The Buddha – Siddhartha Gautam was born into the Shakya royal family in Lumbini in south Nepal. Using historical records referring to Alexander the Great and Emperor Ashoka, the Buddha’s birth date is usually given as May 563 BC.
His mother, Queen Maya Devi was on her way to her parent’s home at Rangram for the birth as was the tradition at that time. Before reaching her destination, she went into labour at Lumbini. There, she bathed in a bricked pool called Puskarni and then walked 25 paces to deliver the baby. The Buddha was born as she leant against a sal tree. Sadly, Maya Devi died seven days after his birth and he was brought up by her younger sister and the second wife of Suddhodan, Pajapati.
Lumbini grove (above), the sacred site of Lord Buddha’s birth is today a small village in Nepal, 27 km from Sonauli on the Indo-Nepal Border.
Emperor Ashoka’s pillar, though broken, still remains at the site. It is known as the Rummendei Pillar after the earlier name of the place (modern name Rupandhei) in Nepal.
Air: Nearest airport is Varanasi (323 km) and Bhairawha, Nepal.
Rail: The nearest railway station is Gorakhpur 123 km away.
Road: Buses ply up to the Indian side of the border, from where the passengers have to disembark and take another bus after crossing the border check post.
The Maya Devi temple (above), a stone relief (probably 2nd century AD) shows her giving birth to the Buddha watched by the two Hindu gods Brahma and Indra. The area is currently being developed into a Sacred Peace Garden spread over 8 sq. km. along with the building of several stupas and monasteries by Buddhist traditions from all over the world. The Ashokan Pillar stands out quite clearly and is surrounded by the ruins of four stupas.
Three hundred years after Buddha’s death, Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini and erected a pillar there.
In AD 636, Chinese pilgrim Huian Tsang described the place thus “where the lord was born is a piece of heaven on earth and one could see the snowy mountains amidst a splendid garden – embedded with stupas and monasteries”. He also noted a stone pillar broken in two surrounded by four stupas.
In 1896, at Lumbini Dr Fuhrer re-discovered the stone pillar erected as a mark of respect by Ashoka, the Indian Emperor and a follower of the Buddha’s teaching. The pillar is inscribed “Twenty years after his coronation, King Devanampiya Piyadasi (Ashoka) came here and paid homage, because the Buddha, the sage of the Shakya clan, was born here. He ordered a stone relief to be made and a stone pillar to be erected, to indicate that the Blessed One was born here. He exempted the village of Lumbini from taxes and reduced its toll of produce (from the usual quarter) to one eighth.” The inscription was made in the local dialect Magadhi, using Brahmin script.
In 1995, an international team uncovered a commemorative stone resting on top of a platform of bricks under the Maya Devi temple. The stone dates back to the time of the Emperor Ashoka who visited Lumbini is 249 BC. Ancient Buddhist texts which describe the place of his birth as being 25 paces from the pool where his mother bathed have been validated by this discovery.