Historical Background

The birthplace of the Buddha,Lumbini is a holy site situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, about 360 km from Kathmandu, in southern Nepal. It has hot weather, with a maximum temperature of 45 Celsius. October is the best season to visit this sacred site.

History of Lumbini Map

In the sixth century B.C.E., Lumbini was a beautiful grove. Maya Devi, queen of the Sakya clan, had a premonition that she would soon give birth to a special child, so she left the capital city for her parents' home. During the journey, while she was resting in Lumbini grove, labor signs appeared and she extended her right hand to hold on to a branch of a sala tree. According to legend, without any pain, she gave birth through the right side of her torso to Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be. Accompanied by many heavenly beings, Brahma descended, witnessed and rejoiced in that miraculous scene. Indra took the baby and softly put him on the earth. Nanda and Upananda, kings of the nagas (sea deities), washed the little Siddhartha’s body with cold and warm water collected from the streams. All heavenly beings were delighted, and great blessings pervaded every part of the world.

After his birth, having taken seven steps, Siddhartha gazed upon the four cardinal directions and proclaimed that he was the lord of all human and heavenly beings of the universe, and that he would eradicate birth, aging, illness, and death.

In 249 BCE, the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Dynasty made a pilgrimage to the place and erected a pillar bearing inscriptions stating that the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni was born there. The site was visited by many pilgrims, including the Chinese monks Fa Xian (Fa-Hsien) in the 5th century and XuanZang (Hsuan Tsang) in the 7th century C.E. They wrote precious notes and travel journals about their experiences in Lumbini, which remain a great source of information and inspiration for historians and archaeologists.

By the 14th century, for socio-political reasons this sacred place was forgotten, hidden in a wilderness surrounding remote villages.

Then, in 1896, Gen. Khadga Shumsher and Dr. A. Fuhrer jointly rediscovered the site, finding, among other things, Ashoka’s pillar. They thus re-established the link to Buddha’s birthplace.

In April 1967, the late former United Nations Secretary General U Thant visited Lumbini, and emphasized the significance of this sacred site for millions of people around the world. U Thant wanted the government of Nepal to develop Lumbini as an International Holy Site for Buddhists as well as a major tourist spot; this suggestion immediately gained full support from Mahendra, then King of Nepal.