Besides trekking in the Himalays, visiting Lumbini in Nepal was an important goal of mine. As a Buddhist I’ve always had great respect for Buddhism, not because it’s a religion, but because of its teaching, especially how it teaches us to often look inward and not outward or to heaven to solve our problems.
So after my trekking to Annapurna basecamp I took a bus from Pokhara to Lumbini which is located in the south of Nepal near the border to India. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha and is a famous site that many Buddhists visit as part of their pilgrimage journey following the footsteps of the Buddha. The other sites are located in the India.
The first thing I noticed when arriving in Lumbini was how huge the site actually is – measuring at about 4.8km i length and 1,6km in width. In a way it looks like a huge rectangular park consisting of many temples, monasteries, stupas, smaller parks and conference halls.
Another interesting fact is that the temples and monasteries are built by different countries from all over the world. Thus the design of each temple is quite distinct from another. One of the better looking temples was the German temple, shown in the picture below:
The Vietnamese monastery was a bit smaller but was equally beautiful with its well maintained garden:
The Korean monastery was one of the few monasteries that offer visitors accommodation and 3 meals a day for a small fee of 500 Nepalese rupees per day. Reservation of the accommodation ahead of time are only for Koreans, other foreigners should come without reservation and will be assigned to a bed in the dormitories. Although the accommodation was quite basic and the food was strictly vegetarian, I couldn’t be more happier to experience staying in a monastery for the first time in my life. Besides you also get to meet and socialize with other visitors from different parts of the world. I stayed 3 nights at the Korean monastery during my three days visit in Lumbini. Below is the picture of the Korean monastery:
Wandering around in Lumbini I was surprised to see many children monks. I believe they attend to some sort of Buddha-teaching programs in some of the monasteries found in the park.
In the center of the park there is a water-lane that runs from the southern part of the park to the nothern side. There was a small ferry-boat service that carries visitors from one end of the park other end . However there was also tuk-tuk/taxi service if you prefer to be driven on land instead.
The most visited site must certainly be the spot where Buddha was actually born at. It’s located on the southern end of the park. To enter the site you are required to buy a ticket. However, I believe it’s free for the Nepalese. In addition, visitors are also required to enter the site on barefoot. I remember that it was really hot that day when I visited the site making it quite uncomfortable to walk barefooted. Cameras are also not allowed inside the site, so I couldn’t take any pictures or videos.
Just across the site/building where the Buddha was born, there was , I believe, a boddha tree where many monks and visitors could be found meditating.
My visit to Lumbini also coincided with the celebration of the birthday of the Buddha. The birthday takes place around May each year, although the date does vary as Nepal follows the lunar calendar.
The celebration reminds me a lot of the Norwegian Constitution Day celebration (17th May). There was a huge crowd of men, women, children, monks, nuns and visitors alike walking in parade along the water lane from south to the northern part of park. Free water bottles and snacks boxes (picture below) were also give to the visitors.
The parade would then end up at the conference halls located on the northern end of the park, where a conference was held.
My three days visit to Lumbini in 2018 was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure. As a born into Buddhist family I’ve always wanted to learn more Buddhism, not just what my parents had taught me but also to learn and experience it myself from other places and sources. Visiting Lumbini gave me an insight to the people that worship the religion but also the religion itself. Regardless of the religion though, Lumbini was in itself a beautiful place to visit and explore and a place I highly recommend to visit if you are in Nepal.