Bimbisara was the first great king of the Haranyaka Dynasty. Most sources agree that Bimbisara was son of Bhattiya who made his son Bimbisara, a king at the age of 15 years.
Important Facts About Bimbisara
Bimbisara was the most remarkable king of the pre Mauryan dynasties of Magadha. He was a man with clear perspectives. He used the policy of marital alliances to expand his kingdom, a tradition which was not yet seen in any dynasty. He also used a policy of sending envoys to strengthen the bilateral relationships.
- He send Jivaka, a Vaidya (doctor) to the king of Avanti who was suffering from a disease most probably jaundice.
- He also received an ambassador from the King of Taxila.
Bimbisara had 4 wives. These wives were a result of Bimbisara’s Policy of dynastic alliances. His chief queen was Khema. The 4 queen of Bimbisara were
- Kosaladevi, sister of Pasendi or Prasenjit of Aiksvaka dynasty. Kashi was given to Bimbisara as a dowry gift in his marriage with Kosaladevi.
- Chellena the daughter of Cetaka or Chetaka, the Licchhavi King of Vaishali who was brother of Trishla, mother of Mahavira.
- Khema or Kshemawas daughter of Madra King of Punjab.
- Vaidehi was daughter of Videha King.
This proves that Bimbisara used matrimonial alliances to expand his kingdom. For example Kosaladevi brought Kasi under his rule, however, Kashi later became the cause of hostility between his son Ajatshatru and his brother in law Pasendi.
Bimbisara was great in military skills as well. He defeated Brahamdatta of Anga and annexed Anga in Magadha. Further territories were also annexed to Magadha by Bimbisara.
Was Bimbisara a Jain or Buddhism follower?
Both Traditions call him as their followers. Bimbisara was contemporary of both Mahavira and Buddha. The Jain texts mention that he was a disciple of Lord Mahavira. The Buddhist texts mention that he met Buddha before enlightment. Buddha promised him to visit his capital after he gets enlightment. He was a patron of Buddha and as a mark of goodwill; he presented the Bamboo Grove (karanda venu vana) to the Sangha.
However, Bimbisara’s life ended with a tragedy. He was imprisoned by his son Ajatshatru who starved him to death. So, like many of predecessor kings he was also a victim of patricide.
Legacy of Bimbisara
In Bimbisara, we find a very efficient politician who had a clear vision of the political situation at his time. His success is attributed to a large extent to the matrimonial alliances he made. He was known as Shrenik as per the Jain texts, which means that he had a large standing army. He is supposed to be one of the first kings to have a large standing army. After becoming a king at the age of 15 years, he not only expanded the empire but also patronized both the rising religions at that time. His success was also due to the efficient administration machinery, in which the rajbhats or Mahamattas i.e. Royal officers were divided into many classes.