The Kpilavastu Controversy


About two centuries after the death or Mahaparinirvana of Goutama Buddha in 5th century BCE, Emperor Asoka of Medieval India, went on a pilgrimage to visit all the places connected with the life of Goutama Buddha. One of the places that he visited during his pilgrimage was the village of 'Lumbini' located in the 'Terai' region of Nepal and which was believed to be the birth place of Buddha. To mark his visit there, Emperor Asoka put up a sandstone pillar with an inscription. Famous Indian historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar has translated this inscription as follows:

Twenty years after his coronation, King Priyadasi, the beloved of god, visited Lumbini in person and offered worship there because the Buddha, the sage of the Sakyas, was born there. He built a stonewall around the place and erected the stone pillar to commemorate his visit. Because Lord Buddha was born there, he made the village of Lumbini free from taxes and subject to pay only one-eighth of the produce as land revenue instead of the usual rate.”

This evidence marks the birthplace of Goutama Buddha without doubt of any sorts and conclusively in the village 'Lumbini'. A famous Buddhist text 'Buddha Charita' written by Asvaghosh in 1st century CE tells us that Goutama Buddha was born as a prince to prosperous Sakya tribe King Suddhodhana of the kingdom of Kapilavastu and was named as Siddhartha Gautama. It was in the city of Kapilvastuthat Prince Siddhartha Gautam spent his early years after his birth in Lumbini. At the age of 29, Prince Siddhartha left his hometown Kapilvastu in search of truth and attained enlightenment asBuddha. He never returned again to live in Kapilvastu. After the death of King Suddhodhana, a gradual decline took place in the kingdom with city of Kapilvastu being left utterly desolate and forsaken for a long time. It lapsed into oblivion and was ruined beyond recognition. For historians, Kapilavastu was a lost city. For the Buddhist world, lack of knowledge about exact location of Kapilvastu, was always considered as a grave loss. Only one thing was known for sure. Kapilavastu was somewhere in the vicinity of Lumbini, since Goutama Buddha's mother 'Mahamaya' was travelling in state from Kapilavastu to Devadaha, her parent's home, to have her first child. On her way, the queen gave birth to a divine son in her tent in the Lumbini grove. We can therefore be sure that since the location of Lumbini is known, ruins of Kapilavastu have to be in the vicinity.

In 1898, a third-generation British planter, William Claxton Peppé excavated an intriguing brick Stupa located on his Birdpore estate between the foothills of the Himalayas and the Gangetic Plains. This Stupa was situated at Piprahwa, close to the Nepal-India frontier. Mr Peppe gives a very graphic description of his discovery in an article. I feel that reading his original description may be a very interesting and worthwhile experience. I quote from his writing here:

"Since the discovery of the pillar at the Lumbini Garden commemorating the birth-place of Buddha Gautama," writes Mr. Peppe, "considerable curiosity has been aroused regarding the different mounds, or ' kots ' as they are locally called, to be found dotted over the country, ranging from Kapijavastu to the northwest, the Lumbini Garden to the north-east, and the British frontier to the south. 

One such mound, more prominent than the rest owing to its size and general marked appearance, is situated in the Birdpore estate, Basti district of the North- West Provinces of India, at the 19.75 mile on the Nepal Uska road, and about one half mile south of Pillar No. 44 on the Nepal and British frontier. Last year I excavated a passage through the cone of this mound, ten feet broad and eight feet deep, and found it was built up of bricks 16 inches by 10-1/2 inches by 3, 15 inches by 10 inches by 3, laid in concentric circles, in clay, layer over layer, and thus establishing that this mound was a Buddhist stupa. In October Mr. Vincent Smith inspected it, and pronounced it to be a very ancient stupa, and told me that if anything was to be found it would be found in the centre and at the ground line. Subsequent events have proved how correct was his surmise. "In the beginning of January the excavation was continued, and a well 10 feet square was dug down the centre of the stupa. At ten feet from the crown a small broken soap-stone urn, similar to those found lower down, was found full of clay, and embedded in this clay were some beads, crystals, gold ornaments, cut stones, etc. From 10 feet a circular pipe, one foot in diamater, filled with clay and encased in brick work, descended to two feet, it then narrowed to four inches in diameter. The bricks surrounding this pipe were sometimes roughly cut and sometimes moulded into the required shapes. After digging through eighteen feet of solid brick work set in clay, a huge slab of stone was unearthed lying due magnetic north and south, and 31.50 inches to the east of the centre of the clay pipe mentioned above. On further excavation this slab was found to be the cover of a huge sandstone chest measuring 4 feet 4 inches by 2 feet 8-1/4 inches by 2 feet 2-1/4 inches. The lid was cracked in four pieces, evidently by the pressure of the brickwork above it, but yet the chest was perfectly closed. Fortunately the deep groove in the lid fitting so perfectly on the flange of the chest prevented the lid from falling in when it was first broken and also when we were removing it. 

