Lumbini, Nepal: Visiting the birth place of Buddha

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Is Buddhism a religion or a way of life?

This question has hounded me for long. And, finally, I decided to find the answer.

Whether you are religious or not, you cannot remain unfazed by the beauty of the Buddhist temples, monasteries, stupas and Pagodas found almost everywhere in the world – from India to Indonesia, Thailand to South Korea, Tibet to Japan. There’s no dearth of Buddhist shrines, especially in Asia. But none of these places holds the symbolic and historical value of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha located in the foothills of southern Nepal.

What Mecca is to Muslims or Jerusalem to Christians, Lumbini is to 488 million Buddhists worldwide. A World Heritage Site since 1997, it attracts travellers and worshippers from around the globe for various reasons – one of the four major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists, a place to find inner peace, world-renowned UNESCO site and features exemplary architecture.

In search of spirituality at Lumbini, Nepal: Birthplace of Buddha

In my case, my visit was primarily driven by the search of spirituality and to attend the first ever Buddhism Travel Mart (BITM). No cocktail of words can exactly comprehend the inner harmony I experienced at the birthplace of spirituality. It was quite a journey to experience the calm environs of Lumbini after the frenzied hullaballoo of Kathmandu and the fun-filled jungle adventure of the Chitwan National Park. While the distance from Chitwan National Park to Lumbini is only four hours, we took a lot of time because en-route we made many mini stops.

Shashwat Dham

Amid the scenic locale of Devchuli and Barchuli hills of Nawalparasi district in central Nepal lies Sashwat temple that was originally established as a platform for Hinduism but later expanded to include more faiths. As I walked through the old temple, I couldn’t stop myself from being in awe of artists who created such intricate carvings and details on its pillars. And, it’s not just the pillars that are attention worthy.

Spread over 12 acres of land, this Dham houses Ekambareshwor, a Shiva temple, surrounded by a pond which has holy water from famous shrines such as Badrinath, Kedarnath, Haridwar, Muktinath and Pashupatinath.

Shashwat Dham is primarily a place for worshippers of Hinduism, but soon it will have a Buddhist center as well, giving a deeper meaning to the “oneness in faith” vision. It is admirable how inclusive the spiritual community in Nepal is.

Being a nature lover, I loved visiting the 12-acres lush green grounds and the icing on the cake is no entrance fee to enter the grounds. If someone would ask me what is the best time to visit the place, I would say at night, when temple is lit up.

Apart from the temple, the Dham has the Vaidik Karmakanda Gurukul, Sri Sri Centre for Meditation and Yogic Sciences, a heritage store, an organic and pure vegetarian restaurant, manuscript resource centre, museum, spiritual souvenir store and organic farm.

Ramagrama stupa

This is a stupa—another word for large, spherical structure. The Ramagrama stupa is a Buddhist pilgrimage site which holds relics significant to the Buddhist Faith. In fact, it’s the only stupa still containing relics from Gautama Buddha, also known as the Lord Buddha. What’s interesting about it is that it is located underground, only marked by a sign. You don’t see much, but the history and trivia behind it is what makes the place fascinating.

Birthplace of Buddha 

Lumbini, Nepal: Birthplace of Buddha

The birthplace of Buddha, also known as the gardens of Lumbini, was our third stop during the event. The Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama was born a prince and lived a privileged life before he set off to live a simple and minimalistic life, and finally achieving enlightenment. In present times, it is a Buddhist pilgrimage area and is said to be one of the holiest places in the world.

Sunset at Lumbini in Nepal: Birthplace of Buddha

The main temple in Lumbini is the Maya Devi temple. Other important structures in the area include the Shakya Tank, the Ashoka Pillar, and the monasteries and memorials where the remains of important Buddhist figures are laid to rest. There is also the Holy Pond, where birth rituals were performed upon the infant Lord Buddha, and it is where he took his very first bath as well. 

In order to preserve all of the archeological items in the area, there are boundaries in place that allow visitors to observe, but not come too close. 

Important points to note:

  • Vehicles aren’t allowed inside Lumbini in order to preserve its sanctity and silence, so you will have to get around on foot. 
  • Keep at least three hours for just this place

Maya Devi Temple  

Lumbini in Nepal: Birthplace of Buddha

The sacred heart of Lumbini, Maya Devi Temple marks the spot where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in around 563BC. After walking inside the brick compound, I strolled in the adjoining holy garden decked with several important features like the pillar of Ashoka, ancient ruins of stupas, and maroon- and saffron-robed monks congregating under a sprawling Bodhi (pipal) tree decorated with colourful prayer flags. 

