16 Feb 2023 Bodhi Adventures
The Birthplace of Lord Buddha,
World Heritage Site, Nepal
“After I am no more, O Ananda!
men of belief will visit the place with faith,
Curiosity and devotion………….
Lumbini, the place where I was born.
The Path to ultimate peace is spiritual discipline”
– Lord Buddha
Situated in the foothills of the Churiya range in the district of Rupandehi, 300km southwest of capital Kathmandu, Nepal. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha is the first and foremost site of pilgrimage among the Chatumahasthana. Buddhist literature declare that the newly born Prince Siddhartha took seven steps and uttered some precious words as epoch-making message to the suffering humanity. It happened in the beautiful Sal grove of Lumbini, Nepal. The garden was renowned for the beauty of its shady grove of lush green trees and colorful flowers. Maya Devi, the queen of Sakya King Suddhodana of Kapilvastu, on the way to her maternal hometown Devadaha, was passing through the Lumbini Garden. It was the Vaisakha Poornima (Full Moon Day) of 623 BC. While the queen was walking to the garden and took bath in the Pushkarini. After bath she preceded toward the north, felt labor pain and took support of the branch of a tree, she gave birth to the Prince.
FOR LUMBINI THE BUDDHA SAID
“Ananda, This (Lumbini) place is where the Tathagata was born, this is a place, which should be visited and seen by a person of devotion and which would cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence. At this place, Ananda, who are on a pilgrimage to (this) shrine, if they should die with devotion in their heart during the course of the pilgrimage, will after (their) death and dissolution of the body be reborn in a good destination, a fortunate celestial realm” (Mahaparinirvana Sutta)
LUMBINI: THE PILGRIMAGE
Today devotees and visitors from all over the world come to Lumbini,the timeless place where ancient monuments glorify the birthplace of Sakyamuni And bear witness to the record of the noteworthy visits by famous dignitaries. The pilgrims deeply immerse themselves in the serene spiritual atmosphere of Lumbini.
The famous Maurya Emperor Asoka guided by his spiritual teacher Upagupta made a pilgrimage to this holy site in 249 BC. He erected a ston pillar bearing an inscription stating cearly Hida Budhe Jate Skyamuniti (here Sakyamuni Buddha was born). He laid importance to the Marker – stone and constructed few other structures to make the exact birthplace of the Buddha. He worshiped the nativity tree and Puskarini (the holy pond). He also visited other surroundings historic sites of Kapilvastu, Ramgrama and Devadaha.
Three famous Chinese pilgrims – Tseng Tsai (4th century AD), Fa-Hsien (5th Century AD) and Hiuen Tsang (7th century AD) also visited Lumbini. Of them, Hiuen Tsang’s travel account gives the detail description of Lumbini. He had seen the stump of the nativity tree, a chaitya, the Asokan Pillar, the holy pond Puskarini, the Telar (oily) River and the source of warm and cool water springs.
King Ripu Malla (1312 AD) of Karnali, west Nepal, visited Lumbini and left the mark of his visit engraved on the top of the Asokan Pillar OM MANI PADME HUM, Ripu Malla Ciranjayatu. The association of Lumbini with the Buddha went slowly to oblivion and the name Lumbini gradually changed to Rummindei and then to Rupandehi (then present name of the district).
The then General Khadka Shumsher, Governor of Palpa and Dr. Alois Fuhrer, an imminent archaeological surveyor in British India, discovered the Asokan Pillar in 1896. As the pillar was discovered and the famous inscription deciphered, more and more people were interested in the archaeology and history of the site. PC Mukharji conducted an excavation in 1899 and identified the Nativity Sculpture as well as some of the structural remains in and around the birthplace. In 1930s, General Kaiser Shumsher carried out a large-scale excavation at the holy complex of Lumbini and covered up the archeological site with a view to strengthen the Maya Devi Temple.
The Department of Archaeology, Nepal (DoA) undertook the responsibility of conduction excavation, research and conservation since 1972. After the formation of the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) in 1985, the development activities at Lumbini including the excavation and conservation of the holy complex have been continued. In the 1990, LDT, DOA and Japan Buddhist Federation excavated the Maya Devi Complex.