On removing the lid the following articles were found : One soap-stone urn: 4 inches high and 434 inches diameter. A similar soap-stone urn, 6 inches high and 4 inches diameter. One soap-stone 'lota' shaped vessel, 5 -1/2 inches high and 5-1/2 inches diameter, with a well-fitting lid, which was lying apart from the 'lota.' One small soap-stone round box, 3- 3/4 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches high. One crystal bowl, 3 -1/4 inches in diameter and 3-1/2 inches high, with a hollow fish, full of gold leaf ornaments for a handle. The lower portion of the bowl was lying at the south end of the chest or casket, and the cover was lying in the centre of the casket with its handle downwards, and it contained some gold and stone ornaments. 

The urns are beautifully turned, and the chisel marks seem quite fresh, as if it had been made a few days ago. The crystal bowl is most highly polished, and has all the appearance of a glass bowl of the present day. " It so happened that we delayed opening this casket three days after we had unearthed it, and our curiosity was raised to its utmost. Our surprise can be imagined when, on removing the lid, we found an empty chest save for these few miniature vases, standing up as they had been placed probably two thousand years ago. The stone casket is of a very superior hard sandstone, and was cut out of one solid piece of rock. It is in a perfect state of preservation, with its sides very smoothly cut; it fact, it is all but polished. I do not think the stone came from the hills north of this district. The weight of the lid is 408 lbs., and I calculate the weight of the whole chest to be 1537 lbs. The brickwork continued for two feet below the bottom of the chest. The round clay pipe at the level of the bottom of the chest took the form of a rectangle, 17 inches by 5 for one layer, and the edge of this rectangle was 21.50 inches from the side of the chest. After this it resumed the circular shape of 4 inches diameter, and ended with the brickwork at two feet below the bottom of the chest. I was most careful in searching this pipe all the way down, but nothing whatever was found in it. The level of the ground inside the stupa is the same as the level of the ground at the outward circumference of the stupa. "The relic urns contained pieces of bone, which are quite recognisable, and might have been picked up a few days ago. The urns contained also ornaments in gold, gold beads; impression of a woman on gold leaf two inches long, upper portion naked, lower portion clothed ; another figure in gold leaf naked ; a large circular piece of rather thicker gold leaf, scrolled on the outside, 2 inches diameter, and may represent the top of a miniature umbrella ; the impression of an elephant on gold leaf, several pieces impressed with a lion, with trident over his back and the Buddhist cross in front ; several pieces with the impression of the Buddhist cross; one piece of solid gold 3/4 inches by 1/2 by 1/3 ; quantities of stars or flowers, both in silver and gold, with six and eight petals. The silver is tarnished, but the gold is beautifully bright, and was so when the chest was opened. Pearls of sizes, many welded together in sets of two, three, and four. Also quantities of flowers or stars, leaves serrated and veined, Buddhist tridents, pyramids, pierced and drilled beads of sizes and other shapes cut in white and red cornelian, amethyst, topaz, garnets, coral, inlaid stones, and shells. There is one bird cut in red cornelian and one bird in metal. "I have compared these ornaments with those illustrated in Archaeological Survey of India, New Imperial Series, Vol. XV., South Indian Buddhist Antiquities, and I find almost every form in my collection, besides a great variety of others. The only inscription of any kind is scratched on the cover of one of the smaller urns. The letters are in the Pali character and about 7- 16th of an inch

I find this discovery absolutely thrilling and fabulous and was similarly also thought during those times. The inscription on the urn said 

Sukiti bhatinam sa-puta-dalanam iyam salila-nidhane Budhasa
bhagavate sakiydnam.

