Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lumbini- Land Of Buddha

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Gautama Buddha.

Leaving the mountains behind, we headed to Lumbini The Birth Place of Siddhartha Gautama, ideally the birth place of Buddhism. The Siddhartha highway that runs between Pokhara & Lumbini is a delight for any motorist. There are several ghat sections with views of deep gorges and the river Kali Gandaki for company. The road conditions are pretty good, however, do watch out for signage indicating landslide prone areas. Ideally, the journey can be covered in a day but it would be a good idea to stop over at the historic town of Tansen and check out the Amar Narayan Temple and Tansen bazaar. The roads from Tansen to Lumbini, apart from a few odd kilometers, are pretty good.

Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists. The Lumbini Development Zone is home to the Maya Devi Temple, Ashoka Pillar, Pushkari Pond, and Bodhi Tree.

Maya Devi Temple- Legend has it that Maya Devi was on the way to her maternal home and it was in Lumbini that she felt labor pains and grasped a branch of a tree for support and gave birth to the Prince in 623 BC. Later, as a mark of respect, a temple was erected here which was renovated and a newer structure stands guard around the birth stone. In order to avoid waiting in long queues it would be a good idea to reach the temple early in the morning. The temple gates are open from 6 am.

Ashoka Pillar- It is believed that Emperor Ashoka visited this place in 249 BC and erected the Ashoka pillar in front of the temple. The inscription on the pillar provides evidence that this is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha.

Puskarni Pond- This is where Maya Devi had taken a bath before giving birth to Buddha. It was in this same pond that Buddha was given his first bath.

Bodhi Tree- This tree is considered sacred and is decorated with prayer flags. One can sit under this tree and meditate. The sacred gardens around the temple add more charm to the place. One can spot remains of virahas, stupas and layers of brick structures with some dating back to 3rd century BC which stand as a testimony that this place was considered a Buddhist pilgrim center from a very early time.

Every Buddhist nation across the globe has its presence in Lumbini by constructing extravagant temples/monasteries in the International Monastic Zone as a mark of respect to Buddhism and help promote Lumbini as a center for World peace. The most extravagant being the Myanmar & German Monastery. Also, do check out the extravagant paintings depicting the life of Buddha on the walls of these monasteries. 

Just a kilometer away from the main attractions is the World Peace Pagoda. It is an ideal place to watch the sunset.

It is a good idea to explore Lumbini by foot, on a cycle or a rickshaw. Take a walk around the village, meet the locals and feel reconnected with nature. The evening breeze not just refreshes your body but also your soul. A beautiful place to watch huge wet lands, kids playing in the fields, birds returning to their nest and the sun setting in the pink sky.

An abode of peace and tranquility, this is a perfect place for soul searching, meditating and spiritual awakening. This place is not just for the pilgrims but is truly a Nature lovers' delight. One can spot Nilgais walking around in the garden, it is a sanctuary for birds and do not be surprised if you see a lot of painted storks, egrets and many other birds welcoming you to the garden early in the morning.

We checked into Hotel Peaceland. This place is highly unprofessional and is a perfect example of how one "Terrible" experience can ruin the entire notion about the place. We stayed here for 3 nights and during the last night's stay we headed to the restaurant for dinner and were taken aback when the waiter asked us to come later as they were expecting guests. Though shocked, we wanted to be considerate and ordered food to be served in our room. Not surprisingly even after more than an hour there was no sign of food despite several calls. Finally, we cancelled our order. This left us questioning if they were expecting guests to arrive who were we then. This was a good enough reason for us to not recommend this hotel to fellow travelers. There are several other properties around such as Lumbini Bamboo Resort, Hotel Zambala.

With Lumbini as our last stop, we wrapped up our Nepal trip and headed to India. Hetauda would be an ideal stop over if you are leaving from Lumbini. It  has quite a few budget hotels and this would be a refreshing stop as there are good eat outs and markets around. We said goodbye to the Himalayan country and headed to our very own Incredible India. It looked like our 21 day road trip across Nepal just flew by at the blink of an eye. From here on, we continued to explore the Himalayan ranges of North East.

Next stop Darjeeling

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