Overview :Lumbini :
Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, is situated about 22 km. from Bhairahawa (Siddharthanagar), below the Churia range, 24 km. south from the foothills of the Himalayas, on the western bank of Telar river in Rupandehi district of Lumbini zone in Nepal. It is about 300 km. west of capital city Kathmandu. Kapilvastu, Rupandehi and Nawalparasi Terai districts of Lumbini Zone are around Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, which are fertile and densely populated.It is about 34 km. from Naugarh Railway Station on the North-Eastern Railway of India. Buddha, Known as the Lord of Asia, was born in Lumbini during the full moon day in the month of Baisakh in 623 BC. He was born under a sal (Shorea robusta) tree when Mayadevi was going to her maternal town on the occasion of delivery.
Suttanipata has mentioned the earliest description of the birth of Buddha in Lumbini. After the birth of Buddha he took seven steps towards north and, looking in all directions, he declared that "I am the foremost of all creatures to cross the riddle of the ocean of the existence, this is my last birth and here after, I will not be born again". The site is spelt as Rummindei or Rupandei (beautiful lady), the perverted form of Rupa devi, the queen Anjana of the king of Devadaha which was situated to the east of Kapilvastu in ancient time. The site is called Lun- min and La-Fa-Ni by the Chinese pilgrims Fa- Hien and Hiuen- Tsiang respectively. In course of exploration of the ancient Buddhist sites General Cunningham has mentioned La-Fa-Ni is Sanskrit Lavani, a beautiful lady. In Buddhist literature it is known as Pradimokşa vana blessed with various trees and flowers, which is compared to the Chittalata grove of Indra's paradise in heaven. The earliest Pali text Suttanipata has mentioned that, "The wisdom- child, that Jewel so precious, which can not be matched, has been born at Lumbini, in the Sakya land for well being and joy in the world of men". A Muslim historian of India named Abul Fazal has called Mokta. It is also known as Paderiya (Parariya) where the Asokan pillar is located in the Nepalese Terai. The name of the site is spelt Lumminigame and Lumbini Vana in the Asokan pillar Edict still standing at the same place. Mukherji has also mentioned the name Rummin-dei in his report. In the Magadhi language, being used in the north-eastern pillar edicts in India and Nepal, 'la' is invariable substituted for 'ra'. The location of Lumbini is pointed out in the Buddhist literature, as well as, in the records of the Chinese pilgrims who visited India in the fifth and seventh centuries AD. As mentioned in Jataka story this sal garden was in joint possession of the Sakayas and Koliyas during the life time of Buddha. The Mahavamsa, a Ceylones chronicle, and Nidana katha have also located it between Kapilvastu and Devadaha. The sal garden was the place of recreation during the reign of the Sakayas and Koliyas. Buddha charita of Asvaghosa describes Lumbini as "gay like the garden of caitra ratha with trees of every kind. According to Fa- Hien it is located about 50 li east of Kapilvastu. Hiuen- Tsiang had also pointed out that it was about 80 or 90 li.(21.729 or 24.445 km.) north-east of arrow-well. It was linked through popular ‘Uttara path' to Kapilvastu, Ramagrama and other important cities during the Buddhist period. The present location of Lumbini, the exact birth place of Lord Buddha, is absolutely clear.Pilgrimage of Lumbini :
The Buddhist texts Lalitavistar, Jatak Nidan katha, Divya vadana and Mahavamsa have stated Lumbini as the birth place of Lord Buddha. When Buddha was lying down on the death bed at the age of eighty in Kusinagar his disciples, monks and nuns surrounded him. On this occasion, he advised with feeling of holy reverence and awe, viz. the place where the Tathagata was born (Lumbini grove), the place where he had reached perfect enlightenment (Bodha-Gaya), the place where for the first time he had proclaimed the law (Deer park near Varaņasi), and the place of his final extinction (Kusinagar). Thus, Lumbini was declared as the sacred spot to the pilgrims and was visited by the scholars, nobles, Royalties and devotees from all over the world. According to Kundala Vadana of Divyavadana having led King Asoka into the Lumbini jungle, venerable Upagupta indicated