BUDDHISM IN KAPILVASTU

Home Town of the Budhha

Kapilvastu (Buddhist Pilgrimages )


According to Buddhist tradition, Kapilavastu is the name of the ancient city where Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, was raised and lived until the age of 29, when he renounced worldly life. There is some controversy about the exact location of Kapilavastu. Some versions say that it is located in present-day Rummindei, in the Terai region of Southern Nepal, about 10 kilometres west of Lumbini (the birthplace of the Siddhartha Gautama) not far from the Indian-Nepalese border. Other versions hold that Kapilavastu is located in Northern India, and that the Piprahwa village used to be within Kapilavastu.

A Pali Buddhist source known as the Dathavansa, claims that Kapilavastu was built by the sons of Ikshvaku, the ruler of one of the states in Northern India, with the permission of the Indian philosopher Kapila, who lived probably about two centuries before the time of the Buddha. The city was sanctified in the memory of Kapila. It is interesting to note that the Buddha was well versed in the philosophy of Kapila and was certainly influenced by it.

About 600 BCE, Northern India was mostly composed of numerous and small independent states competing for resources. The Shakya state was one of these states and it was located at the foot of the Himalayas. Kapilavastu was the capital city of the Shakya state. The Shakyas were a warrior clan that belonged to the Kshatriya caste (the warrior rulers caste). There is some controversy surrounding the background of the Shakyas. All we know about the Shakyas is through Buddhist sources, and the historical facts in it have been clouded by many additions and variations over the centuries. Some accounts say that the Shakya princes were exiled from a previous state (identified as the kingdom of Ayodhya according to some accounts) and they moved on and found the state of Shakya.

Despite the fact that Suddhodana Gautama (Siddhartha Gautama’s father) is often described as the king of Kapilavastu, it is believed that his status was actually that of a regional leader, similar to a tribal chief. The reason for this is that the Shakyas’ government was organized as a republican system, not a monarchy: They held regular meetings in which the members of the most influential families took part. Almost certainly, the family of Suddhodana Gautama was one of the leading families within this political system.