Fa-Hien’s India Visit
Pataliputra was considerably neglected by the warrior kings like Samudragupta and Vikramaditya, but it continued to be a magnificent and populous city though out the reign of Chandragupta II. Later Patliputra was reduced to reigns in the wake of the Hun invasions in the 6th century. However, Pataliputra was rebuilt and revived by Shershah Suri as today’s Patna.
The accounts of Fa Hien give a contemporary account of the administration of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. Fa Hien (337 – ca. 422 AD) was so much absorbed in his quest for Buddhist books, legends, and miracles that he could not mention the name of the mighty monarch in whose rule he lived for 6 years. The picture he depicted cannot solve all the queries of the historians of today yet, they give a vivid picture of the state of the country.
At Pataliputra, he saw and was impressed by Asoka’s palace so it is sure that Asoka’s palace was in existence even in the Gupta Era. He also describes about 1 stupa and 2 monasteries nearby , also ascribed to Asoka. He mentioned about 600-700 monks living there and learning their lectures from teachers from all quarters. He mentions that towns of Magadha were largest in the area of Gangetic Plains and he calls it central India. He mentions that there were a lot of charitable institutions, rest houses, and there was an excellent Free Hospital in the Capital which was endowed by benevolent citizens. The poor and helpless patients suffering from all kinds of illnesses were taken care of and doctors attended them and they were given food and medicine as per their wants.
This depiction proves the earliest foundation of Charity and this charity was first of its kind in the word which spoke of characters of the citizens of the Gupta Era. India’s is great as far as Charity was concerned and as we are told, earliest charitable hospital in Europe or anywhere else in the word was opened in 10th century.
Fa Hien further explains that the population of the western part (Malwa) lived happily and did not worry. He mentions that they don’t have to register their household and not to have attend any magistrate. People did not lock their houses. The passports and those who were willing to say may stay and those willing to go may go did not bind them. Fa Hien further mentions that no one kills the living things, or drinks wine or eats Onion or garlic. They don’t keep pigs and fowls, there is no dealing of cattle, and there are no butchers. Only Chandals did all these.
Fa Hien mentions about the Chandala, who dwelt apart and they were required to keep a piece of wood as a warning of their approach so that other folk might not get polluted. Chandals were the only offenders of Dharma, as per Fa Hien. About administration, Fa Hien mentions that the authorities interfered as little as possible with the subject and they were left free to prosper and grow rich in their own way.
Fa Hien studied Sanskrit for 3 years at Pataliputra and two years at the Port of Tamralipti without let or hindrance. The Roads were clear and safe for the passengers. The accounts of Fa Hien give a clear indication that India was probably never governed better than the era of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. The prosperity of the Indians and tranquility of the empire have been testified by the account of Fa-Hien and his unobstructed itinerary all around gives the details about the Golden Era of India.