with his right hand and said "Asmin Maharaja pradase bhagavan jatah", meaning 'Oh Great king! Here the Blessed one was born!" King Asoka made an offer of one hundred thousand gold coins and established the first cetiya or pagoda. In the next chapter Asoka vadana of Divyavadan we find the description of the site. In the Asokan pillar of Lumbini it is inscribed that "Here Bhagwan Sakyamuni was at the Lumbini village". It is translated by Fuhrer as to mean King Piyadasi beloved of the Gods (or dear to the Gods), having been anointed 20 years came himself and worshipped saying: "Here Buddha Sakyamuni was born", and he got a stone (capital) representing a horse, and the stone pillar erected. Because here the worshipped one was born, the village of Lumbini has been made free of taxes and a recipient of wealth. According to Hultzsch it mean, ‘when king, beloved of gods, had been anointed twenty years he came himself and worshipped (this spot).’ Here Buddha Sakyamuni was born. He got a stone bearing horse made at this place. Hiuen-Tsiang's remark that the capital of the pillar contained a horse figure confirms to this interpretation. "As quoted by Rhys Davids , Buhler also says that "a stone horse was made and put on a stone pillar”. King Aśoka installed the stone column with a clear legend inscribed on it that it is the spot of Lumbini where the Blessed one was born. In Lumbini a brick railing was erected at a distance of 48.76 cm. from the base of the pillar and it had dentils also. After the visit of Emperor, many monks and nuns had started visiting the place. A large number of monasteries and vihars must have been built for their stay in this sacred complex. A large number of artifacts of the Mauryan, Sunga, Kushaņa and Gupta periods were recovered in course of various excavations. It is thus clear that it continued to be a place of pilgrimage since the third century BC till today.
Chinese pilgrims have given a more accurate and authentic description of Lumbini. Shui-Ching-Chu describes that at Lumbini the Asokan tree which was gripped by Mayadevi at the time of Siddhartha's birth was still in a living condition and an image of Mayadevi was placed there where devotees used to offer puja articles. The spot where Siddhartha's feet touched the earth first, Aśoka got the Siddhartha's foot prints shielded with stones. His description has been ratified by the noticeable findings discovered during the joint excavation of the Department of Archaeology, Lumbini Development Trust and Japanese Buddhist Federation from 1993 to 1997. It is clearly seen that Aśoka had shielded the Siddhartha's footprints with stones in order to secure it. This significant news of the findings of the excavation was publicly declared by then Honorable Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on February 4, 1996. According to Fa-Hien in Lumbini the queen (Mayadevi) having entered the pool to bathe, came out on the north side , and after walking twenty paces, raised her hands and grasped the branch of a tree. She brought forth the Heir Apparent facing to the east. On reaching the ground, the Heir Apparent walked seven steps, and two dragon- kings washed his body. At the time of washing the tank was used. In this context Hiuen-Tsiang had stated that there was the bathing tank of the Śakyas, the water of which was clear as a mirror and the surface of which was covered with a mixture of flowers. 24 or 25 paces to the north of this there was fallen Asokan flower tree on the birth place of Bodhisattva. To the east from this place there was a Stupa built by Aśoka-raja on the spot where the two dragons bathed the body of the prince. Bodhisattva walked without assistance in the direction of the four quarters, seven spaces in each direction, and said, "I am the only Lord in heaven and earth; from this time forth my births are finished". To the east of this stūpa were two fountains of pure water, by the side of which two stūpas were built. To the south of this was a stūpa, where Sakra, the Lord of Devas, received Bodhisattva in his arms. Close to the site there were four stūpas to denote the place where the four heavenly kings received Bodhisattva in their arms. When Bodhisattva was born they wrapped him in a golden coloured cotton vestment, and brought him to his mother, and placed him on a golden slab (bench). They said," The queen