Lumbini – the Birthplace of Prince GautamaSrinivasa Shenoy
The birthplace of Lord Buddha!! Thought not a ‘touristy’ location with fancy structures or the grandeur of nature – was very excited to go there! The history of a location and the fact that you are standing in the very place where history and legends were made – transports one to a different age and the imagination draws colorful and vivid images of what may have been!
While you can find out all and more about Lumbini from Wikipedia, the place is at the same time – grand and tragic! Grand for its history, the monasteries / stupas of various countries and its religious importance; tragic that such an important location in the history of human civilization and for one of its largest religions is so understated. The grand master plan designed by Prof Kenzo Tange is badly implemented, if at all – mostly due to the failings (read corruption) of the political administration. What a wasted opportunity!
Nevertheless, what you will find in Lumbini – a UNESCO World Heritage site, are the fascinating stupas / monasteries of various countries – displayed as ‘proud’ or sometimes ‘derelict’ offerings of different nations to Lord Buddha. Each monastery has a different style and vie with each other to show off its grandeur. Split in to two ‘monastic’ zones (on either side of a canal with the Maya Devi Temple at the end of the canal) – one each for the Theravada and Mahanaya schools of Buddhism, there are nearly 15 + temples or monasteries. Ensure you hire a scooter / bicycle and spend time at each of these monasteries – beyond the gaudy rich exterior, a peaceful 5 minutes sitting in each temple is well worth it. You will be disheartened by certain unfinished or abandoned structures – but the grandeur of some of the others will compensate. Special mentions: The Drigung Kagyud Lotus Stupa by the Tara foundation of Germany, the Cambodian temple (under construction – but promises to be a small wonder of beautiful murals), and the Myanmar Stupa.
What I managed to see in a hurried two days – here goes:
P.S. ensure you meet the resident Sarus cranes in the abandoned Vietnam Monastery.
The highlight of Lumbini is the most basic and unostentatious building – the intensely spiritual Maya Devi temple – the exact location where Lord Buddha was actually born. The Ashokan Pillar, the critical component in identifying the exact location of Buddha’s birth has been kept just outside the Maya Devi Temple.
Spend the hot days in exploring the various monasteries / temples, but end it in peaceful contemplation of the Maya Devi temple in the backdrop of the setting sun.
Intrigued? Well, your chance to explore and witness the roots of Buddhism, trip to Nepal beyond the usual.