Nepal – the country of Mt. Everest and Buddha

Nepal – the country of Mt. Everest and Buddha

Lumbini: the Birth-place of Buddha

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 19, 2011


NEPAL has always fascinated the world with her majestic religious sites and picturesque beauty of mountains, and the serenity in the hearts of her people. Though the Nepalese have diverse beliefs and ethnic backgrounds, all unite and respect each other’s culture and religion marking unity in diversity. Nepal is endowed with many historical, religious and cultural aspects of interest. One of these mesmerizing holy places, Lumbini, where the Buddha Shakyamuni was born in 623 BC is situated in the south-western Terai of Nepal and is 298 kms away from the capital. Lumbini evokes a kind of holy sentiment to the millions of Buddhists all over the world. The following menu which takes you to other Important Buddhist Places in the Lumbini and its surroundings.

 

 Lumbini

 Ramagrama

 Devadaha

 Tilaurakot : Kapilavastu

 Kudan

 Gotihawa

 Arorakot

 Niglihawa

 Sagarhawa

LUMBINI

Lumbini is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Sakya prince, and the ultimate Buddha, the Perfectly Enlightened one. The site of his nativity is marked by the commemorative pillar erected by Indian Buddhist emperor Ashoka over 2,200 years ago and was rediscovered in 1896. Thus, as Ashoka himself acknowledged, Lumbini is a quintessential Buddhist heritage site, currently undergoing a renaissance by the internationally supported Lumbini Development Project

 

Across the world and throughout the ages, religious people have made pilgrimages. Many great teachers of the Buddhist tradition maintained the practice of pilgrimages, paying respect to the holy sites.

 

The Buddha himself exhorted his followers to visit what are now known as the four original places of Buddhist pilgrimage: Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar.
 

The View of Mayadevi Temple with Asokan Pillar and Puskarini Pond in Lumbini as they looked in olden days.

The Recent View of Mayadevi Temple with Asokan Pillar and Puskarini Pond in Lumbini.

Master Plan

The Lumbini Master Plan as prepared by famous Architect Kenjo Tange in 1978 covers an area of three square miles on north-south and encompasses three zones each covering one square mile. The three zones are united by a 1.474 meter walkway and a canal. The zones are

a. the sacred Garden

b. the Monastic zone and
c. the New Lumbini Village
The heart of the design is the Sacred Garden located in the southern part. The ultimate objective of the design is to create an atmosphere of spirituality, peace Universal brotherhood and nonviolence consistent with the time and Buddha’s message to the world. The Sacred Garden shelters the ancient monuments at the center in a freshly restored atmosphere of serene and lush forest all around the complex.

 

Full View of Lumbini Master Plan

The Monastic zone is situated in the forest area north of the Sacred garden, divided by a canal, there are East and West Monastic Enclaves having 42 plots each allotted for new monasteries of Theravada and Mahayana sects of Buddhism. Nearby, across the central link bridge, a research center, a library, an auditorium, and a museum provide facilities for research and study on Buddhism.
The Northern part of the site is being developed as the New Lumbini Village which is also a gateway to the outer world where the visitors can find comfortable lodges and restaurants offering high standard facilities.

Concerning the birth of the Lord Buddha here, the Chinese account articulates a very interesting incident saying that Queen Mayadevi, mother of the lord had a bath at the pool here and then grasped the branch of a tree facing the east, she brought forth the Lord on the ground thus, making Lumbini a sacred place. It is also said that Lord Buddha walked seven steps as soon as he stepped on the mother earth.

The central feature of Lumbini is the sacred garden that is spread over 1 sq. mile. Historically, the region is an exquisite treasure-trove of ancient ruins and antiquities. The site, described as a beautiful garden in the Buddha’s time retains its legendary charm and beauty embracing the Mayadevi temple inside it.

The Maya Devi temple is a distinctive shrine of importance and has the bas-relief image of Maya Devi, enshrined in a small pagoda-like structure. The image shows Maya Devi , mother of the Lord Buddha, supporting herself by holding on with her right hand to a branch of Sal tree, with newly born infant Buddha standing upright on a lotus pedestal. Two other celestial figures are depicted in an act of showering water and lotuses bestowed from heaven. The famous Maya Devi stone sculpture, also known as the Nativity Sculpture was installed here in 4th century AD.
The single most important place of the Lumbini and to the entire Buddhist world for that matter is the stone slab located deep in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Revealed after hard and meticulous excavations under the three layers of ruins over the site of the famous Maya Devi temple, the stone slab foundation pinpoints the location of the original place marking the exact spot of the birthplace of Lord Buddha. This spot being the most sensitive requires proper conservation and exposition to allow pilgrims and visitors to observe in slut the Marker Stones here.

Nearby, and just to the west of the Mayadevi temple, stands the Ashoka pillar- the oldest monument so far found in Nepal erected by Emperor Ashoka in 249 BC. The pillar is the first epigraphic evidence relating to the life history of Lord Buddha and is also the most visible landmark of the garden. The historic importance of the pillar is evidenced by the inscription engraved in the pillar in Brahmi script. It is said that the great Emperor Ashoka visited the site in the twentieth year of his ascendancy to the throne and as homage to the holy place of Lord Buddha.

