The Lumbini garden is a World heritage site and the most revered spot in Buddhism. It was here that Gautam Buddha was born in 563 BC. The sacred place was visited by the famous Mauryan emperor Ashoka. For a long time, the historic and religious importance of Lumbini was largely ignored. It has now been reclaimed and has become an important part of the Buddhist pilgrim circuit. Today, almost 40o000 tourists visit Lumbini every year. It is a religious pilgrimage site for Buddhist and holds immense historical and archeological significance to draw tourists from other faiths as well.
Location : State/District
During the time of Lord Buddha, Lumbini was located in the kingdom of Kapilavastu. Today, this garden city lies in the country of Nepal, very near the Indo Nepal border. It is located in the Rupandehi district in the Terai region.The latitude of Lumbini is 27°29´N and the longitude is 83°17´E.
Lumbini is one of the sacred religious sites and pilgrim center of Buddhism. In addition, it is also of historical and cultural interest because of its many monuments.
Lumbini is first and foremost a pilgrim center. Hence it attracts devout Buddhist families. It also attracts scholars and students who are interested in the culture and history of the Buddhist period.
As Lumbini is located in the Terai region of Nepal, it has a hot and humid weather. Summers are hot and last from March to May. The rainy season extends from June to September. These months should be avoided as the area receives heavy rainfall. Winter months are cool. The best time to visit Lumbini is from October to early April. The weather is slightly cool at this time. Days are bright and sunny while cool breeze provide a relaxing touch.
You need to be in possession of your passport in order to visit Nepal. All foreign tourists require having visa to visit Lumbini in Nepal. The visa is issued by the Nepalese embassy. Indians however do not require a visa to enter Nepal. A valid passport or photo identity issued by the Union or State governments of India or the election commission are adequate to visit Nepal. Indian children between the ages of ten and eighteen can travel to Nepal on the strength of identity cards issued by their schools or colleges.
Places to Visit
Lumbini used to be a beautiful park at the time of Buddha and the remnants of the verdant greenery can still be seen today. This is known as the Sacred Garden and is spread over an area of 9 sq kms. The most significant attraction of Lumbini is the Maya Devi Temple dedicated to Maya Devi – the mother of Lord Buddha. This is a red brick temple where Maya Devi gave birth to her son. A stone inside the temple marks the exact spot of the prince’s birth. There is a holy pond in the temple where Maya Devi was said to have taken a bath before her labor pain started. The infant Siddhartha was also given a dip in this pond. A holy flame burns here and is said to have been burning since the time of Lord Buddha. Childless couples still come at this flame to pray for children.
The Japan Peace stupa, also known as the World Peace Pagoda is an imposing edifice rising to 41m and is located at one end of the Lumbini Gardens.
Another important sight in Lumbini is the Ashokan pillar. It was erected by the Mauryan emperor of India, Ashoka who was a devout Buddhist and visited the birthplace of Buddha in 249 BC. He erected the pillar to mark the birthplace of Buddha. It contains the oldest inscriptions in Nepal. The inscriptions grant a tax free status to Lumbini to commemorate Buddha’s birth.
In addition, there are a number of monasteries, pagodas and stupas in Lumbini. Mention must be made of the Great Drigung Kagyud Lotus Stupa with its huge domed ceiling covered in Buddhist murals, the Myanmar gold pagoda, the Tibetan style Drubgyud Choling Gompa, the Lumbini Buddha Vihar, the Linh Son monastery and the Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha temple.
Finally, the Lumbini museum boasts of a good collection of Buddhist texts and artifacts. The Lumbini International Research Institute contains a good collection of Buddhist texts on religion, art and architecture.
When you visit Lumbini, you should wander around the Sacred Grove and soak up the atmosphere of such an ancient place. The Dhama Janami Vipassana center is a small meditation center where you can practice meditation. You can also practice meditation at the Panditarama International Vipassana Meditation center.
A number of interesting historical and archeological sites are scattered around Lumbini and you can visit them by road. Tilaurakot – the ancient capital of Kapilavastu where Buddha spent the first 29 years of his life is located only 27 kms away. The remains of the ancient palace are being excavated. Another interesting spot is Kudan which is located about 4.5 kms from Tilaurakot. It is here that the infant prince Siddhartha was presented to his father for the first time. In the surrounding area in places like Gothihawa and Niglihawa, remains of broken Ashokan pillar can still be seen. Devedaha is another interesting spot linked to Buddhism. It was the ancestral home of Maya Devi where prince Siddhartha spent his childhood.
The Lumbini village located near the garden is another interesting place to visit where you can enjoy the local atmosphere and buy mementoes.
The wetland area around the World Peace Pagoda forms the Lumbini crane sanctuary. It offers excellent opportunities for bird watching and is a beautiful and tranquil spot.
Food and Accommodation
There are not a lot of eateries in Lumbini. There are small tea shops and one or two restaurants. Spicy Indian food is the most common fare though you may find some good Tibetan cuisine like momos in the surrounding areas.
The number of accommodations has increased in Lumbini in recent years. The Buddha Maya Garden hotel is a luxury hotel with rates ranging from $120 to $180. Other hotels in this category are the Lumbini Hokke hotel and Lumbini hotel Kasai. On the other hand, cheap clean accommodations are offered at the Korean and Japanese monasteries. The budget hotels are many including Lumbini Garden lodge, Gautam Buddha lodge, Buddha Bhumi guest house etc. Many tourists prefer to stay at Bhairahawa where the nearest domestic airport is located.
Safety and Security
The level of safety and security are quite satisfactory at Lumbini. However, foreigners should always make sure that they carry valid passports and visas when visiting this area. Caution should also be exercised if you are thinking of doing your shopping in the Lumbiuni village or the surrounding area. Goods are often of a less than satisfactory quality. In recent days some disturbances have been carried out by the Maoists in this area.
It is imperative that the tranquil and respectful atmosphere of the Sacred gardens should not be disturbed. You should be respectful and should always walk around the stupas and shrines in a clockwise direction to show respect.