October 13, 2012


[The authors have accepted Kapileswar stone inscription as genuine and not fake. Its fake nature has been accepted by a number of  historians like Rama Prasad Chand, S.N.Mitra, D.C.Sircar, K.C.Panigrahi, N.K.Sahu and others. The three authors on the other hand claim that this Kapileswar stone inscription contains additional words which signify its content. They have two points for our consideration;]

By Kailash Chandra Dash 
On 24th August 2012 in New Indian Express an interesting news appeared on the homeland of Buddha in Odisha. The report has a caption which may be read as-“Which is Buddha`s Birth-place? The Debate continues”. According to the report-Claims that Gautam Buddha was born in Odisha and not in Lumbini of Nepal as has been believed so far, seems to be gaining steam with each passing day. A section of the Buddhist scholars and researchers yet again placed facts on the claim that Kapileswar, a place near Bhubaneswar, was the actual birth-place of Buddha. These things have been brought out in the second edition of the book titled “Gautam Buddha in History and Archaeology” authored by Ajit Kumar Tripathy, P.C.Tripathy and C.B.Patel. Releasing the book at a simple ceremony in Utkal University, the Chairman of Indian National Committee of the International Council of Museums, the apex body of Museums worldwide, said it is time Odisha got its due as one of the most prominent centres of Buddhism in the world. Although for the world it might be a hypothesis that Buddha was born in Odisha I have accpeted this as a theory. He added that he would place the book for debate amid Buddhist scholars at the International Meet on Culture Historians scheduled to be held in China next month.  As I read this column I as a student of History of Odisha became curious about the book and got it purchased to find information on the birthplace of Buddha. Unfortunately it is only a simplification  of the views of Chakradhar Mahapatra whose book entitled The Real Birth-Place of Gautam Buddha had appeared in 1977. Yet  the book of the three authors need a review which I am doing it now.

The debate on the homeland of Buddha in India and Nepal is still lively and I have humble contribution in this respect which has been placed in The Himalayan Voice1 The most important points emphasised by me in the papers are the location of Lumbini edict, Nigliva edict being in Nepal Tarai which can not be refuted, the seals found from Piprahwa excavation containing the term Maha Kapilavastu Bhikhu Samgha indicating the location of Kapilavastu near Piprahwa and most likely in Tilaurkot , the statement of Buddha Charita of Aswaghosh on the homeland of Buddha, the existence of the Sakya republic near the Kosalan kingdom at the foot of the Himalayas, the report of the Chinese pilgrims-Faxian and Xuanzang-on the location of Kapilavastu and the fake nature of the Kapileswar inscription. These points sufficiently justify that Buddha was not born in Kapileswar of Bhubaneswar and also in Piprahwa zone in India. I have accepted the views of Charles Allen in this respect who stated in the last part of his analysis that Tilaurkot represents the old ruins of Kapilavastu2. The three authors without studying the contrary arguments presented by the recent scholars on this context continue to accept the homeland of Buddha in Odisha.

Their recent study can be reviewed point by point so that the myth of the homaland of Buddha in Odisha can be exploded;

1.      In the introduction of the work they state-It would of interest to know that till the nineties of the 19th century no one knew that Lumbini or Kapilavastu were at all geographical places and if at all they existed where they actually were. The discoveries at Kapileswar and Rummindei  have not acquired the status of historical authenticity so far as to avoid further investigation and research. Contesting this remark we may state the authors are entirely ignorant of Buddha Charita of Aswaghosh and the facts on Kapilavastu in the Chinese accounts and the Buddhist accounts. The discoveries at Rummindei have acquired the status of authenticity from the last phase of the 19th century despite all scandals and controversies. The writers have not carefully read the famous text of Charles Allen in this respect.

2.      They again state-Suddhodana, the father of Buddhadeva was as per Buddhist sources earlier known as the king of the Lumbini region of which Kapilavastu was the capital.The Sakya dynasty was actually never a great dynasty and Suddhodana was the son of a small estate owner or zamindar. It is quite probable that Suddhodana was a proprietor of a small estate in the vast Kalinga empire of Brahmadatta. This remark is absolutely a mistaken interpretation of the sources. The Sakyas belonged to a republic which is ascertained by the reliable sources. The Sakya republic was independent and it came under the Kosalan king subsequently and so there is no place for Kalinga in this respect. Lumbini has been described as a forest zone a garden area where Gautam was born and it was a village during the time of Ashoka. Lumbini was a part of the Sakya republican zone with capital city Kapilavastu. Hence this is a mistaken viewpoint. 
3.    They again state-It is only in the 20th century that new place names of Lumbini  and Kapilavastu have been created in Nepal and brought to some of the maps. Contrary to this remark we can state that historians claim the ruins of Kapilavastu in Tilaurkot and there is at present no place called Kapilavastu in Nepal. On the other hand the archeological survey after excavation found the name Kapilavastu Bhikkhu Samgha in Devaputra Vihar(in Piprawa zone). This indicates Kapilavastu existed in nearby zone of Piprahwa. We also do not find Kapilavastu in Bhubaneswar-the Kapileswar cannot be connected with Kapilavastu because it was a medieval Saiva temple zone. Also Lembai can not be identical with Lumbini because places like Sirai and Golabai exist in the nearby zones of Lembai which suggest that Lembai is not a corrupt form of  Lumbini. In this respect Lumbini has been explained as forest or Kanana zone in Buddha Charita, whereas in Nepali language it has also meaning3.

