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Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha 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 s ite is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeolog ical remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature . Long Description As the birthplace of the Lord Buddha - the apostle of peace and the light of Asi a was born in 623 BC - the sacred area of Lumbini is one of the holiest places o f one of the world's great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centres from a very early period. Lumbi ni, in the South-Western Terai of Nepal, evokes a kind of holy sentiment to the millions of Buddhists all over the world, like Jerusalem to Christians and Mecca to Muslims. Lumbini is the place where the Buddha, known as the Tathagata, was born. It is t he place which should be visited and seen by a person of devotion and which shou ld cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence. The site and its surrounding area is endowed with a rich natural setting of domesticable faun a and favourable agricultural environ. Historically, the region is an exquisite treasure-trove of ancient ruins and antiquities, dating back to the pre-Christia n era. The site, described as a beautiful garden in the Buddha's time, still ret ains its legendary charm and beauty. The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is one of the four holy places of Buddhism. It is said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified fo ur places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, Enlightenment, First Dis course, and death. All these events happened outside in nature under trees. Ther e is no particular significance in this, other than it perhaps explains why Budd hists have always respected the environment and natural law. Lumbini is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas in modern Nepal. In the Bu ddha's time, Lumbini was a beautiful garden full of green and shady sal trees (S horea robusta ). The garden and its tranquil environs were owned by both the Sha kyas and the clans. King Suddhodana, father of Gautama Buddha, was of the Shakya dynasty and belonged to the Kshatriya (warrior caste). Maya Devi, his mother, g ave birth to the child on her way to her parent's home in Devadaha while resting in Lumbini under a sal tree in the month of May, 642 BC. The beauty of Lumbini is described in Pali and Sanskrit literature. Maya Devi, it is said, was spellbo und to see the natural grandeur of Lumbini. While she was standing, she felt lab our pains and catching hold of a drooping branch of a sal tree, she gave birth t o a baby, the future Buddha. In 249 BC, when the Indian Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini, it was a flourishing village. Ashoka constructed four stupas and a stone pillar with a figure of a ho rse on top. The stone pillar bears an inscription, which in translation runs as follows: 'King Piyadasi (Ashoka), beloved of devas, in the 20th year of the coro nation, himself made a royal visit, Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here; a st one railing was built and a stone pillar erected to the Bhagavan having been bor n here, Lumbini village was taxed reduced and entitled to the eight part (only)' . Lumbini remained neglected for centuries. In 1895, Feuhrer, a famous German arch aeologist, discovered the great pillar while wandering about the foothills of th e Churia range. Further exploration and excavation of the surrounding area revea led the existence of a brick temple and sandstone sculpture within the temple it self, which depicts the scenes of the Buddha's birth. It is pointed out by scholars that the temple of Maya Devi was constructed over the foundations of more than one earlier temple or stupa, and that this temple w as probably built on an Ashokan stupa itself. To the south of the Maya Devi temp le there is the famous sacred bathing pool known as Puskarni. It is believed tha t Maya Devi took a bath in this pool before the delivery. By the side of the Ash

oka pillar a river which flows south-east and is locally called the Ol. In 1996, an archaeological dig unearthed a 'flawless stone' placed there by Ashoka in 24 9 BC to mark the precise location of the Buddha's birth more than 2,600 years ag o. if authenticated, the find will put Lumbini even more prominently on the map for millions of religious pilgrims. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC Historical Description The Shakya Prince Siddharta Gautama, better known as the Lord Buddha, was born t o Queen Mayadevi, wife of King Suddodhana, ruler of Kapilavastu, in 623 BC at th e famous gardens of Lumbini, while she was on a journey from her husband's capit al of Tilaurakot to her family home in Devadaha. In 249 BC the devout Buddhist Emperor Ashoka, third of the Mauryan rulers of Ind ia, made a pilgrimage to this very sacred area in company with his teacher, Upag upta, 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 ce ntury AD) and Hsuan Tsang (7th century AD), who described the temples, stupas, a nd 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 t he 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 imag e of Mayadevi as a Hindu mother goddess. The Buddhist temples fell into disrepai r and eventually into ruins, not to be rediscovered until they were identified i n 1896 by Dr A Fiihrer and Khadga Samsher, then Governor of Palpa, who discovere d the Ashoka pillar.

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