»City of Beauteous Virtue«: the earthly kingdom of the Buddha, under his earthly name of Siddharta Gautama. The future Gautama Buddha lived there twenty-nine years a prince, as the tradition holds, before accidentally discovering decay; from this we might gauge its legendary splendor. Abandoned by its lord, it was nevertheless laid to waste in his own lifetime; Śakyamuni, we must assume, apprehended this with equanimity.

The site of Kapilavastu is somewhat in dispute in modern times, for reasons as much political as anything; however, a general consensus places it in the vicinity of Lumbini, on the southern rim of Nepal. Fa-Hsien, in the 5th century, calls »[t]he country of Kapilavastu [...] a great scene of empty desolation«, where »people have to be on their guard against white elephants and lions, and should not travel incautiously«; nevertheless, in our time it is a major site of pilgrimage, which just goes to show you that there are some things you just can't get people to grasp.


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