

Two years of Candagutta, fifty-eight of king Pakundaka having elapsed, Siggava having just completed his sixty-fourth year, Moggaliputra received from Thera Siggava the Upasampada ordination. Tissa Moggaliputta, having learned the Vinaya from Canavajji, reached emancipation by the destruction of the substrata (of existence). Siggava and Candavajji taught the glorious Moggaliputta all the Pitakas which are filled with collections referring to both (Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis, or the Sutta collections as it had been settled at the two convocations?). Siggava possessed of (true) knowledge, made the glorious Moggaliputta chief of the Vinaya, and attained Nibbana after having completed seventy-six years. Chandagutta ruled twenty-four years; when he had completed fourteen years, Siggava attained Parinibbana.

Sixteen years had elapsed after the protector of the world had attained Nibbana, learned Upali had completed sixty years. It was twenty-fourth year of Ajatshatru’s (reign) and sixteenth of Vijaya’s, when Dasaka received the Upasampada ordination from Thera Upali. The learned (Thera) called Dasaka had completed forty years; ten years of Nagadasa’s (reign) and twenty of Pakundaka’s (Panduvas’s) had elapsed – (when) Thera Sonaka received the Upasampada from Dasaka. The wise Thera called Sonaka had completed forty years, ten years of Kalasoka’s (reign) had elapsed; it was in the eleventh year of the interregnum in Tambapanni, (when) Siggava received the upasampada ordination from Thera Sonaka. Two years of Candagutta’s (reign) had elapsed; Siggava had completed sixty-fourth year, and  king Pakundaka fifty-eight years , Moggaliputra received the Upasampada ordination from Thera Siggava. Six years of Asokadhamma’s (reign), sixty-six of Moggaliputta, forty-eight (years) of king Mutasiva had elapsed, (when) Mahinda received the Upasampada ordination from Moggaliputta.

Prince Udaya reigned sixteen years, when six years of Udayabhadda’s reign had elapsed, Thera Upali attained Nibbana. The ruler Susunaga reigned ten years, after eight years of Susunaga’s reign Dasaka attained Parinibbana. After Sususnaga’s (Kalasoka’s!) death the ten brothers succeeded; they reigned all jointly twenty-two years. In the sixth year of their reign Sonaka attained Parinibbana. Candagutta reigned for twenty-four years; after fourteen years of his reign Sigava attained Parinibbana. The son of Bindusara, illustrious prince Asokadhamma reigned thirty-seven years. When twenty-six years of Asoka’s reign had elapsed, the (Thera) called Moggaliputta, after having exalted the spendour of the religion, attained the end of his life and reached nibbana.

Chapter VI

Two hundred and eighteen years after the Parinibbana of the Sambuddha Piyadassana was anointed king. When Piyadassana was installed, the miraculous faculties of the royal majesty entered into him; he diffused the splendor which he had obtained in consequence of his merits, one yojana above and one beneath (the earth); the wheel of his power rolled through the great empire of Jambudipa.

This grandson of Candagutta, the son of Bindusara, (king Asoka), whilst a mere prince, was subking of Ujjeni, charged with collecting the revenue (of that province). During his progress he came to the town of Vedissa. There the daughter of a Setthi, known by the name of Devi, having cohabited with him, gave birth to a most noble son. Mahinda and Samghamitta chose to receive the Pabbajja ordination; having obtained Pabbajja, they both destroyed the fetter of (individual ) existence.

Asoka ruled in Pataliputta, best of towns; three years after his coronation he was converted to Buddha’s faith.

How great is the number of years between the time when the Sambuddha attained Parinibbana in the Upavattana (at Kushinara), and when Mahinda, the issue of the Moriya familya, was born? Two hundred years and four years more had elapsed; just at that time Mahinda, the son of Asoka, was born.

When Mahinda was ten years old, his father put his brother of death; that he passed four years reigning over Jambudipa. Having killed his hundred brothers, alone continuing his race, Asoka was anointed king in the Mahinda’s fourteenth year.

Chapter XI

When eight years of Ajatasattu had elapsed, Vijaya came hither; after the fourteenth year of Udaya they crowned Panduvasa. In the interval between the two kings Vijaya and Panduvasa, Tambapanni was without a king during one year. In the twenty-first year of Nagadasa, Panduvasa died, and they crowned Abhaya in the twenty-first year of Nagadasa.

In the fourteenth year of Candagutta, the king called Pakundaka died, in the fourteenth year of Candagutta they crowned Mutasiva. Seventeen years had elapsed after the coronation of Asoka, then Mutasiva died. When seventeen years of that king (that is, Asoka), and six months of the next year had elapsed, in the second month of the winter season, under the most auspicious Nakkhatta of Ashada, Devanampiya was installed in the kingdom of Tambapanni.

Dates and periods drawn from above excerpts

  • 118 years after Buddha’s Nirvana was born Tissa Moggaliputta and he was contemporary of Ashoka
  • 2 years of Chandragupta’s reign = 58 of Pakundaka’s reign = 64 years of Siggava = Moggaliputta was ordained by Siggava
  • 14 years of Chandragupta’s reign = 76 years of Siggava & he attained Nirvana
  • Chandragupta ruled for 24 years
  • 16 years after Buddha’s nirvana = Upali was 60 years old = 24 years of Ajatshatru’s reign = 16 years of Vijaya’s reign = Dasaka was ordained by Upali
  • 6 years of Ashoka’s reign = 66 of Moggaliputta = 48 years of Mutashiva’s reign = Mahinda was ordained by Moggaliputta
  • Susunaga reigned for 10 years
  • 10 brothers reigned jointly for 22 years after the death of Susunaga
  • Ashoka reigned for 37 years
  • 26 years of Ashoka’s reign = Moggaliputta attained nirvana
  • 204 years after Buddha’s nirvana = Mahinda was born
  • 14 years of Mahinda = Ashoka annointed as the king

The Milinda Panha (Questions of King Milinda) – Milinda Panha is the Buddhist text which records dialogues between the Indo-Greek king Meander and the Buddhist saint Nagasena. Originally, this work, would have been originated in India, however it is extant there at present. It was only made available through the chronicles of Sri Lanka during the late nineteenth century CE. It must have been written some considerable time before Buddhaghosha and after the death of Meander.

Excerpts from “The Questions of King Milinda” by T W Rhys Davids

Chapter – Dilemma as to king Sivi’s Act of Truth

‘When Asoka the righteous ruler, O king, as he stood one day at the city of Pataliputta in the midst of the townsfolk and the country people, of his officers and his servants, and his ministers of state, beheld the Ganges river as it rolled along filled up by freshets from the hills, full to the brim and over flowing – that mighty stream five hundred leagues in length, and a league in breadth, he said to his officers – Is there anyone, my good friends, who is able to make this great Ganges flow backwards and upstream ?’

‘Nay, Sire, impossible,” they said.’

‘Now a certain courtesan, Bindumati by name, was in the crowd there at the riverside, and she heard people repeat the question the king had asked.  Then she said to herself, “Here am I, a harlot, in this city of Pataliputta, by the sale of my body do I gain my livelihood, I follow the meanest of vocations. Let the king behold the power of an Act of Truth performed even by such as I.” And she performed an Act of Truth. And that moment the mighty Ganges, roaring and raging, rolled back, up stream, in the sight of all the people !

‘Then when  the king heard the din and the noise of the movement of the waves of the whirlpools of the mighty Ganges, amazed, and struck with awe and wonder, he said to his officers : “How is this, that the great Ganges is flowing backwards ?”

‘And they told him what had happened. Then filled with emotion the king went himself in haste and asked the courtesan: “Is it true what they say, that it is by your Act of Truth that this Ganges has been forced to flow backwards ?”

“Yes, Sire,” said she.

