Places to visit in Nepal
Shakyamuni Buddha was born
in Lumbini, in southern Nepal, twenty-five hundred years ago.
Since his time, Nepal has been a sacred ground for Buddhists as
the birthplace of the Buddha. Lumbini is a small town in the southern
Terai plains of Nepal, where the ruins of the old city can still
be seen. Shakyamuni Buddha was born to a royal family. His mother,
Queen Maya Devi, had a dream foretelling his coming. In her dream,
she saw a white elephant with nine tusks come down to her from
the heavens and enter her body. When the time of his delivery
approached, she left for her parental home, according to the practice
of the time. En route to her parents' home, she gave birth to
Siddhartha Gautam in the gardens of Lumbini.
The prince is said to have emerged from her right side as she
rested her arm on the branch of a fig tree. And immediately after
birth, he took seven steps in the four cardinal directions and
wherever his feet touched the ground, a lotus bloomed.
After this powerful birth, Prince Siddhartha lived in his father's
palace, shielded from the evil and the pain of the outside world.
His father had been informed by the seers of the time that the
prince would either become a great emperor or become a holy man.
Fearing his son would leave the world for religious practice,
the king took pains to see that Prince Siddhartha neither saw
nor experienced suffering. Thus he hoped Siddhartha would become
a great emperor and never dream of leaving the kingdom.
But Siddhartha - who had lived a life of isolated royal splendor
-inevitably ventured beyond the castle walls one day. Outside
these walls he came across sorrow, pain, death and a man whose
life was devoted to releasing others from those sufferings. He
saw a beggar, a cripple, a corpse, and a holy man. These encounters
affected the young prince deeply, awakening a deep desire to find
the ultimate cause of suffering and thus alleviate it. One night,
when all were asleep inside the palace, he escaped. He cast aside
his princely garments, cut his hair, and began the life of a wandering
For years he fasted, meditated and spent his time in a rigorous
and painful search to find a way to end suffering. On a full-moon
night in the north Indian town of Bodhgaya, as he meditated under
a tree, Siddhartha had a direct realization of nirvana, eternal
peace. This transformed the mortal prince into a Buddha.
He spent the rest of his life guiding people towards nirvana,
love, and friendship. When it was time for him to leave this world,
he had thousands of followers to keep Buddhism alive. He left
this world (a person who has attained nirvana is freed from the
cycle of life and death) at the age of 84, having exhausted his
human body for the sake of all sentient beings.
Lumbini has since been a holy ground for Buddhists all over the
world. The restored garden and surroundings of Lumbini have the
remains of many of the ancient stupas and monasteries. A large
stone pillar erected by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC bears
an inscription about the birth of the Buddha.
An important part of Lumbini is the temple of Maya Devi. It has
a stone image of Maya Devi giving birth to Lord Buddha as she
holds onto a branch. It has been well worn by the strokes of barren
women hoping for fertility. To the south of the temple is a pool
where Queen Maya Devi is said to have bathed and given her son
his first purification bath.
A quiet garden, shaded by the leafy Bo tree (the type of tree
under which Buddha received enlightenment), and a newly planted
forest nearby lend an air of tranquillity which bespeaks Buddha's
teachings. Lumbini is now being developed under the Master Plan
of the Lumbini Development Trust, a nongovernmental organization
dedicated to the restoration of Lumbini and its development as
a pilgrimage site. The plan, completed in 1978 by the renowned
Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, will transform three square miles
of land into a sacred place of gardens, pools, buildings, and
groves. The development will include a Monastic Zone, the circular
sacred Garden surrounding the Ashoka pillar and Maya Devi temple,
and Lumbini Village, where visitors will find lodges, restaurants,
a cultural center and tourist facilities.
An important archeological site near Lumbini, Kapilvastu evokes
the ancient palace where Lord Buddha spent his formative years.
Scattered foundations of the palace are abundant, and archeologists
have by now discovered 13 successive layers of human habitation
dating back to the eighth century BC. A must for archeological
and historical buffs!
Besides its religious and historical significance, Lumbini offers
cultural insights into the village life of southern Nepal. If
possible, try to coincide your visit with the weekly Monday bazaar
when villagers come from miles around to buy grains, spices, pottery,
jewelry, saris and various other items. It may appear as a scene
out of the Arabian Nights, with colorful merchandise spread out
under the mango trees and the air perfumed with incense. It's
a chance to bargain for souvenirs while witnessing local life
in Lumbini. Wooden ox-carts loaded with hay trundle by. Villagers
dry cow-dung for fuel, and tea stalls serve sweet milk tea.
Today, Lumbini is beginning to receive travelers' and archaeologists'
attention after centuries of neglect. Serious preservation work
has only just been started in the latter half of this century
and Lumbini as a slice of history is worth seeing and worth preserving.
Royal Nepal Airlines and other airlines fly regularly to Bhairahawa,
near Lumbini, and bus services are available from Pokhara and
To be contd other "places to visit".........