Mata Mayadevi Temple of Lumbini – Birthplace of Buddha in Nepal

Lumbini, located on the India-Nepal border, is the birthplace of Buddha. Apart from Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar, this is the fourth main site related to the life of Buddha.

Lumbini – The story of Buddha begins from here. Lumbini is a sacred garden located between the residences of Buddha’s mother and father. Buddha’s mother Queen Maya Devi gave birth to him here during his journey from his in-laws home to his maternal home.

Maya Devi

In Lumbini, Mayadevi is more revered than Buddha. Mayadevi is known mainly through two stories from the stories of Buddha. The first story in which he dreamed of a white elephant, meaning the entry of a great soul into his womb, is told. The second story is of the time when she was leaving from Kapilvastu of her husband, King Shuddhodhan of Shakya clan, towards her parents’ palace in Devdaha for delivery. Detailed information about the preparations made to make their journey pleasant and convenient can be seen in Buddhist literature. Many ponds were dug along the way to provide water during the journey.

READ ALSO : Ancient Thirukiteshwara Temple located on Mannar Island of Sri Lanka

legends of Buddha’s birth

It is said that on the banks of one such pond in Lumbini, Mayadevi gave birth to Buddha while standing with a branch of a tree in her hand. The gods of the three worlds – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh themselves had come here to receive Buddha in their hands. These legends say that immediately after birth, Buddha walked seven steps. Wherever his feet touched the earth, lotus flowers bloomed. This incident is considered to be the first miraculous incident in the life of Buddha. After that he was to perform many more miracles in his life.

This scene of Buddha’s birth can be seen in many intellectual places. Often this is said to be the second main scene after Mayadevi’s dream scene. In these scenes, Buddha’s nurse mother Prajapati Gautami is also shown along with Mayadevi.

Other places related to Buddha are:-

  • Bodh Gaya – where Buddha attained supreme enlightenment
  • Sarnath – where he gave his first sermon and started the Dharmachakra
  • Kushinagar – where he attained Mahanirvana
  • Rajagriha – where the first Buddhist conference was held
  • Vaishali – where city bride Amrapali (Ambapali or Ambpalika or Aryaamba) accepted Buddhism and became a disciple of Buddha.

Mayadevi Temple of Lumbini

The everlasting temple situated in Lumbini is dedicated to Mayadevi i.e. Mahamaya. It is also called Pradimoksha forest. This temple was neglected for the last few centuries. Recently archaeologists have started excavation and conservation of historical objects found here.

At present, there is a fence here in the name of Mayadevi Temple, inside which remains of an ancient temple situated at some time are left. Many Chinese Buddhist scholars, who visited the site, attest to these remains in their written literature. Both Fa-hien and Huen Tsang have mentioned this temple in their literature.

This place is the birthplace of Buddha, the best archaeological proof of this is the Ashoka Pillar located here and the inscription on which this place has been shown as the birthplace of Prince Siddhartha. This Ashoka Pillar was established in the year 249 BC. Although this occurred 300-400 years after the birth of the Buddha, it can be assumed that oral traditions have kept the major sites alive. Dr. Fuhr discovered the Ashoka Pillar in 1896.

But in the beginning of 1990 AD, it was confirmed by the rock remains found during excavation that Buddha was born at this very place.

Places to visit around Mayadevi Temple

Mayadevi Temple is actually a group of many monuments interesting for tourists.

Mayadevi Temple Complex

The Mayadevi Temple, located inside the temple complex surrounded by white walls, has a structure similar to a Buddhist stupa on top and inside are the remains of an ancient temple. Here big bricks are kept in the shape of many square piles. Even after looking at them for a long time, I could not understand the meaning of this formation. This room was relatively small for a meeting hall or monastery or monastery. This temple also did not appear to be. I began to doubt whether this form of the temple was the result of discovery or reconstruction! Most of the structural remains belong to the Gupta dynasty of 5-6th AD.

birth image

There is a stone statue installed on one side wall of this hall-like place, which has been worn down by hands so much that the shape has become unclear. Looking at it, it can only be guessed that it is similar to the statues of Mayadevi located at other places. This room mainly consists of statues that depict the birth of Buddha. Buddhists believe that this sculpture has become flat due to being touched by devotees over the centuries.

Archaeologists named it Janam Pratima, that is, the sculpture that shows the birth of Buddha. Chronologically this artefact can be dated to the 4th century. However, during the excavation, huge bricks from before the Maurya era have been found which confirms the evidence that this is the birthplace of Buddha.

