A place in the south- western Terai of Nepal, Lumbini evokes a kind of holy sentiment in the millions of Buddhists all over the world as do the Jerusalem to Christians and Mecca to Muslims. For Lumbini is the place Lord Buddha. Buddha, the apostle of peace and the Light of Asia, was born in 623 B.C. Located in the flat plains of south – western Nepal and the foothills of Churia range, Lumbini and its surrounding area are endowed with a rich natural setting of domesticated fauna and favorable agricultural environment. 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, still retains its legendary charm and beauty.
The importance of Lumbini is testified by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, who visited Lumbini in order to pay homage to the great master and erected a pillar in 249 B.C. to mark the birthplace of Buddha. Nearby the Ashokan pillar is the newly renovated Mayadevi Temple, which houses the Nativity sculpture depicting the birth scene of the Buddha. The Temple also houses the marker stone discovered in 1996 A.D. This stone, which depicts the exact spot where the Budhha was born, is now kept in a bulletproof glass in the Mayadevi Temple.
Renovated on the 2547th auspicious birth anniversary of the Buddha in 2003, the Mayadevi Temple houses ruins of the early period dating back from 3rd century B.C. to the 7th century A.D. Nearby the temple is situated the Puskarni Pond, where queen Mayadevi, Buddha’s mother- had given the first purification bath to the infant Buddha.
In 1896, excavations by General Khadga Shumsher Rana of Nepal and renowned archeologist Dr. A. Fuhrer shed light on various aspects of the life of Buddha. In 1898, the British government deputed P.C Mukherjee who confirmed the exact location of Aurorakot as the birth place of Kanakmuni Buddha and Gotihawa as the native place of Kakruchhanda Buddha, who existed before the Shakyamuni Buddha. Mukherjee also confirmed Lumbini as the birthplace of Shakyamuni Buddha. He also claimed Devdaha to be the maternal home of Buddha and Tilaurakot to be the exact site of Kapilvastu – the ancient capital of the Shakya kingdom.
Shortly after the Buddha attained enlightenment at the age of 36, he delivered his first sermon, in which he laid out the essential framework upon which all his later teachings were based. This framework consists of the Four Noble truths and the eightfold path, which identifies the sources of sufferings and the path towards the cessation of sufferings and the attainment of salvation.
In order to develop Lumbini as a pilgrimage center and a fountain of world peace, Prof. Kenzo Tange of Japan was assigned to create the Lumbini Master Plan by UN, which was jointly approved by the Government of Nepal and UN in 1978. The Master Plan includes canals, gardens, library, museum, monastic zones and areas for amenities. Lumbini Development Trust is responsible for the overall development of Lumbini. Listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in December 1997, Lumbini is being developed with international support. There are different bihars and monasteries constructed by different countries like Korea, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Germany, France, Austria, India, Sri Lanka, China and Nepal.
The Ashokan pillar
Discovered by a famous German archaeologist Dr. Fuhrer, the pillar is the first epigraphic evidence related to the life history of Lord Buddha. It 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 Indian emperor Ashok visited the site in the twentieth year of his ascendancy to the throne and as homage to the birthplace of Buddha, he erected the pillar. The inscription in the pillar roughly translates as: “King Piyadesi beloved of the Gods, having been anointed 20 years, came himself and worshipped saying: “Here Buddha Shakyamuni was born. And he caused (this) stone pillar to be erected. Because here the worshipful one was born in the village of Lumbini, it has been made free of taxes and recipients of wealth.”
Puskarni – The sacred pool
South to the Ashokan Pillar, there is a famous sacred pool- ‘Puskarani’, which is believed to be the same sacred pool, in which Mayadevi took a holy dip just before giving birth to the Lord Buddha and the infant Buddha was given his first purification bath. Architecturally, the pool has three projecting terraces in descending order and is riveted with fine brick masonry.