‘And the king asked : “How have you such power in the matter? Or who is it who takes your words to heart (and carries them out)? By what authority is it that you, insignificant as you are, have been able to make this might river flow backwards?”

‘And she replied: “It is by the power of Truth, great king.”

‘But the king said : “How can that power be in you – you, a woman of wicked and loose life, devoid of virtue, under no restraint, sinful, who have overstepped all limits, and are full of transgressions, and live on a plunder of fools?”

‘It is true, O king, what you say. This is just the kind of creature I am, but even in such a one as I so great in the power of the Act of Truth that I could turn the whole world of gods and men upside down by it’.
‘Then the king said : “What is this Act of Truth? Come now, let me hear about it.”

‘Whosoever, O king, gives me gold—be he a noble or a brahman or a tradesman or a servant—I regard them all alike. When I see he is a noble I make no distinction in his favour. If I know him to be a slave I despise him not. Free alike from fawning and from dislike do I do service to him who has bought me. This, your Majesty, is the basis of the Act of Truth by the force of which I turned the Ganges back.”

‘Thus, O king, is it that there is nothing which those who are stedfast to the truth may not enjoy. And so king Sivi gave his eyes away to him who begged them of him, and he received eyes from heaven, and that happened by his Act of Truth. But what is said in the Sutta that when the eye of flesh is destroyed, and the cause of it, the basis of it, is removed, then can no divine eye arise, that is only said of the eye, the insight, that arises out of contemplation. And thus, O king, should you take it.’

Chapter- Dilemma as to virtue and vice

‘Then it is vice, Nagasena, and not virtue which is the more powerful. For on one day alone I have seen ten men expiating their crimes by being impaled alive, and thirty even, and forty, and fifty, and a hundred, and a thousand.

And further, there was Bhaddasala, the soldier in the service of the royal family of Nanda, and he waged war against king Chandagutta. Now in that war, Nagasena, there were eighty Corpse Dances. For they say that when one great Head Holocaust has taken place (by which is meant the slaughter of ten thousand elephants, and a lac of horses, and five thousand charioteers, and a hundred kotis of soldiers on foot), then the headless corpses arise and dance in frenzy over the battle-field.

And all the men thus slain came to destruction through the fruit of the Karma of their evil deeds. And therefore, too, do I say, Nagasena, that vice is more powerful than virtue. And have you heard, Nagasena, that in all this dispensation (since the time of Gotama the Buddha) the giving by the Kosala king has been unequaled?’

Mahavamsa – Mahvamsa is a Pali chronicle detailing the chronology of the Sri Lankan  kings between the period of 543 BCE and 361 CE. As per George Turnour, it was composed by Mahanama Mahathera somewhere in between 459 and 478 CE. George Turnour was the first one who translated it into English, as An Epitome of the History of Ceylon, in 1837 CE. He was an historian and officer of the Ceylon Civil Service. Mahanama composed the thirty-seven chapters of the Mahavamsa with its tika (commentary).

In the introduction of his work, Turnour tells that Mahanama composed the Mahavamsa based upon the then extant Attakathas (commentaries) written in Sinhalese.. In his tika, he writes that, “In case it should be asked in this particular place that why, while there are Mahavamsas composed by ancient authors in the Sinhalese language, this author has written this Palapadoru-vamsa ?”. Mahanama tells that he did this to overcome various mistakes, brevity, defects in then extent earlier texts.

Below are given the excerpts from chapters of Mahavamsa, where references to Indian history, specially about the Mauryas, are found. These excerpts are taken from the English translation by Turnour.

Chapter 5:
………..Asoka’s father had shown hospitality to 60,000 brahmans, versed in the Brahma-doctrine, and in like manner he himself nourished them for three years. But when he saw their want of self-control at the distribution of food he commanded his ministers saying: (hereafter) I will give according to my choice. The shrewd (king) bade (them) bring the followers of the different schools into his presence, tested them in an assembly, and gave them to eat, and sent them thence when he had entertained them.

As he once, standing at the window, saw a peaceful ascetic, the samanera Nigrodha, passing along the street, he felt kindly toward him. The youth was the son of prince Sumana, the eldest brother of all the sons of Bindusara. When Bindusära had fallen sick Asoka left the government of Ujjaini conferred on him by his father, and came to Pupphapura, and when he had made himself master of the city, after his father’s death, he caused his eldest brother to be slain and took on himself the sovereignty in the splendid city.

The consort of prince Sumana, who bore the same name (Sumana), being with child, fled straightway by the east gate and went to a chandala village, and there the guardian god of a nigrodha-tree called her by her name, built a hut and gave it to her. And as, that very day, she bore a beautiful boy, she gave to her son the name Nigrodha, enjoying the protection of the guardian god. When the headman of the chandalas saw (the mother), he looked on her as his own wife, and kept her seven years with honor. Then, as the thera Mahavaruna saw that the boy bore the signs of his destiny, the arahant questioned his mother and ordained him, and even in the room where they shaved him.

He attained to the state of arahant. Going thence to visit his royal mother, he entered the splendid city by the south gate, and following the road that led to that village, he passed (on his way) the king’s court. Well pleased was the king by his grave bearing, but kindly feeling arose in him also by reason of a former life lived together.

Now once, in time past, there were three brothers, traders in honey; one was used to sell the honey, two to get the honey. A certain paccekabuddha was sick of a wound; and another paccekabuddha, who, for his sake, wished for honey, came even then to the city on his usual way for seeking alms. A maiden, who was going for water to the river-bank, saw him. When she knew, from questioning him, that he wished for honey, she pointed with hand outstretched and said: ‘Yonder is a honey-store, sir, go thither.’

The trader, with believing heart, gave to the Buddha who came there a bowlful of honey, so that it ran over the edge. As he saw the honey filling (the bowl) and flowing over the edge, and streaming down to the ground, he, full of faith, wished: ‘May I, for this gift, come by the undivided sovereignty of Jambudipa, and may my command reach forth a yojana (upward) into the air and (downward) under the earth.

To his brothers as they came, he said: ‘To a man of such and such a kind have I given honey; agree thereto since the honey is yours also.’ The eldest brother said grudgingly: ‘It was surely a chandala, for the chandalas ever clothe themselves in yellow garments.’ The second said: ‘Away with thy paccekabuddha over the sea!’ But when they heard his promise to let them participate of the reward, they gave their sanction. Then the (maid who) had pointed out the store wished that she might become the Royal spouse of the (first), and (desired) a lovely form with limbs of perfect outline.

Asoka was he who gave the honey, the queen Asamdhimitta was the maid, Nigrodha he who uttered the word ‘chandala’, Tissa he who had wished him away over the sea. He who had uttered the word ‘chandala’ lived (in expiation thereof) in a chandala village, but because he had desired deliverance, he also, even in the seventh year, attained unto deliverance.

The king, in whom kindly feelings had arisen towards that same (Nigrodha), summoned him in all haste into his presence; but he came staidly and calmly thither. And the king said to him: ‘Sit, my dear, upon a fitting seat.’ Since he saw no other bhikkhu there he approached the royal throne. Then, as he stepped toward the throne, the king thought: ‘To-day, this samanera will be lord in my house!’

Leaning on the king’s hand he (the monk) mounted the throne and took his seat on the royal throne under the white canopy. And seeing him seated there king Asoka rejoiced greatly that he had honored him according to his rank. When he had refreshed him with hard and soft foods prepared for himself he questioned the samanera concerning the doctrine taught by the Saipbuddha. Then the samanera preached to him the ‘Appamadavagga’.

