The History of Lichchhavis (Lichchavi, Licchavi)

The History of Lichchhavis

The Lichchhavis (also Lichchavi, Licchavi) were an important member of the Vrijian confederacy. The early Indian traditions describes the Lichchhavis as Kshatriyas. Scholars reject the theory of foreign origin of the Lichchhavis on the strength of these traditions. But they were degraded to the status of fallen Kshatriyas due to their championship of non-Brahmanical creeds like Jainism and Buddhism.

Rise of the Lichchavi Power

In the 6th century B.C. the Lichchavi power was firmly established. Though the Lichchhavis belonged to the Vriji confederacy, they had autonomous status. Their capital was Vaisali.

Originally, they seem to have an independent status. The Buddhist records preserve the names of important Lichchavi leaders among whom the name of Chetaka deserves special mention. Chetaka’s sister Trisala was the mother of Mahavira, the preacher of Jainism. Chetaka’s daughter Chellana was married to king Bimbisara of Magadha. The Lichchhavis thus appear to be highly connected.

The Magadha-Lichchavi Struggle-fall of the Lichchhavis

The Lichchavis turned to be great rivals of Magadhan monarchy. In the reign of Bimbisara of Magadha, they invaded the Magadhan kingdom. In the reign of Ajatasatru, a protracted war began between Magadha and the Lichchhavis. The latter were united with the Vrijis in a confederacy. In the struggle that followed the Lichchhavis and the Vrijis were destroyed.

The causes of the Magadha-Lichchavi war were many. Ajatasatru wanted to take revenge on the Lichchhavis, as their chief Chetaka had refused to extradite Ajatasatru’s step brothers. They had escaped to Vaisali (Lichchavi capital) with the royal elephant and family jewels and were granted political asylum. The real cause of the Magadha-Lichchavi war was the aggressive imperialism of Magadha against the neighboring republic. The war continued for sixteen years. The Lichchhavis built a mighty alliance with the Vrijis and the other thirty six Ganarajas and also with the kingdom of Kasi-Kosala against Magadha. But the ministers of Ajatasatru sowed seeds of discord among the members of the anti-Magadhan confederacy and destroyed their unity. Ultimately the Vrijian confederacy was destroyed by Ajatasatru. The Vriji territory was annexed to Magadha.

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