Lumbini is one of the holiest places in the country, as it is the most likely birthplace (there is doubt and uncertainty about this) of Prince Sydharta Gautama or Sakyamuni, known to us as the Buddha and from whose teachings Buddhism grew.
It seems that before the fifth or fourth century BC it was already a place of pilgrimage for the faithful, as remains of Buddhist temples from this period have been found. Today it attracts a multitude of pilgrims from all over the world as well as tourists interested in the site.
The central part of the site, what is really considered sacred, includes a small pond, remains of the ancient monasteries and stupas, the pillar that was erected in commemoration of King Ashoka’s visit, a Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa), a tree sacred to Buddhism, and the Mayadevi temple where Sydharta is supposed to have been born and is the area that concentrates most pilgrims who from dawn to dusk perform meditation and recite sutras.
Lumbini is a huge area from end to end and if you want to visit it in its entirety you may need a couple of days. It was designed in 1978 by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange and is still evolving. The central part, where the Mayadevi Temple is located, is surrounded by a circular pond that gradually fills up over the years. At the northern end is the World Peace Stupa (like the one in Pokhara but larger). The distance between the two points is so long that the stupa can hardly be seen from Mayadevi although, it must be said, the humidity and dust mean that the air is not clear. In this large area, only Buddhist monasteries of the various orders can be built, along with temples and stupas. Many are built as a donation from different countries or Buddhist communities and are still being built. The eastern part is reserved for Theravada Buddhist communities, while the western part is reserved for Mahayana Buddhist communities.
To get around this large area, there is a central canal with boats and rickshaws that connect different points but they are not allowed to move freely around the whole area, so you will certainly have to walk under the sun and the heat. No shops, restaurants or hotels are allowed inside the enclosure, so it is advisable to bring food and water if you want to stay all day. There is a fee to enter the Mayadevi, and the ticket booths are a few minutes north of the temple.
Lumbini will soon have Nepal’s third international airport.