may rejoice indeed at having given birth to such a fortunate child!". If the Devas rejoiced at the event how much more could the men. By the side of these stūpas there is a great stone pillar, on the top of which was the figure of a horse built by Aśoka. It was broken off in the middle and fell to the ground due to the contrivance (thunder stroke) of a wicked dragon. By the side of it is a little oil river flowing to the south-east, where Mayadevĩ had brought forth her child to wash and to purify herself. After Hiuen-Tsiang many other pilgrims had visited this place from time to time. One of them was Wu-Kung who came in 764 AD. Due to the absence of records very little is known about the condition of the area. The monumental and habitational structures, stone sculptures, terracotta human and animal figurines, fragments of pottery belonging to the Mauryan, Suńga, Kushaņa, Gupta, Vardhan and Sena-Pala periods, found here prove that Lumbini was well-populated till the early-medieval period and was frequently visited by the monks, nuns and other devotees from time to time. The names of Jitari Malla ( 1287-89 AD) and Ripu Malla (1312 AD) were engraved on the stone columns (pillars) at Nigalihawa and Lumbini garden. It consists of the words, "Om mani padme hum, shree Ripumallaschiran jayatu, 1234". The former portion is a Mahayani Buddhist prayer and the later portion means " prince Ripu Malla, be victorious for long 1234". The year 1234 in the Saka era, corresponding to 1312 AD. Bhuwan Lal Pradhan has claimed that Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517 AD) and Aurangzeb (1668-1707AD) were mainly responsible for the destruction of cultural heritage and property of the Lumbini- Kapilvastu region. During the reign of Mukunda Sena I (1540-1575 AD), Mukunda Sena II (1750-82 AD) and Mahadatta Sena (1782- 93 AD) in Palpa the previous religious condition in the region could not be retained. The site was lost in the dense forest until the discovery of General Raņa, Governor of Palpa.
Transport :By plane :
The closest airport is at Siddharthanagar, where flights to and from Kathmandu are served. There is also an airport in Gorakhpur, which serves flights to Indian cities. But lately Lumbini itself is planning to operate an airport besides it for the convenience of tourists and sightseeing persons.By Train :
The closest station is at Nautanwa, India on the Indian Railway network, but passenger trains are infrequent on this line. The alternative of taxi travel from the border crossing at Sunauli to Gorakhpur takes about two hours. From Sunauli, Siddharthanagar is only 3.5 kilometers.By Bus :
It's a 10 hour drive from the capital city Kathmandu.
Culture, Temples and festivals :
The centre of Janakpur is dominated by the impressive Janaki Mandir to the north and west of the bazaar. This temple, one of the biggest in Nepal, was built in 1898 (1955 in the Nepali calendar) by Queen Brisabhanu Kunwar of Tikamgarh. It is also called "Nau Lakha Mandir" after the cost of construction, said to be nine (nau) lakh. The oldest temple in Janakpur is Ram Mandir, built by the Gurkhalisoldier Amar Singh Thapa. Pilgrims also visit the more than 200 sacred ponds in the city for ritual baths. The two most important, Dhanush Sagar and Ganga Sagar, are located close to the city centre. The Vivah Mandap temple where Lord Rama and Sita are said to have been married. It is situated next to the Janki Mandir.
Major religious celebrations include the major Hindu festivals such as Deepawali, and Vijayadashami. followed by spectacular Chhath Puja (sun worship) six days after Deepawali. Both the festivals Deepawali and Chhath are heavily celebrated with a carnival-like atmosphere. The locals take pride in the way these festivals are celebrated.
On the full moon day of February/March before the festival of Holi, a one-day Parikrama (circumambulation) of the city is celebrated. Many people offer prostrated obeisances along the entire eight km route. Two other festivals honor Rama and Sita: Rama Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama, in March–April, draws thousands of pilgrims. And the Vivaha Panchami or Vivaha festival re-enacts the wedding of Rama and Sita at the famous Vivah Mandap temple on the fifth day of the waxing moon in November or early December(after Kartik Purnima),where Rama broke the bow of Shiva.
