Vaishali was the capital of the ancient Lichchavi dynasty where industry and commerce flourished even as Patliputra (Patna) was the Maurya and Gupta stronghold. Now an archaeological site spanning a thousand years over four periods from 500 BC, when it was reputedly the world’s first democratically elected republic, it has revealed a notable collection of coins, seals, terracotta objects, stupas and shrines. An Ashok lion pillar commemorates the Buddha’s last sermon delivered here at nearby Kolhua.
The Buddha often visited Vaishali and also admitted women to the holy order founded here. After his last sermon, he journeyed on to Kushinagar to gain Mahaparinirvan. A century after the Buddha’s passing, the second Buddhist council convened at Vaishali. Legend has it that the Lichchavis erected a stupa at Vaishali to shield their share of the Buddha’s relics, which the emperor Ashok later exhumed for redistribution. The stupa was enlarged four times in the Mauryan era, once yielding a stone casket believed to hold the Buddha’s ashes.
Besides, Vaishali’s significance resonates through references in the Indian epic Ramayan and being regarded as the birthplace of Mahavir, the founder of Jainism. On the Buddhist Circuit, Vaishali can be a same-day return visit from Patna.