Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Searching for the Buddha's maternal home

Ankit Adhikari (The Kathmandu Post); edited by Wisdom Quarterly (

Nepal's Department of Archaeology (DoA) and Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) are trying to ascertain whether Lumbini-based town of Devdaha (map) was the maternal home of the historical Buddha Gautama.
Although there are a number of folklores and old travelogues pontificating that Devdaha was the place where Buddha himself and his father King Sudhdhodhan got married, no inscriptions or coins have ever been found in the area to establish this claim.

Maya Devi's conception dream of a white elephant entering her side

The matter has been shrouded in mystery since the 5th century after an archaeologist named Fasyan first mentioned in his travelogue that the maternal kingdom of Buddha and Sudhdhodan was the Kwaliyar state (now called Devdaha).

According to Prakash Darnal, chief of National Archives under the DoA, archaeologists and travellers including Fasyan (5th century), Wehn Sang (7th century), and Hoey (1962) have mentioned this in their writings.

As cross-cousin marriage was popular then [among royals, kshatriya-caste nobles, worried about keeping their bloodlines pure just like European nobility], some archaeologists have hinted that the Buddha’s mother Mayadevi and his cousin/wife Yasodhara came from the same family in Kwaliyar.

According to ancient scriptures, Kwaliyar was a neighboring state of Kapilavastu between Lumbini’s Rohini river in the east and Narayani river in the west -- an area that matches the location of present-day Devdaha.

In their efforts to find the remains of the palace of the Buddha’s in-laws and maternal relatives, DoA and LDT initiated an excavation on March 14, 2010.

However, as the excavation started late and just ahead of the monsoon season, the process was halted on April 14. It was postponed for the next year. The winter season is considered the best time to carry out excavations. It resumed on October 13, 2011.

The "unverified ruins" of old bricks and foundations can be found in four locations in Devdaha: Kanyamai, Bairimai, Bhawanipur, and Khayar Danda. They are all worshipped as religious shrines by Buddhists nowadays.

According to Himal Upreti, an archaeologist with the Lumbini Trust who is involved in the ongoing excavation, all four locations have an equal chance of turning out to be the palace of the Buddha’s maternal uncles.

Out of the four locations, excavations are being carried out only in Kanyamai. The DoA and LDT will excavate the three other sites after completing Kanyamai excavations this year.

"We have unveiled some horizontally erected wall structures and old bricks so far," said Upreti, adding that the evidence gathered so far is not enough to establish that Kanyamai was where the Kwaliyar palace was located.

Darnal, who is also involved in the excavation from DoA’s side, said the exact palace of the Buddha’s maternal uncles can be found with evidence only after the successful excavation of all four locations.

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