Bimbisara was the king of Haryanka dynasty, He was the first king of Magadha who begun the policy of conquest and aggression which ended with the Kalinga war of Ashoka. His father Bhatiya founded the Haryanka dynasty but the actual establishment of kingdom was done under Bimbisara so he was considered as actual founder of dynasty.
According to the Buddhist text Mahavamsa, he ascended throne at the age of fifteen and ruled for 52 years(roughly from 544 BCE to 492 BCE).
Establishing Magadha as Empire
Bimbisara’s father was once defeated by Brahmadatta, king of Anga. After ascending to the throne Bimbisara annexed the neighbor king Anga to avenge his father’s defeat, this put a foundation for the later expansion of the Magadha. He then made marriage alliances to the neighboring kings for expanding the empire.
Bimbisara had three wives. His first wife was the daughter of the Koshalan king. The Koshalan bride brought Bimbisara as dowry a Kashi village yielding a revenue of 100,000 coins. The marriage bought off the hospitality of Koshala and gave Bimbisara free hand in dealing with other states.
Bimbisara’s second wife was Chellana, was a Lichchavi princess from Vaishali, also cousin sister of Lord Mahavira. His third wife was the daughter of the chief of the Madra clan Punjab. Marriage relation with the different princely families lent enormous diplomatic prestige and paved the way for the expansion of Magadha westward and northward.
Magadha’s most serious rival was Avanti with its capital at Ujjain. Its king, Chanda Pradyota Mahasena, fought Bimbisara, but eventually the two thought it wise to make up. Through his conquests and diplomacy, Bimbisara made Magadha the dominant state in the sixth century BCE. His kingdom said to have consisted of 80,000 villages, a number which sounds conventional.
The earliest capital of Magadha was at Rajgir. At that time it was known as Girivraja . It was surrounded by five hills, the opening in which were closed by stone walls on all sides, which made it impregnable.
Was Bimbisara a Jain or Buddhist follower?
Bimbisara was contemporary of both Gautam Buddha and Mahavira. Jainism and Buddhism were started to rise in his time. He was tolerance about both new religion. The Jains and Buddhist both received equally treatment at his hand. Both Jain and Buddhist have stories for meeting king with Mahavira and Buddha. In Jaina Uttaradhyana Sutra, Bimbisara is claimed to Jaina follower and the meeting of Mahavira and Bimbisara is described in details. But in other hand Buddhist literature mention the meeting of Bimbisara and Buddha seven years before Gautam buddha’s enlightenment and second after he had become Buddha.
When it comes to the proof provided by the Jaina and Buddhist, are considered simultaneously and impartially neither of them outweighs the other. Although it is difficult to adjudge any particular side to be stronger in providing Bimbisara as its follower. After the careful examination of the proofs from both the sides, we can undoubtedly say that many of them to be later origin. They were appended time to time as legendary lecture.
Bimbisara and the Buddha
There are many accounts of Bimbisara in the Buddhist text. Before Siddhartha attained enlightenment, he said to have arrived at the gate of Rajgir, where he went begging food from door to door. When king Bimbisara heard of him, he invited him to stay and to accept halve of his kingdom. Siddhartha replied that it was because he loved his wife, his son, his parents, King Bimbisara and everyone else that he had to continue his search for the way to stop old age, suffering and death. He promised that when he will find the way to stop this, he will surely return to teach the king.
When Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Buddha (The Enlightened one), he did come back. Buddha taught king and as per the stories king attained the first stage of enlightenment(called sotapannahood) and became the first royal patron of Buddhism.
Bimbisara and Mahavira
In Jain literature, Bimbisara referred as Shrenika of Rajgir. He became a devotee of Jainism impressed by the calmness of Yamadhar (a Jain Muni). Jain text also recorded many accounts of Shrenika(Bimbisara) visited Mahavira seeking answers to his queries. He also asked about the true version of Ramayana and an illuminating sage (King Prasana).
Death of Bimbisara
Both Jain and Buddhist text have different stories about the last days of Bimbisara. Both the version agrees that his son Ajatashatru imprisoned him. According to the Jain text, He starved himself to the death. Consequently, he was reborn in hell, where he is currently residing. After completing his punishment there he will become a Tirthankara in the next cycle of existence.
According to the Buddhist text, He was brutally killed by the royal barber on Ajatashatru’s instruction.
But in both scriptures, it is mentioned that Ajatashatru realized his mistake after born of his own son and ordered to release his father but by then it was too late and Bimbisara had already died.