Mauryas of Pipphalivana

References about Mauryas of Pipphalivana are very less in early Buddhist literatures. They are not mentioned in the texts which covered the entire lifetime of Buddha. They are also not mentioned as pupils of the Buddha even when there were mass scale Kshatriya followers from other tribes such as Malla, Shakya, Lichchhavi and Koliya. Their first reference comes after the death of Buddha. The last rite of Buddha was done at Kusinara after 7 days of his death. Although Kusinara had been near to Pipphalivana yet Mauryas were the last one to arrive at the funeral site. When the ashes were already distributed, the Malla kings got the request from the Mauryas for sharing of the relics. It has been referred in the Digha Nikaya of Maha-parinibbana-sutta as [28] –

atha kho pipphalivaniya moriya kosinarakanaj mallanaj dutaj pahesuj:
‘bhagava pi khattiyo mayaj pi khattiya|
mayam pi arahama bhagavato sariranaj bhagaj
mayam pi bhagavato sariranaj thupab ca mahab ca karissamati|’

The message was brought by a Brahmin which reads ‘The envoy has been sent to Kosinarka Malla by Pipphalivana Moriya. Lord (Buddha) was Kshatriya and we are also Kshatriya. So we shall also get the relics of the Lord and we will build stupa over it’. After hearing the message, the Malla kings responded to Brahmin saying that ‘Mauryas missed the Buddha during his entire life and again they missed it. The relics have been distributed. Therefore you can take ashes which are still burning.’ This way Mauryas received ashes and built stupa over it. The stupa is known as the Angar Stupa (Ember Stupa). Chinese monk Hawen Tswang confirmed this tradition prevalent in the region during his travel.

The name and origin of Mauryas as a tribe is explained in the Mahavamsa Tika. It is a poem written in Pali language for the Kings of Srilanka. It says that the tribe derived their name from a festival, modapi, which they were celebrating for the prosperity of their city. By time, da changed to ra and thus they were known as Morapi or Morai or Moriya. It is further said that they were the fled Shakyans who settled in vana (forest) full of Pipphali trees (Banyan tree) after the massacre done by King Vidudabha of Kosala and hence the ‘Moriya of Pipphalivana’. The second legend says that they were the branch of Shakyans who got famous with this name after the abundance of peacocks (Sanskrit – Mayura) and Pippal tree in their area. However these legends have been created in Ashoka period and can be seen as failed attempts to link the Mauryan King Ashoka with the clan of Shakyamuni Buddha by linking the Mauryas of Pipphalivana with Shakyas. It is evident from the fact that the massacre of Shakyas happened just two years before the death of Buddha. It is unrealistic to imagine that within two years the fled Shakyans established them again as Mauryas and that too in the proximity of Kosala Kingdom. It is quite possible that when Shakyans fled after massacre, some of them took shelter in nearby Pipphalivana and thus establishing a linkage between both tribes. The presence of Mauryas as a distinct ruling tribe, other than the Shakyas, is also confirmed from the answer of Malla King given to Brahmin during the distribution of relics. It is possible that it was the migrant Shakyans who persuaded Mauryas to ask for the relics of Buddha as Mauryas themselves were non followers of Buddha. Also the persuasion process could have taken a few days since the message demanding the relics was received by the Malla Kings after 7 days of the death of Buddha even though Pipphalivana was near to Kusinara.

The Mauryas were known as Suryavanshi Kshatriyas with Kashayapa Gotra. Their territory was surrounded by the Mallas in the north and the east, by River Ghaghra in the south, by the Kosala Kingdom in the southwest with River Anoma (Rapti) as dividing line and by the Koliyas in the northwest who also acted as dividing line between them and the Shakyas. The territory covered roughly 40 km from east to west and 80-90 km from north to south. The tribe ruled their territory in a democratic way, confirmed by the fact that it is the Mauryas who demanded the relics and not any individual Mauryan King. Further, the Mahavamsa Tika always mentions them as Moriyarajanam and younger ones as rajkumaras (princes). The territory and population of Mauryas is believed to be very small compared to other neighbouring ruling tribes such as that of Mallas and Shakyas. Except Pipphalivana, no settlement of Mauryas is known in Buddhist literatures. Huwen-T-Swang and Fa-Xian describe about the location of Ember stupa to be four yojnas (1 yojna = 7-8 miles, 13 Km) to the west of Kusinara. Based on it, the capital of Mauryas is believed to be located somewhere in the Bansgaon region of the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

As per Buddhist literatures, nearly after 140 years from the Buddha’s death, daughter of one Mauryan chief, named Mura (meaning the princess of Maurya republic) whose husband died in a skirmish, gave birth to a boy, known as Chandragupta. The boy defeated the Nandas of Magadha Empire with the help of Chanakya and slowly emerged as first real Emperor of India. In the same family, one of the greatest Kings of India, Ashoka Maurya was born who was responsible for the spread of Buddha’s teaching across the globe. In present time, the legacies of Maurya Kshatriyas are shared by some communities living in the Gorakhpur region such as Mall-Sainthwar, Bisen Rajputs of Majhauli and scattered population in some other parts of India.

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