A country inhabited by the Kosalā, to the north-west of Magadha and next to Kāsī.
It is mentioned second in the list of sixteen Mahājanapadas (E.g., A.i.213; iv.252, etc.). In the Buddha's time it was a powerful kingdom ruled over by Pasenadi, who was succeeded by his son Vidūdabha. By this time Kāsī was under the subjection of Kosala, for we find that when Bimbisāra, king of Magadha, married Kosaladevī, daughter of Mahākosala and sister of Pasenadi, a village in Kāsī was given as part of the dowry (J.ii.237; iv.342f).
Various Jātakas indicate that the struggle between Kāsi and Kosala had been very prolonged (See, e.g., J.ii.21f; iii.115f; 211f; v.316, 425). Sometimes the Kāsi king would attack Kosala, capture the king and rule over the country. At others the Kosala king would invade Kāsi and annex it to his own territory. Several Kosala kings who succeeded in doing this, are mentioned by name - e.g., Dabbasena (J.iii.13), Dīghāvu (J.iii.211f), Vanka (J.iii.168) and Kamsa; the last being given the special title of "Bāranāsiggāha," (J.ii.403; v.112) probably in recognition of the fact that he completed the conquest of Kāsi. Other kings of Kosala who came in conflict with Benares in one way or another are mentioned - e.g., Dīghiti (J.iii.211f; Vin.i.342f), Mallika (J.ii.3), and Chatta (J.iii.116).
Sometimes the kings of the two countries entered into matrimonial alliances (e.g., J.iii.407). With the capture of Kāsi the power of Kosala increased rapidly, until a struggle between this country and Magadha became inevitable. Bimbisāra's marriage was probably a political alliance, but it only served to postpone the evil day. Quite soon after his death there were many fierce fights between Ajātasattu, his successor, and Pasenadi, these fights bringing varying fortunes to the combatants. Once Ajātasattu was captured alive, but Pasenadi spared his life and gave him his daughter, Vajirā, in marriage and for a time all went well. Later, however, after his conquest of the Licchavis, Ajātasattu seems to have succeeded in establishing his sway in Kosala. (See Vincent Smith, op. cit., 32f).
In the sixth century B.C. the Sākyan territory of Kapilavatthu was subject to Kosala. The Sutta Nipāta (vs.405) speaks of the Buddha's birthplace as belonging to the Kosalans; see also A.i.276, where Kapilavatthu is mentioned as being in Kosala. Elsewhere (M.ii.124) Pasenadi is reported as saying, "Bhagavā pi Kosalako, aham pi Kosalako."
At the time of the Buddha Sāvatthi was the capital of Kosala. Next in importance was Saketa, which, in ancient days, had sometimes been the capital (J.iii.270; Mtu.i.348). There was also Ayojjhā, on the banks of the Sarayu, which, judging from the Rāmāyana, must once have been the chief city; but in the sixth century B.C. it was quite unimportant.
The river Sarayu divided Kosala into two parts, Uttara Kosala and Dakkhina Kosala (Law: Geog., p.6).
Other Kosala rivers mentioned in the books are the Aciravatī (D.i.235) and the Sundarikā (S.i.167; SN. p.97; but see M.i.39, where the river is called Bāhukā).
Among localities spoken of as being in Kosala are:
Icchānangala (A.iii.30, 341; iv.340, etc.),
Kesaputta of the Kālāmas (A.i.188),
Nalakapāna (A.v.122; M.i.462),
Sālā (M.i.285, 400; S.v.227),
Sālāvatika (D.i.244), and
The Mtu. adds Dronavastuka (iii.377) and Mārakaranda (i.317).
The Commentaries (E.g., SNA.ii.400f; DA.i.239f) give a curious explanation of the name Kosalā. It is said that when nothing could make Mahāpanāda smile, his father offered a big reward for anyone who could succeed in doing this. People, accordingly, left their work and flocked to the court, but it, was not until Sakka sent down a celestial actor that Mahāpanāda showed any signs of being amused. When this happened the men returned to their various duties, and on their way home, when meeting their friends, they asked of each other, "Kacci bho kusalam, kacci bho kusalam." The district where this occurred came to be called Kosalā on account of the repetition of the word kusala.
The Buddha spent the greater part of his time in Kosala, either in Sāvatthi or in touring in the various parts of the country, and many of the Vinaya rules were formulated in Kosala. (See Vinaya Index, s.v. Kosala). It is said (SA.i.221) that alms were plentiful in Kosala, though, evidently (J.i.329), famines, due to drought, were not unknown. Yet, though woodland tracts were numerous (see, e.g., SA.i.225) where monks could meditate in solitude, the number of monks actually found in Kosala was not large (VT.i.226). Bāvarī himself was a native of Kosala (SN.v.976), yet he preferred to have his hermitage in Dakkhināpatha.
After the Buddha's death, his unnaloma was deposited in a thūpa in Kosala (Bu.xxviii.9). It is said that the measures used in Kosala were larger than those of Magadha - thus one Kosala pattha was equal to four Magadha patthas (SNA.ii.476).
Kosala is often mentioned in combination with Kāsi in the compound Kāsi-Kosala; Pasenadi was king of Kāsi-Kosala (e.g., A.v.59) (cf. Ariga-Magadha). See also Pasenadi.
Kosala.-A Pacceka Buddha, mentioned in a list of names. M.iii.70; ApA.i.107.