Lumbini
Lumbini (The Ultimate Pilgrimage site for Buddhists)

The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is the most sought pilgrimage site of Buddhists, being one of the four holy places of Buddhism. It is said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse, and death.
Lumbini is about 300 km. west of capital city Kathmandu situated in the Rupandehi district of Nepal. Buddha, Known as the Lord of Asia, was born in Lumbini during the full moon day in the month of Baisakh in 623 BC. Lumbini is one of four magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of the Buddha, the others being at Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Sarnath. Lumbini, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the Buddha's time, Lumbini was a beautiful garden full of green and shady Sal trees (Shorea). The garden and its tranquil environs were owned by both the Shakyas and Kolias clans. King Suddhodana, father of Gautama Buddha was of the Shakya dynasty belonging to the Kshatriya or the warrior caste. Maya Devi, his mother, gave birth on her way to her parent's home in Devadaha while taking rest in Lumbini under a sal tree in the month of May in the year 642 B.C.
The site was rediscovered in 1895, when a German archaeologist came upon Ashoka's Pillar, identified by its inscription. Records made by the Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian were also used in the process of identifying this religiously acclaimed site. The location of Lumbini is pointed out in the Buddhist literature, as well as, in the records of the Chinese pilgrims who visited India in the fifth and seventh centuries AD. The site is called Lun- min and La-Fa-Ni by the Chinese pilgrims Fa- Hien and Hiuen- Tsiang respectively. In course of exploration of the ancient Buddhist sites General Cunningham has mentioned La-Fa-Ni is Sanskrit Lavani, a beautiful lady.
Chinese pilgrims have given a more accurate and authentic description of Lumbini. Shui-Ching-Chu describes that at Lumbini the Asokan tree which was gripped by Maya Devi at the time of Siddhartha's (Lord Buddhas original name) birth was still in a living condition and an image of Maya Devi was placed there where devotees used to offer puja articles. The spot where Siddhartha's feet touched the earth first, Aśoka got the Siddhartha's foot prints shielded with stones. His description has been ratified by the noticeable findings discovered during the joint excavation of the Department of Archaeology, Lumbini Development Trust and Japanese Buddhist Federation from 1993 to 1997. It is clearly seen that Aśoka had shielded the Siddhartha's footprints with stones in order to secure it. This significant news of the findings of the excavation was publicly declared by then Honorable Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on February 4, 1996.
After Hiuen-Tsiang many other pilgrims had visited this place from time to time. One of them was Wu-Kung who came in 764 AD. Due to the absence of records very little is known about the condition of the area. The monumental and habitational structures, stone sculptures, terracotta human and animal figurines, fragments of pottery belonging to the Mauryan, Suńga, Kushaņa, Gupta, Vardhan and Sena-Pala periods, found here prove that Lumbini was well-populated till the early-medieval period and was frequently visited by the monks, nuns and other devotees from time to time.
In 249 BC, when the Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini it was a flourishing village. Ashoka constructed four stupas and a stone pillar with a figure of a horse on top. King Aśoka installed the stone column with a clear legend inscribed on it that it is the spot of Lumbini where the Blessed one was born. In Lumbini a brick railing was erected at a distance of 48.76 cm. from the base of the pillar and it had dentils also.
The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone, in which only monasteries can be built, no shops or hotels or restaurants. It is separated into an eastern and western monastic zone, the eastern having the Theravadin monasteries, the western having Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries. From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.

Places of interest in and around Lumbini


Lumbini Grove
This is the sacred site of Lord Buddha's birth, which is today a small village in Nepal, 27 Km from Sunauli. The sacred site of the Buddha's birth is at the southern end of Lumbini grove. Excavations have revealed a series of rooms and a stone slab, which is now believed to mark the exact location at which the Buddha was born. The whole place has an air of remoteness except when the occasional busload of pilgrims from different corners of the Buddhist universe arrives.

