Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected one of his commemorative pillars there. The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.
The Lord Buddha was born in 623 BC in the sacred area of Lumbini located in the Terai plains of southern Nepal, testified by the inscription on the pillar erected by the Mauryan Emperor Asoka in 249 BC. Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world’s great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centres from as early as the 3rd century BC.
The complex of structures within the archaeological conservation area includes the Shakya Tank; the remains within the Maya Devi Temple consisting of brick structures in a cross-wall system dating from the 3rd century BC to the present century and the sandstone Ashoka pillar with its Pali inscription in Brahmi script. Additionally there are the excavated remains of Buddhist viharas (monasteries) of the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD and the remains of Buddhist stupas (memorial shrines) from the 3rd century BC to the 15th century AD. The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.
Criterion (iii): As the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, testified by the inscription on the Asoka pillar, the sacred area in Lumbini is one of the most holy and significant places for one of the world’s great religions.
Criterion (vi): The archaeological remains of the Buddhist viharas (monasteries) and stupas (memorial shrines) from the 3rd century BC to the 15th century AD, provide important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centres from a very early period.
The integrity of Lumbini has been achieved by means of preserving the archaeological remains within the property boundary that give the property its Outstanding Universal Value. The significant attributes and elements of the property have been preserved. The buffer zone gives the property a further layer of protection. Further excavations of potential archaeological sites and appropriate protection of the archaeological remains are a high priority for the integrity of the property. The property boundary however does not include the entire archaeological site and various parts are found in the buffer zone. The entire property including the buffer zone is owned by the Government of Nepal and is being managed by the Lumbini Development Trust and therefore there is little threat of development or neglect. However the effects of industrial development in the region have been identified as a threat to the integrity of the property.
The authenticity of the archaeological remains within the boundaries has been confirmed through a series of excavations since the discovery of the Asoka pillar in 1896. The remains of viharas, stupas and numerous layers of brick structures from the 3rd century BC to the present century at the site of the Maya Devi Temple are proof of Lumbini having been a centre of pilgrimage from early times. The archaeological remains require active conservation and monitoring to ensure that the impact of natural degradation, influence of humidity and the impact of the visitors are kept under control. The property continues to express its Outstanding Universal Value through its archaeological remains. The delicate balance must be maintained between conserving the archaeological vestiges of the property while providing for the pilgrims.
Protection and management requirements
The property site is protected by the Ancient Monument Preservation Act 1956. The site management is carried out by the Lumbini Development Trust, an autonomous and non-profit making organization. The entire property is owned by the Government of Nepal. The property falls within the centre of the Master Plan area, the planning of which was initiated together with the United Nations and carried out by Prof. Kenzo Tange between 1972 and 1978.
The long-term challenges for the protection and management of the property are to control the impact of visitors, and natural impacts including humidity and the industrial development in the region. A Management Plan is in the process of being developed to ensure the long-term safeguarding of the archaeological vestiges of the property while allowing for the property to continue being visited by pilgrims and tourists from around the world.
As the birthplace of the Lord Buddha – the apostle of peace and the light of Asia was born in 623 BC – the sacred area of Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world’s great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centres from a very early period. Lumbini, in the South-Western Terai of Nepal, evokes a kind of holy sentiment to the millions of Buddhists all over the world, like Jerusalem to Christians and Mecca to Muslims.
Lumbini is the place where the Buddha, known as the Tathagata, was born. It is the place which should be visited and seen by a person of devotion and which should cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence. The site and its surrounding area is endowed with a rich natural setting of domesticable fauna and favourable agricultural environ. Historically, the region is an exquisite treasure-trove of ancient ruins and antiquities, dating back to the pre-Christian era. The site, described as a beautiful garden in the Buddha’s time, still retains its legendary charm and beauty.
The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is one of the four holy places of Buddhism. It is said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, Enlightenment, First Discourse, and death. All these events happened outside in nature under trees. There is no particular significance in this, other than it perhaps explains why Buddhists have always respected the environment and natural law.
Lumbini is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas in modern Nepal. In the Buddha’s time, Lumbini was a beautiful garden full of green and shady sal trees (Shorea robusta ). The garden and its tranquil environs were owned by both the Shakyas and the clans. King Suddhodana, father of Gautama Buddha, was of the Shakya dynasty and belonged to the Kshatriya (warrior caste). Maya Devi, his mother, gave birth to the child on her way to her parent’s home in Devadaha while resting in Lumbini under a sal tree in the month of May, 642 BC. The beauty of Lumbini is described in Pali and Sanskrit literature. Maya Devi, it is said, was spellbound to see the natural grandeur of Lumbini. While she was standing, she felt labour pains and catching hold of a drooping branch of a sal tree, she gave birth to a baby, the future Buddha.
In 249 BC, when the Indian Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini, it was a flourishing village. Ashoka constructed four stupas and a stone pillar with a figure of a horse on top. The stone pillar bears an inscription, which in translation runs as follows: ‘King Piyadasi (Ashoka), beloved of devas, in the 20th year of the coronation, himself made a royal visit, Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here; a stone railing was built and a stone pillar erected to the Bhagavan having been born here, Lumbini village was taxed reduced and entitled to the eight part (only)’.
Lumbini remained neglected for centuries. In 1895, Feuhrer, a famous German archaeologist, discovered the great pillar while wandering about the foothills of the Churia range. Further exploration and excavation of the surrounding area revealed the existence of a brick temple and sandstone sculpture within the temple itself, which depicts the scenes of the Buddha’s birth.
It is pointed out by scholars that the temple of Maya Devi was constructed over the foundations of more than one earlier temple or stupa, and that this temple was probably built on an Ashokan stupa itself. To the south of the Maya Devi temple there is the famous sacred bathing pool known as Puskarni. It is believed that Maya Devi took a bath in this pool before the delivery. By the side of the Ashoka pillar a river which flows south-east and is locally called the Ol. In 1996, an archaeological dig unearthed a ‘flawless stone’ placed there by Ashoka in 249 BC to mark the precise location of the Buddha’s birth more than 2,600 years ago. if authenticated, the find will put Lumbini even more prominently on the map for millions of religious pilgrims.
The Shakya Prince Siddharta Gautama, better known as the Lord Buddha, was born to Queen Mayadevi, wife of King Suddodhana, ruler of Kapilavastu, in 623 BC at the famous gardens of Lumbini, while she was on a journey from her husband’s capital of Tilaurakot to her family home in Devadaha.
In 249 BC the devout Buddhist Emperor Ashoka, third of the Mauryan rulers of India, made a pilgrimage to this very sacred area in company with his teacher, Upagupta, and erected pillars at Lumbini, Gotihawa, and Niglihawa, as he did in many parts of India, to commemorate his visit. The inscription on the Lumbini pillar identifies this as the birthplace of the Lord Buddha.
Lumbini was a site of pilgrimage until the 15th century AD. Its early history is well documented in the accounts of Chinese travellers, notably Fa Hsien (4th century AD) and Hsuan Tsang (7th century AD), who described the temples, stupas, and other establishments that they visited there. In the early 14th century King Ripu Malla recorded his pilgrimage in the form of an additional inscription on the Ashoka pillar.
The reasons for its ceasing to attract Buddhist pilgrims after the 15th century remain obscure. The only local cult centred on worship of a 3rd-4th century image of Mayadevi as a Hindu mother goddess. The Buddhist temples fell into disrepair and eventually into ruins, not to be rediscovered until they were identified in 1896 by Dr A Fiihrer and Khadga Samsher, then Governor of Palpa, who discovered the Ashoka pillar.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation