Lumbini is the place where the Buddha was born.
"It is a place which should be visited and seen by a person of
devotion and which should cause awareness and apprehension of the nature
of impermanence." - Buddha
The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is the
Mecca of every Buddhist, being 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 of these events happened outside in
nature under trees. While there is not any particular significance in
this, 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). The garden and its tranquil
environs were owned by both the Shakyas and Kolias clans. King
Suddhodana, father of Gautama Buddha was of the Shakya dynasty belonging
to the Kshatriya or the warrior caste.
Maya Devi, his mother, gave birth to the child
on her way to her parent's home in Devadaha while taking rest in Lumbini under a
sal tree in the month of May in the year 642 B.C. 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 labor
pains; she caught hold of the drooping branch of a Sal tree and the baby, the
future Buddha, was born.
The bas relief above depicts Maya Devi with her right
hand holding on to a branch of a sal tree and a newborn child standing upright
on a lotus petal. An oval halo
surrounds the child’s head, while two celestial figures pour water and lotuses
from vessels of heaven as indicated by the delineation of clouds. This nativity
scene was installed by Malla Kings of the Naga dynasty from about the 11th to
15th Century in the Karnali zone of Nepal.
In 249 BC when the 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
English 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".