– Hari D. Rai
Lumbini Development Trust
Ancient Kapilavastu is referred to denote both Sakya kingdom as a whole and its capital city proper in early Buddhist literatures. The kingdom of Kapilavastu was extended to the Himalayas in the north, Pava and Kushinagar in the south, the Rohini River in the east and the Rapti River to the west. It means Kapilavastu kingdom was extended in a vast area in the plains below the Himalayas that falls both within the boundaries of Nepal and India at present. But there was a controversy about the hometown of the Buddha, the capital city where Siddhartha spent 29 years of his princely life. About two possible sites found as Kapilavastu: Tilaurakot, the one in Nepal and Piprahawa, the other in India, the archaeologists argued for about one hundred years. Finally, the site of Tilaurakot was confirmed as an ancient Kapilavastu. The paper accumulates important evidences on the issue that ascertains Tilaurakot as ancient Sakya capital city.
Key Words: early Buddhist literature, Chinese travelers’ version, archaeological finding and conclusion, geographical position
Geographical Setting and Historical Prelude of Kapilavastu, ancient Sakya Kingdom
One of the major Buddhist sites, ancient Kapilavastu, or present day Tilaurakot, is situated on the lap of the foothills of the Siwalik range in Kapilavastu district in the south-western plains of Nepal. Religiously, historically and archaeologically important site of Tilaurakot is located at 27˚34’30˝ N longitude and 83˚ 3′ 30˝E latitude. Kapilavastu is the name of the ancient Sakya kingdom as well as of the capital city. This holy site of the Buddha’s childhood home is 28 km west of Lumbini, his birthplace, and is connected by an all-weather blacktopped road (Bidari, 2007: 153).
Ancient referred both Sakya kingdom as a whole and as its capital city proper in early Buddhist literatures. Kapilavastu was a beautiful Sakya kingdom on the foothills of the Himalayas established by the banished sons and daughters of Okkaka (Ikshvaku), who hailed from Saketa, the capital of Kosala kingdom. The King banished his four sons and five daughters to ascend Jantukumara, his son from another queen Jayanti in the throne. The exiled princes and princesses traveled to the Himavat (Malalasekera, 1983: 970). They settled in the sala (shorea robusta) forest on advice of sage Kapila near his hermitage. They developed the area into a prosperous kingdom known as Kapilavastu in due course. Scholars opine that these exiled Kshetriya royals were called Sakya as they settled clearing the saka (sala) forest. And new kingdom was called Kapilavastu meaning Kapila, the sage and vastu, building or city in Sanskrit as it was proliferated by Kapilamuni.
The kingdom of Kapilavastu was extended to the Himalayas in the north, the Rohini River in the east and the Rapti River to the south and west (Raychaudhari, 1927: 117). However, Bidari referring to some Buddhist sources demarcates the border of Kapilavastu kingdom to be the Himalayas in the north, Pava and Kushinagar in the south, the Rohini River in the east and the Rapti River to the west (Bidari, 2007:158).
From above discussion, it is evident that Kapilavastu, the ancient Sakya kingdom was extended between two famous rivers namely Rohini and Rapti from east to west whereas it touched the Himalayas in the north and approached Kushinagar and Pava to the south. It means Kapilavastu kingdom was extended in a vast area in the plains below the Himalayas that falls both within the boundaries of Nepal and India at present.
But there was a little controversy about the hometown of the Buddha, the capital city where Siddhartha spent 29 early hears of his princely life. Two possible sites were found as Kapilavastu: Tilaurakot, the one in Nepal and Piprahawa, the other in India. The archaeologists argued for about one hundred years to confirm it. The site named as present day Tilaurakot is finally confirmed as an ancient Kapilavastu, the childhood hometown of the Buddha after meticulous research and archaeological excavations carried out for about a century for following reasons:
Tilaurakot in Nepal as Sakya Capital City Proper Where Siddhartha Trod
I. Early Buddhist Literary Sources
Kapilavastu is well described in early Buddhist literary sources. Some important early literatures that do mention of ancient Sakya kingdom are: the Lalita Vistara, the Buddhacarita, the Saundarananda and the Sumangalavilasini by Asvaghosha, some suttas of the Dhigha-Nikaya, the Sutta-Nipata, the Papanchasudini, the Jataka Stories, etc. Some relevant mentions are as follows:
The Lalita-vistara, an important epic of 1st century AD mentions that the banished offspring of Sujata, the king of Kosala left Saketa the capital city and went northwards and lived in the salavana (sala forest) at the foothills of the Himalayas as per the guidance of sage Kapila.
