The Magadha-Vajji War was a conflict between the Haryanka dynasty of Magadha and the neighbouring Vajjika League which was led by the Licchavikas. The conflict is remembered in both Buddhist and Jain traditions. The conflict ended in defeat for the Vajjika League, and the Māgadhīs annexing their territory.[1][2]

Magadha-Vajji War
Date484–468 BCE
Modern-day Bihar, India
Result Magadhī victory
Magadhī annexation of the Vajjika League
Magadha Empire Vajjika League
Commanders and leaders
Ajatashatru Chetaka
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

Conflict edit

Map of the eastern Gangetic plain before Ajātasattu's conquests
Map of the eastern Gangetic plain after Ajātasattu's conquest of the Vajjika League and of Moriya
Depiction of Ajatashatru of Magadha

The relations of the Licchavikas with their southern neighbour, the kingdom of Magadha, were initially good, and the wife of the Māgadhī king Bimbisāra was the Vesālia princess Vāsavī, who was the daughter of the Licchavika Nāyaka Sakala's son Siṃha. There were nevertheless occasional tensions between Licchavi and Magadha, such as the competition at the Mallaka capital of Kusinārā over acquiring the relics of the Buddha after his death.[3]

In another case, the Licchavikas once invaded Māgadhī territory from across the Gaṅgā, and at some point the relations between Magadha and Licchavi permanently deteriorated as result of a grave offence committed by the Licchavikas towards the Māgadhī king Bimbisāra.[3]

The hostilities between Licchavi and Magadha continued under the rule of Ajātashatru, who was Bimbisāra's son with another Licchavika princess, Vāsavī, after he had killed Bimbisāra and usurped the throne of Magadha. Eventually Licchavi supported a revolt against Ajātasattu by his younger step-brother and the governor of Aṅga, Vehalla, who was the son of Bimbisāra by another Licchavika wife of his, Cellanā, a daughter of Ceḍaga, who was the head of both the Licchavi republic and the Vajjika League; Bimbisāra had chosen Vehalla as his successor following Ajātasattu's falling out of his favour after the latter had been caught conspiring against him, and the Licchavikas had attempted to place Vehalla on the throne of Magadha after Ajātasattu's usurpation and had allowed Vehalla to use their capital Vesālī as base for his revolt. After the failure of this rebellion, Vehalla sought refuge at his grandfather's place in the Licchavika and Vajjika capital of Vesālī, following which Ajātasattu repeatedly attempted to negotiate with the Licchavikas-Vajjikas. After Ajātasattu's repeated negotiation attempts ended in failure, he declared war on the Vajjika League in 484 BCE.[3]

Tensions between Licchavi and Magadha were exacerbated by the handling of the border post of Koṭigāma on the Gaṅgā by the Licchavika-led Vajjika League who would regularly collect all valuables from Koṭigāma and leave none to the Māgadhīs. Therefore Ajātasatru decided to destroy the Vajjika League in retaliation, but also because, as an ambitious empire-builder whose mother Vāsavī was Licchavika princess of Vaidehī descent, he was interested in the territory of the former Mahā-Videha kingdom which by then was part of the Vajjika League. Ajātasattu's hostility towards the Vajjika League was also the result of the differing forms of political organisation between Magadha and the Vajjika League, with the former being monarchical and the latter being republican, not unlike the opposition of the ancient Greek kingdom of Sparta to the democratic form of government in Athens, and the hostilities between the ancient Macedonian king Philip II to the Athenian and Theban republics.[3]

As members of the Vajjika League, the Vaidehas, Nāyikas, and Mallakas were also threatened by Ajātasattu, and the Vajjika Gaṇa Mukhya Ceḍaga held war consultations with the rājās of the Licchavikas and Mallikas before the fight started. The Vaidehas, Nāyikas, and Mallakas therefore fought on the side of the League against Magadha. The military forces of the Vajjika League were initially too strong for Ajātasattu to be successful against them, and it required him having recourse to diplomacy and intrigues over the span of a decade to finally defeat the Vajjika League by 468 BCE and annex its territories, including Licchavi, Videha, and Nāya to the kingdom of Magadha, while the Mallakas maintained their independence but lost their political importance. The Licchavikas nevertheless survived their defeat by Ajātasattu, and the structures of the older Licchavi republic subsisted within a degree local autonomy under Māgadhī rule, as attested by how the Licchavika Council instituted a festival in the memory of the decease of the Jain Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra.[3][4][5]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ A. L Basham (1951). "Ajātasattu's War with the Licchavis". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 14: 37–41. JSTOR 44303932.
  2. ^ Pandita, Ven (2011). "The Buddha and the Māgadha-Vajjī War". Journal of Buddhist Ethics. 18: 126–144. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e Sharma 1968, p. 85-135.
  4. ^ Sharma 1968, p. 136-158.
  5. ^ Sharma 1968, p. 169-181.

Sources edit