One of the four great monarchies in the time of the Buddha, the other three being Māgadha, Kosala and Vaṃsa (or Vatsa). Avanti is also mentioned among the sixteen Great Nations. AN.i.213 AN.iv.252 AN.iv.256 AN.iv.260
Its capital was Ujjenī. But according to another account, DN.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 at Māhissati (Māhismatī).
The King of Avanti was Pajjota, a man of violent temper Vin.i.277 and therefore known as Caṇḍa 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.
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.
- Mahā Kaccāna
- Nanda Kumāraputta
- Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa
- Isidatta and Isidāsī
Mahā Kaccāna seems to have spent a good deal of his time in Avanti, dwelling in the city of Kuraraghara in the Papāta Pabbata. SN.iii.9 SN.iii.12 SN.iv.115–16 AN.v.46 He experienced great difficulty in collecting ten monks, in order that Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa might receive the higher Ordination; in fact it was not until three years had elapsed that he succeeded. Vin.i.195 Later, when Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa visited the Buddha at Sāvatthī, he conveyed to the Buddha Mahā Kaccāna’s request that special rules might be laid down for the convenience of the monks of Avanti Dakkhiṇāpatha and of other border countries. Vin.i.197–198 The Buddha agreed, and among the rules so laid down were the following.
- The higher Ordination could be given with only four monks and a Vinayadhara.
- 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).
- Monks are enjoined to bathe frequently.
- Sheepskins, goatskins, etc., could be used as coverlets.
- 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. Vin.iii.195–196
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. Vin.ii.298–299
Even in the Buddha’s day there were rumours of the King of Avanti making preparations to attack Māgadha, but we are not told that he ever did so. MN.iii.7 Subsequently, however, before the time of Candagupta, Avanti became incorporated with Māgadha.
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.