The size of these bricks of pre-Maurya period is 49x36x7 cm and weight is 20 kg.

In fact, the shape and texture of the bricks creates curiosity. It is surprising that these bricks remain intact even after so many years. These light orange colored bricks are of different shapes and sizes. It is not known whether the changes in form and size are due to their being found in different eras or for their different purposes.

boundary rock

Below the birth statue, a few feet below the ground, this boundary stone is placed. There is a faint mark of a human foot on this irregularly shaped stone. It is believed that this is the footprint of Siddharth Gautam. It all depends on our faith. If you have faith then there are footprints of Buddha otherwise the logical mind does not believe these things easily.

Presently it is kept safe under unbreakable glass. We can clearly see this stone and the coins of all the Buddhist countries kept in a pile around it, which are offered here as a form of reverence.

Generally, to see this rock, tourists and devotees have to stand in queues and wait for their turn. It is my good fortune that both the times when I visited this temple, there were not many tourists present here and I could spend some moments peacefully here. Had the pleasure of spending time.

Ashoka pillar of Lumbini

This Ashoka Pillar is situated near the back wall of Mayadevi Temple. The inscription written on it in Pali language says that King Ashoka himself had visited Lumbini and got this pillar installed. The inscription “ Hita  Buddhe Jaate Shakyamuniti ” on it means Shakyamuni Buddha was born at this place. This inscription also mentions that Lumbini, being the birthplace of Lord Buddha, limited the taxes of the village to only one-eighth.

Pushkarni means sacred pond

This sacred pond is situated near the Mayadevi temple. This is the same pond where Mayadevi took bath at the time of Siddhartha’s birth. Therefore it is a holy place for the followers of Buddhism. The present pond is certainly a new structure. A huge Bodhi tree is located near this pond where there is also a small temple dedicated to Buddha. There are also some other Bodhi trees here, some of which have circular wooden plates placed under them. I felt relaxed and happy seeing people sitting and meditating under these trees.

Prayer flags were hanging on a string tied from one tree to another. When I was standing near Pushkarni with my back towards Mayadevi temple, there was a fair of colors in front of me.

Mannat Stupa

The temple of Mayadevi is surrounded by many small and big stupas, most of which are in ruins. However, they are in comparatively better condition than the temple or perhaps they have been less touched.

Some stupas here have large square bases and many circular bases. This group of 16 stupa bases seemed very interesting to me. Situated on a platform like a chess board, I found this stupa very attractive. It is said that these are stupas of vows.

These stupas are built by the devotees after fulfilling their wishes.

These different stupas representing different eras mostly belong to the 1st-3rd century.

Worship in Mayadevi Temple

One evening I saw that the temple had come alive with the prayers offered by a group of Buddhist monks who had come from far away countries.

A group of some Buddhist monks who had come from Sri Lanka, following disciplined methods, were sitting. While narrating the biography of the Buddha, the head monk repeated the Buddha’s sermons to everyone. A group of Buddhist monks from China wearing black clothes were busy worshiping the image of the child Buddha. Some monks lit lamps around Pushkarni and gave us the feeling of Diwali night. Some other monks were sitting in another corner of the temple and chanting mantras. One group of monks decorated a square-based stupa with marigold flowers, while another group tied the Ashoka Pillar with bright silk cloth.

A group of local monks were sitting around the tree. I discussed it with one of the monks and learned that they were not happy with the way the archaeologists had rebuilt the temple. He told us that since ancient times this temple was situated on the east-west axis. But at present the entry and exit of devotees is done in north-south direction. In fact, you can see the format of this temple in many photographs from the middle of the 19th century and can clearly understand the changes that have taken place in it till now.

The place which till now seemed to be just a ruin, had literally become alive, drenched in the chanting of devotees. The presence of Buddhist monks started infusing a spiritual energy within us. I sat there and started observing them carefully. Started getting drenched in this spiritual energy. And then I realized that my journey had been successfully completed. While visiting this campus for the last two days, my heart which was not able to connect with this place, within a few moments, after seeing the immense devotion of the monks, it started getting integrated into the existence of this place. As it is said, the devotion of a devotee is capable of turning even a stone into a god.

Lumbini Gardens

Lumbini Development Trust has prepared a master plan under which there is a plan to develop Lumbini and make it a world class tourist destination. The effect of this master plan is visible in the entire city. But the truth is that the work under this scheme is still in progress and its completion is pending.