Various interpretations and meaning of this text have been given by historians. However, the important fact is that the text confirms the enshrinement of the relics of the Buddha by the Sakyas. Or in other words it confirms the statement of the Buddhist text Mahdpartnibbdnasuttdnta that the Sakyas of Kapilavastu were one amongst the eight claimants to a portion of the relics of the Buddha
after he was cremated at Kushinagar and that they ceremoniously constructed a stupa over the relics.

Since the texts mentioned that the Sakya's had built this Stupa on the outskirts of Kapilvastu, it was believed by many that Goutam Buddha's home town Kapilavastu has been finally found.

However not every one was convinced. There was a doubting Thomos, and he came in the form of a German archaeologist called Dr Anton Führer, a former Catholic priest digging 15 miles away. He had earlier claimed to have discovered the Buddha’s birthplace at Lumbini, just over the border in Nepal, as well as the city where the young Buddha lived as Prince Siddhartha. He immediately casted his doubts doubt on the authenticity of the vase and its ashes.

This was the beginning of the Kapilavastu controversy, which has not been resolved even to date. 

Notwithstanding the objections raised by Dr. Anton Führer, the Buddhist world was thrilled with Peppe's discovery and welcomed the Buddha relics. It appears that Dr.Führer was quickly unmasked by a British magistrate, who himself had a stake in the excavation and turned out to be a fraud. The great stone coffer and its caskets found by William Peppe at Piprahwa, went to the Indian Museum in Kolkata. After hearing about the discovery, King Chulalankara or Rama V of Thailand requested the Indian Government to share Buddha relics with them. Lord Curzon, a British viceroy of India then presented a portion of the Relic to Thailand. King Rama V sent Phraya Sukhum Naya-Winit as the Thai representative to bring in the Buddha Relic. Then Buddhists from Japan, Burma, Lanka, and Siberia also began to request for a share of the Buddha Relic. His Majesty distributed the Relic accordingly. The Buddha relics were installed at the Stupa of Phu-Khao-Thong, Wat Srakessa on the top of golden mount, Bangkok in 1899.
Even though Dr. Anton Führer's real motives were unmasked and he was found to be a fraud, Archeologists from Nepal, who were most unhappy with this discovery of Buddha relics and the assumption that the location of Kapilvastu was near about Piprahwa in India, took up the cue from Führer and refused to accept William Peppe's discovery as true relics of Buddha. They had one historic evidence, which disfavoured Piprahwa being the real Kpilavastu.
No part of ancient Indian history can be vouched as true, unless there is a confirmation of the same from travelogues of either of the two Chinese travellers, who had travelled to India in 4th and 7th centuries. Such is the importance that is attributed to the texts written by Fa-Hsien in A.D. 399 and Hiuen Tsang in A.D. 629. Out of these two, the earlier traveller Fa-Hsien describes Kapilavastu in these words. (Beal translation)
Less than a yojana to the east from this brought them to the city of Kapilavastu; but in it there was neither king nor people. All was mound and desolation. Of inhabitants there were only some monks and a score or two of families of the common people. At the spot where stood the old palace of King Suddhodhana there have been made images of the prince ( Goutam Buddha) and his mother; and at the places where that son appeared mounted on a white elephant when he entered his mother's womb, and where he turned his carriage round on seeing the sick man after he had gone out of the city by the eastern gate, topes (Stupa) have been erected. “
About Lumbini Fa Hsien has been very specific, when he mentions that;
Fifty le east from the city was a garden, named Lumbini”
Indian archeologist K.M. Srivastava has estimated this distance of 50 Le as about 9 miles. It is therefore quite obvious that according to Fa-Hsien's account, Lumbini was about 9 miles east of Kapilavastu. Indian archeologists claim that Piprahwa is the true site of Kapilvastu, based on this observation of Fa Hsien.
