Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

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Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:32 pm

Perhaps someone here might offer some insight or resources in helping me to explain why Kapilavastu was abandoned.

I am writing something at the moment and have three quotes from three pilgrims from three different centuries as follows.


Hyecho (704–787 CE) makes the following brief comments on the state of Kapilavastu:

《遊方記抄》卷1:「迦毘耶羅國。即佛本生城。無憂樹見在。彼城已廢。有塔無僧。亦無百姓。... 林木荒多。道路足賊。往彼禮拜者。甚難方迷。」(CBETA, T51, no. 2089, p. 976, a2-5)

The country of Kapilavastu. It is where the Buddha was originally born and the city [where he was raised]. The aśoka tree [under which the Buddha was born] is still extant. The city has been abadoned. There are stūpas, but no monks. There is also no populace. The forests are much neglected. The roads are full of bandits. Those going there to pay respects have much difficulty and lose their ways.




Xuanzang (602–664) in the previous century recorded his observations in more details as follows.
《大唐西域記》卷6:「劫比羅伐窣堵國,周四千餘里。空城十數,荒蕪已甚。王城頹圮,周量不詳。其內宮城周十四五里,壘甎而成,基跡峻固。空荒久遠,人里稀曠。無大君長,城各立主。土地良沃,稼穡時播。氣序無愆,風俗和暢。伽藍故基千有餘所,而宮城之側有一伽藍,僧徒三千餘人,習學小乘正量部教。天祠兩所,異道雜居。」(CBETA, T51, no. 2087, p. 900, c22-29)

The country of Kapilavastu is more than four-thousand li in circumference. There are tens of empty cities, truly abandoned and overgrown with weeds. The king's city is decrepit. The measurements for the circumference are unclear. Within there is the palace, fourteen or fifteen li in circumference built of layered bricks, the remains of the foundation tall and solid. They have long bee emptied and abandoned. The villages of the people are rare and scarce. There are great lords or chiefs and the cities individually elect their headmen. The land is fertile. Sowing or harvesting they are often seeding. The order of the seasons is without lapse. Their culture is gentle and kind. There are more than a thousand old foundations for temples, though on the side of the palace there is one temple with over three thousand monks who study the Hīnayāna Saṃmitīya-nikāya teachings. There are two Hindu sites and the different paths reside together.



Faxian (338-c423) has brief remarks as follows:

《高僧法顯傳》卷1:「從此東行減一由延到迦維羅衛城。城中都無王民甚丘荒。止有眾僧民戶數十家而已。」(CBETA, T51, no. 2085, p. 861, a22-24)

From here going east less than a yojana away one arrives at the city of Kapilavastu. Inside the city there is neither king nor citizens and it is quite desolate. There are only the monks and some tens of households.



Does anyone know why Kapilavastu fell into ruin? Any good reliable history resources to explain this? We know from at least one eyewitness account it was largely abandoned by the early 5th century.


Edit:

I know Virudhaka is said to have wiped out the Sakya clan, but would that explain the desolate state of the whole realm after so many centuries as well?
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Re: Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:09 pm

Incidentally, the article I wrote related to this (minus details about Kapilavastu's demise excluded for now) is here:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2012/03/ ... india.html
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Re: Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

Postby Greg » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:28 pm

Interesting question. Wasn't it reputed to have been destroyed in the Buddha's lifetime? If there is any historical basis for that, then perhaps it never really recovered.

(Sorry, just noticed you mentioned this already)
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Re: Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

Postby kirtu » Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:06 am

Huseng wrote:I know Virudhaka is said to have wiped out the Sakya clan, but would that explain the desolate state of the whole realm after so many centuries as well?


The relative lack of population and economic development in central Bavaria and eastern Baden-Wuertemberg (the area more or less bounded by Rothenburg ob der Tauber, just west of Nuernberg, Ingolstadt, Swaebisch-Gmuend) is attributed directly to the Thirty Year's War* - a 450 year period.

Then we have the example of the Maya leaving their cities at least in part because of recurring drought (and war) and never returning. Nonetheless their descendants populate the Yucatan and Guatemala so the didn't as a group go all that far.

Kirt

*However the Ansbach area had a unique dialect (in addition to the common dialect) created by the interaction between the German Jewish and non-Jewish population so some of the depopulation came from the insanity in the 30's and 40's but I don't know if the details are known correctly. Certainly the observation about the economy is regarded as correct in Germany.
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Re: Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:33 am

I received a reply from Bhante Dhammika about this:

Firstly Kapilavatthu was never a ‘great city’ It was probably never anything more than a small settlement originally built around Suddhodana’s manor house. In the proceeding centuries it was little more than a cluster of monasteries kept alive by visiting pilgrims. As Buddhism in India declined so did K’s monasteries. Perhaps this point could be kept in mind too. The Teri, where K was located, was until the late 19th century a malarial zone. Over the centuries K may have been abandoned several times and then restored, only to be abandoned again. Certainly it was overgrown by the jungle and lost well before Buddhism petered out in India in the 11th/12th centuries.

You are probably aware that there are two Kapilavatthus, one in India, the other in Nepal. Based on archaeological evidence the Indian one must be the real one. It has no buildings later than the Kushan period, i.e. 2nd/3rd centuries CE. The dating for the Nepal K is unreliable as the Nepalese government’s archaeological dept is specifically dedicated to ‘proving’ that their K is the real one. To that end they fix the ‘evidence’. Tourist $ trump archaeological evidence.
I hope this helps
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Re: Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

Postby Greg » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:15 pm

Huseng wrote:I received a reply from Bhante Dhammika about this:

Firstly Kapilavatthu was never a ‘great city’ It was probably never anything more than a small settlement originally built around Suddhodana’s manor house. In the proceeding centuries it was little more than a cluster of monasteries kept alive by visiting pilgrims. As Buddhism in India declined so did K’s monasteries. Perhaps this point could be kept in mind too. The Teri, where K was located, was until the late 19th century a malarial zone. Over the centuries K may have been abandoned several times and then restored, only to be abandoned again. Certainly it was overgrown by the jungle and lost well before Buddhism petered out in India in the 11th/12th centuries.

You are probably aware that there are two Kapilavatthus, one in India, the other in Nepal. Based on archaeological evidence the Indian one must be the real one. It has no buildings later than the Kushan period, i.e. 2nd/3rd centuries CE. The dating for the Nepal K is unreliable as the Nepalese government’s archaeological dept is specifically dedicated to ‘proving’ that their K is the real one. To that end they fix the ‘evidence’. Tourist $ trump archaeological evidence.
I hope this helps
Bhante Dhammika


Sounds reasonable. Thanks for the update.
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Re: Why was Kapilavastu abandoned?

Postby potter » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:15 am

《大唐西域記》卷6:「劫比羅伐窣堵國,周四千餘里。空城十數,荒蕪已甚。王城頹圮,周量不詳。其內宮城周十四五里,壘甎而成,基跡峻固。空荒久遠,人里稀曠。無大君長,城各立主。土地良沃,稼穡時播。氣序無愆,風俗和暢。伽藍故基千有餘所,而宮城之側有一伽藍,僧徒三千餘人,習學小乘正量部教。天祠兩所,異道雜居。」(CBETA, T51, no. 2087, p. 900, c22-29)know about this ,but the other two not know too much ,sorry for can't give the suggestion in the momement :rules:
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