The name of a country and of its people. It was one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas. The inhabitants appear to have consisted of several confederate clans of whom the Licchavī and the Videhā were the chief.
A passage in the Commentaries (e.g., DA.ii.519) - which states that among those responsible for the administration of justice in the Vajji country (see Licchavī) were the Atthakulakā - has given rise to the conjecture that Atthakulakā meant heads of eight clans composing the Vajjian confederacy. There is no other evidence regarding the number of the clans. The Atthakulakā were probably a judicial committee.
As time went on the Licchavī became the most powerful of these clans (Licchavī Vajjiratthavāsīhi pasatthā) (E.g., MA.i.394), and the names Vajjī and Licchavī were often synonymous. See Licchavī; in the Trikandasesa, quoted by Cunningham (AGI. 509), Licchavi, Vaideha and Tirabhukti were synonymous. In one passage (A.iii.76) the Licchavi, Mahānāma, seeing that a band of young Licchavis who had been out hunting were gathered round the Buddha, is represented as saying, "These Licchavis will yet become Vajjians" (bhavissanti Yajjī). This probably only means that there was great hope of these young men becoming true Vaijians, practising the seven conditions of welfare taught by the Buddha, conditions which ensured their prosperity. But see G. S.iii.62, n.1 and 3.
Vesāli was the capital of the Licchavis and Mithilā of the Videhas. In the time of the Buddha, both Vesāli and Mithilā were republics, though Mithilā had earlier been a kingdom under Janaka.
In the time of the Buddha, and even up to his death, the Vajjians were a very prosperous and happy community. The Buddha attributed this to the fact that they practiced the seven conditions of welfare taught to them by himself in the Sārandada Cetiya. The details of this teaching, and various other matters connected with the Vajji, are given under Licchavī. But soon after the Buddha's death, (three years after the Buddha's last visit to Vesāli, according to Buddhaghosa, DA.ii.522) Ajātasattu, with the help of his minister Vassakāra, sowed dissension among the Vajjians and conquered their territory.
The Buddha travelled several times through the Vajjian country, the usual route being through Kosala, Malla, Vajji, Kāsi, Magadha, and thus back (See, e.g., S.v.348), and he preached to the people, mostly in the Kūtāgārasālā in Vesāli. Among other places besides Vesāli visited by the Buddha, are mentioned Ukkācelā, Kotigāma (see, e.g., J.ii.232, where it is called a village of the Vajjians, on the Ganges), Nādikā (in which were Giñjakāvasatha and Gosingasālavana), Beluvagāma (or Veluvagāma), Bhandagāma, Bhogagāma and Hatthigāma. Pubbavijjhana, the birthplace of Channa, is also mentioned as a village of the Vajjians (S.iv.59). The Vaggumudā river flowed through Vajjian territory (Ud.iii.3).
In one context (UdA., p. 382) Dhammapāla describes Udena as Vajjirājā. This is probably a mistake, for nowhere is Udena, who was king of the Vatsas (or Vamsas), called the king of the Vajjis. The Vajjī are mentioned in the Mahānāradakassapa Jātaka. It is significant that the first great schism in the Buddhist Order arose in Vajji, when the Vajjiputtakā brought forward their Ten Points. Even during the Buddha's lifetime some monks of Vajji joined Devadatta (Vin.ii.199f).
According to Hiouen Thsang, (Beal: op. cit., 77) who visited it, the Vajji (Vriji) country was broad from east to west and narrow from north to south. The people of the neighbouring countries were called Samvajji, or United Vajjis. For details see Cunningham, AGI. 512ff.
The Commentaries contain a mythical account of the origin of the name Vajjī. See Licchavī.