And when the lord of the earth had heard him he was won to the doctrine of the Conqueror, and he said to (Nigrodha): ‘My dear, I bestow on thee eight perpetual supplies of food.’ And he answered: ‘These will I bestow on my master.’ When again eight (supplies) were bestowed on him he allotted these to his teacher; and when yet eight more were bestowed he gave them to the community of bhikkhus. And when yet again eight were bestowed, he, full of understanding, consented to accept them.

Together with thirty-two bhikkhus, he went on the following day, and when he had been served by the king with his own hands, and had preached the doctrine to the ruler, he confirmed him with many of his train in the refuges and precepts of duty.

Thereon the king, with glad faith, doubled day by day (the number) of bhikkhus (receiving bounty), till they were sixty thousand. Putting aside the sixty thousand teachers of false doctrine, he bestowed alms perpetually on sixty thousand bhikkhus in his house. Having commanded costly foods, hard and soft, to be prepared speedily, in order to feast the sixty thousand bhikkhus, and having caused the town to be gaily decked, he went to the brotherhood and bade them to his house; and after he had brought them thither, had bestowed hospitality on them and largely provided them with the things needful for ascetics, he questioned them thus:

‘How great is (the content of) the dhamma taught by the Master?’ And the thera Moggaliputta-Tissa answered him upon this matter. When he heard: ‘There are eighty-four (thousand) sections of the dhamma,’ the king said: ‘Each one of them will I honour with a vihara.’ Then bestowing ninety-six kotis (of money) in eighty-four thousand towns, the ruler bade the kings all over the earth begin (to build) viharas and he himself began to build the Asokarama.

With the grant for the three gems, for Nigrodha and for the sick, he bestowed in (support of) the faith for each of them a hundred thousand (pieces of money) each day. With the treasure spent for the Buddha the (priests) held thupa-offerings of many kinds continually in many viharas. With the treasure spent for the dhamma the people continually prepared the four things needful for the use of bhikkhus who were learned in the doctrine.

Of the loads of water borne from the Anotatta-lake he bestowed four on the brotherhood, one every day to sixty theras who knew the tipitaka; but one he had commanded to be given to the queen Asamdhimitta, while the king himself had but two for his own use. To the sixty thousand bhikkhus and to sixteen thousand women (of the palace), he gave day by day those tooth-sticks called nagalath.

‘When, one day, the monarch heard of the naga-king Mahakala of wondrous might, who had beheld four Buddhas, who had lived through one age of the world, he sent for him to be brought (into his presence) fettered with a chain of gold; and when he had brought him and made him sit upon the throne under the white canopy, when he had done homage to him with (gifts of) various flowers, and had bidden the sixteen thousand women (of the palace) to surround him, he (the king) spoke thus:

‘Let us behold the (bodily) form of the omniscient Great Sage, of Him who hath boundless knowledge, who hath set rolling the wheel of the true doctrine.’ The naga-king created a beauteous figure of the Buddha, endowed with the thirty-two greater signs and brilliant with the eighty lesser signs (of a Buddha), surrounded by the fathom-long rays of glory and adorned with the crown of flames.

At the sight thereof the king was filled with joy and amazement and thought : ‘Even such is the image created by this (Mahakala), nay then, what (must) the (real) form of the Tathagata have been !’ And he was more and more uplifted with joy, and for seven days without ceasing did he, the great king of wondrous power, keep the great festival called the ‘Feast of the eyes’………..

…………….All those beautiful viharas (then) begun they duly finished in all the cities within three years; but, by the miraculous power of the thera Indagutta, who watched over the work, the arama named after Asoka was likewise quickly brought to completion. On those spots which the Conqueror himself had visited the monarch built beautiful chetiyas here and there. On every side from the eighty-four thousand cities came letters on one day with the news: ‘The viharas are completed.’

When the great king, great in majesty, in wondrous power and valor, received the letters, he, desiring to hold. high festival in all the aramas at once, proclaimed in the town with beat of drum: ‘On the seventh day from this day shall a festival of all the aramas be kept, in every way, in all the provinces. Yojana by yojana on the earth shall great largess be given; the aramas in the villages and the streets shall be adorned. In all the viharas let lavish gifts of every kind be bestowed upon the brotherhood, according to the time and the means (of givers), and adornments, such as garlands of lamps and garlands of flowers, here and there, and all that is meet for festivals, with music of every kind, in manifold ways. And all are to take upon themselves the duties of the uposatha-day and hear religious discourse, and offerings of many kinds must they make on the same day.’

And all the people everywhere held religious festivals of every kind, glorious as the world of gods, even as had been commanded and (did) yet more. On that day the great king wearing all his adornments with the women of his household, with his ministers and surrounded by the multitude of his troops, went to his own arama, as if cleaving the earth. In the midst of the brotherhood he stood, bowing down to the venerable brotherhood. In the assembly were eighty kotis of bhikkhus, and among these were a hundred thousand ascetics who had overcome the asavas.

Moreover there were ninety times one hundred thousand bhikkhunis, and among these a thousand had overcome the asavas. These (monks and nuns) wrought the miracle called the ‘unveiling of the world’ to the end that the king Dhammasoka might be converted. Candasoka (the wicked Asoka) was he called in earlier times, by reason of his evil deeds; he was known as Dhammäsoka (the pious Asoka) afterwards because of his pious deeds. He looked around over the (whole) Jambudipa bounded by the ocean and over all the viharas adorned with the manifold (beauties of) the festival and with exceeding joy, as he saw them, he asked the brethren, while taking his seat: ‘Whose generosity toward the doctrine of the Blessed One was ever (so) great (as mine), venerable sirs’

The thera Moggaliputta answered the king’s question: ‘Even in the lifetime of the Blessed One there was no generous giver like to thee.’ When the king heard this he rejoiced yet more and asked: ‘Nay then, is there a kinsman of Buddha’s religion like unto me?’ But the thera perceived the destiny of the king’s son Mahinda and of his daughter Samghamitta, and foresaw the progress of the doctrine that was to arise from (them), and he, on whom lay the charge of the doctrine, replied thus to the king: ‘Even a lavish giver of gifts like to thee is not a kinsman of the religion; giver of wealth is he called, O ruler of men. But he who lets son or daughter enter the religious order is a kinsman of the religion and withal a giver of gifts.’

Since the monarch would fain become a kinsman of the religion he asked Mahinda and Samghamitta, who stood near: ‘Do you wish to receive the pabbajja, dear ones? The pabbajja is held to be a great (good).’ Then, when they heard their father’s words, they said to him: ‘This very day we would fain enter the order, if thou, O king, dost wish it; for us, even as for thee, will blessing come of our pabbajja.’ For already since the time of the prince’s (Tissa’s) pabbajja had he resolved to enter the order, and she since (the ordination) of Aggibrahma. Although the monarch wished to confer on Mahinda the dignity of prince-regent, yet did he consent to his ordination with the thought: ‘This (last) is the greater dignity.’ So he permitted his dear son Mahinda, distinguished (above all others) by intelligence, beauty and strength, and his daughter Samghamitta, to be ordained with all solemnity.

At that time Mahinda, the king’s son, was twenty years old, and the king’s daughter Samghamitta was then eighteen years old. On the very same day did he receive the pabbajja and also the upasampada-ordination, and for her the pabbajja-ordination and the placing under a teacher took place on the same day. The prince’s master was the thera named after Moggali; the pabbajja-ordination was conferred on him by the thera Mahädeva, but Majjhantika pronounced the ceremonial words, and even in the very place where he (received) the upasampada-ordination this great man reached the state of an arahant together with the special kinds of knowledge.

The directress of Samghamitta was the renowned Dhamma and her teacher was Ayupala; in time she became free from the asavas. Those two lights of the doctrine, who brought great blessing to the island of Lanka, received the pabbajja in the sixth year of king Dhammasoka. The great Mahinda, the converter of the island (of Lanka), learned the three pitakas with his master in three years. This bhikkhuni, even like the new moon, and the bhikkhu Mahinda, like the sun, illumined always the sky, the doctrine of the Sambuddha.

