Siddhartha was born to king Shuddhodhana and Mayadevi around 566 B.C. at Lumbini (now in Nepal) and thereafter spent the first twenty-nine years of his life in Kapilavastu, before renouncing earthly pleasures in a tireless quest for salvation. While leaving the city he declared in a lion’s roar that “I shall not enter Kapilavastu till I have seen the bourne beyond life and death.”
Ananda, a beloved disciple of the Buddha, spread a couch between two shaala trees on which the Buddha laid himself on his right side and passed away in the last watch of the night. He breathed his last, with the words,
“Behold now, brethren, I exhort you, saying,
Decay is inherent in all component things!
Work out your own salvation with diligence!”
The Mallas of Kushinagara cremated his body with ceremonies befitting a universal king. His corporeal relics, from the funeral pyre were collected and divided into eight shares and distributed among Ajatashatru of Magadha, the Lichchhavis of Vaishali, the Shaakyas of Kapilavastu, the Bulis of Allakappa, the Koliyas of Ramagrama, the Mallas of Pava and a Brahmin of Vethadipa.
They built the first eight shaaririka stupas over the corporeal remains of the Buddha as suggested by himself that stupas should be erected over his mortal remains. Thus, these stupas are the earliest surviving Buddhist shrines.
The mound at Piprahwa is rich in Buddhist remains and reveals the secret in identifying it with the ancient Kapilavastu. The discovery of one inscribed casket in 1898 by W.C. Peppe refers to the relics of the Buddha and his clan, ‘Sakya’ and the inscription runs thus:
“Sukiti bhatinam sa-bhaginikanam sa-puta-dalanam iyam salila nidhane Buddhasa bhagavate sakiynam”.
It’s meaning according to Rhys Davids, “This shrine for the relics of the Buddha, the August One, is that of the Shaakyas, the brethren of the Distinguished One, in association with his sisters and with their children and their wives”.
The Kapilavastu relics
- The Kapilavastu relics are bone fragments considered sacred by Buddhists. The relics were discovered in 1898 and are from a site believed to be the ancient city of Kapilavastu.
- The relics travelled to Sri Lanka (August 2012) where they were accorded a grand reception. This is the biggest event in Sri Lanka in recent times. The only celebration that came close was that held to mark the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009.
- The relics are housed in the National Museum in Delhi. Taking into consideration their inestimable value and delicate nature, the authorities in India had decided that the relics would remain as a venerable object at the National Museum of India in New Delhi and not be taken outside India. But a special exception was made to send them to Sri Lanka, following a request by Mr. Rajapakse in June 2010.