A sense of place – Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini
Lumbini located on the southwestern region of Nepal, along the Terai lowlands is a subtropical area located close to India border. As an important pilgrimage site, the entire area is a Unesco World Heritage site along with other world Buddhist organizations that have created monasteries in honor of the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. Born in the famous gardens of Lumbini around 563 BCE, Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama who later became enlightened around 528 BCE. The holy site is commemorated with a large stone pillar that was erected by the Indian emperor Ashoka in 249 BC along with early temples, viharas (monasteries) and shrines dating from the 3rd BC to 15th century AD. This entire site was eventually certified as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997.
I visited the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini with a group of travel journalists and bloggers to experience the pilgrimage site and explore several of the elaborate monasteries, monuments, research institute and a museum within the designated monastery zone that we visited with a local guide who shared information of the history and culture in the local region.
” Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment” Buddha
Photo highlights from the Lumbini area
I didn’t really know what to expect visiting the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini – not coming from a Buddhist background but a spiritual seeker in general, I was open to seeing and learning something about the Buddha, his teachings and visiting the place of birth in Lumbini which is located in the southern region of Nepal. Lumbini is a chaotic, dusty and busy pilgrimage site with travelers visiting from around the world and paying homage to the Buddha’s birthplace which is infused with spiritual energy and devotion. I think visiting the holy sites, monuments and monasteries requires a knowledgeable guide with just enough time to explore on one’s own to capture the essence of a place, photograph the scene and note any tidbit of information that peaks an interest to research for later.
The international monastic zone at Lumbini
I’m fascinated with all the different international monasteries built around the historic monastic zone of Lumbini with all the unique and exotic architecture, shrines and monuments depicting various attributes of the Buddha and his teachings and religious significance to that particular country. Each individual monastery is located and grouped into different zones that reflect the different branches of Buddhism.
Tip – located close to this monastery are wetlands that attract a variety of wildlife from the area that is a perfect spot for bird watching.
The Monastery of World Peace
With such a variety of styles and forms of art and local craft, each monastery at Lumbini represent an ideal version of the Buddha within their own belief system, design aesthetic and interpretation based on their regional arts and crafts, rituals and artifacts that are on display for pilgrims to see and experience while on visiting the sites.
The Myanmar Golden monastery at Lumbini
Theravadin temple built by Mahabodhi Society of India
The elaborate German temple at Lumbini
This elaborate monastery is a must see in the monastery zone because of its ornate features, beautiful wall murals and other decorations around the grounds including very large prayer wheels. I loved exploring all the artistic details and beautifully decorated murals, painted columns and the inside of the temple building and even up to the very ornate roof details and Buddha statue in the steeple of the roof.
Tip – facing the large square pond are a series of other monasteries that are easy to explore by foot, making it easy to visit a cluster of monasteries within a short walking distance.
The giant prayer wheels at each strategic corner of the German monastery
The Unesco site at Lumbini
At the holy site are the remains of early brick temple ruins, the Ashokan pilar, bathing pool, the Bodhi tree and the main Maya Devi Temple which is where the birth of the Buddha is located. One of the grand entrances of to the temple starts from a long reflecting pool leading up to a golden Buddha pointing to the direction of the holy site. You slowly walk through a path lined with beautiful flowering shrubs and trees along a natural area with ponds and wetlands. This abruptly changes at the entrance of the site with a neon welcome banner above a check in gate that announces your arrival to the actual site and an entrance booth to purchase tickets. You must place your shoes in a covered area and walk around the site barefoot or with socks.
Tip – the Maya Devi temple restricts photographs once you enter inside the temple, but you are allowed to take pictures anywhere outside of the temple grounds.
Wetland area surrounding the holy site at Lumbini
Once inside the holy site, the area is sparsely dotted with limited signage, so it is easier to come to the site with a hired guide or bring some information with you about the various things to see within the holy areas and main attractions. But the main things to see within the grounds include:
- Maya devi Temple
- The sacred Bodhi Tree
- Ashokan Pillar
- Birthing pond at Lumbini
- Sacred garden at Lumbini
Tip – spend some time on the garden area with all the prayer flags and look for the hollowed Bodhi tree with a Buddha in the cavity
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves” Buddha
The Bodhi tree, birth pond and sacred garden
Prayer flags in the sacred garden in Lumbini
Ashokan pillar at the Lumbini holy site
A holy Bodhi tree in Lumbini
A place to worship and meditate
For many pilgrims to the site, this is a place of worship and pay homage to the birthplace of the Buddha – either to meditate, chant or just take in all the historical significance and artifacts or monuments to visiting within the historic site. For some, it’s also a perfect place to be quiet and reflect on ones being and religious beliefs or in the case of non Buddhist to understand and just soak in the spiritual nature and significance of this holy site.
” Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. ” Buddha
Facing the Maya Devi temple at Lumbini
Daily chores on the grounds
Advice on visiting the monasteries and Lumbini heritage site
The Lumbini heritage site covers 4.8 km in length and 1.3 km in width as the monastic zone which is a large area to cover by foot. You can cover the area by yourself or by bike, but it is easier to work with a guide or tour company to cover most of the major monasteries, museum and heritage in a morning to all day tour depending on your interest.
Check out the Lumbini website and guide here for more information about the pilgrimage sites, festivals and other important information.
For more information about Lumbini and Nepal travel, check out the Nepal tourism site here for more details and information.
Additional tour recommendations:
Private Lumbini And Kapilvastu Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour – 6 hour tour of the holy pilgrimage site, various temples and other historic monuments which includes a local guide and all entrance fees
Private guided 8 day tour – A sightseeing trip of Lumbini, Katmandu and Pokhara with an English speaking guide and driver, lodging and some meals.
There are a variety of hotel accommodations located on the perimeter of the monastic zone in Lumbini, one of the better quality hotels close to the entrance is the Buddha Maya Hotel – a four star rated hotel offering deluxe accommodations in a tranquil setting with beautiful gardens, comfortable rooms with wifi, satellite/cable TV and a full service restaurant.
Comfortable rooms and public spaces at Buddha Maya Garden Hotel
For more posts on my travels to Nepal check out the links below
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Disclosure – I was a guest with Pata and the Himalayan Travel Mart visiting the holy site at Lumbini – all opinions and thoughts are my own. Also, there are affiliates links on this posts which provide a small commission to support this site at no extra cost to you. Thank you for reading, and happy travels