In 1996, the government selected seven sites in the country in an effort to add them to the World Heritage List. Nearly after 24 years Now, the government has started preparations to list one of the seven, Tilaurakot, on the list.
The government has taken the initiative to go into the listing process by including it in the budget of the current fiscal year. According to this process, first, the nomination, then the basis for the area to be listed in the World Heritage List, and the details of the management of the area should be submitted to UNESCO.
Within a year of the proposal, Lumbini was inscribed on the World Heritage List. The government, which listed Tilaurakot as a potential World Heritage Site at the time, is moving ahead with the process again by gathering more evidence. According to a 1991 provision, a country must be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List at least one year in advance to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the year 1996, Nepal also started collecting evidence of Tilaurakot by listing it in the list of possible World Heritage Sites.
More evidence has been collected about Tilaurakot than was proposed in 1996. Officials at the Department of Archeology say the process is long, although much evidence has been gathered that the ancient Shudhodhan palace is now Tilaurakot.
There are six types of operational guidelines for listing a proposed World Heritage Site in UNESCO. The guidelines specify that the property should be a unique model site, man-made heritage in a certain period of time or man-made heritage in harmony with nature, or such heritage should be directly linked to man. At least one of these six points must be fulfilled.
Spokesperson of the Department of Archeology Ram Bahadur Kunwar says that it will take at least four years to get listed on the World Heritage List. According to him, UNESCO accepts the proposal only after completing all the procedures including interaction with the locals and the consent of the local governments.
Madan Kumar Rimal, department head of the Central Department of Nepali History, Culture and Archeology at Tribhuwan University, says excavations over the past decade have found evidence that the ancient Shuddhodhan palace is now in Tilaurakot.
Evidence from excavations
Although not officially made public, nearly a decade-long excavation has almost confirmed the fact that the ancient Kapilvastu state capital or Shuddhodhan’s palace was now in Tilaurakot in Kapilvastu district. Kunwar says that out of the six guidelines demanded by UNESCO, the evidence can be combined with the guidelines.
Evidence of up to 500 years before Buddha has been found in Tilaurakot, where up to 14 levels of human settlement have been found. The earliest evidence of excavations at Tilaurakot is gray earthenware and red earthenware. These vessels date from the 11th century BC to the 8th century BC.
PC Mukherjee made the first scientific excavation at Tilaurakot on February 3, 1899, confirming the ancient fort as the Shakya capital. He noted that the palace area stretched from south to north 1,600 ft (487.68 m) and from east to west 1,000 ft (304.8 m). Excavations have revealed that the wall measures 500 meters from north to south, 12/8/2-inch size bricks are found in the ramparts surrounding the fort and the wall is 10/12 feet wide. Buddhist scriptures state that it is 18 feet high.
A deep hole was designed around the security walls in all directions. This indicates the strong defense system of the palace. A bridge was built to allow people to cross the canal.
It has been found that there are four gates with strong walls in each direction. Archaeologists have so far unearthed only two of the four gates. The western door is made of bricks, wood and iron. It is sitting together according to one door after another. Archaeologist TN Mishra describes the three stages of gateway construction. He attributes the time of the first and second layers to the second and first centuries BC.
P. C. Mukherjee discovered the East Gate in 1899. He mentions a huge square building near the door. Which is not covered. The part between the eastern fort walls, known as the Buddha’s Mahabhiniskramanadwara or Mars Gate. This is the door through which Prince Siddhartha came out of the palace.
There is a stupa 100 meters east of the main entrance. In which Prince Siddhartha’s favorite horse Kanthak is believed to have died. A stupa was built there with the remains of the same horse.
After crossing the river at Enoma, Siddhartha shaved his head and formally entered the world of monks. From there he sent the horseback. Its purpose was to help the Bodhisattva get out of the world of luxury and gain the right knowledge. He sent back his charioteer Chhandak and horse Kanthak. The horse had accomplished its purpose. That is why he is believed to have sacrificed his life before entering the entrance of the palace. Archaeological excavations have also revealed the historicity of this stupa.
A huge man-made pond is located in the northeast corner of the Durbar area. The old pond is believed to have been built for the enjoyment of the Shakya palace. It is also assumed that there is another pond to the south of the palace. Mukherjee has mentioned many ponds during the excavation of Tilaurakot. Lalit Vistara mentions that there are many ponds in the palace of Shuddhodhan. But archeological excavations have not found many ponds.
There is a place of forest goddess in the Samaimai temple. A supplementary part of the temple has been found in the northwestern part of the fort. Pieces of ancient artifacts that appear to have been worshiped by members of the Shakya dynasty, as mentioned in Buddhist literature, are found in this temple. It is mentioned in detail in the temples of Shakya Durbar and in the travelogues of early Chinese pilgrims.
Japanese archaeologists led by Nakamura unearthed a palace-like ruin in the northwestern part of the fort. Which they speculated to be the northern part of the old Shakya palace. It was also revealed that although it was small, it was probably a part of the main building of the palace. Although its branches belong to the Shakya dynasty.
TN Mishra also found a metal workshop near the southern defense wall. According to him, the workshop was used to make weapons, agricultural tools and household utensils. Metal objects have been found near the workshop. They also contained two large water collection sites, fragments of copper vessels, early copper coins, and two iron tools.
The discovery of arms factories and coins, arms plants, etc. in this area has strengthened the notion that it is the capital city of the Shakyas.
Mishra has unearthed old roads from the sixth or seventh century BC to the second century AD. Some roads have stone edges on both sides. Eight-inch soled iron slags have also been found on some roads. Even the improved roads around it indicate that this place was the capital of a very powerful state.
Different types of pottery have been found in Tilaurakot. Painted gray ware, northern black polish ware (NBP ware), black and red pottery from 6th century BC to 8th century AD have been found.
Human statues, animal statues, toy carts and toy materials were found by Devla Mitra from Tilaurakot. These idols belonged to the Maurya, Shung and Kushan periods.
The Mishra had collected silver and copper pentagram coins, early cast coins, etc. from Tilaurakot. Coins of different sizes of different periods were found during excavations. The coins contained mainly copper items. These coins prove that the Shakya kingdom had organized trade and prosperity.
Why archaeological study?
When a stone inscription was found at Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha, the search for his palace began. For that, it was easy to get the help of literary sources first.
The Buddhist holy book Digha Nikaya mentions that Kapilvastu was situated on the banks of the river Bhagirathi in the lap of the Himalayas. Similarly, the Jataka stories mention that Kapilvastu is surrounded by seven walls and these walls are up to 18 feet high. Literary sources also say that Kapilvastu has Kushinagar in the south, Rapti river in the west and Rohini river in the east.
Similarly, Phiyan, a Chinese pilgrim who came to Kapilvastu in 403 AD, mentioned that Kapilvastu, which is becoming desolate, is 50 miles away from Lumbini. Similarly, about two and a half hundred years later, in 636 AD, Kapilvastu came to know the geographical distance Hrivensang said that Kapilvastu is 30 miles from Lumbini. He had mentioned that Kapilvastu, which is spread over two and a half miles, is surrounded by a security wall.
In spite of all this evidences, there was no scientific basis to say that the palace of the then Shuddhodhan was in this place as the exact place was not found. Therefore, before it was listed on the World Heritage List, it was excavated by scientific method.