4.      The authors of the book Gautam Buddha in History and Archaeology  have not read the entire focus of Charles Allen-The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer,. An Archaeological Scandal which contains an interesting account of the excavation reports of colonial and post-colonial phase in Tilaurkot and Piprahwa. They quoted some passages at random and could not understand the inner voice of the writer. Allen in his study was able to focus the complicated story of rivalry of the colonial archaeologists in locating the sacred seat Kapilavastu. Allen nowhere stated that Kapilavastu was not located in Nepal tarai zone. In this respect the author who had knowledge on Odisha said nothing on the Kapileswar inscription and the debate on the homeland of Buddha in Bhubaneswar which was well known since 1928. This is more clear in his statement-The best hypothesis we are ever likely to arrive on the basis of what we know at present at  is that the Kapilavastu in which the prince Siddhartha grew to manhood was a settlement enclosed with a walled palisade beside the modern River Banganga pretty much wherethe ruins of Tilaurakot are to-day. The leaders of Sakya and Koliya tribes lived in substantial longhouses of thatch and unplanned timber that fully exploited the natural resources available. The brick walls we see at Tilaurakot to-day are chiefly expressions of the piety of the Mauryas, Sunga and Kushan rulers who rebuilt Kapilavastu conscious of the Buddhist oral history hanging over them. (p.262-263, 2010-edition) Relying on the term scandal the three authors seem to be tempted to locate Kapilavastu in Kapileswar of Bhubaneswar. It has to be remembered that after Dr. Fuhrer P.C. Mukherji had excavated the site at Tilaurakot and found Kapilavastu. The three authors should read the entire book of Allen and found the report of P.C.Mukherji in pages-178 to 200. These pages confirm that Kapilavastu represents the ancient ruins of Tilaurkot. Both Tilaurakot and Piprahwa zones contain Buddhist heritage. Piprahwa is just half a mile south of the Nepal border, 10 miles south-west of Lumbini and its Ashokan pillar, 17 miles south of Nigliva Sagar Ashokan pillar, 12 miles south-est of Gotihawa Ashokan pillar and 15 miles south-east of of Tilaurakot, the site of ancient Kapilavastu. On the basis of Piprahwa relinquary vase inscription and the seals containing the legend of Mahakapilavastu Bhikkhu Sangha in the Piprahwa excavation it is now clear that Kapialvastu existed somewhere near Tilaurakot. Ashokan edicts in this zone can be taken additional positive evidence for locating Kapilavastu in Nepal Tarai.

5.      The authors have accepted Kapileswar stone inscription as genuine and not fake. Its fake nature has been accepted by a number of  historians like Rama Prasad Chand, S.N.Mitra, D.C.Sircar, K.C.Panigrahi, N.K.Sahu and others. The three authors on the other hand claim that this Kapileswar stone inscription contains additional words whioch signify its content. They have two points for our consideration;

1.      The fact that a few other Ashokan edicts like Eragudi and Brahmagiri which are known to be original were written by scribes of Kharostri script makes it clear that Kapileswar inscription was one such. The forger of whatever century he might have belonged to , could have no special interest in finding out a kharostri scribe to put his signature Chundrayah. Brahmi script found in Kalinga is southern in nature. Like the Kapileswar inscription of Pali language written in Brahmi script with the name of the scribe in Kharostri Ashoka`s inscriptions at Eragudi and Brahmagiri have the same pattern. Even the inscription at Siddhapura, Jatinga Rameswar have got the name of the scribe in Kharostri at the end. Chundraya was most probably a very senior revenue officer of Ashokan empire.

2.      The Kapileswar inscription contains reference to the date on which Buddha breathed his last. The Tarai inscription does not contain any such reference. This era 240 coincides with the date calculated by modern historians. Ashoka reigned for 37 years from 269 B.C. or 268 B.C. He installed the birth plate of Buddha in a pillar in 249-248 B.C.  and 240 Buddha ere is referred to in it. Buddha`s death was then in the year 488 B.C. If it is taken that Kapileswar inscription was copied from Tarai as alleged by some after the 1928 discovery, then where did the writer get the figure 240? On the other hand it could well be taken that the writer of Tarai did not have access to the sixth line of the inscription whioch contained the year 240 and left it only at the 1/8 part of land revenue.