This plan divides this complex into two parts in the middle by a canal, on one side of which is the temple of Mayadevi and on the other side a huge white colored Vishwashanti Shivalaya can be seen.

To the west of this canal are located temples belonging to Mahayana Buddhist countries, such as Korea, China, Germany, Canada, Austria, Vietnam, Ladakh and of course Nepal. Towards the east, there are temples related to the followers of Theravada Buddhism, such as Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Mahabodh Samaj of India, Kolkata, Gautami Janana Monastery of Nepal. There is also a glimpse of Vajrayana Bodh Dharma between these two.

Organizations on both sides have their own meditation centers where you can practice meditation by appointment. Extensive walking is required to visit the temple complex.

Although this temple complex is open to tourists, it is built for the meditation of resident Buddhist monks and followers of Buddhism. As a tourist you can appreciate its structures, which clearly represent the region. You can enjoy seeing the grand statues and decorations located here, but if you want more information about this temple or the context of Buddhism, then you will have to depend on your own sources.

My advice to you is that you should choose some temples as per your preference and visit them satisfactorily. If you want to visit all the temples, after some time you will feel bored or suspicious. All the temples are completely related to Buddha and Mayadevi. If you are not a follower of Buddhism, you will not be able to do more than appreciate its architecture and structure.

Personally, I found the statue of Mayadevi located in the Australia Temple very pleasing in this complex. Similarly, the statue of Huan Tsang in the beautiful red and yellow Chinese temple is also very beautiful. Amazing frescoes have been made inside the temple of Germany, while the temple of Nepal has a huge statue of Buddha. Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar temples are very beautiful from outside.

Lumbini Development Trust Museum

On one side of the intermediate canal is a strange shaped building made of red bricks. Its arches give it the look of a Buddhist temple. This is Lumbini Museum. To buy its entry tickets, we had to walk to another building located on the other side of the pond. Since this part of the garden is not so famous, you may be alone among the visitors present to visit this museum. There is a solid reason behind this also.

The building of the museum is very beautiful but there is not a single real artefact kept inside it. In fact, every artefact available here is a copy of the famous statues of other Buddhist sites. Most of the patterns I counted were from Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh. However, the images, although beautiful, lacked the energy available in the original rock images.

Photographs of main Buddhist sites are also kept here. I wish they had kept the higher resolution images that are readily available today.

Wandering in Lumbini Garden

If you also enjoy walking like me, then definitely visit the garden in the morning and evening. This is a very suitable place for walking. There are water bodies everywhere where you can see many birds and butterflies. During winter season, many migratory birds like storks etc. come to the lakes here.

However, some caution is required as many routes are still under construction. Many parts are extremely deserted which means you need to take care of your safety.

I really enjoyed the conversation with the monks here. I also discussed with a nun who told me about her spiritual journey so far and the position of nuns in Buddhism. The short-haired monk, dressed in saffron attire, with a mixture of innocence and mischief on his face, shy in front of the camera, captivates everyone.

Some tips related to Lumbini trip in Nepal

  1. Lumbini is a huge park made up of small and big forest departments. Therefore, wear comfortable shoes or slippers.
  2. There are no food or refreshment facilities available inside the Lumbini park. Therefore, it would be better to have a full meal before entering. In the eastern part of the park, some carts selling Bhel and ice cream and some small shops selling water were seen, but in the western part no food and drink facilities are available.
  3. Keep plenty of water with you. These will be needed especially during the darshan of Mayadevi temple and the temples of western part.
  4. Transport facilities within the park are extremely limited. Assess your walking ability correctly. If needed, you can travel by hiring a rickshaw.
  5. The distance from one end of the park to the other can also be covered by boat, but in this way you will not be able to visit all the temples.
  6. Wear traditional and decent clothes as this is a religious place.
  7. Apart from Mayadevi Temple and Lumbini Museum, there is no entry fee for visiting other places. The entry and camera fee for Indian tourists at both these places is Rs 20.
  8. All temples and museums are open from 9 am to 5 pm and are closed from 1 pm to 2 pm.
  9. Mayadevi temple is open from sunrise to sunset. A minimum time of 2 hours should be kept for its darshan. If you have only half a day available for darshan of Lumbini, then it would be appropriate to keep it completely for darshan of Mayadevi temple.
  10. Although this garden is open all the time, it would not be appropriate to visit here after sunset.