Pilgrims stay in one of the city's five good hotels or small guest houses. There are also five fully equipped dharmashalas (cheap lodgings for pilgrims).
Fairs & Festivals :Fairs & Festivals in Lumbini :
The fairs and festivals are an integral part of the Buddhist as well as Hindu civilization. These are the main attraction of the life style of the people and preserve the social customs, the religious, beliefs, art-tradition and economic condition of the contemporary society. Since ancient time, festivals have been celebrated not only for socio-economic and religious concept, but also as a source of entertainment. So ever in religious work people feel the entertainment by praying, singing, dancing and meeting with the people and feasting was the sources of religious activities. Due to the mixed settlement of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim people in the periphery of Lumbini, they celebrate Buddha Jayanti, Varsavass, Dashain, Deepawali, Chhaţa, Maghi, Sivaratri, Basanta Panchami, Holi purnima, Ramanavami, Parikarama, Chaitra sukla purnima etc. fair and festivals on proper occasions. They are of national, regional and local significance. Vihar, Stūpa, monasteries and temples of have been associated with the Hinayān, Mahāyan and Vajrayān sects in Lumbini Master Plan Area. Thus, a systematic table of the festivals of proper sects is given below to understand their significance.
These festivals have great religious significance, but it is not possible to trace their origin and whole traditions to observe. However, they may be briefly described here in order to get a clear idea of their sacred complexities.
Buddha Jayanti is celebrated on Baisakh Sukla Purnima or full-moon April- May associated the four major events in Buddha's life, viz. his birth Mahaviniskramana, his enlightenment and Mahaparinirvana. When Mayadevi queen of Suddhodhan of Kapilvastu, was going her maternal house at Devadaha, Siddhartha Buddha was born in Lumbini garden in 563 B.C. According to Buddhist literature he immediately took seven steps and each steps left a lotus flower where his foot touched the ground. After the forecast of the sage Asita and Kaudinya, king isolated Siddhartha in the royal palace, providing him all the pleasures and facilities for his entertainment things. One day he went outside the castle walks and saw a sick man, old man and third a dead body. At last he met to a saint, a holy man and he felt that it was the source of free form preceding three pains of the world.
At the age of 29 he left palace, wife Yasodhar and son Rahula. It was the day of Baisakh sukla purnima in course of his Mahaviniskramana. His enlightenment was also held on the day of Vaiśākha sukla purnima in Bodhagaya. Then, he becomes the Lord Buddha. At the age of 8o he left his body at Kusinagar. This is known "Mahaparinirvana " in Buddhist society. Buddha passed his life sharing his teaching to human being, which is known Buddhism. Under the auspicious of the monasteries and LDT, Buddha Jayanti festival is celebrated with various activities in Buddhist countries. Lumbini, being the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam Buddha, is the main sacred complex to the Buddhist. On the occasion of Vaiśākha sukla purnima LDT and Institutions of Lumbini have been celebrating Buddha Jayanti. LDT, the authority, organize a three-day program on the occasion of the Buddha Jayanti and Lumbini Day. The main Organizing Committee is constituted, especial under the chairmanship of Honorable Minister for physical planning and construction. The preparatory organizing committee is formed under the chairmanship of vice chairman of Lumbini Development Trust. Other sub-committees are also formed for proper works. In 2004 May, 7 sub- committees were formed to celebrate 2548th Buddha Jayanti and Lumbini Day 2061 at the holy birth place of Lord Buddha. On 23 May 2005, 2549th Buddha Jayanti and Lumbini Day was celebrated under the leadership of LDT.