The Ashoka pillar
Ashokan Pillar is an inscribed pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka (on the spot of Buddha's birth. The inscription, which is the oldest in Nepal, grants Lumbini a tax-free status in honor of Buddha’s birth. It is the first epigraphic evidence related to the life of Lord Buddha. It is a prominent landmark of the Sacred Garden. German archaeologist, Dr. Fuhrer, discovered it. The inscription on the pillar is engraved in Brahmi script. Emperor Ashoka visited the site on his 20th Reignal Year and erected the pillar as homage to the birthplace of Buddha. It is known as the Rummendei pillar after the earlier name of the place (modern name Rupandehi) in Nepal. The Ashoka's Pillar is protected by a small fence, which is decorated with prayer flags and banners. Around the courtyard containing the pillar are bowls for incense sticks, and there is room to sit in front of the pillar for contemplation.

The Maya Devi Temple

The most important temple at Lumbini is the Maya Devi Temple, which enshrines the traditional site of the Buddha's birth. Atop the temple is a small square tower of the type seen in Kathmandu, with Buddha eyes on each side and a golden pinnacle on top. The modern temple consists mainly of simple white building that protects ancient ruins, with the exact spot of the Buddha's birth identified. The delicate sandstone sculptures discovered here are now in the National Museum in Kathmandu.
Scholars believe that Maya Devi Temple was built over the foundations of more than one earlier temple or stupa. There is a probability that the temple was built over an Ashokan stupa. There are two beautiful panels in the temple, the older one in stone and the other in marble. Both panels show Maya Devi holding the Sal tree and the young prince emerging out of her right side.

The Puskarni pond
This sacred pond is on the south side of the Maya Devi temple it is said that Maya Devi had a bath before giving birth to Buddha. It is also said that Buddha was washed by two dragons after his birth in this very pond for purification.


Dharmaswami Maharaja Buddha Vihara

This Tibetan gompa belonging to the Sakyapa order, is also outside the complex. His Eminence Chogya Trichen Rinpoche and the King of Mustang established it. Every morning around sixty monks who reside here conduct the Tara Puja. At the end of September, two thousand monks congregate for a 10-day Puja and on 13th December each year for the Mahakala Puja, which also lasts for 10 days.
A couple of kilometres away, a complex of monasteries is constructed on a grand scale. Monasteries in the respective national styles of Myanmar (Burma) China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand are among those that are built. Also in the vicinity are the Museum and the Lumbini Research Institute, which has an impressive collection of Buddhist literature.


Kapilvastu
Located some 27 km west of Lumbini lays the ruins of historic town of Kapilvastu. Also, the place is believed to have been associated with different important episodes: there are ruins and mounds of old stupas and monasteries made of kiln-fired bricks and clay mortar. The remains are surrounded by a moat and the walls of the city are made of bricks.


Chinese Buddhist Monastery


The elegant Zhong Hua Chinese Buddhist Monastery is one of the most impressive structures at Lumbini. Reached through a gateway flanked by Confucian deities, this elegant pagoda-style monastery looks like something from the Forbidden City. It is a complex of Pagodas, prayer rooms and meditation halls. The temple, built by the Buddhist Association of China, also owns a huge statue of the Buddha.

Japan Peace Stupa

Japan peace stupa was built by the Nippon Jon Myohoji. It is situated at the northern end of Lumbini(41 meters high). The stupa's dome consists of four different Buddha statues, with their faces in four different directions. The pagoda is one amongst the peace pagodas built around the world in Europe, Asia, and the United States by the organization built with the aim to promote world peace.


Gotihawa
About 5 km southwest of Taulihawa, there is a village called Gotihawa. In the village there is an Ashokan Pillar standing in a slab. The upper portion of the pillar is broken and lost and only the lower portion of the pillar, 3.5m high, is still intact. Adjoining the pillar towards its northeast there is a huge Stupa built of successive concentric rings of wedge shaped Mauryan bricks.


 Tilaurakot
About 10 km northwest of Taulihawa there is a rectangular fortified area, which is popularly known as Arourakot and is related to the childhood of Siddhartha Gautama or Lord Buddha. The fortified area was identified by the famous Indian archaeologist P.C. Mukharji as the natal town of Kanakmuni Buddha (one of the forms of Buddha). Remains of an ancient moat and brick fortification around the Arourakot are still clearly visible.


Kudan
About 2 km. southwest of Taulihawa, on the left side of the Shoratgarh, Taulihawa road stands the village Kudan that boasts a huge structural ruin with a cluster of four mounds and a water body. The mounds were excavated in 1962.



