Lumbini is the hallowed birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam, the Shakya prince, the eventual Shakyamuni and the ultimate Buddha - the Enlightened One. This nativity site, identified by Indian Emperor Ashoka's commemorative pillar erected over 2200 years ago and rediscovered in 1896, is the quintessential Buddhist heritage site, currently renaissanced by the internationally-supported Lumbini Development Project
The main attraction at Lumbini is the Sacred Garden that is spread over 8 sq km and possesses all the treasures of the historic area. The Mayadevi temple, is the main attraction for pilgrims and archeologists alike. This is where we find a bas relief of Mayadevi, the Buddha's mother, giving birth to him as two Hindu gods, Brahma and Indra, shower him with lotus petals and holy water. There is also a sacred stone marked with a "foot imprint" of Emperor Ashoka which had been placed here to mark the exact birthplace. Nearby, to the west of the Mayadevi temple, stands the Ashoka Pillar - the oldest monument so far found in Nepal. The pillar was erected by Emperor Ashoka in 249 BC to commemorate his pilgrimage to the sacred site. The inscription on it in Brahmi script authenticates Lumbini as the place where the Buddha has born in 623 BC. To the south of the Pillar we find the sacred pond - Puskarni - where Queen Mayadevi had taken a bath just before giving birth to the Buddha.
The treasury of cultural and archeological riches scattered around Lumbini evokes the time and aura of the Buddha. Moreover, a host of stupas, monasteries, meditation centers and bahals (courtyards) being constructed in the International Monastery Zone by various countries such as Japan, China, India, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Shri Lanka, France and Germany embodying their respective architecture reflects and the world brotherhood envisaged by the Apostle of Peach some 2500 years ago.
An important archeological site lying 27 km to the west of Lumbini, Tilaurakot evokes the ancient palace of King Suddhodhan, Siddhartha Gautam's father, where the Buddha spent his formative years as a Shakya prince. Scattered foundations of the ancient palace, stupas and monasteries made of kiln-backed bricks and clay mortar are abundant here. The most sacred spot here for Buddhists is the palace's eastern gate through which the Buddha had departed on his search for enlightenment. A must for archeology and history buffs.
Located to the north-east of Tilaurakot, Niglihawa contains some of the most important archelogoical treasures dating back to the third century BC. This historic place encompasses a quadrangular tank surrounded by bushes and on its western bank are two broken pieces of another Ashoka Pillar. There is a Pali language inscription on the pillar in Brahmi script which records Ashoka's visit to the holy site in the 14th year of his rule in India.
To the north-west of Niglihawa is a forest called Sagarhawa. It is the site where ruins of ancient water tanks were excavated in 1895 and this site has been identified by archeologist as the "Palace of massacre of the Shakyas".
Lying to the north-east of Niglihawa, Aroarakot used to be a walled fortress in ancient times. Rectangular in shape, this citadel was the Buddha's natal town. Remains of ancient moat and brick foundations, which can still be clearly located, point to a glorious past. A very interesting trip, takes you to the time of the Buddha.
To the south-west of Tilaurakot is Gothihawa, where w find another Ashoka Pillar. The upper part of the pillar is missing. Next to it is a huge stupa with successive rings of wedge-shaped Mauryan bricks. This sacred site is believed to be associated with Kanakmuni Buddha and Krakuchhanda Buddha who came before Gautam Buddha.
Reaching Lumbini is easy. A 35-minute flight from Kathmandu will wing visitors to Bhairawa, an industrial town situated 284 km south-west of the capital. From here, regular taxis and buses leave for Lumbini, 22 km away. There are daily flights to Bhairawa. Daily Bus services are also available from Kathmandu to Bhairawa. Lumbini can be combined with a jungle safari in Chitwan.