The Buddha recounts the story of the Sakyas to Ananda in the Ambattha Sutta of the Dhigha-nikaya as: O Ananda, long ago King Okkaka, in order to hand over his kingdom to his son from his beloved wife, banished the princes Okkamukha, Karkanda, Hathinika and Sinipura and the princesses from the elder queen. After banishment they settled down in a forest of saka trees on the slope of the Himalayas by the side of lotus flower (Pradhan, 1979: 7).
The Saundarananda, an epic by Asvaghosha gives an account on founding of Kapilavastu as Sakyan kingdom thus: Some Ikshvaku princes came to north from Saketa and settled down near the place where sage Kapila was practicing penance. The princes got Gautama as their gotra (clan) name from their preceptor Kapila Gautama. The sage marked the area in the sala forest and told them to build a new city after his death. The princes founded a new city according to the wish of their preceptor Kapila which was later named Kapilavastu meaning the city or settlement of Kapila.
The Jataka Stories mention about eighteen associations of labourers employed by the Sakyas in their palace and in their country including those of smiths, stoneworkers, ivory workers, jewelers etc (Davids, 1971: 90). During Nepalese and Japanese joint archaeological excavation at Tilaurakot (1967-77) a large hoard of coins, weapons, ivory objects and jewelries were uncovered from Tilaurakot. The discovery of these antiquities demonstrate relevancy of the tales.
Thus, ancient Buddhist literature Lalita Vistara, the Saundarananda, by Asvaghosha, and the Ambattha Sutta of the Dhigha-Nikaya unanimously state that the banished royal offspring of Kosala kingdom traveled towards north and lived on the foothills of the Himalayas near the hermitage of Kapilamuni and hence the place was called Kapilavastu after the name of Kapila, the great sage. Tilaurakot is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas and ‘Tilaurakot’ is synonymous known as ‘Kapilavastu’ from remote historical period of time in Nepal whereas Piprahawa in India falls far apart of the Himalayas and it was given name Kapilavastu later in the modern era.
II. Chinese Travelers’ Description
Chinese monk Fa-hsien who visited Kapilvastu, Lumbini and Ramagrama in the 4th century AD prepared notes on important Buddhist sites which he personally visited. His travel account has been an important source to locate these historical sites. He describes Kapilavastu to be close to the places of Krakuchhanda and Kanakmuni Buddhas with Asokan pillars.
Kapilavastu: Leaving the city of Sravasti, and going twelve yojans to the south-east, we arrive at a town called Na-pi-ka. This is the birthplace of Krakuchhanda Buddha. There are towers erected on the spots where the interview between father and son took place, and also where he entered Nirvana. Going north from this place less than one yojana, we arrive at a town where Kanakamuni Buddha was born; there are towers also erected here over similar places as the last. From this spot going eastward less than a yojana we arrive at the city of Ka-wei-lo-wei (Kapilavastu).
Lumbini: 50 li (14.41 km) to the east of the city (Kapilavastu capital city) is the royal garden called Lumbini; it was here the queen entered the bath to wash herself, and having come out on the north side, advanced twenty paces, and then holding a branch of the tree in her hand, brought forth the Prince.
Ramagrama: Going east 5 yojana (72 km) from the place where Buddha was born, there is a country called Lan-mo [Ramagrama] (Beal, 1996: 48).
Above description provides us the reference that Lumbini, the significant place of the birth of the Buddha lies to the east of Kapilavastu, his hometown. Lumbini lies to the north east from Piprahawa, the site proposed by India.