This observation unfortunately does not match with the account of Xuen Zang, who travelled in that region about 230 years later. Xuen Zang has described all the places connected to Buddha's life story in Kapilvastu, extensively, Finally he says: (Beal Translation)
Outside the south gate of the city, on the left of the road, is a stupa ; it was here the royal prince contended with the Sakyas in athletic sports (arts) and pierced with his arrows the iron targets. From this 30 li south-east is a small stupa. Here there is a fountain, the waters of which are as clear as a
mirror. Common tradition has called this the arrow fountain (Sarakupa). To the north-east of the arrow well about 80 or 90 li, we come to the Lumbini garden.”
From Xuen Zang's description, it appears that he went about 30 Li to the southeast to reach the arrow well. From this well he went about 90 Li north-east to reach Lumbini. Some of the archeologists like Dr.Fuhrer (1897) and P.C. Mukherji (1899) suggested that a village called Tilaurakot, in the district of Taulihawa, in Nepal, could be site of Kapilavastu, because it matched the distances given by Xuen Zang. Tilarakot has a large ensemble of structures, which can be matched with Xuen Zang's description. This supported Tilaurkot’s case. No satisfactory solution could be found and the archeologists continued to have disagreement about the true Site for Kapilavastu. 
 After Indian Independence, the dispute continued. Nepal commenced a series of excavations in 1960's and found more structures around Tilaurakot, but failed to locate any relics. In 1962, Mrs. D. Mitra of the Arachaeological Survey of India led another expedition of exploration and excavation in the Nepalese tarai. During the course of her work, she excavated at Kodan and Tilaurakot, but could not find any evidence identifying Tilaurakot with Kapilavastu.
The Nepalese arguments are essentially based on two stone pillars supposed to be erected by Emperor Ashoka. At Niglihawa, a place about 8 KM northeast of Tilaurkot, a pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka was discovered. The lower part of this pillar bears an inscription testifying this site as the birth spot of the Kanakmuni Buddha. (Not Goutama Buddha, who is also called as Shakyamuni Buddha.) 
Another broken pillar was also discovered at Gotihawa about 5 km southwest of Tilaurkot. There is no inscription found on the pillar stub that is left. This site is supposed to be the birth place of Krakuchhanda Buddha.
Xuen Zang describes both these places along with the Stupa where Buddha's relics have been preserved in these words.
To the south of the city (Kapilavastu) going 50 li or so, we come to an old town where there is a stupa. This is the place where Krakuchchhanda Buddha was born. To the north-east of the town of Krakuchchhanda Buddha, going about 30 li, we come to an old capital (or, great city) in which there is a stupa. This is to commemorate the spot where, Kanakamuni Buddha was born. To the south-east of the city is a stupa where are that Tathagata's relics (of his bequeathed body} ; before it is erected a stone pillar about 30 feet high, on the top of which is carved a lion.48 By its side (or, on its side) is a record relating the circumstances of his Nirvana. It was erected by Asoka-raja.”
So we have a very tricky situation here. On one hand, we have near Tilaurkot, pillars that are supposed to be erected by Emperor Asoka to mark birth places of Kanakamuni Buddha and Krakuchchanda Buddha but no Buddha relics. On the other hand we have near Piprahwa, Buddha's relics but no Asoka pillars. Another point worth noting: Xuen Zang's description mentions about a pillar erected by Asoka-raja near the Stupa, where Buddha's relics have been preserved and which has never been found. However he does not mention having seen any Asoka pillars near Birth places of Kanakmuni and Krakuchchanda Buddha but only Stupas.