On the occasion the main functions are cleaning of sacred site and a large number of monk, nun and devotees come to the sacred complex along with flower, water, dipa, prasada etc. to worship the idol of Buddha at Mayadevi temple. Organizing Committee has managed discourse on Nepal Television and Radio stations under the topic "Role of Lumbini in peace and Development ". In 2005 the topic was " Lumbini: Glory of Nepal" for essay competition, speech on Radio stations and oratory competition among inter college and inter schools. Inter-school oratory competition and inter campus essay writing competition under the topic "Role of Lumbini in peace and Development" is also organized on this occasion. Panditarama and Goyanka Meditation centres were also camped in the evening.
The second day or the main celebration day is also performed several functions. The statue of the Buddha is kept in a chariot (khata) and taken in a procession in Lumbini area amidst music of the musician, songs of the women, prayers of the males and sacred slogans of Buddhism, such as Om Nano Shanta Rupāya, Om Namo Buddhaya and Om mani padame hu. Finally, after reaching the proposed site some monk, nun and Buddhist scholars deliver speech highlighting the deeper significance of the Buddha's serman and Buddhism to the mass who gather there. On this procession, Honorable Ministers, Monks Nuns, His Excellency Ambassadors, associated with Buddhism, Buddhist scholars, Members of LDT etc. also take part in the programme. The third day, last day of the celebration the chief guests also give away prizes and certificates to the winners in essay writing and oratory competitions and distributed scholarship to the under privileged students of the local society. Lumbini International Buddhist Society, Monasteries of Lumbini and other non-governmental organizations have also organized free medical camps in Lumbini Area.Peace March :
Fuji Guruji's began construction peace pagodas in Nepal and later World wise. He also organized peace Marches to pray for World peace and to awaken consciousness among men. Guruji was presented with Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International understanding by the present of India in 1978. The citation mentioned, "as pacifist and an advocate of universal and complete disarmament the relevance of his life and his message can not be over emphasized". 74 peace pagodas have been completed in Japan, India, Śri Laήkā, England, USA, Austria and Nepal. After the death of Guruji his disciples and devotees have been succeeding to build peace pagodas and walking peace marches in the different part of the World. The first peace March in Nepal was organized by Nepalese Buddhists and Nipponzan Myohoji from Kathmandu to Lumbini covering 440km. on October 2001. This Peace March has been organizing by the peace loving people of the World. From 2002 to 2005, many monks, young generation have been involving in Peace March. In the occasion of 2549 Buddha Jayanti and Lumbini (2062 Jestha 9) a motorcycle team was involve in Peace March from Kathmandu to Lumbini. It is the sounding process for peace all over the World.Barsavassa :
In ancient period Buddha advised to his disciples to take shelter during the rainy season from Asara Sukla purnima to Aswin Sukla purnima (June to September) due to heavy rain. In order to safe their life they stay at any place about three months without passing night-rest at other site. They follow up, the rules and regulations on the basis of Vinaya pitaka. The perform one month religious activities is known "Kathinadana". Other devotees of Buddhism provide food drinks, medicine and dresses to them during this period. Dress donation process is known as "Kathina chivar". Devotees offer basis requirement of the Bhikshus, who live in Barsavassa.
A Bhikshus can not leave his shelter without permission of head monk for some times. If he needs to go out side for some time he must return at night. They can go outside in the permission of his head in case of illness or urgent work. In some time, if the rainy reason is longer than three months they should stay in Barsavassa. It is their regular duty.Durga Puja :
The festival of Durga puja is celebrated by the people of Lumbini for fifteen days. It is known as Dashain, Tika or Dasahara. It is associated with the worship of the Sakti cult in which she is worshipped in her different manifestations. On the first day of Ghatasthapana the local people of Lumbini install ceremonially the ghata to be worshipped till the day of Vijaya Dashmi. The head-male member of the family offers flowers, sweets, fruits and clarified butter and distrubute prasada each day. From the installment of ghata to the sixth day of Durga Puja only simple worship is conducted at pujakotha of the households. The seventh day, on phulapati special worship is offered to the deities. Flowers, pati, unbroken-rice and other puja articlesare also kept in the puja kotha. The eighth day is known as Kalaratri. On that day, goat, buffalo, cock, duck and pigeon are also sacrificed to the goddess. Activities of Mahastami and Mahanavami are similar.