Huien Tsiang’s Visit
Huien Tsiang another eminent Chinese pilgrim who visited Buddhist sites of present day Nepal in 629 AD and prepared beautiful travel account. He has recounted about significant Buddhist sites in following manner:
Kapilavastu: From this point (somewhere in Sravasti) going south-east 500 li (about 144 km) or so, we come to the country of Kie-pi-lo-fa-sse-ti (Kapilavastu). This country is about 4000 li (about 1152 km) in circuit. There are some ten desert cities in this country, wholly desolate and ruined. The capital is overthrown and in ruins. Its circuit cannot be accurately measured. The royal precincts within the city measure some 14 or 15 li (about 4 km) round. They were built of brick. The foundation walls are still strong and high. It has been long deserted.
Kudan: “To the south of it (Kapilavastu capital city) is the city, not far, there is a stupa; this is the place where, having arrived complete enlightenment, Buddha met his father Suddhodana”. Another description of Kudan by him goes as: To the south of the city (capital city) 3 or 4 li (about 1.5 km) is a grove of the nyagrodha trees in which is a stupa built by Asoka raja. This is the place where Sakya Tathagata, having returned to his country after his enlightenment, met his father and preached the law.
Gotihawa: “To the south east of the city is a stupa where are that Tathagata’s relics (of his bequeathed body); before it is erected a stone pillar about 30 feet high, on the top of which is carved a lion. By its side (or on its side) is a record relating the circumstances of his Nirvana. It was erected by Asoka raja.
Niglihawa: To the north east of the town of Krakuchhanda Buddha, going about 30 li (8.64 km), we come to an old capital (or, great city) in which there is a stupa. This is to commemorate the spot where in the Bhadra-kalpa when men lived to the age of 40,000 years, Kanakamuni Buddha was born.
Sagarhawa: To the north of the capital (Niglihawa), there are several hundreds and thousands of stupas, indicating the spot where the members of the Sakya tribe were slaughtered. Virudhaka-raja having subdued the Sakyas, and captured the members of their tribe to the number of 9,990 myriads of people, then ordered them to be slaughtered.
Sarakupa: From this (capital city) 30 li (about 8 km) south-east is a small stupa. Here is a fountain, the waters of which are as clear as a mirror. Here it was, during the athletic contest, that the arrow of the prince, after penetrating the targets, fell and buried itself up to the feathers in the ground, causing a clear spring of water to flow forth. Common tradition has called this the arrow fountain (sarakupa); persons who are sick, by drinking the water of this spring are mostly restored to health; and so people from a distance taking back with them some of the mud (moist earth) of this place, and applying it to the part where they suffer pain, recover from their ailments.
Lumbini: To the north east of the arrow well about 80 or 90li (about 24 km), we come to Lumbini (Lavani) garden. Here is the bathing tank of the Sakyas, the water of which is bright and clear as a mirror, and the surface covered with a mixture of flowers. To the north of this 24 or 25 pace there is an asoka flower tree which is now decayed; this is the place where Bodhisattva was born on the eighth day of the second half of the month called Vaisakha.
Ramagrama: From this (Lumbini garden) going east 300 li (about 86 km) or so, across a wild and deserted jungle, we arrive at the kingdom of Lan-mo [Ramagrama] (Beal, 1983: 13-25:).
Hiuen Tsian mentions that the area of the royal precincts is about 4 km in circuit that was protected with high and strong defense wall. A series of archaeological excavations have revealed Tilaurakot as big palace complex enclosed by 10-12 feet wide defense wall and deep and wide moat encircling it from outside. Similarly, he locates Kudan, the ancient Nyagrodharama to be about 1.5 km south of the capital city and provides reference of the city to be south east of Gotihawa which is just 8.64 km south-west of Niglihawa. So is the distance and direction of Tilaurakot from these two historical sites bearing Asoka pillars. He locates Kapilavastu from Lumbini, the most noticeable place being the birthplace of the Buddha and site of Asoka pillar more accurately in terms of direction and distance. He locates Sarakupa to be about 8 km south-east of Kapilavastu palace and Lumbini about 24 km north-east of Sarakupa. It simply means that Lumbini is situated about 28 km east of Kapilavastu which is exact location of Tilaurakot today.
