Lumbini is located in the south-central Terai of Nepal, situated in the foothills of the Himalayas. For millions of Buddhists the world over, it evokes a kind of holy sentiment akin to the significance of Jerusalem to Christians and Mecca to Muslims. Lumbini is the place where Lord Buddha – the apostle of peace, and the Light of Asia – was born in 623 B.C. In historical terms, the region is an exquisite treasure-trove of ancient ruins and antiquities, dating back to the pre-Christian era. The site (Lumbini Grove or Sacred Zone) was described as a beautiful garden in the Buddha’s time and still retains its legendary charm and beauty. Both the Shakyas and Kolias Clans owned the garden and its tranquil environs at the time of Lord Buddha’s birth. King Suddhodana, father of Buddha was of the Shakya Dynasty belonging to the Kshatriya or Warrior Caste.
For centuries, Buddhists the world over knew that the general area of Lumbini was where the Lord Buddha was born. In the words of those famous Chinese pilgrims of antiquity, Huian Tsang and Faeihan, ‘Lumbini -where the Lord was born – is a piece of Heaven on Earth, where one could see the snowy mountains amidst a splendid garden, embedded with stupas and monasteries!’ However, the exact location remained uncertain and obscure until 1 December 1886 when a wandering German archaeologist Dr. Alois A. Fuhrer came across a stone pillar and ascertained beyond doubt it was indeed the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Since that day it has become a centre point for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
Recently, UNESCO has declared Lumbini a World Heritage Site. It has great potential to grow as the major tourist destination in Nepal.
The significance of Lumbini :
Many of the places that were of importance to the Lord Buddha during his life retain a potent significance to Buddhists of today. Unsurprisingly, nowhere has a greater significance than the site of his birth. In the words of Buddha himself: “O-Bhikshus’, after my death when people and members of a new generation come and ask you, then tell them that here the Buddha was born, here he attained the full enlightenment, here he turned the wheel of Dharma twelve times, and here finally the Buddha entered into Parinirvana”. Hundreds of years have gone by, but the architectural splendors of that era are still standing and serve as a vivid reminder of the origins of Buddhist philosophy and doctrines. As a complement to the temples and shrines, our aim is to create a living environment in which Buddha would have felt at home during his life.
Buddhism, founded in North India, is not a religion in the strict sense but more a system of philosophy and a code of morality. Buddhism is now practised in all the major countries of the world but predominantly in Japan, Taiwan, China, Sri Lanka, Indo-Chinese countries, India, and Nepal.
Buddhism is founded in principle of Ahimsa (no killing) and is very simple to practice. Buddhism seldom criticises others, does not claim superiority over others, has no fundamentalists, and easily co-exists with any other type of philosophy and religion. As a result of this, Buddhism is increasingly favoured in a confused and troubled world where materialistic values are given the highest priority. As an example to this, many people in the west have now opted for Buddhism.
Within Buddhism, one can practice Yoga and meditation, which are considered by Buddhists to be ways of purifying the mind and soul. Lumbini Buddha Garden with its large space is an ideal place to practice yoga and meditation!
PLACES TO SEE AROUND LUMBINI
This is the sacred site of Lord Buddha’s birth, which is today a small village in Nepal, 27 Km from Sunauli on the Indo-Nepal border. 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, (or Siddhartha as he would have been known then) 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 Rummendei pillar:
Three hundred years after the Mahaparinirvana, Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini and erected a pillar there. This pillar, though broken, still remains at the site. It is known as the Rummendei pillar after the earlier name of the place (modern name Rupandehi) in Nepal. In modern days the pillar is known as Ashokan pillar.
The Mayadevi temple:
The Mayadevi temple and the Puskarni pond nearby are part of the sacred complex. There are two beautiful panels in the temple, the older one in stone and the other in marble. Both panels show Mayadevi holding the Sal tree and the young prince emerging out of her right side. Just outside the temple is the Puskarni pond whose water glistens in the faint sun, the gentle breeze creating endless ripples. Here Queen Mahamaya (=Mayadevi) had her bath before the delivery and it was also here that Prince Siddhartha had his first purification bath.
Dharmaswami Maharaja Buddha Vihara:
This Tibetan gompa belonging to the Sakyapa order, is also outside the complex. His Eminence Chogya the complex. His Eminence ChogyaTrichen Rinpoche and the Raja 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, France, Austria, Germany, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are among those that are built. Also in the vicinity are the Lumbini Research Institute, which has an impressive collection of Buddhist literature, and a Museum. Both are open from Sunday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm (10 am to 4 pm in winter)
Located some 27 km west of Lumbini lies the ruins of historic town of Kapilvastu (also called Kapilavastu). 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. In fact, the city of Kapilvastu is constructed on such a grand scale that it is not hard to picture it as a seat of high culture.Tilaurakot palace was constructed within the high walls by the river Ban Ganga in a picturesque setting dating back to 5th century BC or before.
About 10 km northwest of Taulihawa there is a rectangular fortified area, which is popularly known as Arourakot. 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 is still clearly visible. A brick lined well is seen to the south and an elevated mound towards the northwest corner.
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.
About 2 km. southwest of Taulihawa, on the left side of the ShoratgarhTaulihawa 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. This is one of the prominent and not to miss ancient sites of Lumbini heritage.
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 pond, there are two broken pieces of the Ashokan pillar, the longer one laying flat and the shorter ones stuck into the ground. The pillar bears two peacocks on the top part and a Devanagari script inscription reading Om Mani Padme Hum (praise to the jewel at the heart of the lotus).
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 which roughly translates as: “King Piyadasi beloved of the gods, after 14 years of his coronation enlarged for the second time the stupa of Buddha Kanaka Muni, and after 20 years of his coronation he came himself and worshipped and he caused this stone pillar to be erected.”
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 pond 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 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 Mayadevi (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 NirgandhaNathputra. There are several other sites Kumarbarti, Khayardanda, Bairimai/Kanyamai, Bhabanipur/Devidamar, Mathagadi (ancient weapons), around Devdaha.
It is the brick stupa on the bank of Jharahi River that is seven meter high consisting of relic (one of the eight astha dhatus) of Lord Buddha. Ramagrama, sometimes referred as Koliyanagar, was a major city of the Koliya kingdom. The stupa was built by the King of Ramagrama, who was the eighth King to obtain the Buddhatwa.
According to Buddhist texts, after Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana, his cremated remains were divided and distributed among the princes of eight of the sixteen mahajanapadas. Each of the princes constructed a stupa at or near his capital city, within which the respective portion of the ashes was enshrined. Some 300 years later, Emperor Ashoka was able to open seven of these stupas and removed the Buddha relics as his goal was to redistribute the relics into 84,000 stupas that he had planned to construct throughout the Maurya Empire. According to legend, the serpent king was guarding the Ramagrama stupa, and prevented Ashoka from unearthing the relic. Even till present day, Ramagrama is considered as one of the original places that remains untouched and unearthed for the asthadhatus (remains from cremation, mainly ashes).