Nepal however continued to be absolutely adamant and decided on its own that Tilaurkot was Kapilavastu and even renamed the district of Taulihawa, in Nepal, as Kapilavastu. This is where things stood in 1971, when an officer of India's Archeological department, posted at Patna in Bihar state, decided to revisit the Stupa following a complaint forwarded to him from the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the poor upkeep of Piprahwa. 
His name was Krishna Mohan Srivastava. 

After visiting the Piprahwa Stupa, Krishna Mohan Srivastava, who was a superintending archeologist with the Archeological Survey of India took a decision. He decided to commence immediately, excavations over a wide area in Piprahwa to settle, once for all, the controversy about Kapilavastu. He had the support of a previous report of 1962, written by his co-archeologist, Mrs. D. Mitra, who after extensive excavations in the Tiaurkot area, had reported in unequivocal terms that Kapilavastu ruins can be found only near Piprahwa. Srivastava had a premonition that the relic caskets discovered by William Peppe in 1897-98, could not be the original ones received by Sakyas of Kapilvastu as one of the eight claimants to a portion of relics of the Buddha after he was cremated at Kushinagar and which were solemnized by them in a Stupa, for one simple reason. As mentioned earlier, there was an inscription on one of the smaller urns, which was written in a script, whose style clearly pointed to third century BCE. This meant that more than two centuries had passed from the time of Buddha's cremation in 483 BCE before this urn was solemnized. A noted orientalist and indologist, Sylvain Lévi had already expressed his opinion that this inscription was probably engraved on the occasion of the rebuilding of the ancient Stupa as a mark of earlier solemn dedication. Srivastava had a feeling that the earlier and original relics must be still deep down below the relics found by William Peppe in the Stupa. He started his excavation with a small trench in the north eastern quadrant.
It should be more interesting to read about Srivastava's excavation work in his own words. I quote from a report written by him:
A small trench was sunk in its north-eastern quadrant, which revealed interesting features. An outline of the shaft bored by Peppe could be easily observed. At a depth of six metres from the extant top of the stupa, two burnt brick chambers came to light. These chambers, separated from one another by 65 cms. of yellowish compact clay mixed with kankar, were at a much lower level than the spot where the stone box containing the inscribed casket had been found by Peppe. There was a mud deposit, about six centimetres thick, between the last course of the burnt brick stupa and the chambers. The two chambers were identical in shape, measuring 82 x 80 x 37 cms. The specific purpose of the brick chambers, to keep the sacred objects, was apparent enough from the nature of their construction. 
A soapstone casket and a red ware dish placed close to each other were observed in the northern chamber after the top three courses of brick had been removed. This dish was covered by another dish of the same type, which had broken into three pieces. Both the soapstone casket and the dish were found to be carefully packed with the help of bricks and brickbats. The casket contained fragments of charred bone. The contents of the dish could not be distinguished, because it was badly smashed and filled with earth. That there were no bone fragments in it, is, however, certain. The positions of the casket and dishes were different in the southern brick chamber. Two dishes, of the same type and size as in the northern chamber, were placed side by side just below the topmost course of the brick. Both dishes were reduced to fragments. When two further courses of brick were removed, another soapstone casket, bigger in size, came to light. The lid of the casket was found broken. On removal of the earth, which had filled up the casket, charred bones were found inside. Since the relic caskets were found in deposits contemporaneous with the Northern Black Polished Ware, they could be dated to the fifth-fourth centuries B.C., and thus earlier than the inscribed relic casket discovered by Peppe at a higher lever, and also distinguished stratigraphically. The possibility that the stupa at Piprahwa could be the same as that constructed by the Sakyas at Kapilavastu over their share of relics received at Kushinagar increased.”
 one of the soapstone caskets found by Srivastava
Having settled the doubts regarding originality of Piprahwa Stupa and the original relics of Buddha, Srivastava resumed excavation work on the ruins of a monastery on the eastern side. During excavation of the cells and the veranda on the northern side, Srivastava's team was able to find about 40 terracotta sealings at various depths and spots. Most of the sealings were round with few being oval. Each Sealing had one of the following embossed on a side.
1."Om Devaputra Vihare Kapilavastu Bhikkhusamghasa."
(The term Devaputra means Son of Gods, but was a title given to themselves by Kushan Kings like Kanishka or Huvishka. The legend therefore can be read as:)
Om of the community of monks of Kapilavastu in the monastery of Kanishka or Huvishka”
2."Maha Kapilavastu Bhikshusamghasa"
Which means
Of the community of Buddhist monks of great Kapilavastu”
3.“ Sarandasasa.”
(The third group carry the names of monks. One of them has been read as above)
 sealings bearing the legend "Kapilavastu"
After more excavations Srivastava was also able to find two massive burnt brick structural complexes, with impressive projected entrances to the east and many other structures. In a nearby site at in Ganwaria, even more burnt brick structures were found. There was a surprise silence of about three years, before Archeological survey of India finally announced, much to the heartburn of their Nepali counterparts, that the real Kapilavastu has been found. Srivastava says this, in his report, quite unequivocally and I quote:
The proximity of these structures to the ancient site of Piprawha, where the sealings with the name of Kapilavastu were found, their impressive size and constructional features and the large quantity of
antiquities found within them, leave little doubt that the structures formed the residential complex of the chief of the capital town, Kapilavastu, i.e., the Sakya King Suddhodhana and his predecessors.”
 Piprahwa Ruins
Archeological Survey of India has now put up signs at the sites in Piprahwa and Ganwaria stating that the sites are, where original Kapilvastu in which Goutama Buddha grew up, stood once. Uttar Pradesh state of India has renamed that area as Kapilavastu and tour operates have started including Piprahwa as Kapilavastu in their tours. New Delhi's National Museum proudly displays the urn containing the Buddha relics.
 Piprahwa Stupa and the ruins
Does it mean that the controversy is now over? It does not seem so. Nepali archeologists and large section of the scholars refuse to accept India's claims and many more studies are going on. They also point out that Indian archeologists have failed to find any ruins of fortifications and gates around the ancient city at Piprahwa, which exist in Tiaurkot. The main lacuna in Nepali standpoint however remains to be absence of a Stupa carrying relics.
 Ganwaria ruins
There is one more loose end, which bothers me. William Peppe, in his detailed description, mentions finding of gold pieces, pearls and all kinds of precious stones in the Piprahwa Stupa along with the caskets. He appears to be a man genuinely interested in Archeology and considering the manner he has chosen to give description of these treasures, found inside Stupa, it seems highly unlikely that he had just disposed of these treasures for his gains. The archeological treasures have to be some where, safely kept by him.
It now appears that this loose end, the other contents found by William Peppe, had surfaced in London in 2004 themselves. 