Once in time past, a dweller in the forest, who went forth into the forest- from Pataliputta, loved a wood-nymph named Kunti. Owing to the union with him she bore two sons, the elder was Tissa and the younger was named Sumitta. Afterwards both received the pabbajja-ordination from the thera Mahavaruna and attained to arahantship and the possession of the six supernormal powers.

(Once) the elder suffered pains in the foot from the poison of a venomous insect, and when his younger brother asked (what he needed) he told him that a handful of ghee was the remedy. But the thera set himself against pointing out to the king what things needful in sickness, and against going in search of the ghee after the midday meal. ‘If, on thy begging-round, thou receivest ghee, bring it to me,’ said the thera Tissa to the excellent thera Sumitta. When he went forth on his begging-round he received not one handful of ghee, and (in the meanwhile) the pain had come to such a pass that even a hundred vessels of ghee could not have cured it. And because of that malady the thera was near to death, and when he had exhorted (the other) to strive unceasingly he formed the, resolve to pass into nibbana.

Lifted up in the air as he sat, and winning mastery of his own body by the fire-meditation, according to his own free resolve, he passed into nibbana. Flames that broke forth from his body consumed the flesh and skin of the thera’s whole body, the bones they did not consume. When the monarch heard that the thera had died in this wise he went to his own arama surrounded by the multitude of his troops. Mounted on an elephant the king brought down the bones, and when he had caused due honour to be paid to the relics, he questioned the brotherhood as to (the thera’s) illness. Hearing about it he was’ greatly moved, and had tanks made at the city gates and filled them with remedies for the sick, and day by day he had remedies bestowed on the ‘congregation of the bhikkhus, thinking: might the bhikkhus never find remedies hard to obtain.

The thera Sumitta passed into nibanna even when he was walking (in meditation) in the cankama-hall, and by this also was a great multitude of people converted to the doctrine (of the Buddha). Both these theras, the sons of Kunti, who had, wrought a great good in the world, passed into nibbana in the eighth year of Asoka………

…….By reason of the great number of the heretics and their unruliness, the bhikkhus could not restrain them by the law; and therefore the bhikkhus in Jambudipa for seven years held no uposatha-ceremony nor the ceremony of pavarana in all the aramas. When the great king, the famed Dhammasoka, was aware of this, he sent a minister to the splendid Asokarama, laying on him this command: ‘Go, settle this matter and let the uposatha-festival be carried out by the community of bhikkhus in my arama.’ This fool went thither, and when he had called the community of bhikkhus together he announced the king’s command: ‘Carry out the uposatha-festival.’

‘We hold not the uposatha-festival with heretics,’ the community of bhikkhus replied to that misguided minister. The minister struck off the head of several theras, one by one, with his sword, saying, ‘I will force you to hold the uposatha-festival.’ When the king’s brother, Tissa, saw that crime he came speedily and sat on the seat nearest to the minister. When the minister saw the thera he went to the king and told him (the whole matter). When the monarch heard it he was troubled and went with all speed and asked the community of bhikkhus, greatly disturbed in mind: ‘Who, in truth, is guilty of this deed that has been done?’

And certain of them answered in their ignorance: ‘The guilt is thine,’ and others said: ‘Both of you are guilty’; but those who were wise answered: ‘Thou art not guilty.’ When the king heard this be said: ‘Is there a bhikkhu who is able to set my doubts to rest and to befriend religion?’ ‘There is the thera Tissa, the son of Moggali, O king,’ answered the brethren to the king. Then was the king filled with zeal. He sent four theras, each attended by a thousand bhikkhus and four ministers, each with a thousand followers, that same day, with the charge laid on them by (the king) himself to bring the thera thither; but though they prayed him he came not.

When the king heard this he sent again eight theras and eight ministers each with a thousand followers, but even as before he came not. The king asked: ‘Nay then, how shall the thera come?’ The bhikkhus told him how the thera could be moved to come: ‘O great king, if they shall say to him, “be our helper, venerable sir, to befriend religion,” then will the thera come.’ Again the king sent (messengers) sixteen theras and sixteen ministers, each with a thousand followers, laying that (same) charge upon them, and he said to them: “Aged as he is, the’ thera will not enter any wheeled vehicle; bring the thera by ship on the Ganges.’

So they went to him and told him, and hardly had he heard (their message) but he rose up. And they brought the thera in a ship and the king went to meet him. Going down even knee-deep into the water the king respectfully gave his right hand to the thera, as he came down from the ship. The venerable thera took the king’s right hand from compassion toward him, and came down from the ship.

The king led the thera to the pleasure-garden called Rativaddhana, and when he had washed and anointed his feet and had seated himself the monarch spoke thus, to test the thera’s faculty: ‘Sir, I would fain see a miracle.’ And to the question which (miracle he desired) he answered: ‘An earthquake.’ And again the other said to him: ‘Which wouldst thou see, of the whole (earth shaken) or only of a single region?’ Then when he had asked: ‘Which is the more difficult?’ and heard (the rep]y): ‘The shaking of a single region is the more difficult,’ he declared that he desired to see this last.

Then within the boundary of a yojana (in extent) did the thera place a waggon, a horse and a man, and a vessel full of water at the four cardinal points, and over this yojana by his miraculous power he caused the earth to tremble, together with the half of (each of) these (things) and let the king seated there behold this. Then the monarch asked the thera whether or not he himself shared the guilt of the murder of the bhikkhus by the minister. The thera taught the king: ‘There is no resulting guilt without evil intent,’ and he recited the Tittira-jataka.

Abiding a week there in the pleasant royal park he instructed the ruler in the lovely religion of the Sambuddha. In this same week the monarch sent out two yakkhas and assembled together all the bhikkhus on the earth. On the seventh day he went to his own splendid arama and arranged an assembly of the community of bhikkhus in its full numbers. Then seated with the thera on one side behind a curtain the ruler called to him in turn the bhikkhus of the several confessions and asked them:

‘Sir, what did the Blessed One teach?’ And they each expounded their wrong doctrine, the Sassata-doctrine and so forth. And all these adherents of false doctrine did the king cause to be expelled from the order; those who were expelled were in all sixty thousand. And now he asked the rightly-believing bhikkhus: ‘What does the Blessed One teach?’ And they answered: ‘He teaches the Vibhajja-doctrine.’
And the monarch asked the thera: ‘Sir, does the Sambuddha (really) teach the Vibhajja-doctrine?’ The thera answered: ‘Yes.’

And when the king knew this he was glad at heart and said: ‘Since the community is (henceforth) purified, sir, therefore should the brotherhood hold the uposatha festival,’ and he made the thera guardian of the order and returned to his fair capital; the brotherhood held thenceforth the uposatha-festival in concord.

Out of the great number of the brotherhood of bhikkhus the thera chose a thousand learned bhikkhus, endowed with the six supernormal powers, knowing the three pitakas and versed in the special sciences, to make a compilation of the true doctrine. Together with them did he, in the Asokarama, make a compilation of the true dhamma. Even as the thera Mahäkassapa and the thera Yasa had held a council so did the thera Tissa.

In the midst of this council the thera Tissa set forth the Kathavatthuppakarana, refuting the other doctrines. Thus was this council under the protection of king Asoka ended by the thousand bhikkhus in nine months.

In the seventeenth year of the king’s reign the wise (thera) who was seventy-two years old, closed the council with a great pavarana-ceremony. And, as if to shout applause to the re-establishment of doctrine, the great earth shook at the close of the council.

