Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini
Lumbini, now a Buddhist pilgrimage center in southern Nepal and a centre for world peace is the place where the Shakya Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha was born. Among the pilgrims, the great Indian Emperor King Ashoka also came here and on his visit, he raised a stone pillar which contains inscription authenticating Lumbini to be the birthplace of the Lord Buddha. The inscriptions on the pillar were may be made in Pali language which we could not read but it was explained that twenty years after the coronation, King Ashoka visited this place and worshiped because here Lord Buddha was born and in honour of Buddha’s birth he granted Lumbini a tax-free status.
We entered Nepal through Sunauli (also spelt as Sonauli) border that separates Indian state Uttar Pradesh with Nepal. Sonauli is a small chaotic town on the Indian side and the other side is called Belahiya. It is a free border for Indian and Nepalese and remains open for twenty four hours a day. Places of either side of the border are not suitable for a night stay and most travelers move either to Bhairawa in Nepal (also known as Siddharthanagar) which is only four kilometer from the border or continue with their onward journey. Buses and taxis are available here which run directly from the border to the major towns in Nepal like Lumbini, Pokhra, and Kathmandu etc. The moment we crossed the border our money became 1.6 times stronger. Wow! We became rich men!! We did not have to exchange the currency as Indian currencies are well accepted in Nepal, even a five hundred rupee note! We continued our journey to Lumbini by taxi and reached there within an hour. Well, I should not say much about the accommodation in Lumbini as most of them do fall in budget segment. It was dusk by the time we reached there, so we had a little option to explore around and there is nothing at all in the town to explore.
Next morning, we started early to see the place where Lord Buddha was born. We came to the sacred garden, the birth place of Lord Buddha. There stands the Maya Devi Temple on the exact place where the Shakya Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha was born.
This place remained neglected until 1896 when Nepalese archaeologist Khadga Samsher Rana assisted by Anton Fuhrer, a German archaeologist discovered a Ashokan pillar here. A brick temple and a sandstone sculpture were then found on further exploration and excavation of the area. All such findings went to identify that this was the place where Lord Budha was born, and since then it became a popular pilgrimage destination for spiritual seekers all over the world.
The ruins of past structures still exist in the garden. A new white temple has been built exactly on the place of Buddha’s birth over the old structure. We came close to the temple and noticed the sacred pond (called Pushkarini) where it is believed that Maya Devi, Siddhartha Gautam’s mother, bathed before giving birth to the prince. The pond is well maintained but no more used for bathing.
On the other side of the pond, we saw a Boddhi tree (not the Bodhi tree of Bodha Gaya under which Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment) which was beautifully decorated with colourful prayer flags. Today, this tree is highly revered by the monks, nuns and pilgrims. We sat for a while under this tree looking at the beautiful temple and listening to monks hymning prayers.
As we came close to the temple to get inside, we noticed the sandstone Ashokan pillar erected next to the Maya Devi Temple.
We joined the queue for entering in the temple. Inside the temple, there are remains of structures of old Maya Devi temple. We went close to the exact spot of the of Lord Buddha’s birth. Inside the temple, there is a marker stone placed deep under the ground reaching close to which everyone was seeking the blessings. An auspicious place certainly for the visitors! Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the temple, but in this era, you get everything in the internet!
We came out of the temple and the sacred garden and moved towards the international monastic zone. To promote Lumbini as a centre for world peace, many monasteries, temples and peace pagodas have been built by different countries in the International Monastic Zone. This zone is divided with temples from the Theravada Monastic Zone which lies in the east and the temples from the Mahayana Monastic Zone in the west. The two sides are separated by well paved roads and a long pool. You can experience Buddhist traditions from different parts of the world in the International Monastic Zone. As we walked though the lovely lanes, we noticed a beautiful sculpture of ‘The Bodhisattva Siddhartha’ which was presented to the pilgrims by the people of Thailand in the honour of visiting Lumbini in the year 2012.
We moved further and saw an Eternal Peace Lamp symbolising peace which was lit by his Royal Highness Prince Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal on 1st November, 1986 on the occasion of the International Year of Peace, 1986.
We then visited to the Myanmar Golden Pagoda, Thai Monastery, German Tara Foundation temple, Chinese Monastery, Nepalese Monastery and World Peace Pagoda (Japan Monastery). There are still many countries that are constructing temples and developing the Monastic Zone in Lumbini.
A visit to these monasteries is a real treasure, and even if you are not a spiritually guided person, you would love the architectural wonder of the temples and monasteries of different countries. Lumbini is surly a place to visit with plentiful time in hand, at least a whole day is required to see all the monasteries in the International Monastic Zone.
My photo journey to the different monasteries in Lumbini will follow soon. Till then, stay tuned.