Lumbini grove, the sacred site of Lord Buddha's birth is today a small village in Nepal, 27 kms from Sonauli on the Indo-Nepal border. Lumbini is located 25kms east of the municipality of Kapilavastu, the place where the Buddha grew up and lived up to the age of 29. Kapilvastu is the name of place as well as the neighbouring district. Lumbini has various Buddhist temples including the Mayadevi temple and many which are presently (2007) under construction. There is also the Puskarini pond and remains of Kapilvastu palace in Lumbini. There are other sites near Lumbini where, according to Buddhist tradition, previous Buddhas were born and achieved enlightenment and died. From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.
Three hundred years after the Mahaparinirvana, Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini and erected a pillar there. This pillar, though broken, still remains at the site. It is known as the Rummendei pillar after the earlier name of the place (modern name Rupandhei) in Nepal.
The Chinese traveller, Fa Hien, in the 5th century AD and other travellers and pilgrims were aghast to see that jungles had swallowed the entire place, and nothing existed of the scenic pleasure garden. Excavations beginning in the 19th century have once again drawn attention to this holy place.
The heavens filled with light and the devas (Gods), showered flowers on the young Prince Siddhartha who descended from his mother's womb on a lotus pedestal. The prince took seven strides in all the four directions and announced that this would be his last birth. Queen Mahamaya departed to the heavenly abode soon after giving birth.
An old sage, Asita, prophesied that the prince would become a world renouncer if he ever experienced suffering. To ward off this possibility, King Suddhodana ensconced the prince in the royal luxuries of his palace at Kapilavastu, but to no avail. Destiny took its course and Prince Siddhartha renounced his royal heritage and set off on the course to find a solution to end human misery.
The Mayadevi temple and the tank nearby are part of the sacred complex. There are two beautiful panels in the temple, the older one in stone and the other in marble. Both panels show Mayadevi holding the Sal tree and the young prince emerging out of her right side. Just outside the temple is a tank whose water glistens in the faint sun, the gentle breeze creating endless ripples. Here Queen Mahamaya had her bath before the delivery and it was also here that prince Siddhartha had his first purificatory bath.
The sacred site of the Buddha's birth is at the southern end of Lumbini grove. Excavations have revealed a series of rooms and a stone slab, which is now believed to mark the exact location at which the Buddha was born.
The place where the miraculous birth took place is today a mound that has been cordoned off for further excavations. The whole place has an air of remoteness except when the occasional busload of pilgrims from different corners of the Buddhist universe arrives.
Lumbini Dharmodaya Samiti Dharmashala, a Theravada Buddhist Vihara, established in 1956, is just outside the complex. Built in the style of modern Nepalese temples, it has intricately carved woodwork in the doorways and windows, and colourful murals depicting events from the life of the lord in its spacious interiors.
Dharmaswami Maharaja Buddha Vihara
This Tibetan gompa belonging to the Sakyapa order, is also outside the complex. His Eminence Chogya the complex. His Eminence Chogya Trichen Rinpoche and the Raja of Mustang established it. Every morning around sixty monks who reside here conduct the Tara Puja. At the end of September, two thousand monks congregate for the ten-day peace puja and on 13th December each year for the Mahakala Puja, which lasts for 10 days.
A couple of kilometres away, a complex of monasteries is being constructed on a grand scale. Monasteries in the respective national styles of Myanmar (Burma) China, Japan Korea and Thailand are among those that are being built.
Location and Transport
Lumbini is in Nepal, 27 kms from the Indian border at Sonauli. To enter Nepal, people from India and Bhutan do not need any visa but foreign nationals do. For details contact the nearest Royal Nepal Embassy in your country or in India.
Gorakhpur via Sonauli - 123 kms
Sonauli - 27 kms
Kushinagar via Gorakhpur - 176 kms
Kapilavastu (Piprahwa) via Sonauli - 93 kms
Gorakhpur via Sonauli - 123 kms
Varanasi - 413 kms
Bhairawha (Nepal) - 13 kms
The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone, in which only monasteries can be built, no shops or hotels or restaurants. It is separated into an eastern and western monastic zone, the eastern having the Theravadin monasteries, the western having Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries.
In the vicinity are the Lumbini Research Institute, which has an impressive collection of Buddhist literature, and a Museum.Both are open from Sunday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm (10 am to 4 pm in winter)