Chapter 11
When the king (Devanampiyatissa) saw them he was glad at heart and thought: ‘My friend Dhammasoka and nobody else is worthy to have these priceless treasures ; I will send them to him as a gift.’ For the two monarchs, Devanampiyatissa and Dhammasoka already had been friends a long time, though they had never seen each other. The king sent four persons appointed as his envoys : his nephew Maharittha, who was the chief of his ministers, then his chaplain, a minister and his treasurer, attended by a body of retainers, and he bade them take with them those priceless jewels, the three kinds of precious stones, and the three stems (like) waggon-poles, and a spiral shell winding to the right, and the eight kinds of pearls.

When they had embarked at Jambukola and in seven days had reached the haven in safety, and from thence in seven days more had come to Pataliputta, they gave those gifts into the hands of king Dhammasoka. When he saw them he rejoiced greatly. Thinking: ‘Here I have no such precious things’ the monarch, in his joy, bestowed on Arittha the rank of a commander in his army, on the brahman the dignity of chaplain, to the minister he gave the rank of staff-bearer, and to the treasurer that of a guild-lord.

When he had allotted to the (envoys) abundance of (all) things for their entertainment and dwelling-houses, he took counsel with his ministers considering (what should be sent as) a return-gift ; and he took a fan, a diadem, a sword, a parasol, shoes, a turban, ear-ornaments, chains, a pitcher, yellow sandalwood, a set of garments that had no need of cleansing, a costly napkin, unguent brought by the nagas, red-coloured earth, water from the lake Anotatta and also water from the Ganges, a (spiral) shell winding in auspicious wise, a maiden in the flower of her youth, utensils as golden platters, a costly litter, yellow and emblic myro-balans and precious ambrosial healing herbs, sixty times one hundred waggon loads of mountain-rice brought thither by parrots, nay, all that was needful for consecrating a king, marvellous in splendour; and sending these (things) in due time as a gift to his friend the lord of men sent envoys also with the gift of the true doctrine, saying :

‘I have taken refuge in the Buddha, his Doctrine and his Order, I have declared myself a lay-disciple in the religion of the Sakya son; seek then even thou, O best of men converting thy mind with believing heart refuge in these best of gems !’ and saying moreover : ‘(Consecrate my friend yet again as king,’ he dismissed his friend’s ministers, with many marks of honour.

When the ministers had stayed five months, highly honored they set forth with the envoys, on the first day of the bright half of the month Vesakha. Having embarked at Tamalitti and landed at Jambukola they sought out the king, when they arrived here on the twelfth day. The envoys handed the gifts to the ruler of Lanka ; the ruler of Lanka made them welcome with great hospitality.

Chapter 12
When the thera Moggaliputta, the illuminator of the religion of the Conqueror, had brought the (third) council to an end and when, looking into the future, he had beheld the founding of the religion in adjacent countries, (then) in the month Kattika he sent forth theras, one here and one there.

The thera Majjhantika he sent to Kasmira and Gandhara, the thera, Mahadeva he sent to Mahisamandala. To Vanavasa he sent the thera named Rakkhita, and to Aparantaka the Yona named Dhammarakkhita; to Maharattha (he sent) the thera named Mahadhammarakkhita, but the thera Maharakkhita he sent into the country of the Yona. He sent the thera Majjhima to the Himalaya country, and to Suvannabhumi he sent the two theras Sona and Uttara. The great thera Mahinda, the theras Itthiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Bhaddasala his disciples, these five theras he sent forth with the charge: ‘Ye shall found in the lovely island of Lanka the lovely religion of the Conqueror.’

Chapter 13
When he (Mahinda) had resolved to visit in the meantime his kinsfolk, he bade farewell to his teacher and the brotherhood and having asked the leave of the king he took with him the four theras and also Samghamitta’s son, the miraculously gifted samanera Sumana, mighty in the six supernormal powers; and he went to Dakkhinagiri to confer on his kinsfolk (the) grace (of his preaching). While he was so doing six months passed away. When he came in time to Vedisagiri the city of his mother Devi, he visited his mother and when Devi saw her dear son she made him welcome, and his companions likewise, with foods prepared by herself, and she led the thera up to the lovely vihära Vedisagiri.

When the prince Asoka, while ruling over the realm of Avanti, that his father had bestowed on him, halted in the town of Vedisa, before he came to Ujjaini, and met there a lovely maiden named Devi, the daughter of a merchant, he made her his wife; and she was (afterwards) with child by him and bore in Ujjeni a beautiful boy, Mahinda, and when two years had passed (she bore) a daughter, Samghamitta. At that time she lived in the city of Vedisa. The thera who then sojourned there, perceiving (that) the time (was come), thought thus: ‘In that great festival of consecration commanded by my father shall the great king Devanampiyatissa take part, and he shall know the splendour of the three things when he has heard it from the envoys. He shall climb the Missaka-mountain on the uposatha-day of the month Jettha. On that same day we will go to the beauteous isle of Lanka.’

Chapter 17
And the samanera (Sumana) of wondrous power, replying: ‘So be it, sir,’ went, that very moment, to the king Dhammasoka and found him even as he stood at the foot of a sala-tree and honoured the beautiful and sacred Bodhi-tree with the offerings of the Kattika-festival.

Chapter 18
The monarch (king of Ceylon) remembered the word spoken by the thera, that he should send for the great Bodhi-tree and the theri, and when, on a certain day during the rain-season, he was sitting in his own city with the thera and had taken counsel with his ministers he entrusted his own nephew, his minister named Arittha, with this business. When he had pondered (on the matter) and had summoned him he spoke to him in these words: ‘Canst thou perchance, my dear, go to Dhammasoka to bring hither the great Bodhi-tree and the theri Sanghamitta?’

‘I can bring them hither, your majesty, if I be allowed, when I am come back, to receive the pabbajja, O most exalted !’ ‘So be it,’ answered the king and sent him thence. When he had received the command of the thera and the king and had taken his leave he set forth on the second day of the bright half of the month Assayuja, and having embarked, filled with zeal (for his mission) at the haven Jambukola and having passed over the great ocean he came, by the power of the thera’s will, to the pleasant Pupphapura even on the day of his departure.

The queen Anula, who, with five hundred maidens and five hundred women of the royal harem had accepted the ten precepts, did (meanwhile) pious as she was, (wearing) the yellow robe, waiting for the pabbajja, in discipline, looking for the coming of the theri, take up her abode, leading a holy life, in the pleasant nunnery built by the king in a certain part of the city. Since the nunnery was inhabited by these lay-sisters it became known in Lanka (Lañkä) by the name Upasika-vihara.

When the nephew Maharittha had delivered the king’s message to the king Dhammasoka he gave him (also) the thera’s message: ‘The spouse of the brother of thy friend, of the king (Devanampiya), O thou elephant among kings, lives, longing for the pabbajja, constantly in stern discipline. To bestow on her the pabbajja do thou send the bhikkhuni Samghamitta and with her the south branch of the great Bodhi-tree.’ And the same matter, even as the thera had charged him, he told the theri; the theri went to her father (Asoka) and told him the thera’s purpose.

The king said: ‘How shall I, when I no longer behold thee, dear one, master the grief aroused by the parting with son and grandson?’ She answered: ‘Weighty is the word of my brother, O great king; many are they that must receive the pabajja, therefore must I depart thither.’ ‘The great Bodhi-trees must not be injured with a knife, how then can I have a branch!’ mused the king. Then when he, following the counsel of his minister Mahädeva, had invited the community of bhikkhus and had shown them hospitality the monarch asked: ‘Shall the great Bodhi-tree be sent to Lanka, sirs?’

