The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Śrāvastī (Sanskrit: श्रावस्ती) or Sāvatthī, a city of ancient India, was one of the six largest cities in India during Gautama Buddha's lifetime. The city is located in the fertile Gangetic plains in the present-day district of the same name, Shravasti, that belongs to Devipatan Division of Uttar Pradesh near Balrampur, some 170 kilometres (106 mi) north-east of Lucknow. Earlier, it was a part of the Bahraich district, but the latter was split due to administrative reasons.
Jetavana monastery was a famous monastery close to Savatthi.
Origin of Sravasti
Sravasti in the Buddha's time
According to the Mahabharata, the origin of Sravasti lies with the legendary king Shravasta. According to Buddhist tradition, the city was called Savatthi because the sage Savattha lived there.
Sravasti in the Buddha's time
Savatthi was located on the banks of the river Aciravati (now called the Rapti river). It was the capital city of the kingdom of Kosala, and its king was called Pasenadi, who was a disciple of Buddha. It is a beautiful city with vast amounts of agriculture and diversity. Buddhaghosa says that, in the Buddha's day, there were fifty-seven thousand families in Savatthi, and that it was the chief city in the country of Kasi Kosala, which was three hundred leagues in extent and had eighty thousand villages. He stated the population of Sávatthi to have been 180 million(?). The road from Rajagaha to Savatthi passed through Vesali, and the Parayanavagga gives as the resting places between the two cities: Setavya, Kapilavatthu, Kusinara, Pava and Bhoganagara. Further on, there was a road running southwards from Savatthi through Saketa to Kosambi. Between Saketa and Savatthi was located Toranavatthu.
The Buddha passed the greater part of his monastic life in Savatthi. His first visit to Savatthi was at the invitation of Anathapindika, whom he met in Rajagaha. The main monasteries in Sravasti were the Jetavana and the Pubbarama. Savatthi also contained the monastery of Rajakarama, built by Pasenadi, opposite Jetavana. Not far from the city was a dark forest called the Andhavana, where some monks and nuns went to live. Outside the city gate of Savatthi was a fisherman's village of five hundred families
The chief patrons of the Buddha in Savatthi were Anathapindika, Visakha, Suppavasa and Pasenadi. When Bandhula left Vesali, he came to live in Savatthi.
Woodward states that, of the four Nikayas, 871 suttas are said to have been preached in Savatthi; 844 of which are in Jetavana, 23 in the Pubbarama, and 4 in the suburbs of Savatthi. These suttas are made up of 6 in the Digha Nikaya, 75 in the Majjhima Nikaya, 736 in the Samyutta Nikaya, and 54 in the Anguttara Nikaya. The Commentaries state that the Buddha spent twenty-five rainy seasons in Sávatthi, thus leaving only twenty to be spent elsewhere. Of the 25 rainy seasons which Buddha lived in Sravasti, he spent 19 in the monastery named Jetavana, and 6 in the monastery called Pubbarama. Thus, Sravasti is the place where Buddha lived the longest amount of time, and it is the place where he gave the largest amount of discourses and instructions.
The Chinese Pilgrim Xuanzang found the old city in ruins, but recorded the sites of various buildings.
Of the ancient Savatthi, the city walls are still standing. Within these, the remains of 3 ancient buildings can be visited: Angulimala's stupa, Anathapindika's stupa, and an old temple dedicated to a Jain Tirthankara. Outside of Savatthi is located the stupa where the Twin Miracle (Pali:Yamaka Patihara) took place. The site of Jetavana monastery is the main pilgrim destination, with meditation and chanting mainly done at the Gandhakuti (Buddha's hut) and the Anandabodhi tree. Buddhist monasteries from the following countries have been constructed at Sravasti: Thailand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tibet and China.