Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage place in Lumbini Province, Nepal, located in the Rupandehi District. Lumbini is one of numerous pilgrimage sites that came up in locations significant to the Buddha’s life. According to Buddhist belief, it is here that Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini famed gardens in 623 B.C., which quickly became a pilgrimage site. Among the travelers was the Indian monarch Ashoka, who constructed one of his memorial pillars there marking the birth place of Lord Buddha. The site is presently being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage destination, with the archaeological relics linked with the Lord Buddha’s birth playing a prominent role.
Who is Buddha?
Every time Lumbini is discussed, terms “Buddha” and “Buddhism” pops up along with it. The term “Buddha” is not a name but a title that meaning “one who is awake” in Sanskrit — as in “one who has awakened to reality”.
When someone says the Buddha, they are usually referring to the historical figure who established Buddhism. According to Buddhist legend, Siddhartha Gautama attained Enlightenment and became the Buddha founding Buddhism.
Siddhartha Gautama was born into the royal dynasty of a tiny country on the border between India and Nepal now known as Lumbini which lies in Nepal. According to legend, he enjoyed a luxurious childhood but was shocked to discover that life encompasses the harsh realities of old age, disease, and death.
When his life changed, Prince Siddhartha was 29 years old. He initially encountered a sick person, then an old guy, and finally a dead on carriage drives outside his palaces. This rocked him to his core; he knew that his privileged status would not shield him from illness, old age, or death. When he encountered a spiritual seeker – a mendicant “holy man” — he felt compelled to pursue inner peace.
According to legend, he sat in meditation beneath “the Bodhi tree” until he attained enlightenment. He spent the remainder of his life teaching others how to achieve enlightenment. His teachings and lessons later on became Buddhism religion.
The Lumbini complex, which stretches over three miles (4.8 kilometers), is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has hundreds of monasteries erected by many Buddhist countries (all in their respective national styles), the sacred Bodhi tree, an old bathing pond, the famed Ashokan pillar, and the Mayadevi Temple.
Lumbini the birth place of Lord Buddha is separated into three sections: the Sacred Garden, the Monastic Zone, the Cultural Center, and New Lumbini Village.
The Sacred Garden, which includes Buddha’s birthplace as well as other archaeological and spiritually significant monuments such as the Mayadevi Temple, the Ashoka Pillar, the Marker Stone, the Nativity Sculpture, the Puskarini Sacred Pond, and other structural ruins of Buddhist stupas and viharas, remains the epicenter of the Lumbini area.
Lumbini’s holy site is surrounded by a huge monastic zone in which only monasteries can be erected; no businesses, hotels, or restaurants are permitted. It is divided into two monastic zones, the eastern with Theravadin monasteries and the western with Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries.
Lumbini Museum, Lumbini International Research Institute, World Peace Pagoda of Japan, Lumbini Crane Sanctuary, and other administrative offices are housed at the Cultural Center and New lumbini Village.
Places to Visit in Lumbini
- Mayadevi Temple
Lumbini’s primary spiritual center is the Maya Devi Temple. It is the location where Siddhartha Gautama was born to Queen May Devi. Maya Devi was Lord Buddha’s mother, and there are two panels depicting her holding the Sal Tree and the infant Buddha coming from her on the right side and taking seven steps.
- Ashoka Pillar
Another Lumbini feature is the Ashoka Pillar. The Great Emperor Ashoka came here and constructed an engraved pillar commemorating Buddha’s birth. The Brahmi inscription on the pillar is a historical evidence that Ashoka, the Maurya Empire’s monarch, visited the location in the third century BCE and designated it as the birthplace of the Buddha. The inscription translates to —
“When King Devanampriya Priyadarsin had been anointed twenty years, he came himself and worshipped (this spot) because the Buddha Shakyamuni was born here. (He) both caused to be made a stone bearing a horse (?) and caused a stone pillar to be set up, (in order to show) that the Blessed One was born here. (He) made the village of Lumbini free of taxes, and paying (only) an eighth share (of the produce).”
- Bodhi Tree, and Holy Pond
Bodhi tree covered with Buddhist prayer flags and sacred pond beside the Mayadevi temple is also main attractions of Lumbini. It is believed that it is this pond where May Devi is said to have washed before giving birth and Buddha was purified after birth.
- World Peace Pagoda
The World Peace Pagoda is located inside the Lumbini Garden’s 3-kilometer monastic region. It was created by Japanese Buddhists to promote nonviolence around the world. It’s similar to the stunning white pagoda. A trip around the stupa provides a 360-degree picture of Lumbini. Several golden Buddha sculptures have been installed throughout various stages of his life, from birth to death.
- Eternal peace flam
Lumbini’s eternal peace flame burns indefinitely. It was established in 1986 to mark the International Year of Peace. It represents the never-ending quest to bring about world peace and harmony.
- Lumbini museum
The Lumbini Museum is the archaeological museum of Buddha’s birthplace.It is dedicated to the early life of the Historical Buddha and his path to enlightenment.
How to Reach Lumbini?
If you are travelling from international destinations, first of all you have to enter Nepal via flight in Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. From the airport we have two options:
- By Air
The Siddhartha Gautam Airport at Bhairawaha, which is 22 kilometers from Lumbini, is the nearest domestic airport from Lumbini. The flight from Kathmandu to Bhairawaha takes around 30 minutes. You may take bus or book a cab from there to reach the final destination. Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines are the only airlines that fly between the two cities.
- By Road
If you prefer to take the road route to Lumbini after landing in Kathmandu, you may take a bus from Kalanki Bus Station to Lumbini Chowk or Buddha Chowk, and then another bus or cab from there to the ultimate destination.
Also, you can book your private ride from Kathmandu to Lumbini. It is around 255 km far from Kathmandu. So, it will take nearly 5 hours to reach Lumbini via road.
Lumbini being birth place of Lord Buddha, it is major pilgrimage site for Buddhist as well as Hindu people. It holds religious as well as historical significance. A tourist visiting Lumbini can experience Buddhist culture and witness the core origin of Buddhism.
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