When William Caxton Peppe excavated the Piprahwa Stupa in 1898, he had found along with the urns carrying Buddha's relics, many other objects. I have mentioned about these objects earlier. But let me recollect these here again for quick reference.
The urns besides the Buddha relics, also contained ornaments in gold, gold beads; impression of a woman on gold leaf two inches long, another figure in gold leaf naked ; a large circular piece of rather thicker gold leaf, scrolled on the outside, the impression of an elephant on gold leaf, several pieces impressed with a lion, with trident over his back and the Buddhist cross in front ; several pieces with the impression of the Buddhist cross; one piece of solid gold 3/4 inches by 1/2 by 1/3 ; quantities of stars or flowers, both in silver and gold, with six and eight petals. Pearls of sizes, many welded together in sets of two, three, and four. Also quantities of flowers or stars, leaves serrated and veined, Buddhist tridents, pyramids, pierced and drilled beads of sizes and other shapes cut in white and red cornelian, amethyst, topaz, garnets, coral, inlaid stones, and shells. There is one bird cut in red cornelian and one bird in metal. We have seen earlier that Peppe had donated the urns with the relics to Indian Museum at Kolkata and these can be seen there even today. No one knew about the whereabouts or whatever happened to other archeological treasures in the Urns till one day, some of them just resurfaced in London.