III. Archaeological Excavations and findings and conclusions of Archaeologists
A series of archaeological excavations were conducted at Tilaurakot by renowned archaeologists that included Dr. A. Fuhrer (1897), P. C. Mukherji (1899), Debala Mitra (1962), Tarananda Mishra (1967-72), Babu Krishna Rijal (1972-73) and a joint team from Rissho University of Japan DoA, Nepal (1967-77) over a 100-year of period. The vestiges of the fortification walls, moats, palaces, stupas, temples, viharas, ponds and guardrooms have been revealed and large amounts of antiquities have been collected from those excavations at Tilaurakot (Rai, 2010:116). Some of the findings are as following:
The Fort (Kot)
The kot of Tilaura was confirmed as ancient Sakya capital city by PC Mukherji after his first scientific excavation at Tilaurakot and so is mentioned in his report. The fort extends over a large area, stretching 1,600 feet (487.68 m) from the south to the north and 1,000 feet (304.8 m) from the east to the west. Tilaurakot fulfills all conditions as early Buddhist literatures and the Chinese travelers mention (Mukherji, 1969: 19). The palaces were built on elevated area for safety and security of the palace in ancient times.
The Fortification Wall
The fort wall encloses the elevated plain area of Tilaurakot in the middle. After running straight north for a certain distance, it curves slightly in conformity with the bank of the Banganga River. The wall, thus, is roughly pentagonal in shape. The measurement of the wall from north to south is 500 m while it is 405 m east to west through the center. The fortification wall, surrounded by a moat rampart, is made up of bricks and brickbats of size 12 ¼ inches x 8 inches x 2 inches. The wall is of 10-12 feet wide, which means it must have been very high. Buddhist scriptures mention its height to be of 18 feet. This majestic fortification wall enclosed the ancient Sakya palace (Bidari, 2007: 198). The design of a deep moat surrounding the defense wall in all directions, points to the strong defense system of the palace. The moat used to be a deep and wide water ditch full of crocodiles and other man-eater aquatic animals attached with the fort wall so that it would be almost impossible for the enemies to swim across the moat to penetrate into the palace premises.
Four gates have been found along the fortification wall in each cardinal direction. Of the four gates, archaeologists have so far excavated two. The exposed western gate is made up of bricks, brickbats, mortar, wood and iron, had many doors, one after another. Archaeologist T. N. Mishra found three phases of construction of the gateway. He found the first and second phases of construction in the layer 3 dating from 2nd-1st century B.C. The third phase of construction is associated with layer 2, which dates from 1st – 2nd century A.D (Bidari, 2007: 259). P. C. Mukherji explored the eastern gate in 1899. He uncovered an ancient large square building close to the gate, which he assumes that might have been used for security purposes. The middle section of the eastern fort wall, which has been identified as the Mahaviniskramana Dwara or Mangal Dwara, is the gate from where Prince Siddhartha walked out of the palace (Rijal, 1996: 104). It is said that when Prince Siddhartha set out on the journey, the guards posted at the gate and people of Kapilavastu had fallen asleep and did not notice anything (Mitra, 1998: 261-63). A number of doors found along the gateway are guardrooms that indicates a high degree of precaution and security management of the palace, the main administrative complex and the residences of the king.
About 100 m east of the gate lies a stupa, believed to be erected at the spot where Kanthaka, the favorite horse of Prince Siddhartha, had died. It is believed that the horse had a sole purpose to accomplish – to take the Bodhisattva out of the world of luxury and help him attain perfect enlightenment. After crossing the Anoma River, Siddhartha shaved his head and formally entered the world of monkshood. He sent Chhanna, his charioteer, and Kanthaka, the horse, back home. The horse served the destined purpose and died before entering the palace gate (Rijal, 1996: 24). Both Chinese travelers have noticed the stupa during their visit to Kapilavastu.
A large man-made pond lies in the north-eastern corner of the fort. The ancient pond might have been built for pleasures of the Sakya royal palace, as there is a mound, possibly the ruin of the palace to the west of it on an elevated surface. There is another pond to the south of the hypothesized palace (Mukherji, 1969:20). Mukherji uncovered many ponds during Tilaurakot excavation. The Lalita-vistara mentions about many ponds in the palace of Suddhodana.
Samai Devi Temple
The temple of Samai Mayi, the sylvan deity, was found close to the exposed palace annex to the north-west part of the fort (Mukherji, 1969: 20). The temple houses fragments of ancient sculptures assumed to be worshipped by members of the Sakya dynasty as mentioned in Buddhist literatures. There is a mention of temples in the complex of the Sakya palace in the Lalita-vistara, and travel accounts of the early Chinese pilgrims.
