Lumbini

The birthplace of Lord Buddha

Lumbini is located in the south-western region of Nepal, at a distance of about 303 km from the capital city of Kathmandu. It is one of the four most auspicious places of pilgrimage for the Buddhists, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar being the other three. Lumbini is the birth place of the Buddha. The Buddha was born in the royal family of Shakya dynasty, who were the rulers of Kapilvastu. He was born to Queen Mayadevi and King Suddodhana in 623 BC, at the famous gardens of Lumbini, while his mother was on a journey to her family home in Devadaha.

In 249 BC, the devout Buddhist Emperor Asoka, third of the Mauryan rulers of India, made a pilgrimage to this sacred place with the company of his teacher, Upagupta. To commemorate his visit, he erected pillars at Lumbini, Gotihawa, and Niglihawa, as he did in many parts of India. The inscription on the pillar identifies this site as the birthplace of the Buddha.

Lumbini finds its mention in the travelogue of Chinese travellers, notably Fa Hsien of the 4th century AD and Husan Tsang of the 7th century AD. They have described in detail about their visit to the temples and monasteries. King Ripu Malla of Khasa Kingdom (of western Nepal) visited this place in the 14th century, and to mark his visit, an inscription was added on to the Asoka Pillar. According to the historical findings, Lumbini continued to be an important place of pilgrim till the 15th century. However, after the 15th century, the Buddhist temples fell into disrepair and eventually into ruins; the reasons for this remains obscure.

In 1896, Dr A Fuhrer and Gen. Khadga Samsher discovered the Ashoka Pillar and the remains from the site of the Mayadevi Temple during excavation. The inscription on the pillar identified the site as the birth place of the Buddha. In the subsequent works at this site, Fuhrer along with his nephew of Khadga Samsher, built a new temple and a bathing pool. Several archaeological explorations were carried out in the later years; however, due to lack of interest of the concerned authorities, the state of affairs of this sacred site remained grim.

In April 1967, the former United Nations Secretary General U Thant visited Lumbini, and emphasized the significance of this sacred site for millions of people around the world. U Thant wanted the Government of Nepal to develop Lumbini as an international holy site for Buddhists as well as a major tourist spot; this suggestion immediately gained full support from Mahendra, the then King of Nepal.

In 1970, an International Committee to manage the development of Lumbini was formed, and Prof. Kenzo Tange of Japan was assigned to create the Lumbini Master Plan. The master plan was approved by the UN and Government of Nepal in 1978. The Lumbini Development Trust was formed in 1985 which was in charge of the overall development work and to manage the Lumbini project.

In 1990, as part of a joint operation by the Japanese Buddhist Federation and the Lumbini Development Trust, excavations were carried out at the site of Maya Devi Temple in which a marker stone was recovered that pointed the exact spot of the Buddha’s birth. In 1997, recognizing the importance of this place for the welfare of humanity, Lumbini was declared as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO. Construction work is currently on in what is known as the Lumbini Development Zone. Monasteries, temples, research centre and modern amenities are all coming up as per the Lumbini Master Plan which aims at developing Lumbini as a world heritage and as a centre for study, research, and preservation of the spiritual traditions of Buddhism.

Tourists flock Lumbini in their thousands every year to see and experience the divinity of the birth place of the Buddha. Vaisakh Poornima (full moon day in the month of April-May) is celebrated here with lot of pomp and vigour, to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and mahaparinirvana of the Buddha; all of these are believed to have happened on the full moon day of Vaisakh.

Places of Spiritual Significance

The Lumbini Development Zone is the centre of attraction in Lumbini. The entire zone is spread over three square miles and is segregated in three sub-zones of one square mile each. The three areas are namely, the Sacred Garden, the Monastic Zone, and the Lumbini Village Area.

Sacred Garden

Maya Devi Temple

Maya-Devi-Temple

This temple was erected at the place where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to the Buddha, in the month of Vaisakh (April-May) of 623 BC. Mayadevi on her way to her family home in Devadaha, stopped at this place to take rest. She went into labour and eventually delivered the baby boy, the Buddha-to-be, while standing under a Sal tree. The present-day temple is built on the remains of the ancient temple which was discovered in excavations. Historical findings suggest that Emperor Asoka built a stupa at this place in the 3rd century.

Pushkarni Pond

Pushkarni-Pond

The Pushkarni Pond lies towards the south of the Maya Devi Temple. It is believed to be the pond in which Queen Maya Devi bathed before she gave birth to the Buddha.

Asoka Pillar

Ashoka-Pillar

The devout Buddhist emperor of India, Asoka, visited Lumbini in 249 BC. In order to mark the birthplace of the Buddha and to commemorate his visit to this holy place, he erected four stupas and a long pillar which is now known as the Asoka Pillar. The inscription found on the pillar points to the emperor’s visit to this sacred place.

Monastic Zone

The Monastic Zone is part of the cultural centre area and is divided into two subzones: the east zone and the west zone. These are divided by a canal which is 1.5 square miles long.

East Monastic Zone

East-Monastic-Zone

The East Monastic Zone is dedicated to the construction of Theravada monasteries and temples by different countries. It houses temples and monasteries made by the respective governments of Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The International Nun’s Society, All Nepal Monks Federation and the Mahabodhi Society of India have also erected temples. Each temple and monastery is distinct from the other in their architecture style and their area.

West Monastic Zone

West-Monastic-Zone

The West Monastic Zone is dedicated to the construction of 15 Mahayana monasteries, many of which are already completed. The Chinese government has built a magnificent monastery which spans across 6.5 acres of area. The construction of the monastery was completed in September 1998, and since then it has become a major tourist attraction. Apart from the Chinese monastery one can also get to see the Vietnamese monastery, the German Buddhist monastery, and the Tibetan Gompas.

Lumbini Village Area

World Peace Pagoda

World-Peace-Pagoda

Located in the Lumbini Village Area the World Peace Pagoda was constructed by Japanese monks of Nipponzan-Myohoji Order, as a symbol of world peace. Its construction started in September 1993 and it took eight years for completion. On the four sides of the Pagoda, four images are carved depicting the four major events from the life of the Buddha: birth, enlightenment, first sermon and mahaparinirvana (death).

Lumbini Buddhist Museum

Lumbini-Museum

The Lumbini Buddhist Museum is located in the Lumbini Village Area, nearby the World Peace Pagoda. Numerous photographs of the historical places, objects associated with the life of the Buddha and the artefacts recovered from the excavations carried out at the site of his birthplace are displayed.

Nearby Excursions

Tiluarkot

Tiluarkot

Located 27 km west of Lumbini, Tiluarkot has been identified by the archaeologists as the ancient capital of Kapilvastu. Excavations are on to unearth the ancient palace of King Suddhodhana, the father of the Buddha. The Buddha lived in the palace during the first twenty-nine years of his life. Tiluarkot offers a panoramic view of the countryside.

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