Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Maha Kassapa and Mahatittha

Maha kassapa an important pillar of Buddhism was from a village Mahatittha in Magadha. He was the third most pre-eminent monk among the Buddha’s retinue (Sariputta and Maha Moggallana are the other two). It is said that Maha Kassapa was the only monk to share seven of the thirty two marks of noble birth that the Buddha had. In keeping with his aspiration the Buddha declared that Maha Kassapa was foremost among the monks in austere practices.

Read more about Maha Kassapa at Pali Kanon

As per Pali sources his father was a rich farmer of village Mahatithha (ThagA.ii.141; AA.i.99; SA.ii.143) situated in Magadha. Maha Kassapa was not interested in the worldly life but keeping with the rules of the society and to please his parents he married Bhadda Kapilani but its said that they maintained celibacy. Once his parents died, both decided to become ascetics and parted company. The text indicates that the earth trembled at this renunciation due to the purity and merit of the ascetics. The Buddha, observing the trembling of the earth, saw with his paranormal vision that one of his future great disciples was on his way to meet Him. He decided to meet Kassapa enroute and walked down the road towards Mahatittha.

There is very little description available of the location of Mahatithha.  All we know is it was in Magadha and the Buddha left Rajgriha for Mahatithha and sat under a banyan tree in between Rajgriha and Nalanda. Nalanda  is in North-East direction of Rajgriha.From this description we know that the Buddha traveled towards North-East direction to receive his future disciple and the Maha Kassapa came from North or East of Rajgriha in the direction of the place where eventually he met  the Buddha. Therefore its safe conclude that Mahatittha must be located in North-East region of Rajgriha.

The Mahatittha Zone as per the Pali literature

Villages  with the Buddhist remains in the Mahatittha zone
There are many villages which may qualify the description but two villages Rukhaye (85° 22’ 12” E  25° 19’ 36” N) and Kapsiyawan (85° 17’ 13” E 25° 16’ 45” N) needs a closer and more elaborate study. Both the village has rich antiquities and the village has a big mound. The village has  Bhumihaar community (also Brhamrishi, Babbhan) and many believe the Bhumihaar community has strong connection with the Brahmins from the Buddhist period. Many sub-sects of the local Bhumihaar community have roots in Rukhaye and Kapsiyawan, i.e. they have migrated from these two villages.

Buddhist remains at Rukhaye
An elderly person from the Village sharing the tradition of the Migration of the Bhumihaar community

The Village Rukhaye settled over the Big Mound
Mauryan brick at Kapsiyawan

Mound of kpsiyawan

The Buddhist Sculptures at Kapsiyawan
It is intriguing to note that the travelogues of Fahein, Xuanzang, Itsing, Hwui Lun, Dharmaswamin etc have no mention about the Village of Maha Kassapa. From the travelogues of Xuanzang and Fahein, the possible route taken by Fahein and Xuanzang does suggest that at some point they did pass by the village mentioned above. Given the stature of Maha Kassapa in Buddhist history and still both the devout followers of the Buddha not mentioning about the Mahatittha is puzzling.

The Travel path of Xuanzang (in Blue) and Fahein (in Maroon) in the Mahatittha zone


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by Maha Kassapa share seven of the thirty-two marks of Lord Buddha?
Being the senior monks, Maha Kassapa even called a meeting that later conducted First Buddhist Council.