Lumbini is located at the Nepalese town of Kapilavastu, district Rupandehi, near the Indian border. It is one of four Buddhist pilgrimage sites based on major events in the life of Lord Buddha. Interestingly, all of the events occurred under trees.
Lumbini is the traditional birthplace of Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who was born in the 7th or 6th century BC.
According to Buddhist tradition, Maya Devi gave birth to the Buddha in the month of May in the year 642 BC. Feeling the onset of labor pains, she grabbed hold of the branches of a shade tree and gave birth to Siddharta Gautama, the future Buddha. The Buddha is said to have announced, "This is my final rebirth" as he entered the world. According to Buddhist tradition he walked immediately after his birth and took seven steps, under each of which a lotus flower bloomed.
In 249 BC, the Buddhist convert Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini and constructed four stupas and a stone pillar. Buddhist monasteries and temples were built at Lumbini until the 9th century, but Buddhism declined in the area after the arrival of Islam and later Hinduism. All that remained was a sculpture, revered by local women as a fertility symbol.
The garden of Lord Buddha's birth was lost for a thousand years.
The site was rediscovered in 1895, when a German archaeologist came upon Ashoka's Pillar, identified by its inscription.
Lumbini lies in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. The site is a large garden with a grove of pipal trees. The area around Lumbini is entirely Hindu, but many Buddhist temples and shrines from various nations are scattered around the holy site itself.
The most important Buddhist temple at Lumbini is the Maya Devi Temple, which enshrines the traditional site of the Buddha's birth. The current temple stands on the site of earlier Buddhist temples and stupas, including the stupa built by Ashoka.
The modern Buddhist temple consists mainly of a simple white building that protects ancient ruins, with the exact spot of Lord Buddha's birth identified.
On the south side of the temple is a sacred pool where it is said Maya Devi bathed before giving birth, and where the newborn Buddha was washed by two dragons.
The other main sight of interest at Lumbini is Ashoka's Pillar, near the temple. It is protected by a small fence, which is decorated with prayer flags and banners from the faithful. Around the courtyard containing the pillar are bowls for incense sticks, and there is room to sit in front of the pillar for contemplation.
How to get there
Lumbini is in west-central Nepal near the Indian border. It is not terribly easy to get to, and the site does not receive a large amount of visitors. Most pilgrims who travel to Lumbini come from Southeast Asia, Japan and Tibet, but westerners come regularly as well. The nearest major airport is Varanasi (323 km) and Bhairawha, Nepal. Lumbini has a small airport, which receives flights from airlines like the aptly-named Buddha Air.
The nearest railway station is Gorakhpur 123 km away.