The Palace Site
Japanese archeologists under the leadership of Nakamura have exposed the ruins of a palace-like structure on the north-western part of the fort, which they speculate it as the northern wing of the ancient Sakya palace. The exposed complex is, though smaller and is possibly a part of the main building of the palace. However, the vestiges belong to a later period of the Sakya dynasty (Nakamura et al., 2000: 252). The complex might possibly have been built with the best available materials of the time. However, brick had not been introduced in this region by then. For this reason, archeologists have not uncovered any palace structure of the Buddha period. This will require massive and intensive excavation to reveal the Sakya period palaces, which possibly were made up of perishable objects.
T.N. Mishra found a metal workshop near the southern defense wall. According to him, the smiths used the workshop to make weapons, agricultural tools and household utensils. Coins also seem to have been minted in the workshop. The workshop had a big oven, and metal objects were found near by. They include two big water jugs, pieces of copper pots, 12 early cast copper coins, two iron spades, iron chisels and frying pans (Bidari, 2007: 260). The discovery of the weapons factory and coin minting plant in the locality supports the assumption that it was the capital city of the Sakyas.
Mishra unearthed ancient roads dating from 7th – 6th century B.C. to 2nd century A.D. in the vicinity of the fortified area of Tilaurakot. The roads were very wide and paved with bricks and brickbats. Some roads have stone edging on both sides. Very interestingly, some roads have eight inches soling made from iron slag (ibid: 260). Such an improved road transport in the vicinity indicates that the place was very important.
The potteries found at Tilaurakot date from 6th century B.C. – 8th century A.D. They can be categorized into Painted Grey Ware, Northern Black Polished Ware, Black and Red Ware, Red Ware and Grey Ware (Mitra, 1972: 15). However, the PG Wares with its associate findings can be dated back to the 9th century BC or earlier elsewhere. There were some serious shortcomings in the dating of antiquities by Debala Mitra in Tilaurakot excavation.
Human figurines, animal figurines, toy carts and toy wheels were discovered by Debala Mitra at Tilaurakot. These figurines date from the pre-Mauryan, Mauryan, Sunga and Kushana periods (Bidari, 2007: 223).
Mishra collected silver and copper punch marked coins, early cast coins, die-struck coins etc from Tilaurakot (Bidari, 2007: 264). Coins of various shapes and sizes belonging to different periods were discovered during the excavations. The coins mainly included copper ones; they were punch marked coins, inscribed copper coins and uninscribed copper coins (Mitra, 1972: 84-91). These coins prove that there was systematic trade and prosperity in the Sakya kingdom.
Debala Mitra found 31 stone objects in total. Some of the stone objects found were ornaments. They were fine grained and well polished sandstone products. Some of them were fragments of rods turned and tapered by a lathe machine (Bidari, 2007:224). Discovery of stone objects suggests the ancientness of the site.
Sakya Token and Sealings
The seals and sealings uncovered at Tilaurakot bear legends read as Ne-ga-ma, Ne-ga-me-ya, Da-vi-la-sa, Jetha-kichakama, Sa-ka-na-sya etc (ibid, 273). Among these seals, the one bearing the legend Sa-ka-na-sya (the token of the Sakyas) designates the site with association to the Sakyas.
Casual wears like beads and bangles made of clay, stone and metal; bone and ivory objects; metal objects including pots and vessels, weapons such as the arrow, knife and dagger, and ornaments like rings, bangles and beads made of gold, silver, copper and bronze were richly obtained out of Tilaurakot excavations. The unearthing of these objects from excavation suggests Tilaurakot to have been an important place in ancient times.
IV. Conclusions of Archaeologists
Dr. Alios Fuhrer
Fuhrer excavated Kapilavastu sites mainly Sagahawa from 22 December 1897 to March 1898. His report ascertains Tilaurakot as ancient Sakya capital. He opines that ancient Kapilavastu capital city includes greater area including Kudan, Gotihawa, Niglihawa, Sagarhawa etc and being Tilaurakot the inner or core city where the Sakyan palace was situated.
