The ruins of TILAURAKOT, 24km west of Lumbini, are believed to be the remains of ancient Kapilvastu, seat of the ancient Shakya kingdom and the childhood home of Prince Siddhartha Gautama. Tilaurakot gets far fewer visitors than Lumbini, yet its ruins are at least as interesting, and its history arguably even more so. Shaded by mango, kusum and karma trees, they have a serenity that Lumbini has begun to lose.

The remains include a couple of stupa bases, thick fortress walls and four gates. Looking out across the ruins from the eastern gate could hardly be a better opportunity for a moment’s meditation, as it’s said to be from here that the Buddha walked out on nearly thirty years of princely life to begin his search for enlightenment. It’s doubtful this is literally the ruins of the palace of King Suddhodana, the Buddha’s father, for the style of bricks used isn’t thought to have been developed until the third century BC, but it may well have been built on top of it; assuming the earlier structure was made of wood, no trace would remain. Indian archeologists argue that Piprahwa, just south of the border, is the true site, but excavations at Tilaurakot in 2000 uncovered potsherds and terracotta beads contemporaneous with Buddha’s lifetime, helping to corroborate the Nepali claim. A new Anglo-Nepali excavation team started work in 2011, and should help to further clarify matters.

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