The thera Moggaliputta answered: ‘It shall be sent thither,’ and he related to the king the five great resolutions that the (Buddha) gifted with the five eyes had formed. When the ruler of the earth heard this he was glad, and when he had caused the road, seven yojanas long, leading to the great Bodhi-tree to be carefully cleaned he adorned it in manifold ways, and gold he caused to be brought to make ready a vase. Vissakamma, who appeared in the semblance of a goldsmith, asked: ‘How large shall I make the vase ?’ Then being answered: ‘Thyself deciding the size do thou make it,’ he took the gold, and having molded it with his hand he made a vase in that very moment and departed thence.

When the ruler of the earth saw the miracle he cried out, rejoicing: ‘I worship the great Bodhi-tree by bestowing kingship (thereon),’ and the monarch consecrated the great Bodhi-tree as king of his great realm. When he had worshiped the great Bodhi-tree with gifts of flowers and so forth, and had passed round it three times turning to the left and had done reverence to it at eight points with folded hands, he had the golden vase placed upon a seat inlaid with gold, adorned with various gems and easy to mount, reaching to the height of the bough; and when, in order to receive the sacred branch, he had mounted upon it, grasping a pencil of red arsenic with a golden handle he drew (with this) a line about the bough and uttered the solemn declaration:

‘So truly as the great Bodhi-tree shall go hence to the isle of Lanka, and so truly as I shall stand unalterably firm in the doctrine of the Buddha, shall this fair south branch of the great Bodhi-tree, severed of itself, take its place here in this golden vase.’

Then the great Bodhi-tree severed, of itself, at the place where the line was, floating above the vase filled with fragrant earth. Above the line first (drawn) the ruler of men drew, at (a distance of) three finger-breadths, round about ten (further) pencil-strokes. And ten strong roots springing from the first and ten slender from each of the other (lines) dropped down, forming a net. When the king saw this miracle he uttered even there, greatly gladdened, a cry of joy, and with him his followers all around and the community of bhikkhus raised, with glad hearts, cries of salutation and roundabout was a thousand fold waving of stuffs.

Thus with a hundred roots the great Bodhi-tree set itself there in the fragrant earth, converting the people to the faith. Ten cubits long was the stem; five lovely branches (were thereon), each four cubits long and (each) adorned with five fruits, and on these branches were a thousand twigs. Such was the ravishing and auspicious great Bodhi-tree.

At the moment that the great Bodhi-tree set itself in the vase the earth quaked and wonders of many kinds came to pass. By the resounding of the instruments of music (which gave out sound) of themselves among gods and men, by the ringing-out of the shout of salutation from the hosts of devas and brahmas, by the crash of the clouds, (the voices) of beasts and birds, of the yakkhas and so forth and by the crash of the quaking of the earth all was in one tumult. Beautiful rays of six colors going forth from the fruits and leaves of the Bodhi-tree made the whole universe to shine. Then rising in the air with the vase the great Bodhi-tree stayed for seven days invisible in the region of the snow.

The king came down from his seat and sojourning there for seven days he continually brought offerings in many ways to the great Bodhi-tree. When the week was gone by all the snow-clouds and all the rays likewise entered into the great Bodhi-tree, and in the clear atmosphere the glorious great Bodhi-tree was displayed to the whole people, planted in the golden vase. Whilst wonders of many kinds came to pass the great Bodhi-tree, plunging mankind into amazement, descended on the earth.

Rejoiced by the many wonders the great king worshipped again the great Bodhi-tree by (bestowing on it) his great kingdom, and, when he had consecrated the great Bodhi-tree unto great kingship he abode, worshipping it with divers offerings, yet another week in that same place.

In the bright half of the month Assayuja on the fifteenth uposatha-day he received the great Bodhi-tree; two weeks after in the dark half of the month Assayuja on the fourteenth-uposatha day the lord of chariots brought the great Bodhi-tree, having placed it on a beautiful car on the same day, amid offerings, to his capital; and when he had built a beautiful hall (for it) adorned in manifold ways, and there on the first day of the bright half of the month Kattika had caused the great Bodhi-tree to be placed on the east side of the foot of a beautiful and great sala-tree, he allotted to it day by day many offerings. But on the seventeenth day after the receiving (of the tree) new shoots appeared on it all at once; therefore, rejoicing, the lord of men once more worshiped the great Bodhi-tree by bestowing kingship upon it. When the great ruler had consecrated the great Bodhitree unto kingship he appointed a festival of offerings in divers forms for the great Bodhi-tree.

So it came to pass that the festival of adoration of the great Bodhi-tree, vivid with gay and lovely flags, great, brilliant and splendid, in the city of flowers, opened the hearts of gods and men (to the faith) (even as) in the lake the sun (opens the lotuses).

Chapter 19
When the lord of chariots had appointed to watch over the Bodhi-tree eighteen persons from royal families and eight from families of ministers, and moreover eight persons from brahman families and eight from families of traders and persons from the cowherds likewise, and from the hyena and sparrowhawk-clans, (from each one man), and also from the weavers and potters and from all the handicrafts, from the nagas and the yakkhas; when then the most exalted prince had given them eight vessels of gold and eight of silver, and had brought the great Bodhi-tree to a ship on the Ganges, and likewise the theri Samghamitta with eleven bhikkhunis, and when he had caused those among whom Arittha was first to embark on that same ship, he fared forth from the city, and passing over the Viñjhä-mountains the prince arrived, in just one week, at Tamalitti.

The gods also and the nagas and men who were worshiping the great Bodhi-tree with the most splendid offerings, arrived in just one week. The ruler of the earth, who had caused the great Bodhi-tree to be placed on the shore of the great ocean, worshiped it once more by (bestowing upon it) the great kingship. When the wish-fulfiller had consecrated the great Bodhi tree as a great monarch, he then, on the first day of the bright half of the month Maggasira, commanded that the same noble persons, eight of each (of the families) appointed at the foot of the great sala-tree to escort the great Bodhi-tree, should raise up the great Bodhitree; and, descending there into the water till it reached his neck, he caused it to be set down in seemly wise on the ship.

When he had brought the great theri with the (other) theris on to the ship he spoke these words to the chief minister Maharittha: ‘Three times have I worshiped the great Bodhi-tree by (bestowing) kingship (upon it). Even so shall the king my friend also worship it by (bestowing) kingship (upon it).’

When the great king had spoken thus he stood with folded hands on the shore, and as he gazed after the vanishing great Bodhi-tree he shed tears. ‘Sending forth a net like rays of sunshine the great Bodhi-tree of the (Buddha) gifted with the ten powers departs, alas! from hence!’ Filled with sorrow at parting from the great Bodhi-tree Dhammasoka returned weeping and lamenting to his capital.

Chapter 20
In the eighteenth year (of the reign) of king Dhammasoka, the great Bodhi-tree was planted in the Mahameghavanarama. In the twelfth year afterwards died the dear consort of the king, Asamdhimitta, the faithful (believer) in the Sambuddha. In the fourth year after this the ruler of the earth Dhammasoka raised the treacherous Tissarakkha to the rank of queen. In the third year thereafter this fool, in the pride of her beauty, with the thought: ‘Forsooth, the king worships the great Bodhi-tree to my cost!’ drawn into the power of hate and working her own harm, caused the great Bodhi-tree to perish by means of a mandu-thorn. In the fourth year after did Dhammasoka of high renown fall into the power of mortality. These make up thirty-seven years.

Chapter 31
Lying on his deathbed the Master of the world, that with his relics he might bring to pass salvation for the world, spoke thus to (Sakka) the king of the gods: O king of the gods, of the eight donas of my bodily relics one dona, adored (first) by the Koliyas in Ramagama, shall be borne thence into the kingdom of the nagas and when it will be adored even there by the nagas it (at the last) shall come to be enshrined in the Great Thupa on the island of Lanka.

