Kapilvastu that Buddha Renounced for Peace
Posted by worldamity on November 26, 2009
KAPILVASTU – 26 km. to the West of Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha – and approximately 12 km. to the South of the East-West highway, and 19 km. to the North of the Indian border check post, Khunuwa, is proved, by several Buddhist scholars, to have been the Shakya Kingdom where King Suddodhana, father of Lord Buddha, reigned, 2600 years ago.
Suddodhana, the Shakya King, represented the Shakya dynasty of Kshetriya solar race who remained at the throne of the tiny Kingdom, Kapilvastu, lying in Nepal’s mid-western terai (plane), bordering India. Maya Devi, the queen of Suddodhana gave birth to the child Siddharta Gautam (Lord Buddha) in the Lumbini garden under the big sal tree in full moon day of May while traveling to her parent’s home. The child was called Siddhartha, Gautam being his family name. Born in 623 B.C. as scholars opine, Siddhartha renounced his Kingdom and the city state of Kapilvastu at the age of 30 and pursued enlightenment.
The child Gautam was endowed with super-natural power congenitally, a few say. Legend say, no sooner baby Siddhartha was born than he walked 7 steps in each direction, East, West, North and South.
Kapilvastu, is where Shakya Muni (Shakya saint) – Buddha’s disciples preferred to call him by this name – grew up and gained worldly experience, influenced his thought process and made a lasting impact towards transforming both his character and personality. Behind the name Kapilvastu, one legendary tale lay. Long before Shakya dynasty ruled the Kingdom, a saint called Kapil Muni descended down from the Himalayas and found the bank of Bhagirathi river (present Ban Ganga river), marked with peace and tranquillity, an ideal place for mediation. The Kanchanjanga snow range on the North and the dense forest on the South, West and East, Kapil Muni mediated for years and years. It was after the name of Saint Kapil Muni, Kapilvastu derived its name.
An hour drive distance from Lumbini, Kapilvastu used to be a prominent center of Buddhist culture and religious edifices during Shakya regime, as Chinese scholars Huen Tsang and Fa-Hien describes in their early scriptures. However, most of the rich cultural and religious heritage have disappeared, and what remains is the ruins and mounds of the early kingdom of Kapilvastu, in Tilaurakot (1 km. to the North of Taulihawa), the center of present Kapilvastu district.
Archaeologists have identified Tilaurakot as virtual ancient Kapilvastu reigned by Shakya Kings. Nevertheless, the shape and frame of the glorious Buddhist Kingdom which remained buried underneath for centuries have been excavated and preserved, though a lot more are yet to be dug out.
Tilaurakot, traced as the capital city of Kapilvastu, virtually remains a forlorn place though barb wire is used to encircle and preserve the mounds and the ruins of the Kingdom. Poor accessibility and lack of publicity has still kept away the old Kingdom of Shakya dynasty, Kapilvastu, from the world’s Buddhist pilgrims.
Kapilvastu, where Lord Buddha lived till his 30s, is associated with several incidents influencing the child and youth of Buddha’s life.It was in Kapilvastu that Crown Prince Buddha excelled in athletics competing with other princes. It was in this ancient Kingdom, Prince Buddha mastered archery and, here he shot an arrow which hit the ground causing a spring of water shoot up. Buddha in his youth threw an elephant killed by his cousin Nanda, in Kapilvastu. Here, Buddha converted 500 Shakyas and 8 princess to Buddhism where after the enlightenment, Buddha preached his father and his son Rahul.
A few tragic incidents too, occurred in Kapilvastu, which wholly transformed Lord Buddha from a prince to a saint. The Prince brought up in luxury and lavishness of the Palace met a sick person, and next, sighted a funeral which grieved Lord Buddha to the extent that he eventually decided to give up the Royal luxury and comfort in pursuit of power which he expected to redeem the worldly people from sufferings.
The remains of the fortified city state of Kapilvastu buried in the forest near the bank of river Ban Ganga still lay intact.
Chinese travelers Fa-Hien and Huen Tsang who traveled to the Kingdom of Lord Buddha, eulogizing it, write in their travelogues that Kapilvastu, ‘The snow covered peaks of the Himalayas look down on the place of Kapilvastu; the Kingdom sits at the bank of Bhagirathi river.’
Going by the travelogues of early Chinese scholars duo, the present Tilaurakot, consisting of ruins and mounds of ancient Kingdom, is indisputably the ancient Kapilvastu as it lies on the bank of river Bhagirathi (Ban Ganga now) and that snow peaks eternally looks down on it.
Even the excavations carried out by the Indian Archaeologist P.C. Mukherjee at the end of 19th century too, were instrumental in determining that the remains of Tilaurakot were actually the ancient site of Kapilvastu. Further excavations by the Department of Archaeology, HMG/Nepal and the Rissho University of Japan have further supported the authenticity of the site.
Apart from Tilaurakot, there are several other locations strewn around in Kapilvastu district which possess the remnants of the ancient Kingdom. About 9.5 km. northwest of Taulihawa there is a rectangular fortified area which is popularly known as Arourakot, near the village Aroura. The fortified area is identified by P.C.Mukherjee as the natal town of Kanakmuni Buddha. Remains of ancient moat and brick fortification around Arourakot can still be clearly located. The fortified area measures about 750X600 ft. A brick lined wall is seen to the South and an elevated mound towards the northwest corner. The pottery here is mostly redware.
Likewise, about 3 km. north of Taulihawa, there is a village called Chatradei situated on the right bank of the Ban Ganga river. Towards a furlong west of the village the habitational ruins extend in the form of a large triangular mound. Most of the pottery and antiquities found here belong to Sunga-Kushana period, while remains of the structures may relate to early medieval times.
About 3 miles (4.77) km. southwest of Taulihawa, there is a village called Gotihawa. Almost in the center of the village there is an Ashokan pillar standing. The upper portion of the pillar is broken and lost, and only the lower portion of the pillar 10 ft. high is intact. The circumference of the pillar is 8 ft. 6 inch. Mauryan polish is visible in its exposed upper part. Adjoining the pillar towards its northeast, there is a huge stupa with successive ring of wedge shaped Mauryan bricks. The stupa is now over built by three tiled and three thatched houses. About 200 yards north of the pillar, there remains structural ruins which is used as barn by the villagers.
About a mile (1.60 km.) southwest of Taulihawa, on the left side of the Shohoratgarh–Taulihawa road stands the village Kudan having a huge structural ruins with a cluster of four mounds and a tank. The mounds were excavated in 1962 by Devala Mitra, an Indian.
About 3 miles (7.95) km. northwest of Taulihawa, there is a quadrangular tank surrounded by bushes which is known as Niglisagar. On the western bank of the tank, there are two broken pieces of the Ashokan pillar, the longer one laying flat and the shorter one stuck into the ground obliquely, about five feet (1.52 m ) away to the West. The longer one measures 15ft. (4.56 m) in length and 7 ft. 5 inch in circumference at the broadest, and bears towards the top design of 2 peacocks. The shorter pillar which is partly buried in the ground measures 5 ft (1.52m) in length and 7ft. 5.inches in circumference.
About 7 miles (11.13km) north of Taulihawa, there is a forest area called Sagarahawa. In the midst of the forest there is a huge rectangular tank which is popularly known to the villagers as Lumbusagar. The ancient tanks ruins which were excavated and identified by Dr. Alois A. Fuhrer as the ‘Palace of massacre of the Shakyas’ in 1895 can still be located on the West and South banks of the tanks.