Important points to note:

  • Visitors are not allowed to wear shoes inside the temple premise.
  • 200 Rupees extra to be paid in addition to the 500 Rupees Lumbini entrance fee.
  • Pictures are not allowed to be taken inside the temple.

As the day was coming to an end and I started walking from the Maya Devi Temple to the Lumbini Museum, I crossed numerous temples and stupas constructed by numerous nations from around the world in Buddha’s honour. My heart was full and eyes were awestruck marvelling at Thailand’s ornate white marble Royal Thai Buddhist Monastery, Myanmar’s eye-catching Golden Temple, Vietnam’s pagoda-style Phat Quoc Tu Temple with dragons on the roof, and Germany’s Lotus Stupa with its colourful frescos of Buddha’s teachings.

By the time I reached the museum, I felt I’d taken a spiritual walk around the globe. One single day had expanded my horizon, broadened my knowledge and made me more compassionate and tolerant towards others.

This amazing experience was all made possible thanks to BITM 2019, which gave us a chance to see all of the terrific Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage locations that the country has. In addition to showing the religious and spiritual side of Nepal, the event was also aimed at promoting the tourism goals and plans of Nepal for the year 2020.

Hope this experience on visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, inspires you to visit it soon. Also, I would urge you to check out the following articles:

Have you ever visited the birth place of Buddha or Nepal? If yes, I would love to hear from you.

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Disclaimer

Travel See Write was invited by the Nepal Tourism Board to attend #BITM conference in 2019 and #HTMNepal in 2017. Karla Ramos from Karla Around the World represented TSW in 2019 and Archana in 2017. Everything expressed above is based on their personal experiences in the country. Images used are shot by them. Please do not copy anything without written permission.

14 Comments

  • Anita says:

    I was passing not far from this place by bus but didn’t have time to stop. Now I regret, after reading your post. I thought this place is just famous for being the birthplace of Buddha but as I see there is much more to discover. Well, next time.

  • Raghav says:

    What an excellent and detailed post. I agree with your starting statement that when it comes to admiring the practices of Buddhism or what it stands for, it doesn’t matter what religion one belongs to. I have read quite a bit about Nepal in the past and visited it a couple of time, but never been to Lumbini. I do admire the ancient architecture found in Kathmandu, but Lumbini seems like a class apart. Now I’ve got something to look forward to for my next trip.

  • Amanda says:

    This sounds like such an incredible spiritual journey. I would love to experience something like this, and I feel like even though it costs extra to see everything, it would be totally worth it. These pictures are absolutely mesmerizing and I’m definitely adding Lumbini, Nepal to my list!

  • Carrie Ann Karstunen says:

    One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to visit religious sites from any faith, because I’m always amazed by the architecture, design, and the history of these places. I can see why you were in awe of the Sashwat temple. The carvings are exquisite! I also tend to think about the artists who create such beauty, and how much skill and time it takes to make something on that scale. It sounds like you took a lot away from your visit to this beautiful place.

  • Lydia says:

    Wow, nice photos Archana! The beauty of the temples is just amazing.

  • Jane Dempster-Smith says:

    What an amazing destination and one that I would like to visit. I love visiting temples and enjoy the carvings and the decorations. Prayer flags are a favourite photograph for me. I really enjoyed your photos. Thanks.

  • Daniel says:

    Lumbini is such an amazing place! I visited last year and I was going to skip my place but my girlfriend (who’s a Buddhist) changed my mind. I’m glad that happened. Thank you for this interesting article, you sure brought back some nice memories.

  • emman damian says:

    Shashwat Dham looks amazing! I have always wanted to go to Nepal and I don’t have a chance yet. There’s so many things to do there. I hope I can book a plane ticket going to Nepal soon.

  • Lisa says:

    This was a gorgeous post to read! I’ve never heard of Lumbini but there’s something I really appreciate about the religion of Buddhism, and would love to see the birthplace one day. Thank you also for explaining what a stupa is, I’m probably the only person that doesn’t know what one is!

  • Yukti Agrawal says:

    I always read Lumbini in mythological stories of Buddha and always wanted to visit this divine place. Lumbini has so many Buddhist and Hindu temples and also the birthplace of Lord Buddha which makes it very sacred. Sashwat Dham also looks very stunning. Thanks for sharing all details and tips for visiting this place.

  • Achyut Guragain says:

    Thank you Archana, I am really happy to read this content. It is very informative and I really like to call it is not a religion but it is a way of life that is called Buddhism, the great path of Lord Buddha! Thank you for sharing your travel trip and your experiences with the world through your writing here! I hope to read more and would like to invite you for the next 2nd BITM 2020!!!!

    Achyut Guragain
    1st Vice president and Member secretary and coordinator Buddhist International Travel Mart (BITM)

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