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A city near the Himavā, capital of the Sākyā (q.v.) It was founded by the sons of Okkāka, on the site of the hermitage of the sage Kapila.¹ Near the city was the forest grove of Lumbinī (q.v.) where the Bodhisatta was born, and which became one of the four places of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Close to Kapilavatthu flowed the river Rohiṇī, which formed the boundary between the kingdoms of the Sākyā and the Koliyā.² In the sixth century B.C. Kapilavatthu was the centre of a republic, at the head of which was Suddhodana. The administration and judicial business of the city and all other matters of importance were discussed and decided in the SanthāgārasālāIt was here that Viḍūḍabha was received by the Sākyā.⁴ The walls of the city were eighteen cubits high.⁵ From Kapilavatthu to the river Anomā, along the road taken by Gotama, when he left his home, was a distance of thirty leagues.⁶ The city was sixty leagues from Rājagaha, and the Buddha took two months covering this distance when he visited his ancestral home, in the first year after his Enlightenment. On this journey the Buddha was accompanied by twenty thousand monks, and Kāludāyī went on ahead as harbinger. The Buddha and his company lived in the Nigrodhārāma near the city and, in the midst of his kinsmen, as he did at the foot of the Gandamba, the Buddha performed the Twin Miracle (Yamaka Pāṭihāriya) to convince them of his powers.⁷

On this occasion he taught the Vessantara Jātaka. The next day the Buddha went begging in the city to the great horror of his father, who, on being explained that such was the custom of all Buddhas, became a Stream-winner (sotāpanna) and invited the Buddha and his monks to the palace. After the meal the Buddha taught the women of the palace who, with the exception of Rāhulamātā, had all come to hear him. At the end of the discourse, Suddhodana became a Once-returner (sakadāgāmī) and Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī a Stream-winner (sotāpanna). The Buddha visited Rāhulamātā in her dwelling and taught her the Candakinnara Jātaka. The next day Nanda was ordained, and seven days later Rāhula.⁸ As a result of the latter’s ordination, a rule was passed by the Buddha, at Suddhodana’s request, that no one should be ordained without the sanction of his parents, if they were alive. On the eighth day was taught the Mahādhammapāla Jātaka, and the king became a Non-returner (anāgāmī). The Buddha returned soon after to Rājagaha, stopping on the way at Anupiya, where the conversions of Ānanda, Devadatta, Bhagu, Anuruddha, and Kimbila took place.

During the visit to Kapilavatthu, eighty thousand Sākyā from eighty thousand families had joined the Buddhist Order.⁹ According to the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary,¹⁰ it was during this visit that, at the request of Sāriputta, the Buddha taught the Buddhavaṃsa. It is not possible to ascertain how many visits in all were paid by the Buddha to his native city, but it may be gathered from various references that he went there several times; two visits, in addition to the first already mentioned, were considered particularly memorable. On one of these he arrived in Kapilavatthu to prevent the Sākyā and the Koliyā, both his kinsmen, from fighting each other over the question of their sharing the water of the Rohiṇī; he appeared before them as they were preparing to slay each other, and convinced them of the futility of their wrath. On this occasion were taught the following Jātaka stories: the Phandana, the Duddubha, the Laṭukika, the Rukkhadhamma, and the Vaṭṭaka — also the Attadaṇḍa Sutta.¹¹ On this occasion he seems to have resided, not at the Nigrodhārāma, but in the Mahāvana.

The second visit of note was that paid by the Buddha when Viḍūḍabha (q.v), chagrined by the insult of the Sākyā, invaded Kapilavatthu in order to take his revenge. Three times Viḍūḍabha came with his forces, and three times he found the Buddha seated on the outskirts of Kapilavatthu, under a tree which gave him scarcely any shade; nearby was a shady banyan-tree, in Viḍūḍabha’s realm; on being invited by Viḍūḍabha to partake of its shade, the Buddha replied, “Let be, O king; the shade of my kindred keeps me cool.” Thus three times Viḍūḍabha had to retire, his purpose unaccomplished; but the fourth time the Buddha, seeing the fate of the Sākyā, did not interfere.¹²

The Buddha certainly paid other visits besides these to Kapilavatthu. On one such visit he taught the Kaṇha Jātaka.¹³ Various Sākyā went to see him both at the Nigrodhārāma and at the Mahāvana, among them being Mahānāma,¹⁴ Nandiya,¹⁵ Vappa,¹⁶ and perhaps Saraṇāni.¹⁷

During one visit the Buddha was entrusted with the consecration of a new mote-hall, built by the Sākyā; he taught far into the night in the new building, and, when weary, asked Mahā-Moggallāna to carry on while he slept. We are told that the Sākyā decorated the town with lights for a league around, and stopped all noise while the Buddha was in the mote-hall.¹⁸ On this occasion the Sekha Sutta was taught.¹⁹

The books record a visit paid by the Brahmā Sahampati to the Buddha in the Mahāvana at Kapilavatthu.²⁰ The Buddha, worried by the noisy behaviour of some monks who had recently been admitted into the Order, was wondering how he could impress on them the nature of their calling. Sahampati visited him and, being thus encouraged, the Buddha returned to Nigrodhārāma and there performed a miracle before the monks; seeing them impressed, he talked to them on the holy life.²¹

A curious incident is related in connection with a visit paid by the Buddha to Kapilavatthu, when he went there after his rounds among the Kosalans. Mahānāma was asked to find a place of lodging for the night; he searched all through the town without success, and at length the Buddha was compelled to spend the night in the hermitage of Bharaṇḍu the Kālāma.²² On another occasion we hear of the Buddha convalescing at Kapilavatthu after an illness.²³