Niglihawa

About 8 km, northwest of Taulihawa, there is another site of archaeological importance. The site has quadrangular water body surrounded by bushes, locally known as Niglisagar. On the western Bank of the tank there are two broken pieces of the Ashokan pillar, the longer one lying flat and the shorter ones stack into the ground. The pillar bears two peacocks on the top part and a Devanagari script inscription reading Om Mani Padme Hum.The shorter portion of the pillar which is partly buried in the ground measures 1.52m in length bears four lines of Ashokan inscription in the Brahmi script.


Sagarhawa

About 12 km. north of Taulihawa, there is a forest area called Sagarhawa. In the midst of the forest there is a huge rectangular water pool which is popularly known as Lumbusagar, or a long pool. The ancient waterbody ruins, which were excavated and identified by Dr. Aslois, A. Fuhrer in 1895 as the 'Palace of massacre of the Shakyas', can still be found on the west south banks of the Sagar.

Devdaha

Devdaha is the ancient capital of the Koliya Kingdom, located 54 km east of Lumbini, across the Rohini River. It is the maternal hometown of Queen Maya Devi (mother), Prajapati Gautami (step-mother), Princess Yasodhara (consort), where Prince Siddhartha spent his early childhood. After seven years of his enlightenment, Lord Buddha had visited Devdaha and had ordained the followers of Jain Sadhu Nirgandha Nathputra. There are several other sites Kumarbarti, Khayardanda, Bairimai/Kanyamai, Bhabanipur/Devidamar, Mathagadi (ancient weapons), around Devdaha.

Ramagrama

It is the brick mound on the bank of Jharahi River. It is seven meter high brick stupa consisting of relic (one of the eight astha dhatu) of Lord Buddha. The stupa was build by the King of Ramagrama, who was the eighth King to obtain the Buddha’s relics. History has noted that Emperor Asoka to open it to multiply into eight four thousand stupa. However, the Dragon King of Ramagrama stupa did not permit.

The Lumbini Museum
The Lumbini museum is located in the Cultural Zone, has a rich collection of Mauryan and Kushana coins, religious manuscripts, terra-cotta fragments, and stone and metal sculptures. It also possesses an extensive collection of stamps from various countries depicting Lumbini and the Buddha.


Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI)

LIRI is located opposite the Lumbini Museum, provides research facilities for the study of Buddhism and religion in general. Run jointly by the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) and the Reiyukai of Japan, LIRI houses an extensive collection of more than 12,000 books on religion, philosophy, art and architecture.


The Lumbini Crane Sanctuary

More than 30 endangered Sarus cranes live in this sanctuary. The Sarus cranes are the tallest flying bird. Around 200 or 300 of these cranes live in Nepal. Storks, egrets and other water birds are also here.

Other Attractions

Farmlands of Lumbini has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) having high biodiversity and unique ecosystems in Nepal. Bird specialties include; Sarus Crane, Lesser Adjutant, Indian Spotted Eagle, Critically Endangered 2 species of Gyps and several birds of prey, owls, etc. Mammals include Nilgai, Asiatic Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat, Grey Mongoose etc.
A two hour drive westward to Jagdishpur Reservoir will be interesting for several water bird species. Jagdishpur is a Ramsar site as well as an IBA. Many bird species visit this man made reservoir during the winter time.
Nepalese and internationals Monasteries/Vihara representing different architecture and culture of Buddhist countries and Buddhist organizations are other attractions of Lumbini. The Monasteries of Royal Thai (Thailand), Vietnam Phat Quoc Tu (Vietnam), Mahabodhi Society of Kolkotta (India), International Nun's Society (Nepal), The Great Lotus Stupa (Tara Foundation, Germany), Myanmar Monastery (Myanmar), Manang Sewa Samaj (Nepal), Linhson Monastery (France), Sokyao Temple (Japan), Geden International (Austria), Sri Lankan Monastery (Sri-Lanka), Korean Mahabodhi Society (South Korea), Dharmodhaya Sabha (Nepal), Drigung Kagyud Meditation Center (India), Cambodian Monastery (Cambodia) Panditarama Meditation Center (Myanmar), Vipasana Mediation Center (Nepal), World Peace Pagoda, Eternal Peace Flame, Peace Bell all add beauty and serenity to Lumbini.  For village tour, there are half a dozen routes that take you through typical villages of the area. These walks last from an hour to 3 hours.