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Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Wednesday, 02 January 2008
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Visit around Lumbini – Kapilavattu in Nepal

Kudan and Taulihawa area, about 27 km west of Lumbini, accessible by motorable road nowadays, are believed to be linked with sacred site of Kapilavattu (Kapilavastu), the capital of Sakya, where Gotama Buddha spent his early 12 years, and visited several times again after the enlightment. There are many ruins and mounds of stupas and monasteries and broken pieces of King Ashoka’s Pillar in a rectangular fortified area, surrounded by a moat and walls, which is about 10 km north-west of Taulihawa, called as Tilaurakot and being identified as Kapilavattu.Prince Siddhartha, one day when riding in his chariot through the city of Kapilavattu, happened to see a man feeble with age, another person struck down with sickness, and a corpse, and tried to understand the sense of ageing, sorrow and pain, disease and death. He immediately realized the suffering nature of human’s live. Then, he suddenly saw a radiant happy holy man who had conquered all such sufferings. He decided to renounce all worldly riches and pleasures to seek truth and embark on the path of Nibbana. Gotama Buddha, before the fourth rain retreat after his enlightment, visited Kapilavattu, at the request of his father King Suddhodana.

During this visit, the Buddha admitted his cousin Nanda and his own son, Rahula, into the order.About 3 km south of Kudan and nearby the village of Gotihawa, there is a huge stupa consisting of successive rings of wedge-shaped Mauryan bricks excavated by the Nepalese Archaeological Department, and identified it as an old monastery, supposed to be the site of Nigodharon Temple where Gotama Buddha spent 15th rain retreat, and visited several times.

Kapilavastu (Piprahwa) in India

While the earlier scholars like Ryles Davids and PC Mukherji identified Tilaurakot of Nepal as the site of Kapilavastu (Kapilavattu), Indian archaeologist KM Srivastava and others identified Piprahwa, a nearby place inside India, as the site of main city of Kapilavattu. Piprahwa is a village lying on the road linking from Sravasti to Sonauli, about 20 km from Naugarh Railway Station.Kapilavattu city was destroyed by the rival kings even within the Buddha’s lifetime. When the Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien visited this place, he found a stupa and a pillar constructed by King Ashoka. The fellow Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsiang (around mid-600 CE) described the same picture. The ruins are spread over a large area and the Ashoka Pillar mentioned by the Chinese pilgrims was not traceable. A large stupa at this ancient site is said to have housed the bone relics of Gotama Buddha which were preserved by the rulers, Sakya. Three groups of seals are found among the ruins, which are dated back to Kusana period of 1st century. Letters on the seals indicated the place as Kapilavattu.

Stone caskets containing the relics believed to be that of the Buddha’s were found at this site in 1898, by Mr WC Peppe, who did extensive excavations on many stupas around. Among the five caskets found, a smaller one contained an inscription, which provided a clue to the identification of Kapilavattu. The inscription, as translated by Rhys Davids, was read thus: “This shrine for relics of the Buddha, the August One, is that of the Sakyas, the brethren of the distinguished One, in association with their sisters, and with their children and their wives.” There also found two stone caskets carrying the relics of Buddha, which are now housed at the National Museum at New Delhi.

Myanmar Buddhist Viharas in Naugarh and Varanasi

Venerable U Nandarwuntha, also known as Saywinkaba or Naugarh Sayadaw, had built a Myanmar Buddhist Vihara at Varanasi in early 1950s. Sayadaw in 1960s moved to Naugarh, near the Indian side of Kapilavattu (Piprahwa), and established another Monastery (Temple-residence). After Naugarh Sayadaw passed away in 1990, successive Myanmar monks could not stay and maintain it. The monastery now belongs to Sayadaw’s adopted son’s wife and it is no longer a temple but a private house. The Myanmar Buddhist Vihara (usually known as Saywinkaba Temple or U Nandarwuntha’s Vihara) in Varanasi is still maintained by successive Myanmar monks (including the late U Yewada of London), and being used as a pilgrimage guest house till date.

{Text and Photos by U Than Sein, 1 December 2007}

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