The Lumbini is a very popular pilgrimage destination decimated to the Buddhist faith. It is located very near to the India-Nepal border. The pilgrimage site is positioned in Kapilavastu town in Rupandehi istrict of Nepal. Lumbini is basically a Sanskrit word which means “the lovely”.
There are around four major pilgrimage sites in the world that are related to the real life events of Gautam Buddha’s life. Interestingly all these significant episodes have taken place beneath the trees. Lumbini has the honor of being one of the 4 most important Buddhist sacred sites.
The remaining three significant sites are located in the India. The other three sacred sites are Bodh Gaya, this site is related to the enlightenment of Gautam Buddha. The second site is Sarnath, this site is related to the very first discourse of Gautam Buddha and the third site is Kushinagar, this site is related to the death episode of Gautam Buddha’s life.
Traditionally it is believed that Lumbini is the place where Gautam Buddha took birth. Gautam Buddha is very well known as the founder of Buddhism. It is considered that he was born during seventh or sixth century BC.
As stated in the Buddhist traditions, Gautam Buddha was born to Maya Devi in the summer seasons’ May month in 642 BC. It is also said that she gave birth to Gautam Buddha when she was returning back to her parent’s house located in Devadaha. It is believed that when she was going through the labor pains she had grabbed the branches of the tree under which she had taken shelter in the hot sun. Ultimately she gave birth to her son and named him “Siddharta Gautama” who is now commonly known as Buddha. It is said that soon after his birth Buddha announced to the world that, “This is my final rebirth”. In the Buddhist traditions it is said that Gautam Buddha had started walking instantaneously after his origin. It is believed that he had immediately taken 7 steps and a flower; lotus bloomed under every step he took.
Emperor Ashoka was been converted to Buddhism. In the year 249 BC he had visited Lumbini. In the course of his this visit he had constructed a pillar made up of stone and 4 stupas. The Ashoka pillar has a dedication that reads King Piyadasi which stands for King Ashoka. It is said that the Buddha Sakyamuni was born at this tower. Later a railing of stone was constructed and then the tower was erected at the bhagavan, which means the blessed one. Later the taxation in the city of Lumbini was reduced and was declared as only 8 parts.
The temples and the monasteries were constructed in the Lumbini up to the ninth century as later the region was taken over by the Muslims and later by the Hindus thus witnessing the decline of Buddhism in the region. Only a sculpture was left in the city. This sculpture was respected a lot by the women as it was believed that the sculpture symbolizes fertility. For around 1000 years, the garden that was dedicated to the birth of Buddha was almost lost.
The garden devoted to the Buddha’s origin was discovered again in the year 1895 by a German archeologist. He had visited the Ashoka Pillar and later found the garden after identifying the inscription of the tower. As to search the actual identity of the site the records that were made by the pilgrim Fa Xian who belonged to China was also stiudied. Lumbini was later declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in the year 1997.
What to See
Lumbini is located at the base of the Himalayas in Nepal near Indo-Nepal border. The place is a huge garden which many papal trees. The area that surrounds Lumbini is completely a Hindu area. Even though the area has maximum population of the Hindus many Buddhist temples as well as shrines that are dedicated to various beliefs are spotted in the region of the sacred site itself.
The temple that is dedicated to Maya Devi is the most significant temple in Lumbini. The shrine that is devoted to the birthplace of Gautam Buddha is placed in this temple. The temple that you see told is constructed over the original temple and the four stupas which were earlier constructed by Emperor Ashoka.
The ancient ruin is well-protected in the modern temple. The new constructed temple is a normal building painted in white color. The exact place where Gautam Buddha had born is been identified in the temple. The delicate and beautiful sculptures made out of sandstone are now shifted to the National Museum in Nepal. The National Museum is located in Kathmandu.
A small square shaped tower is placed on the top of the temple. It has the eyes of Buddha placed on each of its site. Also it has a golden peak on the top. A holy pool is placed on the temple’s southern side. It is believed that after giving birth to Lord Buddha Maya Devi have taken bath in this pool. It is also said that the newly born Buddha was been washed here by the 2 dragons.
The temple of Maha Devi is been bordered by a foundation which is constructed out of brick. The bricks are taken from the old monasteries and the temple. All across Lumbini you will witness colorful flags are hanged between the trees. It is believed that the flags carry mantras and the prayers to the heaven as soon as they touch the breeze.
Ashoka Pillar is other most significant place of visit. It is located very close by to the temple. A small hurdle protects the temple. The Pillar is decorated with the help of the colorful flags. In the courtyard of the pillar you will find many incense sticks placed in a bowl. A room is also constructed near the tower for the pilgrims to sit for meditation.
Lumbini has a small airport for itself which handles the domestic traffic. International tourists need to change the flight from Kathmandu. The place has a good network of airway as well as roadways with the rest of the country. You can use the buses that carry the passenger to and fro but the best option for traveling in Lumbini is to hire a cab. Maximum pilgrims that come to Lumbini are from Japan, Southeast Asia, Tibet etc. Also many westerners visit the site regularly. Thus the place is crowded throughout the year and hence it is not that easy to visit Lumbini.
When to visit
The best time of the year to visit Lumbini is from October to March. The best time of the day is early morning or late afternoon.
The temple is open from early sunrise till late sunsets for the pilgrims to visit.