Kashi, Mahajanapadas

Of the sixteen Mahajanapadas, Kashi seems to have been the most powerful in the beginning. Since it was at first the most powerful, it played important part in the subversion of the Videhan monarchy. Located in and around the present day Varanasi district, its capital Varanasi is referred to as the foremost city of India situated on the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomati river and in the middle of the most fertile agricultural areas. The economic importance of Kashi lay in the fact that it had emerged as a leading centre of textile manufacture in the time of the Buddha. The Kashaya (orange brown) robes of the Buddhist monks are said to have been manufactured here. Kashi was not only famous for its cotton textiles but also for its market for horses. Excavations at the site of Rajghat which has been identified with ancient Benaras have not yielded any impressive evidence for urbanisation in the sixth century BCE. It seemed to have emerged as a major town around 450 BCE. But by the time of Buddha, it had emerged as a centre for commercial activity. Several kings of Kashi are mentioned as having conquered Kosala and many other kingdoms. Dasaratha Jataka also mentions Dasaratha and Rama as kings of Kashi and not of Ayodhya. The father of Parsva, the twenty third teacher (Tirthankara) of the Jains is said to have been the king of Benaras. The Buddha also delivered his first sermon after enlightenment in Sarnath near Benaras. All important religious traditions of ancient India are associated with Kashi. However, by the time of the Buddha the Kashi Mahajanapada had been annexed by Kosala and was a cause of war between Magadha and Kosala.

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