Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha and a World Heritage Site. This pilgrimage site in southwest Nepal attracts devout Buddhists from around the world, who arrive to pay homage at the Sacred Garden where the ‘Enlightened One’ was born. A famous landmark is the Ashoka Pillar raised by the great Emperor who converted to Buddhism. Today Lumbini has been enlivened by the multitude of architecturally beautiful temples, stupas and monasteries built by various international Buddhist communities.
Birth place of Lord Buddha
Lumbini is hallowed ground as Shakyamuni Buddha was born here in southern Nepal more than twenty-five hundred years ago. As a sacred birthplace, it is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the globe. Many excavations have taken place here around this small town in the southern Terai plains of Nepal. Ruins of the old city are clearly visible and many artifacts were unearthed during the excavation. Shakyamuni Buddha was born a prince to the ruler of the little principality. Important landmarks are the Maya Devi temple and the Ashoka pillar. The remains of many ancient stupas and monasteries can be found in the surroundings of Lumbini The Ashoka pillar is said to have been erected by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC and bears an inscription confirming this as the birth place of the Buddha. A stone image of Maya Devi giving birth to Lord Buddha as she holds onto a branch is seen in the Maya Devi temple. The belief that touching it will render a woman fertile has led to erosion as thousands of hands have stroked it.
South of the temple is the sacred pool where Maya Devi is said to have given her son his first purification bath. Shaded by the leafy Bo tree (the type of tree under which Buddha received enlightenment), it is a quiet garden and a newly planted forest nearby brings an atmosphere of tranquility to it. A Master Plan of the Lumbini Development Trust was drawn up decades ago and development is finally under way. The plan, completed in 1978 by the renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, will transform three square miles of land into a sacred place of gardens, pools, buildings, and groves. The development will include a Monastic Zone, the circular sacred Garden surrounding the Ashoka pillar and Maya Devi temple, and Lumbini Village, comprising lodges, restaurants, a cultural center and tourist facilities. Over the years, many stupas and monasteries have been built representing Buddhist communities of numerous countries from around the world. In Kapilvastu near Lumbini, is an excavation site that evokes the ancient palace where Lord Buddha spent his formative years. The ruins include scattered foundations of the palace and thirteen successive layers of human habitation dating back to the 8th Century BC; a must see for students of archeology and history.
Access: Nepal Airlines along with other airlines fly regularly to Bhairahawa airport near Lumbini, and there are regular bus services from Pokhara and Kathmandu. Accommodation: There are several good hotels and lodges in Lumbini, but accommodation is also available in monasteries of the various countries.
Touristic Places to See
Maya Devi temple, Ashoka pillar, Pushkarni pond
Maya Devi temple is one of the important sites as the place of birth of Lord Buddha. Inscriptions on the Ashoka pillar confirm the spot as the birthplace. Of special interest are several ruins of ancient stupas and monasteries. Recent excavations have unearthed a stone bearing a “footprint” indicating the exact location of the Buddha’s birth. Pushkarni pond is of special significance as Queen Maya Devi is said to have taken a bath here before giving birth. The International Gautami Nuns temple found here is a replica of the Swoyambhunath stupa in Kathmandu.
Other places of interest are the Lumbini Museum, Lumbini International Research Institute, and Kapilvastu Museum situated 27 km west of Lumbini in Tilaurakot. In the Kapilvastu museum can be seen ruins of the ancient capital of the Sakya kingdom where the Buddha grew up as Prince Siddhartha.
The Sacred Garden is best visited in the morning. Spread over 8 sq. km., it possesses treasures from the past. Today as part of the global initiative to promote Lumbini, many Buddhist communities from various countries have built or are building temples, monasteries or stupas near the Sacred Garden in the International Monastery Zone. Monasteries built by these communities showcase the architecture and culture of their respective nations and are part of the attraction of Lumbini today. The Monastery of Royal Thai (Thailand), Chinese Monastery (China), 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), Lumbini Museum, Lumbini International Research Institute, World Peace Pagoda, Eternal Peace Flame, Peace Bell and Crane Sanctuary add beauty and serenity to Lumbini.
About 31 kilometers west of Lumbini is Gotihawa in the Kapilvastu district. It is considered a very important religious site for Buddhists from around the world. It is revered as the spot where the Krakuchanda Buddha, who came before Sakyamuni Buddha, was born and attained nirvana.
Another spot if significance is Kudan where King Suddhodhana met Lord Buddha. It is about 4 ½ km south of Tilaurakot.
Niglihawa is situated about 32 kilometers northwest of Lumbini. Emperor Ashoka visited Niglisagar during his pilgrimage, built a stupa and set up a pillar. It is believed that the Kanakmuni Buddha, who came earlier than Shakyamuni Buddha, was born, enlightened, and met his father in this place.
Take a 45-minute flight from TIA in Kathmandu to Gautam Buddha Airport in Bhairahawa or catch a bus that leaves from the Gongabu Bus Park. Bhairahawa can also be reached by bus from other parts of the country. Buses to Lumbiini leave every hour or so from 6 am to 5 pm from Bhairahawa.