March 31, 2010


[ The Sakyas had 30,000 families, the population comes nearly half a million people in the country. But Rhys Davids puts the number at ‘one million. The administrative and judicial  business of the clan was carried out from a hall which was  called  Santhagara (Digh Nikaya,3 vols, 1, 91.]

The Shakya Country and Kapilavastu in the Literature.

By: Tara Nanda Mishra

The banished sons of  Ikshvaku or Okkaka, - settled, (Yath Himavanta passe Pokharaniya — tire mahasakasando) where there, was a great grove of trees and on the bank of a lake situated on the lower slopes of the Himalaya. Sumangal Vilasini exactly repeats the  story and adds that there was the hermitage of sage Kapila. The Divyadana  also the p1aces the town on the bank of Bbagirathi (Ganges) which was close to the hermitage of Rishi Kapila. Mahavastu (1, 35 1-2) repeating the same story tells that the forefathers of the Sakyas hailed from Saketa and settled in a forest near the hermitage of  Rishi Kapila. Sakya country was semi-repub1ic and its dwellers were called the Sakyas. The name of the capital city of this state was Kapilavastu. The inhabitants of Kapilavastu were called Kapilavatthava. The Sutta Nipata (P. 194) describes the route taken by some wandering Brahmana. Ascetics (Bhavaris disciples), who travelled from Kosambhi to Saketa, then to Sravasti, Setabbya, KapilaVastu, Kusinara, Pava and finally reached Vaisali. Vinaya Pitaka (II, 253) also records a direct road between the cities of Kapilavastu and Vaisali. The Sakya state was actually a small state on the north of Pava and Kusinara. On the west it extended up to the bank of Rapti  (Acchiravati) beyond which were ruling the Kosalas of  Sravasti; the river Rohini divided the two states, of the Sakyas  and the Koliyas. The Koliyas of Ramagrama were on the east of Rohini and the Sakyas of Kapilavastu fell on the west; the sloppy fertile and dense forest lands of the sub-Himalayas on the north were included within the territory of the Sakyas.

Beside Kapilavastu, there were also other important towns, some of them were Chatuma (Majjhima_NikaYa, Sutta— 67), Khomadussa (Samyukta-nikaya ), Metalupa (Dharma Cbetiya Suttanta, Majjhima—nikaya), Samagama (Sutta-104, Majihima Nikaya),  Saniumara (Ceylonese and Burmese accounts), and Ulumpa etc. Mr. Rhys Davids gives some more names, which are - Stavati, Sakkara etc.

The Sakyas had 30,000 families, the population comes nearly half a million people in the country. But Rhys Davids puts the number at ‘one million. The administrative and judicial  business of the clan was carried out from a hall which was  called  Santhagara (Digh Nikaya,3 vols, 1, 91.

The ruins of the city of Kapilavastu, when visited by Huen—Tsang, was extending over an area of about two and half miles. The Chinese traveller also records about the existence of a wall around the city. According to Mahavastu (II, 75) it had seven walls. The city walls were of  eighteen cubits high. Papanch Sudani records about an event of the inauguration of new Mote hail or Santhagarasala at Kapilavastu by Buddha. It is said that the inhabitants of the city decorated it with lights for a Yojana round. This may also indicate the extension of the township including the peripheral areas. In an old Buddhist text Kapilavastu is described as a prosperous, flourishing town, and well provided with food, whose narrow streets were full with moving elephants, carriages, horse and people. But in spite of the accounts given of the greatness of Kailavastu, it was not- mentioned by Ananda among the great cities for the suitable place of Buddha’s death.

The rulers of Kapilavastu were called kings. At the time of Buddha’s birth his father, Suddodan, was the king of the country. After Suddodan, Mahanama was elected king of the country. Prince Siddhartha was born at Lumbini Garden in 623-24 B. C. and was brought back to the city of Kapilavastu. He last his mother only after seven days of his birth and was brought up by his step mother  Prajapati Gautami. His horoscope, which described him that be will either become a great monarch or a famous ascetic, had been prepared by Rishi Asita, who lived nearby town on the mountain. The Prince was married with the daughter of Sakya Suppabuddha and sister of Devadatta named Yasodhara also called Bhaddakachchana. But Lalitavistara gives the name of Gopa, daughter of the Sakya Dandapani, as the wife- of Buddha. Seeing an old man, a sick man. a dead person and a sage, Prince Siddhartha was so much disgusted with the worldly life that he left his borne town at the age of 29, when he was quite young. After great meditation Siddhartha attained the Sambodhi and became one of the most revered philosopher sages of his time. It was only because of Lord Buddha, Kapilavastu and the Sakya clan became well known to the world.

There were two Buddhist Viharas near Kapilavastu city. The first Vihara was Nigrodharam which was very close to the city where Buddha after his attainment of Buddhahood came to Kapilavastu and stayed there. Kala—Khema and Ghataya, ‘who were great patron of the order at Kapilavastu built cells for monks in the Nigrodharam. Mahavana was another Vihár on the north of Kapilavastu, (where also, Buddha had stayed several times. From the Mahavan outside Kapilavastu, the forest extended up to the Himalayas.

The city of Kapilavastu was destroyed by the son and successor of king Prasenjit of Sravasti from his Sakya wife named Vasabhakhattiya. It is said that Vasabhakbattiya was the daughter of Mahanam from a slave girl. Because of this reason people of Kapilavastu used to insult the prince Vidudhava, when he was sent for his studies at that city in his childhood. To take revenge from the Sakyas, Vidudhava dethroned his father, became king and attacked Kapilavastu. He killed its citizens and burnt the whole city  down. There were times he had been forbidden by Lord Buddha from attacking Kapilvastu, but at last, Buddha left the Sakyas to their fate on the fourth time. Thus came the end of a great city during the lifetime of the Buddha. Those who survived the battle left the city and went to the hills, some went as far as to Shrilanka. It is said that the Moriyanagar was the city founded by the Sakya young men who had fled Kapilvastu.( Read more)

[Note: This article has some crucial information on Kapilvastu. Keeping in view of its originality, the text has been posted mostly unedited. Only rarely few words have  been changed or replaced.]