Where We Be
This bodhi tree at the site of Buddha's birth is barely visible behind all the prayer flags
Lumbini, Nepal (Buddha's Birthplace)
Lumbini is the place where, around 623 BC,
Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, was
born. The Maya Devi temple marks the exact spot
where he was born beneath a bodhi tree. Today
the site, near the border of Nepal and India,
attracts Buddhist pilgrims from around the world.

Our first impression was of literally thousands of
prayer flags draping the bodhi tree near the site of
Buddha’s birth. We circled the huge tree, which is
representative of the one under which he was
born. Buddhists approached the tree with rever-
ence, circling it and making offerings. Nearby was
the Sacred Pond in which Buddha’s mother bathed
just before she gave birth. We expected the pond
to be natural but it was actually a rectangular pool
of water, so that was a bit of a surprise.

Inside a white brick building next to the pond is a
stone marker (behind bulletproof glass) that is
said to mark the exact spot of Buddha’s birth.
Archaeological evidence does support the fact
that this was indeed Buddha’s birthplace, and
there are historical markers at the site from as
early as 250 BC. Saffron-robed monks chanted
quietly near one such marker stone. The
atmosphere at the site was reverent and serene.

Lumbini is very much a work in progress: a whole
series of temples is being built in Buddha's honor.
Since 1978 Buddhist communities from around the
world have been building monasteries at the site.
There are large temples from China, South Korea,
Vietnam, Germany, Austria, Japan, Cambodia, and
more. The monastic zone is very spread out (over
3 km). A long rectangular canal (currently empty of
water) runs down the middle of the complex. In
front of it is an eternal flame dedicated to world
peace. On the western side of the pool are
temples from the Mahayana school of Buddhism
(distinguished by monks in maroon robes and a
more clamorous style of prayer), and on the
eastern side are temples from the Theravada
school of Buddhism (with monks wearing saffron-
colored robes).

It ended up taking us three hours to see just the
temples on the Western side of the complex. The
German temple gave the best sense of what the
whole site may eventually look like. It was colorful
and elaborate, with a series of life-sized golden
statues around the outside of the temple depicting
the life of Buddha.
The same bodhi tree seen from a distance, with the
ruins of ancient Buddhist temples in the foreground
The trunk is completely hidden here beneath layers of prayer flags
Buddhists approached the tree with reverence, circling it and making offerings
The brown column behind us was placed here in 250 BC to mark
the site of Buddha's birthplace and is sacred to Buddhists
Can you tell we like prayer flags?!
Monks in saffron and maroon robes chant quietly at the base of the column
Inside this building are ancient temple foundations and a marker stone behind bulletproof glass identifying the exact birthplace of Buddha
A long rectangular canal (still empty of water) runs down the middle of the complex. In front of it is an eternal flame dedicated to world peace, and at the far end
is the World Peace Pagoda (seen up close at right). On either side of the canal, spread over 3 km, are Buddhist temples built by countries from around the world.
The Vietnam temple has some elaborate landscaping in progress
This sweet woman showed us around the Nepali temple
Enjoying the cool air inside the Nepali temple
The eyes on the bright yellow cone of the Nepali temple seem to follow us through the woods
The Chinese temple looks like a miniature version of the Forbidden Palace
We heard hammering inside the huge South Korean temple, still being built
The German temple grounds were groomed and immaculate, giving
the best sense of what the whole complex may eventually look like
We made our first clockwise circuit around a prayer wheel
Depiction of Buddha as a young and sheltered prince
The German temple was elaborate and colorful
Like Jesus, Buddha lived and taught in a relatively small area but had a huge impact on the world
Golden Buddha at World Peace Pagoda