To the south of the pillar, we find a sacred pond- Puskarani- believed to be the same sacred pool in which Maya Devi took a holy dip just before giving birth to the Lord and also where infant Buddha was given his first purification bath. Architecturally, the pool has projecting terraces in descending order and is reverted with fine brick masonry. The holy site is surrounded by a row of stupas. These stupas are also believed to be built as early as 3rd century B.C while some stupas with square, rectangular and circular bases are said to be added in the medieval period.

A host of shrines, stupas, monasteries, meditation centers and courtyards built or being built in the International Monastic Zone here by various countries such as Japan, Korea, China, India, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, France, and Germany embodies the country’s respective architecture and gives Lumbini, an international feel with a message of universal friendship and brotherhood. Out of these symbols of universal peace and brotherhood, the World Peace Stupa built by Japan can be taken as one of the most attractive stupas there. It is said that one can really feel the peace and calmness of Lord Buddha’s warmth when he sets his foot there.
Lumbini rests on the foothills of Churia range and can be accessed by both Air and Land route.

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 RAMAGRAM

Ramagram is the maternal state of Lord Buddha situated in Nawalparasi district and some 76 kilometers from Lumbini. Legend has it that after the death of Lord Buddha his relics were divided between eight states- Magadh, Vaishali, Kapilavastu, Alkappa, Ramagram, Vediwa, Pawa, and Kushinagar. Ajatasatru, the king of Magadh is said to have grabbed the relics of Lord Buddha from other states and built another stupa but he could not grab the relics at Ramagram as it was believed to be protected by Nagarajas or serpent kings.

 

Ramagram Stupa

It is said that the relics of Lord Buddha is still in the ovum of the present stupa of 9 meters in height. A research recently done by LDT and Department of Archaeology also proved that the different artifacts and antiquities are laid in the ovum of Ramagram Stupa.

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 DEVADAHA

The country of Koliyas, where Mayadevi, mother of Gautama Siddhartha, was born, is certainly a holy place of pilgrimage and a household name for the Buddhists. In Buddhist literature the Koliyan Kingdom where Mayadevi was born, is mentioned by various names- Koliyanagar, Vyaghranagara, and Devadaha. The Koliyas of Devadaha are known as the maternal tribe of Gautama Buddha, and the Koliyans of Ramagrama are known as the famous claimants to the relics of the Buddha Master in Kusinagara..

 

Devadaha Village

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 TILAURAKOT

There are many Important Buddhist sites of interest around Lumbini. Tilaurakot being one of them is located some 27 kms. west of Lumbini and there lies the ruins of the historic town of Kapilvastu believed to be the capital of Shakya republic where Siddhartha lived and enjoyed his life until his thirtieth year. 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 the wall of the city is made of bricks.

 

Remains of Kapilavastu Palace in Tilaurakot

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 KUDAN

Kudan is located about two kilometers south of Taulihawa. It gives the visitors one more area of interest with a huge mound of structural ruins with a duster of four buildings and a pond excavated in 1962 indicating the existence of a huge Gupta style temple in ancient times. This place is identified as Nyagrodharama vihara, built by King Suddhodana for Lord Buddha.

 

Remains of the Palace at Kudan

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 GOTIHAWA

Moving about five kilometers south-west of Taulihawa, we reach a village called Gotihawa which has an Ashokan Pillar standing on a slab. The upper portion of the pillar is lost and only the lower portion about 3.5 m high is still intact. This site is identified as the birth place of the past Buddha Krakucchanda.

 

A Broken Asokan Pillar at Gotihawa

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 ARORAKOT

If we move about nine kilometers north-east of Taulihawa we reach a large rectangular fortified area popularly known as Arorakot. The fortified area is the natal town of Kanakamuni Buddha. A brick line is seen to the south and an elevated mound towards the North West corner. Remains of the ancient moat and brick fortification around the Kot still reflect its history there.

 

A Broken Asokan Pillar at Gotihawa

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NIGLIHAWA

If Another site of archaeological importance, about 8 kms, northwest of Taulihawa, is Niglihawa. The site has a quadrangular pond locally known as Niglisagar surrounded by bushes. On the western bank of the pond there are two broken pieces of the Ashokan pillar. The pillar bears two peacocks on the top part and an inscription reading om mane padme hum.

 

Two Broken Pieces of Asokan Pillar at Niglihawa

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 SAGARHAWA

At about 12 kilometers north of Taulihawa we see a forest area called Sagarhawa. In the midst of the forest there is a huge rectangular pond popularly known as Lumbusagar. The ruins of the ancient pond which was excavated as the site of “massacre of the Sakyas” can still be located on the south-west bank of the sagar.

Two Broken Pieces of Asokan Pillar at Niglihawa

@NIEM

One Response to “Lumbini: the Birth-place of Buddha”

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