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In the remarks about Vaishali, Hieun Tsang has mentioned about the great size of the city, the name of which possibly emerged from its great size as “Vishal” meaning great. He has mentioned about the abundance of mango and banana plantations, which remain the characteristics even today.
In the opening remarks, he mentions “This kingdom is about 5000 li in circuit. The soil is rich and fertile; flowers and fruits are produced in abundance. The āmra fruit (mango) and the mocha (banana) are very plentiful and much prized. The climate is agreeable and temperate. The manners of the people are pure and honest. They love religion and highly esteem learning. Both heretics and believers are found living together. There are several hundred sanghārāmas, which are mostly dilapidated. The three or five which still remain have but few priests in them. There are several tens of Deva temples, occupied by sectaries of different kinds. The followers of the Nirgranthas are very numerous.”
He further informs that the place even then was already in ruins, but still enjoyed a prominence as a centre of Buddhist learning. He mentions “The capital city of Vaiśālī is to a great extent in ruins. Its old foundations are from 60 to 70 li in circuit. The royal precincts are about 4 or 5 li round: there are a few people living in it. North-westof the royal city (precincts) 5 or 6 li, is a sanghārāma with a few disciples. They study the teaching of the Little Vehicle, according to the Sammatīya school.”
The remarks of Hieun Tsang in the 7th century A.D., belong to a time when Buddhism was already on the decline. The ancient city of Vaishali was already in ruins to a great extent. About 900 years had passed since the rule of the Mauryan era, when Asoka – the Great, had embarked upon a building spree and dotted the landscape with numerous stupas, pillars and edicts for the propagation of the dhamma.
To be continued....