King of Magadha and patron of the Buddha. He ascended the throne at the age of fifteen and reigned in Rājagaha for fifty-
However, according to the Pabbajā Sutta ³ the first meeting between the Buddha and Bimbisāra took place in Rājagaha under the Paṇḍavapabbata, only after the Buddha’s Renunciation. The king, seeing the young ascetic pass below the palace windows, sent messengers after him. On learning, that he was resting after his meal, Bimbisāra followed him and offered him a place in his court. This the Buddha refused, revealing his identity. The Commentary adds ⁴ that Bimbisāra wished him success in his quest and asked him to visit first Rājagaha as soon as he had attained Enlightenment. It was in fulfilment of this promise that the Buddha visited Rājagaha immediately after his conversion of the Tebhātika Jaṭilā. He stayed at the Supatiṭṭha-
Bimbisāra’s chief queen was Kosala-
Bimbisāra’s death, according to the Commentaries, was a sad one.⁹ Soothsayers had predicted, before the birth of Ajātasattu, that he would bring about the death of his father, for which reason his mother had wished to bring about an abortion. However, Bimbisāra would not hear of this, and when the boy was born, treated him with the greatest affection.¹⁰ When the prince came of age, Devadatta, by an exhibition of his psychic-
However, no weapon could injure Bimbisāra,¹¹ it was therefore decided that he should be starved to death, and with this end in view he was imprisoned in a hot-
A son was born to Ajātasattu on the day of Bimbisāra’s death. The joy be experienced at the birth of his son made him realise something of the affection his own father must have felt for him, and he questioned his mother. She told him stories of his childhood, and he repented, rather belatedly, of his folly and cruelty. Soon after, his mother died of grief, and her death gave rise to the protracted war between Ajātasattu and Pasenadi, as mentioned elsewhere.¹²
The books contain no mention of any special discourses taught by the Buddha to Bimbisāra nor of any questions asked by him of the Buddha.¹³ Perhaps, like Anāthapiṇḍika, his equal in devotion to the Buddha, he refrained from giving the Buddha extra trouble, or perhaps the affairs of his kingdom, which was three hundred leagues in extent,¹⁴ did not permit him enough leisure for frequent visits to the Buddha.
It is said that he once visited four monks — Godhika, Subāhu, Valliya, and Uttiya — and invited them to spend the rainy season at Rājagaha. He built for them four huts, but forgot to have them roofed, with the result that the gods withheld the rains until the king remembered the omission.¹⁵
Bimbisāra’s affection for the Buddha was unbounded. When the Licchavis sent Mahāli, who was a member of Bimbisāra’s retinue, to beg the Buddha to visit Vesāli, Bimbisāra did not himself try to persuade the Buddha to do so, but when the Buddha agreed to go he repaired the whole road from Rājagaha to the Gaṅgā — a distance of five leagues — for the Buddha to walk upon; he erected a rest house at the end of each league, and spread flowers of five different colours knee deep along the whole way. Two parasols were provided for the Buddha and one for each monk. The king himself accompanied the Buddha in order to look after him, offering him flowers and perfume and all requisites throughout the journey, which lasted five days. Arrived at the river, he fastened two boats together decked with flowers and jewels and followed the Buddha’s boat into the water up to his neck. When the Buddha had gone, the king set up an encampment on the river bank, awaiting his return; he then escorted him back to Rājagaha with similar pomp and ceremony.¹⁶
Great cordiality existed between Bimbisāra and Pasenadi. They were connected by marriage, each having married a sister of the other. Pasenadi once visited Bimbisāra in order to obtain from him a person of unbounded wealth (amitabhoga) for his kingdom. Bimbisāra had five such — Jotiya, Jaṭila, Meṇḍaka, Puṇṇaka, and Kākavaliya; but Pasenadi had none. The request was granted, and Meṇḍaka’s son, Dhanañjaya, was sent back to Kosala with Pasenadi.¹⁷
Bimbisāra also maintained friendly relations with other kings, such as Pukkasāti, king of Takkasilā, Caṇḍappajjota, king of Ujjenī, to whom he sent his own physician Jīvaka to tend in his illness — and Rudrāyana of Roruka.¹⁸
Among the ministers and personal retinue of Bimbisāra are mentioned Soṇa-
Bimbisāra is generally referred to as Seniya Bimbisāra. The Commentaries explain Seniya as meaning “possessed of a large following” or as “belonging to the Seniyagotta,” and Bimbisāra as meaning “of a golden colour,” bimbī meaning gold.²¹
In the time of Phussa Buddha, when the Buddha’s three step-
During his lifetime, Bimbisāra was considered the happiest of men, but the Buddha declared ²³ that he himself was far happier than the king.
Bimbisāra had a white banner and one of his epithets was Paṇḍaraketu.²⁵ Nothing is said about his future destiny, but he is represented in the Janavasabha Sutta as expressing the wish to become a Once-
¹ Mhv.ii.25 ﬀ; Dpv.iii.50 ﬀ.
² Bimbisāra’s father was called Bhāti (MT.137; Dpv.iii.52); according to Tibetan sources (Rockhill, op.cit., 16) he was called Mahāpaduma and his Mother Bimbī.
⁵ Vin.i.35 ﬀ. It was this gift of Veḷuvana, which formed the model for Devānampiyatissa’s gift of the Mahāmeghavana to Mahinda (Mhv.xv.17). The gift of Veḷuvana was one of the incidents sculptured in the Relic chamber of the Mahā Thūpa (Mhv.xxx.80). It may have been in Veḷuvana that the king built for the monks a storeyed house, fully plastered (Vin.ii.154). With the attainment of Stream-
⁸ For details of each person named in this paragraph s.v.
⁹ E.g., DA.i.135 ﬀ; see also Vin.ii.190 f.
¹² J.ii.237, 403.
¹³ When he heard that the Buddha intended to perform a miracle, although he had ordered his disciples to refrain from doing so, Bimbisāra had doubts about the propriety of this and questioned the Buddha who set his doubts at rest (DhA.iii.204; J.iii.263 f). It was also at the request of Bimbisāra that the Buddha established the custom of the monks assembling on the first, eighth, fourteenth, and fifteenth days of each month (Vin.i.101 f).
¹⁴ DhA.iii.205; the kingdom included eighty thousand villages, Vin.i.179.
¹⁵ ThagA.i.125. He similarly forgot his promise to give Piliṇḍavaccha a park-
¹⁶ DhA.iii.438 ﬀ.
¹⁷ DhA.i.385 f; AA.i.220. Some of these were richer than Bimbisāra — e.g., Jotiya (q.v.), whose house was built entirely of jewels while the king’s palace was of wood; but the king showed no jealousy (DhA.iv.211).
²¹ E.g., UdA.104. According to Tibetan sources, Bimbī was the name of his mother, and from this his own name was derived; but another reason was that he was radiant like the morning sun (Rockhill 16, See also MA.i.292).
References in the notes are to the Pāḷi texts of the PTS. In the translations, these are usually printed in the headers near the spine, thus i 95 in the spine, or in square brackets  if in the text. References to the Jātaka Commentary are given as J, not JA, which would normally be used, as that is reserved for the Journal Asiatic.