On this occasion the devotees undertake a parikrama (circumambulation) of the goddess shrines, which is known Nava Durga Parikrama. Many secular activities are performed in order to achieve porposed goals, vrata, upavasa and puja are main activities during this period. On the tenth day of Vijayadasami Navadurga bhawani are worshipped by the members of the family early in the morning. At the proper time of Tika the cermony of Tika starts.The younger people of the families go the receive Tika and jamara from their elders. The young people go to respect the elders at the village.They finish the puja and other activities of Navadurga bhawani from this day.Basanta Panchami :
The festival of Basanta Panchami falls on the fifth day of the light fortnight in the month of Magha (January-Febreary). This festival is associated with the worship of nature on the setting of Basanta Ritu which is known the king of season (ritu raj).It is also considered the occasion of worshipping of Kamadev. The most popular function on the day is the worship of Saraswoti, the goddess of learning. The goddess of Mansushree, the Buddhist deity, is also worshipped on this occasion. In Buddhist religion, Manjushree is considered as the goddess of education, arts and crafts.
Lumbini has been the important prominent site of Buddhist learning. The Saraswati Puja is performed here with great devotion. On the occasion, in all the educational centres, viz. primary, lower secondary and secondary schools, institutions etc, the images of goddess Saraswati are installed and worshipped by students and teachers. Various cultural programmes are also conducted, especially bhajan, kirtan, drama and dancing. Artist, musician, students and teachers offer flowers, unbroken rice, sweet, banana and other puja articles to pleasure her. Due to the absence of permanent temples of Saraswoti in Lumbini and its outskirts, the devotees make the icon of Saraswati and worship her. Goddess Sarswati is worshipped in most of the families. This is also on occasion to initiate a young child to learning or it is known as vidhyarambha or aksharamabha. Most of these sacred centres are visited by people for having darshan of the deities on this auspicious day. The priests perform shodashopchar puja and offer the duties mango-flowers (amra manjen) and mustary flowers. They address her with other names as Sarada, Jagatamata or Jagatajanani.Shivaratri :
The Shivaratri festival takes place on the day of Falgun Krishna trayadasi and on this day there is a big gathering of the people at Sivalayas of Lumbini area. According to Hindu tradition, Siva was originated at that night. As the tradition has it, Siva was married on this auspicious day. His first marriage with Sati, the daughter of Raja Daksha, is not celebrated by the devotees. His second marriage with Parvati, the daughter of king Hemant of the Himalayas is celebrated as Sivaratri by the devotees all over India (Vidyarthi, 1979:65). The festival of Mahasivaratri is celebrated as the birthday of Siva. Devotees spend this day and night by singing the Bhajans, the song of Siva and reciting Siva Purana. Bhajan, Kirtan and proper stories of Siva are told by the sage and mendicants.Parikrams :
The tradition of parikrama (circumambulation) in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures has been considered as the best method of replacing out all sins and unlawful activities during one's life period. There are a number of sacred centres like Bodhagaya, Kushinagar, Saranatha, Kapilvastu and Lumbini, where the devotees go for parikrama and attach great religious significance to these sacred centres. At the last stage of his life, Gautam Buddha had advised to his disciplines that they should visit at these sites, associated with him. Master plan is also based on Buddhist philosophy. Plan is divided into three parts on the basis of worldly- life (grihastha), cultural complex, study area, religious sector and ruins of human civilization from north to south respectively.
Three segments of Lumbini represent the life-circle of human beings on the basis of Buddha's life and style. Monk and Nuns circumambulate Hinayāni and Mahāyani monasteries according to their belief and customs. Apart from their sect, they usually do parikrama from north to south. Annual peace parikrama of peace Stūpa (Nipponzan Myohoji ) is also performing from northern to southern sector of Lumbini.