Mukherji, the senior archeologist of India conducted first scientific archaeological excavations in different potential archaeological sites in and around Kapilavastu from 3 February 1899 to 29 March of the same year. He is highly credited for a painstaking job of scientifically exploring many sites and preparing convincing reports and drawings of the sites. According to him, Tilaurakot fulfills all the conditions of Sakya palace complex as mentioned in the Buddhist literature. His excavation report confirms Tilaurakot as ancient Sakya capital city.
After P C Mukherji, Mitra was commissioned to Nepalese Terai for archeological excavations of potential sites. She conducted brief excavations at Tilaurakot and collected antiquities in 1962. She mentioned that the antiquities collected by her were not earlier than the 300 BC. But soon, she realized shortcomings in her conclusion and corrected the report dating the same antiquities to have been of 600 BC, which became acceptable to the Government of Nepal as well.
Tara Nanda Mishra
Mishra, the then senior archeological officer of the Department of Archeology continued excavations from 1967 to 1972. His work brought 3 periods and 9 layers of cultural depositions to light at Tilaurakot. He dated the 9th layer of defense wall to the 7th-6th BC. He also uncovered western gate way complex, three phases of defense wall with the outer moat surrounding it, roads of 7th – 6th BC to the 2nd BC and recovered a large amount of antiquities from Tilaurakot. He also excavated Dhamnihawa mound and exposed the twin stupas. His research guarantied Tilaurakot being ancient Sakya capital city.
Babu Krishna Rijal
Rijal, the then Chief Archeological Officer of Nepal and his team in Kapilavastu, followed Mishra. The team excavated and explored more than 30 different archeological sites in the Kapilavastu region during the season of 1972-1973. Rijal divided human deposition within the fortified area of Tilaurakot into 4 periods. Of them, Period I yielded Painted Grey Wares dating back to 8th-7th century BC, Northern Black Polished Wares were richly found the Period II that dated back to 6th – 5th century BC, the Period III yielded red wares associated with NBP and Grey ware was assigned to be of Mauryan period and the Period IV consisted of red ware and black-slipped grey ware was dated of Sunga and Kushana period. Hence Rijal confirmed prevalence of human settlement at Tilaurakot by 8th century BC.
V. Geographical Location, Position and Characteristics of Tilaurakot
Based on the early Buddhist sources, Basanta Bidari concludes that the banished royal children of king Ikshvaku who hailed from Kosala kingdom towards north and lived on the foothills of the Himalayas, on the east bank of ancient Bhagirathi (Banganga at present) River near the hermitage of Sage Kapila (Bidari, 2002: 8). There is not any river existed near by Piprahawa, the site situated in the Indian plains far from the Himalayas of the north.
Let the Sakyans and the Koliyans see you
Facing the west, crossing the Rohini River (Theragatha verses: 527-33)
The Theragatha Commentary provides information about the location and direction of Kapilavastu to the reference of River Rohini and Koliya kingdom. According to the commentary, the River Rohini flows southwards and separates the Sakya kingdom Kapilavastu on the west from the Koliya kingdom on the east. Rajagaha lies far to the south across the Ganges. People traveling to Kapilavastu from Rajagaha via the Vajjian country and then the Koliyan country would cross the river Rohini facing the west.
Rhys Davids determines that position of Kapilavastu to be 60 (540 miles) from Rajgriha, 50 (450 miles) from Vaisali and 6/7 (50/60 miles) from Sravasti and opines that Tilaurakot roughly lies in this position (Rhys Davids, 1971:17:).
Chinese travelers Fa- Hsien (399 AD) and Hiuen Tsiang (629 AD) both had seen Gotihawa and Niglihawa with stone pillars erected by Emperor Asoka near by Kapilavastu. These great sites are close to Tilaurakot. Hiuen Tsiang locates Lumbini about 30 km the east of Kapilavastu which is accurate distance and direction of Tilaurakot today.