The far-seeing and most wise thera Mahakassapa then, mindful of the (coming) division of the relics by king Dhammasoka, had a great and well-guarded treasure of relics placed near Rajagaha (the capital) of king Ajatasattu as he brought thither the seven donas of relics; but the dona in Ramagama he did not take, knowing the Master’s intention. When the king Dhammasoka saw the great treasure of relics he thought to have the eighth dona also brought thither. But, bethinking them that it was destined by the Conqueror to be enshrined in the Great Thupa, the ascetics of that time who had overcome the asavas prevented Dhammasoka from (doing) this.

The thupa in Rajagama, that was built on the shore of the Ganges, was destroyed by the overflowing of the Ganges, but the urn with the relics reached the ocean and stayed there in the twofold divided waters on a throne made of many-coloured gems surrounded by rays of light. When the nagas saw the urn they went to the naga palace Manjerika of the king Kalanaga and told him, And he went thither with ten thousand kotis of nagas, and when he had brought the relics to his palace, (adoring them) with offerings meanwhile, and had built over them a thupa made of all kinds of jewels and a temple above the (thupa) also, he, filled with zeal, brought offerings continually, together with the (other) nagas. There a strong guard is set; go thou and bring the relics hither. To-morrow will the lord of the land set about enshrining the relics.

The above excerpts are from the Mahavamsa, however there is much more information provided by Mahanama in his commentary. As he wrote this commentary based upon the vernacular texts available at that time. However, we should always be careful while drawing conclusions from such kind of works.

Following are the points taken from this commentary (in the introduction of Turnour)

  • Who was Susunaga – He was a son of a certain Lichchavi king of Veshali. He was conceived by a courtesan and brought up by an officer of the state. In Attakatha of Anuradhapura, the story of Susunaga is recorded. It mentions that once upon a time, the Lichchavi kings consulted together and came to a resolution that it would be prejudicial to the prosperity of their capital if they did not keep the office of “Naggarashobhini tharantara” (chief of courtesans). Under this persuasion, they appointed to that office a lady of unexceptionable rank. One of these kings, receiving her into his own palace and, having lived with her, there, for seven days, sent her away. Returning to her residence, she delivered a baby in due course but found that it was a dead aborted one. Deeply, afflicted, and overwhelmed with shame, she put the baby into a casket and put it over the town area where garbage was thrown. A certain snake, the tutelary of the city, observing it, encircled around the casket and sheltered it with its hood. The crowd gathered and made noise ‘su, ‘su’ to move back the snake.  A person from the crowd opened the casket and found a male child, fully endowed with the most perfect indications of greatness. A certain chief took the baby to his house and named it Susunaga. He became an eminent person of the city. When the people were infuriated against the king Nagadasako, Susunaga was rose to the throne by the people.
  • Sisunaga’s Successors – Kalasoka was the son of Susunaga, and his 10th regnal year fell after a century of Buddha’s nirvana, in his reign, second Buddhist convocation was help at Veshali. Kalasoka’s own sons were 10 brothers. Their names are specified in Attakatha. The appellation of the “nine Nandas” originates in nine of them bearing that patronymic title.
  • The Nanda and his successors – During the rule of the Kalasoka’s sons, a certain gang of robbers and bandits came into picture which was marauding towns and pillaging countryside. In one of such attack, their gang leader was killed. After his death, the gang was at the brink of oblivion when a certain youth appeared and took the post of their leader. From that period he proclaimed himself to be Nanda. He made his brothers to associate with this gang. One day, he declared in an assembly of his gang that this life is not proper, and they should aim for supreme sovereignty. They started attacking and capturing provincial towns. After covering over most of Jambudvipa, they attacked Pataliputra and usurped the king there. Nanda ruled for some time and dies afterwards. His brothers next succeeded him in order of seniority. They altogether ruled for 22 years. Their ninth and the youngest brother was called Dhana-Nanda. He was addicted to hoarding treasure. His treasure amounted to eighty kotis.  He diverted the main stream of Ganga, thus getting the river bed, he excavated a rock and buried his treasure there. He covered the opening with stones and poured melted lead to seal it. Later he resorted the river to its original course.
  • Who was Chandagutta (Chandragupta) – While Buddha was still alive, driven by misfortunes produced by war of prince Widhudhaba, certain members of Shakya line retreating to Himavant, discovered a delightful and beautiful location, well watered, and situated in midst of a forest of lofty bo and other tress. That city was having a row of buildings covered with tiles, which were arranged in pattern of the plumage of a peacock’s neck, and its resounded with the notes of flocks of mayuars, it was so called. From this circumstance these Shakys lords of this town, and their children and descendants, were renowned throughout Jambudvipa by the title of “Moriya”. From that time the dynasty has been called the “Moriyan Dynasty”. Chandagutta’s mother was the queen consort of the Moriya-nagar town. She was pregnant when  a powerful king attacked the town and the Moriya king was killed. Under the protection of her elder brothers and under disguise, she moved to Pupphapura to save the unborn child. She delivered a son and after birth put him at the door of a cattle pen. A bull named Chanda protected the baby child. A herdsman found him, and got affection towards the baby, took the baby to his house where he attained to his teen age.
  • Who was Chanakka (Chanakya) – He was an inhabitant of Takshila. He was the son of a Brahman of that place. By the death of his father, he had been established as the dutiful maintainer of his mother and worthy of swaying the chatra (parasol). One day, Chanakka, found his mother weeping. Asking her, she replied that she is weeping on anticipation that Chanakka would forget her as he was gifted to possess sovereignty. On asking him on which part of his body this indication is there, his mother told that it is on his teeth. Hearing this, he broke his teeth and became known as Kandhadatta (a tooth broken man). He was not only a tooth broken man, but was disfigured by disgusting complexion and by deformity of legs and other members.
  • Chanakka’s meeting with Nanda – Chanakka repaired to Pupphapura, the capital of Dhana-Nanda, on hearing that he is bestowing gifts on the learned ones. He entered the palace and sat on the seat of the chief brahman. Nanda, when entered in the alms-giving hall with his retinue, saw Chanakka seated on the chair of the chief brahman. Nanda, getting disgusted with his looks, asked his men to remove the cripple brahman from that seat. Chanakka left the place taking a vow to take revenge. Dhana-Nanda issued orders against him that he should be caught and murdered. He remained elusive in the day time from the royal soldiers and escaped in the night by getting help from prince Pabbata, whom he took into confidence.
  • Chanakka’s meeting with Chandagutta – Candagutta, in his village, used to play the “game of royalty” with other kids of the village, in which he played the role of the king. Once passing through that village, Chanakka watched Chandagutta playing this game and was amazed on his justice, swiftness and bravery. He took him from his father paying thousand kahapanas. Chanakka took Chandagutta to his place where prince Pabbata was also residing. Chanakka promised to both the dream of sovereignty. Prince Pabbato’s death was caused by Chandagutta during a test which Chanakka put forward to test their qualifications.
  • Chanakka & Chandagutta’s rise to throne – When Chandagutta came to an age where he could have commanded an army, Chanakka organized an army with the help of the treasure buried and saved by him after his run from Nanda’s court. He gave its command to Chandagutta. They removed their disguise and started conquering towns and cities. However soon, they were surrounded by the locals who rose en masse against them and vanquished them.  To acquire the knowledge of sentiments of people, Chanakka and Chandagutta started traveling around the country. Once they were in a village, they overheard a conversation between a mother and her child. The mother had cooked some appalapuwa (pancakes). The child ate the central part of it and left the sides. When he asked for another cake, his mother remarked that his conduct is just like Chandagutta. On asking him his mother to explain that, his mother told that Chanadagutta in his ambition to become monarch, without subduing the frontiers, invaded the heart of the country and that was his folly. Thus hearing this and taking the due notice, Chanakka and Chandagutta raised an army and started conquering from frontier. They captured the frontier towns and stationed troops before moving further. Soon they reached Pataliputra and put the king, Dhana-Nanda, to death and seized the sovereignty.
  • More on Chandagutta is found in the Atthakatha of the Uttaravihara (Anuradhapura) priests. Only an abridged version is provided in Mahavamsa-tika.
  • Bindusara – Chandagutta’s son was Bindusara. He was born from the queen consort of Chandagutta who was the daughter of one of his maternal uncle who accompanied his mother to Pupphapura earlier. Chanakka was making Chandagutta …….. against poison by mixing small quantities of poison in his drink and food, and increasing doses with time. Once, when Chanakya was away for some time, the queen by mistake took one bite of Chandagutta’s food which was adequately poisoned. Chanakya took the baby out of the womb of the queen and put it inside the womb of a goat. When the child was delivered, he was born with a spot (bindu) which the blood of goat left.
  • Death of Chandagutta – An imposter named Dewagabbha, reanimated the corpse of Chandagutta after his death. However, it was detected by one purohit of Chandagutta and Bindusara slayed that imposter. Then he performed the final rites of Chandagutta with great pomp and show.
  • Ashoka – Bindusara had ninety sons from different issues, and two sons from chief consort. He conferred to Ashoka, the eldest son, the dignity of a sub-king and the government of Avanti. Bindusara asked him to reside at Ujjeni. When Bindusara was at his death bed, he called for Ashoka. Ashoka came to Pataliputra and performed the funeral obsequies of his parent who died just on his arrival. Then putting to death his ninety nine brothers to death and extirpating all disaffected persons, he raised himself to sovereignty. Between Ashoka and Kalasoka, 12 kings reigned.
  • Mahendra & Samghamitra – On his way to Ujjeni, Ashoka rested at the city of Chetiyagiri at the house of one Dewa, the sethi. He met there the lovely daughter of that sethi, princess Chetiya and being enamored with her, he married her. She gave birth of Mahinda, and after two years a daughter named Sanghamitta. After Ashoka rose to the throne, the mother of Mahinda sent her children to the court and continued residing at Chetiyagiri.
  • Nigrodha, the commentary tells that he was the son of the prince Suman, the eldest among all the sons of Bindusara.
  • Buddhaghosha, in the reign of king Mahanama, between 410 and 432 CE, transposed Sinhalese atthakatha into Pali.