On a Friday afternoon in June 2003, General secretary of the Buddhist Society of London, Paul Seto, along with Philip Trent, an antiques dealer, was making a routine inventory list for insurance purposes of all the artifacts held by the society. While checking the contents of a display cabinet, Paul Seto noticed a shabby cardboard box kept between the bottom shelf of the cupboard and its base. The box was seen only because he was sitting on the ground and would have been hidden for any one standing near the cabinet. Inside the box there was a jumble of all sorts of medals and badges belonging to a British Judge, Christmas Humphreys, who was the founder of the Buddhist society of London. Paul Seto noticed another smaller cardboard box of about 3 inches square size. On the cardboard lid of the box, someone had written two lines in perfect Victorian English, proclaiming the contents of the box. Paul Seto was stunned, when he read “Relics of Buddha. From the Piprawah Stupa, Birdpore Estate, Gourkhpur NWP, India. 1898.” written on the box. He carefully opened the box and just could not believe, what he saw there. Inside the box there were tiny 12 compartments. Each compartment held a tiny and exquisite object. The box contained: eight-pointed flowers and beads made of sapphire, cornelian, amethyst, ruby and rock crystal, a tiny pearl-like object, and a larger object that appeared to be three pearls fused into one.

Seto asked his colleagues at the Buddhist Society about the box, but nobody had known of its existence. He became a possessed man from that instant and could not think of anything else. Using Internet, he soon found out the full story of William Peppe and his excavation at the Piprahwa Stupa. He knew that he would not be able to find peace again till whereabouts of all the archeological treasures found by Peppe would be known to him. He thought that if William Peppe had any relatives still living in England, they might be able to help. He sent 20 cold-calling letters to everyone he could find having a surname Peppè. Only one reply came from a man called Mark Peppè, who told him that his cousin Neil was the grandson of William Claxton Peppè.

On July 29, 2003 Paul Seto finally got a call from Neil Peppè, a retired model maker for television. He off course had no idea about the box with Buddhist Society but casually told Seto that he still has in his house a couple of cases of similar pieces, along with plaster casts of the burial urns and what looked like some petrified rice from the Piprahwa stupa. These are lying in a cabinet in his sitting room. He also had original photographs of the dig at Piprahwa and of the coffer. Seto fixed an appointment with Neil Peppe and visited Peppè’s Suffolk home and found a cache of exquisite gold stars, finely worked leaves, delicate jewelled flowers, minute pyramid-shaped gems, seed pearls, small pieces of coral, coiled silver wire, tiny Buddhist symbols and gold-coin impressions. The objects had been in Neil Peppè’s family since his childhood and nobody had ever shown much interest in them. Neil Peppè now plans to loan the rest of the treasures to the Buddhist Society, but after knowing the true worth and value of the treasures, he has placed them in a bank vault for safekeeping.

The story of Piprahwa Stupa and the relics is now complete, except for a nagging doubt. When the original relics from 5th century BCE, were deep down there, who could have placed more relics along with other valuables on the top in the 3rd century BCE. The only possible answer that I can think is that the Stupa must have been enlarged and renovated in the 3rd century BCE. At the time of solemnizing the Stupa, some one of great influence must have added these objects to the Stupa. The only person I can think is Emperor Ashoka, who had gone around all the places connected with Buddha's life and erected sandstone pillars at each of these places. Xuen Zang's travelogue mentiones about a pillar near Piprahwa stupa also. It seems very likely that the great emperor himself might have placed the top layer objects inside Stupa, which were found by William Peppe in 1898.

(This post (No. IV) is based on a news story published in Sunday Times (London) dated 21 March 2004)


1. Fa-Hsien's Reccord of Buddhistic Kingdoms by Legge

2. Buddhist Records of the Western world by Beal

3. Archaeological Excavations at Piprahwa and Ganwaria
and the Identification of Kapilavastu, by K. M. Srivastava

4. The Ancient City of Kapilvastu-Revisited
- Swoyambhu D. Tuladhar


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