The Fascinating Story of Lumbini
Lumbini, nestled in the south-central Terai of Nepal in the foothills of the Himalayas, holds a profound significance for millions of Buddhists worldwide, similar to how Jerusalem is important to Christians and Mecca to Muslims. It is revered as the birthplace of Lord Buddha - the apostle of peace, and the Light of Asia - in 623 B.C.
The region of Lumbini is an exquisite treasure trove of ancient ruins and antiquities, dating back to the pre-Christian era. The site, described as a beautiful garden in Buddha's time, still retains its legendary charm and beauty. The Shakyas and Kolias Clans owned it at the time of Buddha's birth. King Suddhodana, Buddha's father, belonged to the Shakya Dynasty of the Kshatriya or Warrior Caste.
Rediscovery of Lumbini
For centuries, the general area of Lumbini was recognised as the birthplace of Lord Buddha. However, the precise location remained obscured until 1 December 1886 when German archaeologist Dr. Alois A. Fuhrer discovered a stone pillar, confirming the site as Buddha's birthplace. From then on, it became a focal point for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Recently, UNESCO has declared Lumbini a World Heritage Site, indicating its potential to become a major tourist destination in Nepal.
Significance of Lumbini
Impact on Buddhism
The sites significant to Lord Buddha's life remain relevant for today's Buddhists. Among these, his birthplace has the greatest significance. Architectural splendours from that era still stand as vivid reminders of the origins of Buddhist philosophy and doctrines.
Founded in North India, Buddhism is now practised in major countries worldwide, particularly in Japan, Taiwan, China, Sri Lanka, Indo-Chinese countries, India, and Nepal. Although not a religion in the strict sense, it is a system of philosophy and a code of morality.
Practice and Principles
Buddhism promotes the principle of Ahimsa (no killing) and is simple to practice. Its proponents seldom criticise others, claim superiority, or fail to co-exist with other philosophies and religions. It offers a refuge in a troubled world where materialistic values often dominate.
Meditation and Yoga
Within Buddhism, practitioners can engage in Yoga and meditation, which are seen as ways to purify the mind and soul. The expansive Lumbini Buddha Garden provides an ideal space for these practices.
Places to See Around Lumbini
This sacred site of Buddha's birth is a small village in Nepal, 27 km from the Indo-Nepal border. Excavations have revealed rooms and a stone slab marking the exact location of Buddha's birth. Despite its remoteness, it frequently receives busloads of pilgrims from different corners of the Buddhist universe.
The Rummendei Pillar
Emperor Ashoka erected this pillar 300 years after Mahaparinirvana. Though broken, it remains at the site, carrying the former name of the place (modern name Rupandehi) in Nepal. Today, it's known as the Ashokan Pillar.
The Mayadevi Temple
This temple and the nearby Puskarni pond form part of the sacred complex. Inside the temple are two beautiful panels showing Mayadevi holding the Sal tree, with the young prince emerging from her right side.
Dharmaswami Maharaja Buddha Vihara
This Tibetan gompa, belonging to the Sakyapa order, lies outside the complex. About sixty monks residing here conduct the Tara Puja every morning.
Monastery Complex and Museum
A couple of kilometres away, a grand complex of monasteries is constructed in the national styles of several countries. Nearby, the Lumbini Research Institute and a Museum house an impressive collection of Buddhist literature.
This historic town, 27 km west of Lumbini, is associated with many important episodes and hosts ruins of old stupas and monasteries.
Other Sites worth Visiting
Several other locations, such as Aroarakot, Gotihawa, Kudan, Niglihawa, Sagarhawa, Devdaha, and Ramagrama, are significant archaeological sites that enrich Lumbini's heritage.
Also known as Arourakot, this is a rectangular fortified area around 10 km northwest of Lumbini. It is believed to be the natal town of Kanakmuni Buddha. Excavations have uncovered ancient moats and walls, a citadel, and remains of an ancient brick fort.
Located 5 km southwest of Taulihawa, Gotihawa is an important archaeological site linked to Krakuchhanda Buddha. A large stupa and remnants of a water spout can be found here. The Ashokan Pillar lying nearby is broken and lost its upper part.
About 4.5 km south of Tilaurakot, Kudan hosts substantial brick structures, including a massive stupa surrounded by smaller stupas. These ruins are believed to be where King Suddhodana received Buddha after his enlightenment.
Approximately 8 km north of Taulihawa, Niglihawa is another site with an Ashokan Pillar. Here, the broken pillar has an inscription indicating that Ashoka increased the height of the stupa to its current size.
This forest site, known as the "place of the massacre of the Shakyas," is located west of Niglihawa. Archaeologists believe it's where the Shakyas, the clan to which Buddha belonged, were massacred. The site contains ruins of ancient ponds and several stupas.
This site is located east of Lumbini and Kapilvastu. It is traditionally considered the maternal hometown of Queen Mayadevi (Buddha's mother) and Princess Yasodhara (Buddha's wife). It is said that Buddha visited Devdaha for the first time after achieving enlightenment.
About 20 km east of Lumbini, Ramagrama is an important pilgrimage site. It is believed to house one of the eight portions of Buddha's relics, which he specifically instructed to be enshrined in a stupa here. The stupa, believed to be the only undisturbed relic stupa, is a mound-like structure containing these relics.