Thupavamsa – This thirteen century CE work is composed by Parakrama Pandita, a lay Sri Lankan scholar.

Visuddhimagga – Visuddhimagga is a Theravada doctrine Pali text written by Buddhaghosa in about 430 CE. It was first translated into English by Pe Maung Tin in 1922. .

Excerpts from English translation by Bhikkhu Nanamoli
Chapter VII
For when a Perfect One has arisen, important deities and human beings pay homage to none else; for Brahma Sahampati paid homage to the Perfect One with a jeweled garland as big as Sineru, and other deities did so according to their means, as well as human beings as King Bimbisara (of Magadha) and king of Kosala. And after the Blessed One had finally attained nirbbana, King Ashoka renounced wealth to the amount of ninety-six million for his sake and founded eighty-four thousand monasteries throughout all Jambudipa (India).

Chapter VIII
“He gave with joy a hundred millions after conquering all the earth, till in the end his realm came down, to less than half a gall-nut’s worth. Yet when his merit was used-up, his body breathing its last breadth, the sorrow-less Asoka too felt sorrow face to face with death.”

Thupavamsa – Thupavamsa was compiled in Sri Lanka by Vacissara Thera, a pupil of Sariputta, who lived in the reign of King Parakkamabahu I (1153-86 CE). Vacissara was appointed by the king as the librarian of his Dhammagara. Vacissara tells that this work was first compiled in Sinhalese but was not accessible to all. It also had a Pali version but that was full of mistakes and defects. In order to remove these defects from the Pali version, Vacissara took up this compilation.

Excerpts from the Legend of Topes (English translation by B C Law)
Chapter V

  • After the relics of Buddha were divided into eight divisions and deposited into separate stupas, Elder Kassapa the Great foresaw danger to this arrangement. Therefore he asked Ajatshatru that the relics must be deposited at a single place.
  • Elder Kassapa took up the task of collecting relics and Ajatshatru took up the task to build a stupa once the relics were collected.
  • Elder Kassapa gathered all the relics leaving only those that were attended to by the different royal families. Relics of Ramagama were taken away by the Nagas, but the Elder thought :”There is no danger to them, for in future a resident (monk) of the Great Monastery at the island of Lanka will gather them at the Great Shrine.”
  • Ajatshatru built a stupa at Rajagaha for the relics collected from the seven places. No one knew that the relics were deposited in this stupa as it was told to all that this stupa along with its eighty stupas were built in honor of the great disciples.

Chapter VI

  • The prince Piyadasa, unfolding the royal canopy, became the righteous king, Ashoka by name; and he took those relics and placed them in eighty four-thousand shrines in Jambu island. How?
  • Bindusara, it is said had a hundred sons, Ashoka killed them all excepting prince Tissa who was born of his own mother. After killing them he reigned for four years without being consecrated. At the end of four years, more than two hundred and eighteen years since the Blessed One had passed away entirely, he obtained the consecration of a universal monarch in the whole of Jambu island. With the majesty of his consecration these extraordinary powers of a king came down upon him.
  • Ashoka’s queen Asandhimitta is mentioned
  • Ashoka, it is said, having obtained consecration, embraced the religious faith of the heretics for full three years. In the fourth year he had faith in the teaching of the Enlightened One. His father, it is said, was a supporter of the Brahmans
  • Once Ashoka saw the wandering monk Nigrodha, the son of Prince Sumana. It is said that when Ashoka killed Sumana, the latter’s wife, named Sumana, was pregnant and moved to low-caste village nearby. She gave birth to a boy who was named Nigrodha because of the protection provided by the banyan deity.
  • Ashoka called Nigrodha to come inside the palace and take appropriate seat. Nigrodha sat on the royal throne. The reason for Ashoka’s affection towards Nigrodha is said to be because the latter was the elder brother of the former in their previous birth when both were traders.
  • Nigrodha delivered the division on diligence in the Dhammapada, suitable to the king, to Ashoka.
  • Ashoka built a great monastery called the Asoka Monastery near his city.
  • Once Ashoka came to know about the eighty-four thousand main portions of the doctrine in respect of its constituents, then he decided to honor these eighty-four thousand portions with one monastery each.
  • He ordered eighty-four thousand monasteries to be built in eighty-four thousand cities. The order was entrusted with Elder Indagutta. The work was completed in three years.
  • On completion of the above work, Ashoka asked the monks whereabouts of the relics of Buddha, but no one was aware of it. He opened Kapilavatthu, Allakappa, Pava, Kusinara stupas but did not find any relics. The Ramagama residents did not allow him to break their stupa.
  • Then a hundred and twenty years old monk told Ashoka about a stone stupa near a bush. Ashoka found that stupa and hence found the relics. He left appropriate relics for worship in that stupa and take away all other relics which he distributed among the eighty-four monasteries built earlier by him.

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  1. Davids, T W Rhys (1890). The Questions of King Milinda (The Sacred Books of the East vol XXXV & XXXVI). The Claredon Press. Oxford.
  2. Geiger, Wilhelm (1912). The Mahavamsa or The Great Chronicle of Lanka. Oxford University Press. London.
  3. Law, B C (1945). The Legend of Topes (Thupavamsa). Munshiram Manoharlal. New Delhi.
  4. Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (1956). Visuddhimagga or The Path of Purification. Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 9789552400236
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  6. Turnour, George (1836). An Epitome of the History of Ceylon. Cotta Church Mission Press. Ceylon.