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 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.
Shown above are the gardens of Lumbini, an area of reflection and meditation for Buddhist monks and visitors. The gardens are only part of the complex of structures that include not only the birthplace but also 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, monasteries (viharas) dating from the 3rd-5th century BC and memorial shrines (stupas) from the 3rd century BC through the 15th century AD.