Friday, May 21, 2010

The location of Sitavana

Sitavana was another Vihara as its name suggests close to Veluvana and has been referenced to in many literatures, but its exact location is still quite a mystery. According to Pali sources it was a Cemetery during the ancient time. There are currently two functional cemeteries that are used for cremations to this date in the vicinity of Veluvana. Both these cemeteries are equidistant from Veluvana to the north and south with their roots lying in the ancient times. It is tough to decide based on just this evidence which of these would be the Sitavana from the Buddha times but reference to Xuanzang’s travelogue gives another clue. The Xuanzang mentions Sitavana in his record and according to him it was situated north of Veluvana. He further mentions that this was the same site where the first new fort (Rajgriha) was built for the safety of king Bimbisara after he moved his residence there, although there is no such mention of new fort location in the Pali Literatures. The other piece of evidence that we can put together is that the snake shaped mountain cave (Sappasondika pabbhāra) is in the proximity of Sitavana. The south cemetery seemed more probable a site, if we take that fact into account. The resolution of this mystery needs more evidences and even more discussion but it is still in the vicinity of Veluvana.

Location of Sitavana as per xuanzang description

Most suitable place for Sitavana as per Pali commentaries
As per the commentaries (Vin.ii.76) this cave was used as a residence by monks who come to Rajgriha from afar. Also, Sappasondika pabbhāra is mentioned as the place where Sariputra’s younger brother, Upasena (DhA.ii.188) died after a snake bite (S.iv.40). Upasena was an accomplished monk and he after his ordination; he actively worked to increase the number of holy men in the Sangha. Coincidently, all members of his group were extremely good looking and a charming bunch and so Buddha often referred to Upasena’s and his retinue as samantapāsādikānam, the best of those who were altogether charming (A.i.24)

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