Long ago, a pregnant queen was going to her maternal home. Her group was travelling within a forest. Suddenly they found a place to take rest. Unexpectedly the queen observed a small pond. The Pond was so beautiful that she wanted to bath in it. Her royal servants arranged everything for her. Once she finished her bath, she started feeling strong labour pain and only after walking a few steps she delivered a baby. It was a boy. Miraculously the boy started stepping out and with his every step a lotus started floating. He was not an ordinary boy, his name was Siddhartha Gautama. He was the Lord Buddha and the place was Lumbini.
Situated in the foothills of the Siwalik range, Lumbini was the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Present day Lumbini is situated in Nepal and this small town is well connected with all major cities of Nepal. Lumbini is one of the major pilgrimage sites for all followers of Lord Buddha. The Buddha himself highlighted the importance of visiting four major places for his followers. They are Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, Bodh Gaya the place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, Sarnath where Lord Buddha first taught the Dharma and Kushinagar where Lord Buddha attained Parinirvana.
Undoubtedly visiting Lumbini will have religious importance for a Buddhist, but what about others? Yes, Lumbini can be equally rewarded for anyone seeking tranquillity, peace and strong thrust to witness history.
History of Lumbini
Let’s go back to 2600 years ago. As per the scriptures, on a full moon day (popularly known as Buddha Purnima) holy prince Siddhartha was born to Sakya king Suddhodana of Kapilavastu and Queen Maya Devi. He was not an ordinary boy. Thus, his birth was also not ordinary. Queen Maya Devi delivered holy prince on standing posture. At the time of his birth, she was holding a branch of a tree with her right hand for support and her younger sister Gautami Prajapati had supported her delivery. Amazingly the exact replica, which is known as ‘The Nativity Sculpture’ can be witnessed inside of the Maya Devi temple. This Sculpture is almost 1600 years old and one of the major attractions of this site.
Today the Lumbini is an UNESCO world heritage site and the whole campus is 4.8 kilometers long. The heart and most important location in the park is Maya Devi temple. The foundation of this temple is 2500 years old. The Marker Stone is the centre of the temple. Marker stone directs the exact location of the birthplace of the Buddha. This stone was discovered after a meticulous excavation of the old Maya Devi temple. The stone was found in the same distance and direction as mentioned by Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller in his travel account.
A 2300 years old Pillar
Another major wonder of the site is the ‘Ashokan Pillar’. Ashoka was a notable emperor of India. In his early stage of life he was a furious king; to conquer and expand his kingdom he killed thousands of men. In the latter part of his life, he was introduced to Buddhism and started spreading the message of Buddha. He was the main architect for spreading Buddhism in many parts of the world. During his visit to the birthplace of the Buddha, he installed a pillar and that 2300 years old pillar is still intact today! Today that Ashokan pillar is a major icon of Lumbini.
If you ask, being a non-Buddhist, why I am emphasising for travelling Lumbini? My answer will be, peace has no religion. It vibrates the same message across all countries and places. Lumbini has a perfect blend of history, spirituality and nature. Even while walking on the campus you can feel the meditative trance.
Surrounded by forest and water-land, the campus is divided into three parts; the sacred garden, the monastic zone and new Lumbini village. After setting up the Lumbini Development trust; Nepal government invited various countries, where Buddhism is prominent. They set up monasteries across the campus. These monasteries are actually great places to explore the diversified Buddhist culture across the world.
My story of Lumbini
History and nature always attract me, thus during my Nepal visit; I stayed in Lumbini for a couple of days. As I shared earlier, the Lumbini campus is very big. I decided to start my Lumbini visit from the main attraction – Maya Devi temple. The temple is situated beside the Puskarini (the holy pond). As per Buddhist folklore, Siddhartha the infant prince had first purification bath in this ancient pond. The surrounding of the Maya Devi temple was extremely peaceful and powerful; even just sitting there for a while can help to tranquillize any unsteady mind.
Next day morning I hired a bicycle for my campus visit. It was a bright sunny day, but the weather was pleasant. I started with the beautiful Sri Lankan Monastery and started exploring other beautiful neighbour monasteries. I was amazed to see the diversity in culture, even within the same religion. The Lord Buddha statue of Sri Lankan Monastery looks different than the Lord Buddha statue of the Indian Mahabodhi Society Monastery. Slowly I explored all monasteries of the campus; The Royal Thai Monastery, Myanmar Golden Monastery, Austrian Monastery, Chinese Monastery and Korean Monastery were really remarkable among them.
In the middle of the campus, there is a small museum. The architecture of the museum is unique, but the government needs to take more care of museum articles. Adjoin to the museum; there is an International Buddhist research centre for Buddhist scholars.
Lumbini is a great place for any meditator. Like me, you can simply sit in any monastery and start the self-journey or you can join any meditation centres. There are multiple meditation centres located in the park. Vipassana meditation centre and Laddak Meditation centre are popular options.
An evening to remember
The beautiful Japanese Peace Pagoda is situated at the last point of the park. Surrounding the Pagoda was so beautiful that I decided to spend my evening there. In that evening, I participated in a beautiful peace prayer in the Japanese Peace temple. After the prayer, when I came out from the temple, the sun was about to bid adieu for the day. I took my vehicle and started walking towards the gate. I was alone. There was no artificial sound only few crickets had started singing their theme songs. Few cranes and other birds were looking for shelters around the water land. The sky colour had transformed to complete tangerine. I asked a question to myself, “Where am I? Is this the land of mortals or heaven of immortals?” Maybe people are wrong, the world of mortals are not completely hell. Heaven is also there, but you have to make some effort to search for it.
The park was becoming dark; I started riding my bicycle….
A few tips to travel Lumbini
- Siddharthanagar (only a few kilometers from Indo – Nepal border town Sanauli) is the gateway of Lumbini. Frequent buses are available from Siddarthanagar to Lumbini.
- Quite a good number budget and premium hotels are available nearby Lumbini campus.
- Lumbini is well connected to Pokhara or Katmandu.
- There are many great monasteries are situated across campus. Spending at least two days are strongly recommended to capture the real essence of Lumbini.