MONUMENTS OF LUMBINI
Lumbini changed into a religious site soon after the Mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha. A monastic site evolved around the sacred spot of Buddha’s birth. The birth-spot being the most holy point in the whole of the Holy Land of Lumbini drew the attention of generous devotees who erected structures to pay homage to the great Master. These constrictions were of religious nature along the religious complex, a civic settlement also sprang up to meet the growing need of the religious community visiting or living in the holy complex.
THE MAYA DEVI TEMPLE
The Maya Devi shrine complex is the heart of all monuments at this holy site. The complex also bears the testimony of several layers of construction over the centuries. The main object of worship here is the Nativity Sculpture. The restored Maya Devi Temple was reopened on May 16, 2003 on the 2547th birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. Government of Nepal and LDT jointly restored the temple. The ground floor consists of the remains of the foundations of the early Maya Devi Temple that dates back to 3rd century BC. The sanctum sanatorioum is the birth spot of the Lord Buddha.
THE MARKER STONE
This stone conglomerate located deeply buried in the sanctum sanatorium pinpoints the exact location of the birth of Lord Buddha. Which was discovered after meticulous excavation of the Maya Devi Temple site in 1996. The exact size of Marker Stone is 70 * 40 * 10 cm. This is now covered with a bulletproof glass.
THE NATIVITY SCULPTURE
The image of Maya Devi, also known as the Nativity Sculpture dated back to 4th century AD, depicts Maya Devi, holding the branch of a tree with her right hand for support. Next to her Gautami Prajapati, her own sister, in supporting posture in the time of delivery is standing. The newly born prince Siddhartha is standing upright on a lotus pedestal, with two celestial figures receiving him.
THE PUSKARINI OR HOLY POND
Close by the Asokan Pillar on the southern side is the holy pond, the Puskarini, believed to be the holy pond which Maya Devi took bath just before giving birth to the Lord Buddha. It is also the site where the infant prince Siddhartha was given his first purification bath. The pond has terraced steps and is riveted by beautifully layered bricks.
THE ASOKAN PILLAR
The Asokan Pillar bears the first epigraphic evidence relating to the birthplace of Lord Buddha. It is the most noteworthy monument and an authentic historic document of birthplace of Lord Buddha in Lumbini. The inscription engraved by Emperor Asoka is still intact and testifies the authenticity of the birthplace. The text written in Brahmi script and Pali language is translated as follows:
Twenty years after his coronation, King Priayadarsi, Beloved of Gods visited this spot in person and offered worship at this place, because the Buddha, the Sage of the Sakyas, was born here. He caused to be built a stonewall around the place and also erected this stone pillar to commemorate his visit. Because the Lord Buddha was born here, he made the village of Lumbini free from taxes and subject to pay only one-eight of the produce as land revenue instead of the usual rate.
(DC Sircar, Inscription of Asoka 1967.p.69)
THE NEW FACE OF LUMBINI
The then United Nations Secretary General U Thant’s pilgrimage to Lumbini in 1967 became a milestone in the recent history of the development of Lumbini. Deeply influenced by Lumbini’s sanctity. U Thant discussed the matter with the then King Mahendra and suggested Nepal Government to develop Lumbini as an international pilgrimage and a tourist center. In 1970, he also helped formation of an international committee for the development of Lumbini consisting of 15 member nations to support Lumbini through the United Nation’s involvement. The world renowned architect Professor Kenzo Tange of Japan was assigned the task of designing a Master plan for the development of Lumbini.
MASTER PLAN OF LUMBINI
In 1978, the Master Plan designed by Prof. Tange was finalized and approved by Government of Nepal and United Nations. In the meantime, Government of Nepal was directly involved in the planning and development of Lumbini through the formation of the Lumbini Development Committee. The committee acquired the necessary amount of land, relocated the villages and commenced the task of creating basic infrastructure including the forestation program in the planned area. The Master Plan thus changed the face of Lumbini. In 1985, the Lumbini Development Trust Act came into existence and Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) was formed accordingly. Now the Trust is responsible for the implementation of the Master Plan and for the overall development of Lumbini.