The three authors being delighted by the two points stated-The mention of the era and the name of the scribe add special significance to the inscription of Kapileswar. A scribe or copy writer of 20th century could not have added these to the Tarai inscription. As a matter of fact these additions in Kapileswar inscription warrant clearly its fake nature. Chakradhar Mahapatra and the three authors have accepted this interpretation of the Kapileswar inscription which is-As Lord Buddha was born here , he exempted the Lumbini village from the payment of tax. He did it in the ila(worshipful) 240 abda(Buddhist era). Prior to it 1/8th taxation was in vogue. Chundraya(the script writer)This was also the explanation of Pandit Banambar Acharya, a famous Sanskrit scholar of Odisha5. This aspect thus needs a close study in this context.
This interpretation of the inscription found from Kapileswar  from the time of its discovery is not at all correct as the historians who had dealt with this problem from 1898 were not clear in the meaning of the terms in Paderia(Lumbini) edict. Recently Harry Falk in his interesting paper entitled The Fate of Ashoka`s Donations at Lumbini has suggested a new and revised reading of the Ashokan (Lumbini)  edict6. He has given emphasis on two points-vigadabhi and athabhagiya. On the first point he suggested that king Ashoka who had been anointed for twenty years came to the birthplace of Buddha at Lumbini where he had a stone fencing constructed and a stone pillar erected. On the second point he suggested that the term athabhagiya has not been correctly interpreted by the historians. The meaning given by Buhler in 1898 of this term which is recipient of royal bounty is not correct. As suggested by Harry Falk the term in Sanskrit would be ashtabhagika which means  a share of eight parts. This term athabhaga as suggested by Falk also appears in Kanganhalli inscription near Sannati in Karnataka which states-ramogamilo athabhagathunho upai which means the stupa of Ramagrama containing one eighth part. It thus refers to the division of the ashes of Buddha into eight parts as it is found mentioned in Dighanikaya. Falk in his interesting study stated one part of the ashes each went to Rajagriha, Vaisali, Kapilavastu, Allakappa, Ramagrama, Vethadipa, Pava and Kusinagar where they reached divided into eight equal parts. Here Lumbini, being the birthplace of the Buddha, is missing from the list. The text Dighanikaya stated that the relics should be ashtabhaga so that the stupas containing them can be constructed in eight directions. The eight parts are thus linked to eight stupas in eight directions and Ramagrama is not the least among them. As stated by Falk before Ashoka came to Lumbini, the real birth-place of Buddha, the site had not yet received a share of the Buddha`s relics and that he provided Lumbini with a share of it for the first time. Thus before Ashoka`s visit at the site, no stupa hallowed the place in memory of the birth of the Sakyamuni. Thus Ashoka must have changed Lumbini from an insignificant place in the woods to a possible centre of pilgrimage. The translation of the edict is thus in the following as stated by Falk- 

When king Priyadarsin, dear to the gods, had been anointed for twenty years, he came in person and paid reverence. Being aware that the Buddha was born here he had stone fencing constructed on the site of the birth and a stone pillar erected. Being aware that the Lord was born here he made the village tax free and provided it with a share in the eight parts-the ashes of the Buddha had originally been divided7.

That is why in the edict there is a mention of cha near Athabhagiye and before Athabhagiye there is Ubalika-kate. Both Ubalika-kate and Athabhagiye are thus different terms. If we accept 1/8th part of tax as Athabhagiya the term Ubalika-kate would be irrelevant and so both the terms-Ubalika-kate and Athabhagiya denote two different contexts and not related to one another8.
In the Kapileswar inscription the use of additional letters as symbol of an era definitely suggests its fake nature. Probably the composer of the inscription could not know the meaning of   Athabhagiya and he accepted it as 1/8th of tax. In fact there is no need of an era called Buddhist era in this inscription as Ashoka`s regnal year is  present. We find the statement of the era(Vyuthene 256) in the Siddhapura grant of Ashoka where the regnal year is absent9. The composer of Kapileswar inscription had probably gone through the Siddhapura edicts of Ashoka as published in Epigraphia Indica(Vol.III) where we find the term Vyuthena256. In fact this numerical symbol was found to be stated in many minor Rock edicts and there the regnal year of Ashoka is absent10. The term Vyuthena has been interpreted in two different ways11;

1.      The word Vyutha may refer to Gautam Buddha and the figure to the number of years elapsed since the Nirvana.

2.      Vyutha-Vivutha may be derived from vivas and Buhler who accepted the first meaning also took it as representative of Vyustha. The verb vivas occurs indeed not rarely in the sense of ‘to elapse’ or ‘to pass away’. For example in Grihasutra there is-Jananad dasaratre vyushte which Oldenberg correctly interpreted-when ten nights have elapsed after the child`s birth, In Panchatantra it has also been used in this sense-Rajani Vyushta.

