Although the majority of the Nepalese people follow Hinduism, Nepal is an equally sacred place for the followers of the Buddhism form all around the world. Gautam Buddha; the founder of Buddhism was born in Lumbini, which automatically makes Nepal a must visit place for the Buddhist all around the world at least once in their lifetime. It is visited by thousands of tourists from around the world in search of peace and a sense of light.
No wonder, Lumbini the holy site for Buddhists, but the Hindus also consider this place as a sacred site. The Hindus believe that Gautam Buddha is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hindu. So, Lumbini is visited by thousands of Hindus on pilgrimage during the full moon of the Nepali month of Baisakh (April-May) to worship the Queen Mayadevi as Rupa Devi, the mother goddess of Lumbini.
Lumbini is located in the Rupendehi district, in Province no. 5 in Nepal. According to the Buddhist legends, Lumbini is the place where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautam in 563 BCE. Lumbini is a very sacred place for the Buddhist and was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1997.
The total area of Lumbini covers 4.8 km in length and 1.6 km in width. Lumbini is bordered by a very large monastic zone in which only monasteries can be built, which means no commercial buildings like shops, hotels or restaurant. The place is separated into two monastic zones, i.e. eastern and western. In the eastern zone, there are Theravadin monasteries, whereas, in the western zone, there are Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries. You can easily separate these two zones as there is a long water-filled canal which separates them, with a series of brick arch bridges joining the two sides along the length.
The Lumbini area has numerous temples and monasteries. There are more than 25 international monasteries which were built by different Buddhism follower countries all around the world. Lumbini is popular all around the world for these monasteries along with other temples and architectures such as Mayadevi temple, Ashoka pillar, Bodhi tree, and the sacred pond.
Major Attractions of Lumbini
Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi Temple is one of the major attractions of Lumbini which was built as an honor of Mayadevi, the mother of Gautam Buddha. It is an ancient white colored Buddhist temple situated in the Lumbini. It is also the main temple of Lumbini, a site traditionally considered the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. The temple also stands adjacent to a sacred pool called Puskarni Pond and a sacred garden. The archaeological remains of the site were previously dated back to the third century BCE brick constructed by the Indian emperor, Ashoka.
An international team of archaeologists found remains of an ancient tree shrine dated before 550 BCE in the November 2013. As per the Robin Coningham, head of the excavation, the shrine is “the earliest Buddhist shrine in the world”. It is also the first archaeological evidence of Gautam Buddha’s life.
The Ashoka Pillar is another attraction of Lumbini which is made up of stones and has inscriptions on its outer circumference. Emperor Ashoka; the Mauryan King of ancient India erected the pillar in 246 BC in his 20th regnal year to mark his pilgrimage to Lumbini. The inscription on the surface of the pillar declares Lumbini as a tax-free zone.
Emperor Ashoka built several pillars during his regime. Till date, there are 19 Indian pillars with inscriptions, most of which are found in India. The Ashoka Pillar in Lumbini Nepal is the oldest one.
Puskarni is the holy pond in Lumbini area towards the south of the Ashoka Pillar. The lake is considered as sacred because it is where Buddha’s mother, Mayadevi took the ritual dip before giving him birth. The people also believe that Siddhartha Gautam took his first bath (also called purification bath) in this pond soon after his birth. Nowadays, the pilgrims visiting the Lumbini take a holy dip to the Puskarni pond. The ruined foundations were found around the pond area, and as per the research, they date back to 2nd century BC and 9th century AD.
World Peace Pagoda
A Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa; it is a monument built to inspire peace, designed to provide a focus for people of all the races and creeds and to help to unite them in their search for world peace. The peace pagoda of Lumbini was built was Nipponzan Myohoji monks of Japan just outside the main area of the site.
The beautiful white pagoda has a gleaming golden colored statue in the center of the pagoda. This golden statue of Gautam Buddha in the pagoda is believed to be in the same posture during the birth of the Gautam Buddha. There is a belief that the bottom of the stupa is the graveyard of the Japanese monk murdered by the Anti-Buddhist during the construction of the pagoda.
Lumbini Museum, also known as Buddhist art gallery is the center of Buddhism. The museum has important findings which constitute in preserving Buddhist culture. You can see many interesting things in a display such as Siddhartha and Yasodhara in the pose, human and animal figurines, punch-marked and kushana coins, replicas of Buddhist images and photos from the Indian museums and so on. Located in the northern end of the site, the Lumbini museum is dedicated to the life of Gautam Buddha and holds the various artifacts and pictures of Gautam Buddha from the Buddhist sites from all over the world.
Myanmar Golden Temple
As the name suggests, the Myanmar Golden Temple was built by Myanmar and is named after the country itself. The temple is one of the oldest structures in the whole compound. You will also find three prayer halls in the temple. There is also Lokamani Pula Pagoda inside the premises of the temple. The pagoda is a huge gilded stupa in the southern Burmese style, inspired by the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
The Great Drigung Kagyud Lotus Stupa
The German Tara Foundation constructed this beautiful and extravagant stupa. It contains a hollow crown which is partly covered in the glass revealing a small statue of Buddha within it. The main prayer room of the stupa is large with a diameter of 20 meters and is very interesting as the domed ceiling is covered in various Buddhist murals.
Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha Vihar
Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha Vihar is a Gompa located outside the premise of Lumbini. The Gompa was constructed by His Eminence Chogya Trichen Ringboche and Raja of Mustang. The Gompa is very attractive with a very detailed painting which reflects the Buddhist arts. Monks living in the Gompa perform Tara Puja on a daily basis.
Royal Thai Buddhist Monastery
The Royal Thai Buddhist Monastery lies in the northern end of the Puskarni pond. The monastery is an impressive piece of architectural talent. It is huge and is built with the stunning white marbles. You will be in complete wonder watching this monastery in the crystal day with the blue sky above. The meditation center built with the blue colored roof is another impressive piece of art on to the monastery.
Well, these monasteries and Gompas are some highlights of what you will encounter in the Lumbini. Being the birthplace of Gautam Buddha himself, Lumbini is graced by many beautiful architectural pieces from many countries around the world. You will also encounter many historical artifacts and monuments, and you will certainly know more about the life of Lord Buddha.
How to reach Lumbini
Lumbini is one of the major tourist centers of Nepal. Lumbini is a very accessible place and thus thousands of pilgrims visit Lumbini every year.
Lumbini can be accessed by both the roadways and airways:
The roadway is one of the popular ways of transportation which connects most of the places of Nepal. It is also cost less compared to other means of transportation. Arriving at Kathmandu, you will find many ticket counters where you can easily get a bus ticket to Lumbini. If you want to take a desired and comfortable seat, then better book it before few days. From Kathmandu, it will take about 10-hour ride by bus to reach Lumbini. However, if you are in Chitwan or Pokhara, then you can get a bus from there as well. It will take 30 minutes of drive to reach Lumbini from Bhairahawa.
Regular flights are available from Kathmandu as well as Pokhara to reach Bhairahawa; the nearest point to Lumbini. It is about 45 minute’s flight from Kathmandu to reach Bhairahawa. From Bhairahawa, Lumbini is a 30-minute more ride in a vehicle.