CONCEPT OF MASTER PLAN
The Master Plan covers an area of 1*3 sq. miles, comprising three zones of a square mile each. The three zones are linked with walkways and canal, these are:
A) Sacred Garden Zone
B) Monastic Zone
C) New Lumbini Village
The main focus of Tange’s design is the Sacred Garden located in the southern part. The Ultimate objective of the design here is to create an atmosphere of spirituality, peace, universal brotherhood and non-violence consistent with the time and Buddha’s message to the world. The Sacred Garden Zone shelters the ancient monuments at the center in a freshly restored atmosphere of serene and lush forest and water body surrounding the complex.
The Monastic Zone is situated in the center with the forest are, north of the Sacred Garden, divided by a canal. There are 13 monasteries on east and 29 in west Monastic Enclaves, having 42 plots each allotted for new monasteries of Theravada and Mahayana sects of Buddhism respectively. A research center, a library, an auditorium and a museum that provide facilities for research and study of Buddhism are located at the cultural center. The northern part of the site is being developed for the New Lumbini Village. It is also a gateway to the outer world, where the visitors can find comfortable hotels and restaurants offering necessary facilities.
Nepalese and international Monasteries / Vihara representing different architecture and culture of Buddhist countries and Buddhist organizations are other attractions of Lumbini. The Monasteries of the Royal Thai (Thailand), Chinese Monastery (China), Vietnam Phat Quoc Tu (Vietnam), Mahabodhi Society of Kolkatta, 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), Dharmodaya Sabha (Nepal), Drigung Kagyud Meditation Center (India), Cambodian Monastery (Cambodia) Panditarama Meditation Center (Myanmar), Viapasana Meditation 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.
Lumbini being the birthplace of Lord Buddha is a timeless place but it does not only promote the aesthetic value and its spirituality. It actually attracts naturalists, botanists and zoologists with its richness. One can find wide varieties of shrubs, herbs, flowers and plants. There are more than 250 species of birds including the tallest flying bird Sarus Crane, Snakes, Python, Lizards and endangered creature the Blue Bull (Boselaphus tragocamelus).
SOME OF THE IMPORTANT SITES AROUND LUMBINI
TILAURAKOT: The ancient capital of Sakya Kingdom (Kapilvastu) is located some 27 km west of Lumbini. There are ruins and mounds of old stupas and monasteries made of kiln-burnt bricks and clay mortar. The remains are surrounded by a moat and wall. The palace is made of bricks.
NIGLIHAWA: About 8 km northeast of Taulihawa. The site for the Asokan Pillar and pond knows as Niglisagar. Where Kanakmuni Buddha was born, enlightened and met his father.
ARORAKOT: About 3 km northwest of Niglihawa is a rectangular fortified area popularly known as Arorakot, which is believed to be the natal town of Kanakmuni Buddha.
SAGARAHAWA: About 12 km north of Taulihawa, is the forest of Sagarhawa, the site where Sakyas were massacred.
GOTIHAWA: About 5 km southwest of Taulihawa, the site for Asokan Pillar where Krakuchhanda Buddha was born and attained nirvana.
KUDAN: The ancient Nyagrodharama, where King Suddhodhana met Lord Buddha, first time after returning from cosmic enlightenment. It is about 3 km southwest of Taulihawa.
SISHANIYA: A fortified archaeological site.
DEVDAHA: The famous ancient capital of Koliya Kingdom, the maternal hometown of Queen Maya Devi, Prajapati and Princess Yasodhara. Situated at about 57 km northeast of Lumbini.
RAMAGRAMA: The relic stupa of Lord Buddha (one of eight dhatu) was built by the king of Ramagrama, who was the eight king, to obtain the Buddha’s relics. Buddhist literary sources mention that Emperor Asoka wanted to open it to multiply into eighty four thousand. However the Dragon King and people of Ramagrama did not permit. This brick stupa standing 7 meters height on the bank of Jharahi River.
LUMBINI VILLAGE TOUR
A walk through the villages surrounding Lumbini Master Plan, interaction with local people, buying their authentic hand made handicraft, Sculpture products and observing their traditional rituals will bring one closer to understanding the diversity of Terai cultures in Nepal. The visitors have the option of choosing village tour to Ekala, Khudabagar, Mudhubani, Tenuhawa, Ama & Bhagawanpur walk through the villages, Taxi, Rickshaw, Bicycle or Bullock Cart.