Interestingly as the editor of Siddhapura grant in Epigraphia Indica(Vol.III) which was published in 1897 accepted the term in the sense of an era-Buddhist era, the composer of Kapileswar inscription used it without considering the second implication of the term. As a matter of fact many minor edicts of Ashoka-like Brahmagiri, Erragudi, Gujjara, Nittur, Panguria, Rajula Mandagiri and Rupnath have accepted this term.The composer of the Kapileswar inscription placed Ila Vyuste 240 before Athabhagiyacha and after ubalika kate. This addition is unnecessary and does not make any clear meaning. The term Athabhagiyacha means “also or and athabhagiya”. If we use Ila Vyuste 240 after the term ubalika kate, the meaning will be very clear. The composer who also read this Siddhapura grant could not understand the meaning of Athabhagiyecha and mistook it as 1/8th of a tax(the interpretation of 1/8th of a tax being known from 1897 to 1927 and even thereafter D.C.Sircar also used this in his description of Lumbini grant). Thus with the new meaning of Athabhagiyecha as stated by Harry Falk we can easily state that this Kapileswar inscription is a fake document. The use of the name of the scribe in Kharoshthi in the Kapileswar inscription which is another addition( not found in Rummindei edict ) is also due to the use by the composer of Kapileswar grant  of Siddhapura minor edict in the extreme south(in the published version as found in Epigraphia Indica, Vol.III) where we find the name of a scribe in Kharoshthi. This is another point which justifies its fake nature.

6.      The outright rejection of the three authors of the Buddhist traditions on the origin of Sakyas, Kolas, Kapilavastu and the destruction of the Sakya clan by the Kosalan king is absolutely baseless and they are not supported by authentic evidence. The statement that Kolavati, the queen of Yayati II of Soamvamsi family(11thcentury A.D.) belonging to Koliyas has no authentic evidence and seems to be fabricated by them only . The authors have probably no knowledge of the time of Koliyas and that of the Somavamsi queen Kolavati and without supporting document their argument is absolutely absurd. Equally fantastic and imagainative is their argument on the identity of Kanakamana Buddha of Nigliva with Konarkadeva. Last but not the least they do not appreciate the report of Faxian and Xuanzang  on the location of Kapilavastu which means their study is based on careless theorizing and unwarranted speculation.

1.      Rana, B.K.,”Nepal`s Lumbini where the Buddha was born”, The Himalayan Voice, February 14, 2010; Dash, Kailash Chandra, “Was Kapileswar, the Birth-place of Gautam Buddha?”, The Himalayan Voice, 12 December, 2011

2.      Allen Charles, The Buddha and Dr Fuhrer,An Archaeological Scandal, 2010, Penguin Books.

3.      Dash, Kailash Chandra, “Kapilavastu Revisited”, The Himalayan Voice,  25th August,  2012. Also See the focus of B.K.Rana in The Himalayan Voice, February 14, 2010.

4.  Mahapatra Chakradhar, The Real Birth Place of Buddha, Granth Mandir, Cuttack, 1977, p.8-31; Tripathy, A.K., Tripathy, P.C. and Patel, C.B., Gautam Buddha in History and Archaeology, lark Books, Bhubaneswar, 2012.

5.    Mahapatra Chakradhar, 1977, p.17. D.C.Sircar earlier has also remarked on this term-Ashoka exempted the village from the payment of bali(land tax payable in cash) and made it Ashtabhagika, i.e., entitled to pay the royal share of the produce at the rate of 1/8 instead of the normal rate which was much higher. See Sircar, D.C., Indian Epigraphy, Motilal, Delhi, p.436-438. This view of D.C. Sircar is also not correct as Ashtabhagika was not the name of a tax.

6.   Falk, Harry, “The Fate of Ashoka`s Donations at Lumbini”, Reimagining Ashoka, Memory and History, eds. Patrick Olivelli, Janice Leoshko and Himanshu Prabha Ray, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012, p.204-216.
7.      Falk, p.215-216.

8.      Dash, Kailash Chandra, “The lumbini Pilgrimage Record in Two Inscriptions Revisited”, The Himalayan Voice,6th  March 2012.
9.      Buhler, G., “The Siddhapura Edicts of Ashoka”, Epigraphia Indica, Vol.III, p.134-142. This volume was published in 1897.
10.  Talim, Meena, Edicts of King Ashoka, A New Vision, Aryan Books International, New Delhi, 2010, p.151-226.
11.  Buhler, EI, Vol.III, p.142.  

@ Retired Reader in History 13.  B.J.B.Nagar, Bhubaneswar-14,Odisha  Dash.kailashchandra@rediffmail.com