Last year I tried to blog my travel story of Lumbini with an introductory teaser post- Essence of Lumbini. Somehow, I failed to respect the travel-blogging protocol and bring in the actual travel tale in due time. Well, better late than never, today yours truly shall wrap up the unfinished narration of his trip to Lumbini which dates back to January 2013. Just asking, did you check out my motorcycling travelogue of Bodh Gaya? One thing I must confess, with visit to each Buddhist pilgrimage site my urge to cover the entire Buddhist Circuit is increasing exponentially. The neat ambiance around majority of holy Buddhist sites is really therapeutic to any traveler's tired mind. A cordial thank to my Sri Lankan colleagues won’t be simply enough for the initiation and fuel they had provided me for this Trip to Lumbini!
There was no public holiday this time; so at most two days were all I could spend but that doesn’t make this trip any trivial affair… after all it was a visit to the birth place of Lord Buddha, who blows off the mystery of the legendary mist of existence, who shows the trail to liberation and who is the icon of peace and compassion! On a winter Friday we boarded the bus for Butwal before the crack of the dawn and like most of the rickety bus you usually find in non-tourist-spots of Nepal our one took its own sweet time of seven hours to drop us in Butwal. I don’t think my struggle for leg-space in the bus throughout the journey holds any relevance here but I tell you it’s not a situation one can ignore. My Buddhist co-travelers were concerned that they won’t be able to reach Lumbini in proper time and pay a visit to the main temple if public transport is availed and we hired a taxi (though later we found out to be a futile decision) from Butwal Bus Park itself for Lumbini. It took exactly one hour to reach Lumbini, crossing Bhairahawa in the middle of the route.
As pre-decided we met, a monk of Rajakiya Buddha Vihar who was acquainted with one of our Buddhist friends. He directed us to a hotel Lumbini Village Lodge, quite near to gate no. 5. Though he had told us to get ready in an hour but our tiredness, hunger coupled with an untimely drizzle brought us back to the road only fifteen minutes before five. We almost ran to Maya Devi Temple which is the heart of all the monuments of this holy site of Lumbini. The temple area bears the evidence of several phases of construction over the centuries. Inside the temple there are remains of structures of early Maya Devi Temple that dates back to the 3rdcentury BC to 7th century AD! Inside the temple there’s the Marker Stone located deeply buried in the sanctum sanctorum indicates the exact spot of auspicious birth of Lord Buddha. Outside of the temple there’s the Pushkarini, which is believed to be the most sacred pond of Shakyas in which Maya Devi took her bathe before giving birth to the Prince, Siddhartha.
On another side of Maya Devi Temple there stands the Ashokan Pillar with the inscription engraved by Ashoka validating the authenticity of this birth place. We can also see the brick masonry foundations, known as the Group of Stupas and Vihars built in the period of Mauryan Gupta and Kushana which are evidence of the early devotee desire to be near the sacred birth place. Drizzle was still on and even the umbrella was not enough to protect my camera while clicking some quick snaps. The light dimmed faster than our anticipation and we had call it a day. We paid our visit to the monk and listened to his ‘Prabachan’ for an hour. Among various encouraging and appreciable topics, the concept of ‘inclusion’ (i.e. no place for caste in religion) in Buddhism impressed me. We bid him goodnight. Nothing much we could do after that than Obama-Manmohan-Global-warming chitchats in the candle lit hotel environment. The dinner we got packed from an outside restaurant was awful, so I better skip the food talk.
Saturday morning greeted us with a clear sky. By half past eight we had our breakfast and turned up to the Rajakiya Buddha Vihar monastery to take blessing from the monk. He narrated us the saga of the birth of Gautam Buddha and some history-geography associated with it. It took almost an hour to leave with his blessings. We visited the adjacent Tibetan monastery Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha Vihar and lit some oil lamps. There were no other monasteries nearby and we could stay at Lumbini only up to twelve noon, so opted for a two-hour rickshaw rush. Now it’s important to know concisely about the place which I had read from the tourist information booklet. As a global initiative to promote Lumbini as a center for world peace, many countries have constructed temples, monasteries and stupas in the International Monastic Zone.
The Theravada Monastic Zone lies in the east and the Mahayana Monastic Zone lies in the west of the central link where one can see the Eternal Peace Lamp which was brought from UN (New York) in 1986 to integrate peace and harmony in the global community and set aflame to commemorate the International Year of Peace. In the Theravada Zone we visited only Sri Lankan Monastery and the Myanmar Golden Monastery. In Mahayana Zone we visited Korean monastery, Chinese monastery, German monastery, French monastery and a Nepali monastery. The clock had ticked twelve when we were not even half done, i.e. plenty of beautiful structures were yet to see! Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to resume with our rickshaw tour. We returned back to our hotel and checked out before one with the dormant desire to be back to Lumbini some other time with plentiful time in hand.
It took some 45 minutes to reach Bhairahawa in a local bus and another hour to reach Butwal by changing the bus. We purchased our bus tickets and settled with some fast-food lunch before the bus left. The rest of the journey was uneventful and off course I was glad to have a bit more leg-space in the seven hours return journey. Throughout the journey I kept contemplating on Buddhism and the monk’s words, “There had been birth of countless Buddhas in the past and the same will follow in future…” The concept of ‘born Buddha’ seemed to kill the optimistic possibility of ‘awakening the Buddha in us’ and saddened my mind but I preferred to choose the Buddhist ideology “feel the thing, realize the thing and leave the thing”… and my eyelids got heavy soon.