One of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, yet still largely unknown to the outside world, Lumbini in west Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha. It is a popular pilgrimage sight for Buddhists and the new international airport will most likely be servicing that market. Today, visitors can see the archaeological excavations, some of which date to the 4th century BC and current places of worship including the Sacred Garden where a large peepul tree and ancient pillar constructed by the Emperor Ashoka in 250BC are two of the most sacred sites. The birthplace is situated within the grounds of a serene park festooned with prayer flags with numerous pilgrims meditating and offering donations in quiet contemplation. Lumbini is a congregation of the many facets of Buddhism, with pilgrims from China, Japan, India and of course the rest of Nepal.
Lumbini also celebrates Buddha with a sprawling temple complex comprising of 42 temples funded by various Buddhist groups from around the world. Each temple reflects the architecture and style of its founding nation. From brightly coloured Tibetan temples adorned with gold gilded statues of Buddha, to white marble behemoths from Thailand, the complex is a fascinating display of the differing faces of Buddhism. Each temple also has a monastery attached where pupil monks come to learn and live a life of devotion.
Lumbini itself is in a poor area of Nepal, overlooked by non-Buddhist visitors. However, its convenient location between Chitwan and Bardiya national parks (3 hours’ drive from Chitwan and 6 hours’ drive from Bardiya) and with no flights currently between the parks, Lumbini can be a suitable stop off point for travellers who do not wish to fly back to Kathmandu, or do the 9-hour drive in one sitting. Hotels there cater for the Buddhist travellers and are simple but acceptable. Buddha Maya Garden is a business-like establishment with decent rooms and a surprisingly good menu. For those that have an expressed interest in religious history, or more specifically, Buddhism, Lumbini is well worth a visit. The gaudy temple complex contrasting with the peace of the birthplace itself is a captivating insight into Buddhism’s many faces.
Features in the following itineraries
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Anonymous, India