One of the four great monarchies in the time of the Buddha, the other three
being Magadha, Kosala
and Vamsa (or Vatsa).
Avanti is also mentioned among the sixteen
Mahājanapadā (A.i.213; iv.252, 256, 260).
Its capital was Ujjenī. But according to
another account (D.ii.235), Māhissati is mentioned as having been, at least for
some time, the capital of Avanti. It is quite likely that ancient Avanti was
divided into two parts, the northern part having its capital at Ujjenī and the
southern part (also called Avanti Dakkhināpatha) at Māhissati (Māhismatī)
(Bhandarkar: Carmichael Lectures (1918), p.54). This theory is supported by the
fact that in the Mahābhārata (ii.31, 10), Avanti and Māhismatī are referred to
as two different countries.
In the Buddha's time, the King of Avanti was Pajjota, a man of violent temper
(Vin.i.277), and therefore known as Canda
Pajjota. He wished to conquer the neighbouring kingdom of Kosambī, of which
Udena was king, but his plans did not work out as he had anticipated. Instead,
his daughter Vāsuladattā became Udena's
wife and the two countries continued to be on friendly terms. The romantic story
of this marriage is given in DhA.i.191ff. For a summary see
The kingdom of Assaka is invariably mentioned in connection with Avanti. Even
in the Buddha's life-time, Avanti became a centre of Buddhism. Among eminent
monks and nuns who were either born or resided there, are to be found
It is said that when Pajjota heard of the Buddha's advent to the world, he
sent his chaplain's son, Kaccāna, with seven others, to invite him to Avanti.
Having listened to the Buddha's teaching, the messengers became arahants, and
when Kaccāna conveyed to the Buddha the king's invitation to Avanti, he was
asked by the Buddha to return and represent him. Kaccāna returned to Avanti and
converted Pajjota to the faith of the Buddha (ThagA.ii.485). Henceforward Mahā
Kaccāna seems to have spent a good deal of his time in Avanti, dwelling in the
city of Kuraraghara in the Papāta Pabbata (S.iii.9, 12; iv.115-16; A.v.46; also
The religion thus introduced, however, does not seem to have spread to any
extent until much later; for we find Mahā Kaccāna experiencing great difficulty
in collecting ten monks, in order that Sona Kutikanna might receive the higher
Ordination; in fact it was not until three years had elapsed that he succeeded
(Vin.i.195). Later, when Sona Kutikanna visited the Buddha at Sāvatthi, he
conveyed to the Buddha Mahā Kaccāna's request that special rules might be laid
down for the convenience of the monks of Avanti Dakkhināpatha and of, other
border countries (Vin.i.197-8). The Buddha agreed, and among the rules so laid
down were the following:
- (1) The higher Ordination could be given with only four monks and a
- (2) Monks are allowed the use of shoes with thick linings (because in
Avanti the soil is black on the surface, rough and trampled by cattle).
- (3) Monks are enjoined to bathe frequently (the men of Avanti attaching
great importance to bathing).
- (4) Sheepskins, goatskins, etc., could be used as coverlets.
- (5) Robes could be accepted on behalf of a monk who has left the district,
and the ten days' rule with regard to such a gift will not begin until the
robes have actually reached the monk's hands (Cp. the first nissaggiya rule,
Vin.iii.195-6) (this, evidently, because of difficulty of access).
By the time of the Vesāli Council, however, Avanti had become one of the
important centres of the orthodox school, for we find
Yasa Kākandakaputta sending messengers to Avanti to call representatives to
the Council, and we are told that eighty-eight arahants obeyed the summons
Among other localities in Avanti (besides those mentioned above) were
Ghanaselapabbata, Makkarakata and Velugāma, and, in Jaina works, we find mention
also of Sudarsanapura Law: Ksatriya Tribes, p.148).
Even in the Buddha's day there were rumours of the King of Avanti making
preparations to attack Magadha, but we are not told that he ever did so
(E.g.,M.iii.7). Subsequently, however, before the time of Candagupta, Avanti
became incorporated with Magadha. Before Asoka became King of Magadha he was the
Magadha Viceroy of Avanti and ruled in Ujjeni, and it was in Ujjeni that Mahinda
and Sanghamittā were born and grew up (Mhv.Xiii.8ff). But the country seems to
have retained its name at least as late as the second century A.D., as may be
seen from Rudradāman's Inscription at Junagadh (Buddhist India, p.28).
Avanti is now identified with the country north of the Vindhaya Mountains and
north-east of Bombay, roughly corresponding to modern Mālwa, Nimār and adjoining
parts of the Central Provinces Law: Geography of Early Buddhism, p.22).
In the Milindapañha (Trs.ii.250, n.1) Avanti is mentioned as one of the three
mandalas or great divisions of Jambudīpa, the
other two being Pācīna and Dakkhināpatha.
According to a late tradition recorded in the
Buddhavamsa (Bu.xxviii.10), the Buddha's mat (nisīdana) and rug were
deposited, after his death, in Avanti.
It has sometimes been suggested that Avanti was the home of modern Pāli (E.g.,in
Bud. India, pp.153-4). It has further been suggested that the Avanti school of
monks - founded by Mahā Kaccāna, who was considered the greatest analytical
exponent of the Buddha's time - living in comparative isolation (as seen above)
on account of difficulty of access (Avanti, however, lay on the road taken by
Bāvari's ten disciples on their way from
Patitthāna to Sāvatthi), and laying special stress on dhutavāda practices
(Vin.ii.299) - developed branches of knowledge dealing mainly with grammar and
doctrinal interpretation by ways of exegetical analysis. The Pāli grammar
ascribed to Kaccāyana and the Netti-ppakarana were both works of this school.
For a discussion of this see PLC.181ff
Avanti was one of the parts into which the earth was divided by King
Renu, with the help of his Great Steward, Mahā-Govinda.
The King of Avanti at the time was Vessabhū
and his capital Māhissati. D.ii.235-6.
2. Avanti.King of Ujjeni in a past age. During his reign the
Bodhisatta was born, under the name of Citta, in a Candāla village outside
Ujjeni. His story is related in the
Citta-Sambhūta Jātaka. J. iv.390ff.