Malla was one of the solasa (16) mahajanapadas of ancient India mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya. It was named after the ruling clan of the same name. The Mahabharata (VI.9.34) mentions the territory as the Mallarashtra (Malla state). The Malla mahajanapada was situated north of Magadha. It was a small mahajanapada. The mahajanapada was divided into two main parts and the river Kakuttha (present day Kuku) was probably the dividing line. The capital of these two parts were Kusavati (modern Kasia near Gorakhpur) and Pava, modern Fazilnagar, 12 miles from Kasia. Kusinara and Pava are very important in the history of Buddhism since Buddha took his last meal and was taken ill at Pava and went to his Mahaparinirvaṇa at Kusinara.
The Mallas were a powerful clan of eastern India at the time of Gautama Buddha and they are frequently mentioned in Buddhist and Jaina works. The Mahabharata (II.30.3) mentions that the second Pandava Bhima is said to have conquered the chief of the Mallas in course of his expedition to eastern India. The Mahabharata (VI.9.46) mentions Mallas along with the Angas, Vangas, and Kalingas as eastern tribes. The Mallas were republican people with their dominion consisting of nine territories (Kalpa Sutra; Nirayavali Sutra), one of each of the nine confederated clans.
The Mallas, are mentioned by Manusmriti as Brahmins (Bhumihar). They are called Vasishthas (Vasetthas) in the Mahapparnibbana Suttanta. The Mallas were a brave and warlike people. Jainism and Buddhism found many followers among the Mallas. The Mallas originally had a monarchical form of government but later they switched to Gana (republic or non-monarchial) of which the members called themselves rajas. The Gana were taking decisions from their Santhagara. The Mallas appeared to have formed alliance with Lichchhavis for self-defense. They however, lost their independence not long after Buddha’s death and their dominions were annexed to the Magadhan empire.
The two main towns of the Malla mahajanapada were Pava, where the Jain founder Mahavira died and Kusinara, where Buddha went to his Mahaparinirvaṇa. The Cullavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka mentions another town named Anupiya. A fourth town called Uruvelakappa is mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya. The fifth town was named as "Bhoganagara".
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