Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu by Acharya Chatursen


Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu by Acharya Chatursen
I have come to believe that a book lands up in your hands when the time is just right for you to read it. And this belief could not have been strengthened more than by this book Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu. I have had this book with me for more than a decade. But it was now 3 days before my planned visit to the ancient city of Vaishali that I read this book. And what timing, everything mentioned or described in the book just came alive in front of my eyes in Vaishali.

The story is based in 5-6th century BC. At the time when Buddha attained enlightenment. And Mahaveer was an ascetic. Both living not too far from each other. In the Republic of Vaishali that comprised of eight different states and was run by their elected representatives, there lived the most beautiful women called Ambapali or Amrapali. Being the most beautiful woman, she could not have belonged to one man. But had to dedicate herself to all the men in the republic. And be a Nagarvadhu. Which literally would mean the wife of the city. And would loosely mean a courtesan. She was worshipped as a Goddess. And had all the privileges that she asked for before she agreed to be a Nagarvadhu.

She continues to live the life she wants to while fulfilling her duty. She decided the man who will father her son and demands that her son should be the king of the kingdom of Magadh and gets it. And in the end, she gives up everything and becomes a monk in the Buddhist sangha. Becoming one of the first women to join the sangha.

Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu is a story of the kingdoms and their kings, as they existed 2600 years ago. Author has contrasted the republic and the monarchy through their respective pros and cons. He has described the lifestyles of the people from various walks of life through their living spaces, towns, cities, through what they wore, what and where they studied. What skills they developed and how they interacted with each other. He weaves the pattern of politics into the story in such a way that you would be amazed at the level to which the political science was developed then. And how well the politicians and their advisors played with the psyche of the people to their advantage. It talks about the relationships within the families and the society in general. The more or less equal role played by the women and the respect that they commanded in society.

As a well-researched book, Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu stitches the documented history and oral history through a vivid imagination. The description of the places and people brings them alive in front of your eyes. And you almost live with them as the story progresses. There are all the nine Rasas that are contained in this story. It is these Rasas that will keep you glued on to the book. An amazing combination of history and fiction that even introduces you to the language that was used in those times. It was a pleasure to read good Hindi too.

I recommend this book to any connoisseur of Hindi literature. For those of you who cannot read Hindi, I am not sure if there is a translation of this work available in English. Are the publishers listening?

Buy this book – Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu by Acharya Chatursen at Amazon India.

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  1. Thank you for your comprehensive apprieciation of this unique tome..I was in two minds about reading this book,as the print almost defies my eyesight,but I feel there could not be a better way of getting to know Bihar.

  2. Can someone throw light on ‘Brahmins conference in Kampilya’ mentioned in this Book by Acahrya Chatursen. It is something which creates doubt in my mind whether any such conference was ever held. In chapter 60, it says that sometimes after Buddha had started living in Shravasti, I suppose around 500 BC, a conference of the Brahmins was convened at a place called Kampila which was the capital of Panchal kingdom, to decide on the ways to protect the purity of the Aryan blood in the face of the onslaught by Buddhism that was swelling in its ranks by every passing day.
    I have not come across any reference of any such conference in whatever little I have read about Indian history, but I must confess I am not a student of history. At the same time, I cannot imagine a classic historical novel like this one would portray things without having any historical basis. I am sure some readers would be able to throw some light and clarify these doubts.

    • It’s classical anti-Brahmin nonsense spewed by everybody these days. There was no such conference that can be found from historical evidence. The emergence of caste cannot be traced to a conference or series of them- it was an incredibly complex process that is still not understood. I appreciate Shastri as an author, but he was not a historian in a meaningful sense.


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