Not all the Sākyā of Kapilavatthu believed in their kinsman’s great powers, even after the Buddha’s performance of various miracles. We find, for instance, Daṇḍapāṇī meeting the Buddha in the Mahāvana and, leaning on his staff, questioning him as to his tenets and his gospel. We are told that in answer to the Buddha’s explanations, Daṇḍapāṇī shook his head, waggled his tongue, and went away, still leaning on his staff, his brow puckered into three wrinkles.²⁴

Others were more convinced and patronised the Order — e.g., Kālakhemaka and Ghaṭāya, who built cells for monks in the Nigrodhārāma.²⁵

It is said that the Buddha ordained ten thousand householders of Kapilavatthu with the “ehi-bhikkhu-pabbajā.”²⁶

Mahānāma (q.v.) was the Buddha’s most frequent visitor; to him was taught the Cūḷadukkhakkhandha Sutta.²⁷

The Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅga Sutta was taught as the result of a visit to the Buddha by Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī. Apart from those already mentioned, another Sakyan lady lived in Kapilavatthu, Kāḷigodhā by name, and she was the only kinsman, with the exception of the Buddha’s father and wife, to be specially visited by the Buddha.²⁸

The inhabitants of Kapilavatthu are called Kapilavatthavā.²⁹

From Kapilavatthu lay a direct road to Vesālī,³⁰ and through Kapilavatthu passed the road taken by Bāvarī’s disciples from Aḷaka to Sāvatthi.³¹

From the Mahāvana, outside Kapilavatthu, the forest extended up to the Himavā, and on the other side of the city it reached as far as the sea.³²

It is significant that, in spite of the accounts given of the greatness of Kapilavatthu, it was not mentioned by Ānanda among the great cities, in one of which, in his opinion, the Buddha could more fittingly have died than in Kusinārā.³³ After the Buddha’s death, a portion of the relics was claimed by the Sākyā of Kapilavatthu, and a shrine to hold them was erected in the city.³⁴ Here was deposited the rug (paccattharaṇa) used by the Buddha.³⁵

In the northern books the city was called Kapilavastu, Kapilapura, and Kapilāvhayapura.³⁶ According to the Dulva,³⁷ the city was on the banks of the Bhagīrathī.

The identification of Kapilavatthu is not yet beyond the realm of conjecture. Hiouen Thsang ³⁸ visited the city and found it like a wilderness. The Asoka inscriptions of the Lumbinī pillar and the Niglīva pillar are helpful in determining the site. Some identify the modern village of Piprāwā — famous for the vases found there — with Kapilavatthu.³⁹ Others, including Rhys Davids, say there were two cities, one ancient and the other modern, founded after Viḍūḍabha's conquest, and the ancient one they call Tilaura Kot. However, the theory of two Kapilavatthu is rejected by some scholars.⁴⁰


¹ See Kapila (3) (J.i.15, 49, 50, 54, 64, etc; see also Divy 548, and Buddhacarita I.v.2).

² DhA.iii.254. ³ D.i.91; J.iv.145. J.iv.146 f.

J.i.63; according to Mtu.ii.75 it had seven walls.


J.i.87 ff; this journey to Kapilavatthu was one of the scenes depicted in the relic-chamber of the Mahā-Thūpa, Mhv.xxx.81.

Also Vin.i.82. Vin.ii.180; DhA.i.112; iv.124, etc. ¹⁰ BuA.4; Bu. p.5 f.

¹¹ Delighted by the intervention of the Buddha, the two tribes each gave him two hundred and fifty youths to enter his Order and, with these, he went on his alms rounds alternately to Kapilavatthu and to the capital of the Koliyā J.v.412 ff; the Sammodamāna Jātaka also seems to have been taught in reference to this quarrel, J.i.208.

¹² J.iv.152. ¹³ J.iv.6 ff.

¹⁴ S.v.369 f; A.iii.284 f; iv.220 f; v.320 f. ¹⁵ S.v.403 f; 397 f; A.v.334 f.

¹⁶ A.ii.196; M.i.91. ¹⁷ S.v.372. ¹⁸ MA.ii.575. ¹⁹ M.i.353 ff.

²⁰ This appears, from the context, to have been quite close to the Nigrodhārāma.

²¹ S.iii.91 f; Ud.25. ²² A.i.276 f. ²³ A.i.219.

²⁴ M.i.108 f; this was the occasion for the teaching of the Madhupiṇḍika Sutta.

²⁵ M.iii.109. As a result of noticing these cells, the Buddha taught the Mahāsuññatā Sutta.

²⁶ Sp.i.241. ²⁷ M.i.91 f. ²⁸ S.v.396. ²⁹ E.g., S.iv.182. ³⁰ Vin.ii.253.

³¹ Sn.p.194. ³² MA.i.449, UdA.184; Sp.ii.393. ³³ D.ii.146.

³⁴ D.ii.167; Bu.xxviii.2. ³⁵ Bu.xxviii.8.

³⁶ E.g. Lal. p.243, 28; The Buddha-Carita, I.v.2 calls it Kapilasyavastu.

³⁷ Rockhill, p.11. ³⁸ Beal ii.,p.13 f.

³⁹ E.g., Fleet, J.R.A.S.1906, p.180; CAGI.711 f. J.R.A.S.1906, pp.453, 563.

⁴⁰ See also the article by Mukherji on Kapilavastu in ERE

Finding Footnote References

Mahāsuññata Sutta: Majjhimanikāya, M.iii.109f

References in the notes are to the Pāḷi texts of the PTS. In the translations, these are usually printed in the headers near the spine, or in square brackets in the body of the text, thus iii.109 in the spine, or [109] and [110] in the text. References to the Jātaka Commentary are given as J, not JA, which would normally be used, as that is reserved for the Journal Asiatic.