buddhism in india
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Lumbini situated under the foothills of Himalayas, is in Nepal. The Shakya Prince Siddhartha or Gautama, renowned as The Buddha, was born at Lumbini during the full moon day of Baisakh (May) in 623 B.C. Lord Buddha’s father, King Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Shakya dynasty having its capital at Kapilavastu. His mother queen Mayadevi, (Mahamaya), gave birth to him while travelling to her paternal home. Resting in Lumbini gardens, 16 Km from the Kapilavastu and emerging from a bath with her face to the east, she leant her right arm on a Sal tree (Shorea robusta), and gave birth to the future Buddha.

Seven days after giving birth to Siddhartha, Queen Mayadevi died. King Suddhodana then asked her sister Goutami (Mahapajapati) to be the new queen. Goutami agreed and cared for Siddhartha as if he were her own son. Hardly some days after Siddhartha was born, a wise man predicted that this child would grow up to be either a great ruler or a great saint. King Suddhodana did everything in his power to keep the experience of the hard and painful things of life out of the young prince's life so that Siddhartha’s mind is not turned in the direction of religion. The prince was married at an early age of sixteen to a beautiful princess, Yashodhara.

Siddhartha and his princess were kept amused and entertained behind the palace walls till the age of twenty-nine when one day his inner vocation awoke in him, and he chose to tour the nearby town. There he was confronted by three disturbing facts of life when he saw an old person (old age), a sick person (sickness), and a corpse (death), all for the first time. Thereafter he saw an ascetic whose calm, holy and peaceful appearance motivated Siddhartha towards asceticism. Siddhartha was deeply disturbed by these sites and decided to abandon his present life and embrace asceticism in search for true knowledge of all sufferings. At this juncture, he became the father of a son whom he called Rahula (meaning "chain" or "fetter"). Thus indicating dissatisfaction with his life of plenty whiles the birth of his son invoking in him much tenderness. He felt so disturbed, that even this could not change his heart and he could not stop the troubling thoughts of the impermanence of all life away from his mind. At the age of 29 years he left the palace, leaving behind his family and all his wealth. At the dead of night he exchanged his princely robe with the orange clothes of a holy man and carrying only an alms bowl set off in his great search.

Lumbini’s history is elaborately documented by Fa Hsien and Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese travelers. King Ripu Malla also recorded his pilgrimage during the 14th century in an additional inscription on the Ashoka pillar before the towns sacredness was forgotten. The causes for its ceasing to be a focus of Buddhist pilgrims after the 15th century remain unclear. The only local cult centered on the reverence of a 3rd-4th century statue of Mayadevi as a mother goddess of the Hindu’s. The Buddhist temples were neglected and eventually turned into ruins and this area turned into a dense forest. A team led by Khadga Samsher and the German scholar Dr A Fuhrer traced out for the first time in 1895-96 the Ashokan pillar at Lumbini and identified it with the spot where Buddha was born.

Ashokan Pillar

buddhism in india-Ashokan Pillar The most important monument at Lumbini is the Ashokan Pillar, erected in 250 BC, when the Indian Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini. Ashoka erected four stupas and one stone pillar having a figure of a horse at the top. This stone pillar has an inscription, which means: “King Piyadashi, much-loved by the gods, in the 20th year of his consecration, came himself and worshipped saying ‘Here Buddha Sakyamuni was born’, and he caused to make a stone (capital) representing a horse; and he caused (this) stone pillar to be built. Because here the Enlightened One was born, the village of Lumbini is made a spiritual centre and it will be liable to pay only 1/10th share of taxes.”. Near the top of the pillar the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is carved in Tibetan characters. The pillar was badly damaged by lightning before the 7th century CE. The height of the pillar is 4.11 m and it is believed that another 3.05 m long portion is under the ground. The circumference of the remaining part of the pillar is 2.21 m.The carved top of the pillar with the figure of the horse has never been found. Hsuan-tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, saw this structure and recorded in his memoires.

Mayadevi Temple

buddhism in india-Mayadevi Temple Mayadevi Temple sacred to both the Buddhists and the Hindus, is supposed to have been built over a 5th century temple which itself may have been built over an Ashokan Temple. The temple consists a stone bas-relief of the Buddha’s birth. Preserved in a small pagoda-like formation, this image shows Mayadevi, the Lord’s mother, supporting herself on a branch of a Sal tree by holding on to it with her right hand. The newly born Buddha is seen standing upright on a lotus platform with an oval halo. The holy Pushkarini pool lies to the south of the Mahadevi temple where Mayadevi had taken a bath before giving birth to the future Buddha. It is also here that Siddhartha was given his first ceremonial purification bath. The Hindus consider the Buddha to be the 10th incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu and as such thousands of Nepali Hindu devotees on the full moon month of Baisakh (April-May) come here to pray to Maya Devi, who to the locals is Rupa Devi, the mother goddess of Lumbini.

Sanctum-Sanctorum of the Birthplace

The most important and sacred place of Lumbini (and of the Buddhist world as a whole) is the stone slab that pinpoints the exact location where the Buddha was born. It is located deep inside the Sanctum sanctorum and was found after very hard and painstaking excavations carried out under three layers of ruins at the old site of the famous Mayadevi temple.

The Buddhist Monastary

The Buddhist monastery is inside the adjacent Lumbini complex and has been built in the style of the modern Buddhist temples in Nepal. An elaborate shrine adorns the beautiful prayer hall whose inner walls are elaborately illustrated with medieval style murals.
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