If you have had the opportunity to visit Nepal, you are sure to have certain images in your head that remind you of your journey to the Himalayan kingdom- it could be the snow-capped mountains, the terraced fields, splashing rivers, pagoda styled temples, and finally Gautam Buddha. It is hard not to associate every Gautam Buddha picture, idol, stupa or mentions with Nepal as it is the birthplace of the most famous preacher of peace in the world. A number of devotees as well as historically inclined tourists visit Nepal every year for the very purpose of witnessing the birthplace of Lord Buddha- Lumbini.
Situated in the Terai belt of the nation, Lumbini happens to be one of the famous tourist destinations, a Mecca for the devotees and believers all over the world. Lumbini is located in the district of Kapilvastu, near the Indian border. Blessed with the various sites, instruments and shrines of various stages of Buddha’s life, Lumbini offers a variety of attractions related to the different occurrences in Buddha’s life. Lumbini is believed to be the place where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to the baby Buddha, Siddhartha Gautam. While there are various inscriptions, bricks and other evidences of Lumbini being the birthplace and a place of worship for the people for centuries, it was rediscovered by Nepali archaeologists in 1896. The archaeologists discovered the Ashokan pillar which confirmed the linkage of Lumbini with Buddha.
UNESCO enlisted the birthplace as a world heritage site due to its importance to the Hindu and Buddhist religious community as well as the history and culture of the entire world. The Lumbini heritage site covers 4.8km in length and 1.3 km in width and is stated as a monastic zone where only monasteries can be built. Building of any recreational structure in the area is prohibited and is separated into the Eastern zone (with Theravadin monasteries) and the Western zone (Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries). The major attractions of Lumbini are as follows
Maya Devi temple
The most noted and the important temple in the premise enshrines the traditional location of Buddha’s birth. The Maya Devi temple is one of the major attractions of Lumbini.The later temple is a white building that protects the exact spot of Buddha’s birth, denoted by a marker stone. The Bodhi tree is apparently the tree where Maya Devi rested in the shade while she was travelling. It was there that she went into labor and took a ritual dip in the nearby pond, which is believed to be the place where Buddha took his first bath too.
It is believed that this pillar was built during 249 BC, when Emperor Ashoka of India visited the then flourishing village of Lumbini. He built four stupas and a pillar with a horse idol at the top and an inscription that describes his visit and the importance of Lumbini as the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The pillar is surrounded by a small fence, decorated with colorful prayer flags and also has bowls to light incense sticks and meditate. This pillar holds a historical significance and it is considered to be one of the major attractions of Lumbini.
Myanmar Golden Temple
One of the oldest structures on the premises with three prayer halls is the Myanmar golden temple. Right inside the temple premises is the Lokamani Pula pagoda, another Burmese style pagoda that resembles the Shwe-dagon pagoda of Yangon.
World Peace Pagoda
This pagoda was built by the Japanese at the cost of US $ 1 million, just outside the main area. The pagoda has the statue of Lord Buddha in the position he took when he was born. It is a gleaming white structure with a golden statue. It is one of the rising attractions of Lumbini.
Dharma swami Maharaja Buddha Vihar
This Tibetan styled Gompa outside the complex was built by His Eminence Chogya Trichen Ringboche and Raja of Mustang where Tara Puja is conducted every day by the 60 monks who reside there.
It is a complex of pagodas, prayer rooms and meditation cells. The other temples and monasteries include the Korean temple, others built by Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, Germany, Sri Lanka and other countries.
Lumbini Museum on the northern end of the premise is dedicated to the life of Gautam Buddha and houses the photos and artifacts from Buddhist sites all over the world.
With all these attractions of Lumbini, the destination is visited by thousand of Buddhists and Hindu devotees from all around the world along with historians and tourists interested in Buddhist religion and culture. Apart from the structures, Lumbini area is also famous for the wide array of bird species found in its farmland and reservoirs that include the Sarus crane, Indian spotted eagle, gyps, owls and other endangered animals too. People interested in trekking can also take the Lumbini circuit tour to visit the 64 scattered archaeological sites in the area. The trip to the villages in the surrounding areas also lets one to experience and understand the lifestyles of the diverse ethnic people as one goes to the villages and indulges in the everyday lives, culture and customs of the warm and friendly people. The trip to Lumbini is a complete package-combining nature with the culture and religion and warm hospitality of the people making it a truly peaceful and spiritual experience.