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Lumbini - Where Buddha Was Born
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boudhanathThe birthplace of Gautam Buddha, founder of Buddhism, Lumbini in Sanskrit means ‘lovely’. Staying true to its meaning, this holy site is pleasant, peaceful and picturesque. This pilgrimage site is located 25 kilometres east of Kapilvastu in Rupandehi district of Terai region. The closest airport to Lumbini is at Siddharthanagar. If you choose to take a bus from Kathmandu, it takes about 10 hours to reach Lumbini.

Lumbini is one of the four holy sites of Buddhism and hence, has a number of temples surrounding the site. The Mayadevi temple is one of the most important sites. This is the very temple where according to Buddhist scholars, the precise place of birth of Buddha is located. The Holy Pond where Buddha’s mother Mayadevi apparently took the ritual dip prior to Buddha’s birth is also located here. Ashoka Pillar, which Emperor Ashoka built during his visit to Lumbini can also be spotted. Although, this pillar is nothing much to look at, it is considered as an important piece by Buddhists. Also, ruins of ancient monasteries and a sacred Bodhi tree which heavily pregnant Maya devi clung to while giving birth is found in this holy site.

In 1997, Lumbini was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and specifically nominated for the international World Heritage program. At present, the holy site of Lumbini is surrounded by a large monastic zone, where only monasteries are built. No commercial ventures are allowed inside this zone.

The Monastic Zone is divided into East and West Monastic Zone. The West Monastic Zone is for monasteries from the Mahayana school. In this zone, you can see Tibetan-styled gombas (monasteries). Dhrubgyud Choling Gompa is one such monastery. The East Monastic Zone is for monasteries from the Theravada school. It can be a bumpy ride to the East Zone with the tracks being rougher. The Royal Thai monastery which is built from white marble is beautiful inside and out.

During the early morning and evening, Lumbini is serene with pilgrims from various countries performing chanting and meditation at the site. The World Peace Pagoda which was built by Japanese Buddhists is an amazing work of art. The statue of Buddha depicts his birth position.

Lumbini is a religious place and most people who come here understand its significance. For those seeking meditation, the Panditarama International Vipassana Meditation Centre is the perfect place. Serious practitioners of meditation can study at the centre for minimal fees.

Lumbini Development Zone was formed in 1978 and since then it has been involved in many development project of the zone. Off late, a number of traditional villages around Lumbini have been developed as tourist spots. This has been mainly done to alleviate poverty in the zone. Village tours are operated by lodges and hotels around the Lumbini Development Zone.

Many Buddhists visit this site. This holy site is filled with monasteries constructed by Buddhist nations from around the world. Just a visit to these monasteries is sure to leave a person speechless. These monasteries are spread out over the zone so it may take more than a day to visit all of them.

Author: Ashish Rai

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