Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches
Reigned 491 BC-459 BC = 32 years
Ajaatshatru was the son of King Bimbisaar of Magadh. He was around the times of Buddha and Mahaaveer. We know about him from these two sources - Buddha and Jain. His father Bimbisaar (558 BC - 491 BC) was from Haryank family. He was from the second ruling Dynasty of Magadh. He had three wives - (1) Kosalaa Devee, the daughter of Mahaa Kosal - the king of Kosal Desh; and the sister of Prasenjit. She brought Kaashee (merely a village at that time) with her in dowry. (2) His second wife Chellana was from Lichchhivi Vansh from Vaishaalee (daughter of King Chetak). (3) His third wife, named Kshem, was the daughter of Chief of the Madra clan of Panjaab.
Birth of Ajaatshatru
How he was named as Ajaatshatru, that is also an interesting story. The young prince Ashokchandra was 7 feet tall, handsome, strong, with long curly hair which touched his chest, very intelligent and learned in all 64 arts. At the age of 20 he was married to Princess Padmaavatee.
Once King Bimbisaar decided to give gifts to his children - those born of Queen Chellana. He gave an 18 fold Divine Necklace to Hallakumaar and one Sechaanak (watering) White elephant (pachyderm) to Vihallakumaar, which cost more than half of Magadh. But as the king wanted to surprise Ashokchandra by giving him the entire kingdom, he did not give anything to him on that day. But Ashokchandra, failing to understand his father, thought that the king would even give the entire kingdom to Hallakumaar and Vihallakumar. Thus, he imprisoned his father in the prison of Raajgriha and enthroned himself as the king of Magadh. The fear of Queen Chellana became true so she cursed him that for the rest of his life and in history he will be known as Ajaatashatru ie - one who is an enemy of his own clan from even before his birth.
In the Buddhists text, the above story is almost the same, except that Queen Kosalaa desired to drink blood from King Bimbisaar's arm. The king obliged her and, later, when the child was thrown near the garbage dump, due to an infection he got a boil on his little finger and the king sucked it and once while sucking it the boil got burst inside the king's mouth, but due to the affection for his child he did not spit the pus out, rather swallowed it.
Death of Bimbisaar
(1) According to Jain tradition, once Ajaatshatru was eating his meal with his newborn son in his lap. His son suddenly urinated, of which some of the drops fell in his plate but due to his affection for his child he did not change the plate but wiped the drops with his own Patta (cloth on the shoulder) and continued to eat in the same plate. After eating a morsel he asked his mother Chellana who was sitting in the same dining room, whether she had ever seen any father loving and caring as much as he is, to which his mother narrated the story of affection of King Bimbisaar for him. This touched Ajaatashatru's heart and his affection for his father aroused. At once he picked up his axe and hurried to the prison to free his father by breaking all the iron chains by himself. But when Bimbisaar saw him coming with an axe in his hand he thought, "... so, he is coming to kill me. It is better that I end my life with my own hands." So at once he removed the Talapoot poison from his ring, closed his eyes and chanted "Kevli pannato Dhammam saranam pavajyami" (I seek refuge in the Dharm taught by the Kevlin or omniscient) and swallowed the poison and ended his life. Ajaatshatru repented a lot but repentance was of no use. Ajaatshatru then shifted his palace to Champa and made it his capital as the previous palace reminded him of his atrocious mistake.
(2) According to Buddh tradition, Ajaatshatru allowed no one, but only Kosalaa Devee, to meet Bimbisaar in the smoky cell. Ajaatashatru wanted to starve him to death, as Devadatt told him that "father cannot be killed by a weapon." Thus Kosalaa used to take small food packets to the cell, being caught by guards she started to take food hidden behind her hair, being caught again she started slipping in food by hiding it in her golden slippers. Being caught again, she coated 4 layers of honey on her body which was licked by the king. When she was caught once again Ajaatshatru prohibited Kosalaa Devee from meeting the king. When Ajaatshatru saw that the king was not dying, he ordered a barber to pierce the king's legs with a knife, then pour salt, hot oil and fire made from Khaira wood on him. When this was done the king died.
Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 10/20/12