We find many artifacts, which prove existence of human settlements around Tilaurakot extended in a vast area from 8th or 7th century BC. The existence of civic life around Tilaurakot is clearly evident as archaeological excavations have proven Gotihawa (7 km south-west) of about 9th century BC, Kudan (5 km south) of about 3rd century BC or earlier, Niglihawa (8 km east) of about time immemorial to 3rd century BC, Sagarhawa (5 km north) of about 5/6th century BC. It was mandatory for a palace to be surrounded by civic settlements because of security and other purposes. So Tilaurakot fulfills all the qualification of a capital city. While not even a single archaeological site of Buddha period have found so far in the surrounding of Piprahawa. It simply means that Piprahawa by then was surrounded by forest from all sides. How could a king rule from the jungle? It was not difficult but also impossible to rule a country from the middle of the jungle for security of the king who used to be Supremo of the state and legislative, judiciary and executive head. Ruling a country from the jungle is not viable for political, administrative, economic and other reasons even today.
Archaeologists have revealed a 10-12 feet wide fortification wall with four big gates in 4 cardinal directions and watchtowers surrounding Tilaurakot. A deep and wide moat encircles the fortification wall from the outside. The large fortified area with an intensive security systems in the design suggests Tilaurakot deserve all qualities to be a royal palace.
The association of ancient Kapilavastu with Gotihawa and Niglihawa; position of Tilaurakot to the reference of the Himalayas, Lumbini garden, the Banganga River and the Rohini river; huge fortified palace complex with a moat encircling the fortification wall and uncovering of wide range of antiquities dating back to 8th or 9th century BC to Kushan and Gupta period including the seals bearing inscription Sa-ka-na-sya (token of the Sakyas) etc firmly establish Tilaurakot to have been childhood hometown of Siddhartha. This fact is also supported by the version of Chinese pilgrims and early Buddhist texts. Consequently renowned archeologists and contemporary scholars confirmed present day Tilaurakot of Nepal as the ancient Sakya capital city. While K.M.Srivastava’s claim of Piprahawa as ancient Kapilavastu on the basis of Piprahwa seals containing inscriptions -Devaputravihara, Kapilavastu Bhikhu Sangha and Maha Kapilavastu Bhikku Sangha could not stand in front of concrete archaeological evidences found at Tilaurakot. The three seals uncovered by Srivastava do not suffice to prove Piprahawa as the Sakya palace rather it suggests the site to be a Vihara complex associated to Bhikkhu Sangha (association of monk) of Kapilavastu.
With evidences discussed above and opinion of renowned archaeologists, researchers, and scholars it can be concluded without any doubt that present day Tilaurakot is the ancient Kapilavastu, the Sakya capital city. It was the palace complex of King Suddhodana, where Siddhartha lived as a prince, and experienced the worldly life. Having understood reality and inevitability of suffering in life, he renounced all luxuries from the eastern gate and set out in a journey of search of supreme wisdom.
Nevertheless we cannot ignore or underestimate the significance of Piprahawa. It was an important Vihara complex amidst the jungle under the control of Kapilavastu Bhikkhu Sangha possibly after Buddha’s mahaparinirvana (great demise). The site of Piprahawa therefore can be assumed to have been an important place of Buddhist learning and practices under the authority of Bhikkhu Sangha of Kapilavastu.
Ancient Sakya Kingdom was extended in a large area stretching from the Himalayas on the north, Kushinagar and Pava to the south, the Rohini River on the east and the Rapti River on west. The area of ancient Kapilavastu was shared between Nepal and India during the political division of the neighboring countries. Of them, Kapilavastu, ancient Sakya capital city present day Tilaurakot fell within boundary of Nepal and Sakya Vihara complex present day Piprahawa fell within boundary of India during the demarcation of border between the neighbouring countries. Hence, both significant Buddhist sites should be visited with much devotion. And spiritual tourism should be promoted in integrated manner in mutual effort and cooperation of Nepal and India. The neighbouring countries together can tap the huge potential of spiritual tourism from the Buddhists world over, as one of the biggest markets by understanding and accepting the outstanding cultural value of Tilaurakot as ancient Sakya capital city proper and Piprahawa as ancient Sakya monastery. The neighboring countries together can tap the huge potential of spiritual tourism from the Buddhists world over, as one of the biggest markets by understanding and accepting the outstanding cultural value of “Tilaurakot as ancient Sakya capital city proper” and “Piprahawa as ancient Sakya monastery”.
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II. Appendix (Measurement Unit)
1 mile = 5.55 li
1 km = 3.47 li
1 yojana = 9 miles = 14.41 km