Kapilvastu in India is across the border from Lumbini in Nepal. Lord Buddha born as Siddhartha Gautama was born to Shuddhodhana the chief of Shakya clan who ruled in that area. The young prince spent his early years in Kapilvastu in his father’s palace. Historians are locked in a debate between Kapilvastu in India and Tilaurakot in Nepal as the actual palace of Shuddhodhana the chief of Sakya Clan. However, Kapilvastu in India has an edge with the findings from recent excavations.
We ended up staying overnight in Kapilvastu since it is close to the Indo-Nepal border and travelling to Lumbini would be easy. The beautiful Royal Retreat where we stayed is a small pool of calming luxury in the middle of nowhere. There is no much to see and do in Kapilvastu and half a day is more than enough and the rest of the time is well spent in the gardens of Royal Retreat connecting with nature.
At the time of his birth it was predicted that the young prince would be a great king or a enlightened Buddha. His distraught father kept the young prince confined in a sanitized environment showering him with lavish luxury lest the hardships of life steer his mind towards spirituality. He was married off to his close relative Yashodhara at a young age. This attempt was short lived since the prince requested his father to allow him to meet his subjects outside the palace. His father agreed,ensuring that the streets were cleared of the old, sick and the down trodden. However, destiny unfolds itself in its own way and the young prince, experienced the 4 great sights on the streets which prompted him to leave home with his 5 friends in search of truth, the day his son Rahula was born. He returned home after 12 years as the enlightened Buddha after his enlightenment in Bodhgaya and his first speech in Sarnath.
Piprahwa and Ganwaria are two adjacent compounds of importance in Kapilvastu. The former representing the seat of religious activity, while the latter comprised the ruins of the Shudhodhana’s palace and other living quarters. We walked around the beautiful lotus pond in the gardens of Kapilvastu, soaking in the belief that we are indeed on the same soil that Buddha walked on several centuries ago. The beauty of the lotus flower is the way it unfolds, much like life, presenting experiences of different hues over time and as they chant in Vajrayana Buddhism “Om Mani Padme Hum” which essentially means, hail the pearl in the lotus lodged in our physical body.
We walked around the palace ruins, exploring the brick and stone structures, reconstructing bits of history of life in the palace then, wondering how little Buddha would have spent his early years, allowing imagination to take over all forms of rationality. Monks were chanting oblivious of the cacophony around and construction workers went about their renovation job mildly distracted by a bunch of tourists exploring bricks and mud. A short distance away we came across a well and we were told it is centuries old and Lord Buddha and his kin used the waters from this well. Whatever it may be, a splash of cold water definitely cooled our parched skin. History to me is “Hi Story” and if it generates employment in remote corners, and allows people to share a laugh so be it. After all, Love, Laugh, Learn and Let Go is the essence of life!