Lumbini Development Trust considers it moral obligation to inform the people of the world about Lumbini, the Fountain of World Peace and Holy Pilgrimage shrine of the Buddhists and peace loving people of the world, its historical background, development activities in the nineteen components, other activities, contributions of the individuals, organisations and nations, etc.
Being the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini, situated in Nepal tarai, Nepal , is considered as the holy pilgrimage shrine since ancient time. In the 20 th year of the coronation i,e. 249 B.C. Emperor Ashoka of India guided by his preceptor Upagupta visited the spot and placed the Marker Stone ( Silabigadavicha ) to mark the exact spot of the birthplace of Lord Buddha.; ” hidabhudhajate ” (here was Lord Buddha born) and ” hidabhagavanjateti ” ( because Lord Bhagwan – Lord Buddha was born here) mentioned in Lumbini Pillar Inscription of Emperor Ashoka seem to have been said by preceptor Upagupta to the emperor. Buddhist text Divyavadana also refers to almost the same version i.e royal preceptor pointing to the exact birthplace of Lord Buddha to Emperor Asoka.
The joint venture of Lumbini Development Trust, Department of Archaeology/ Nepal and Japan Buddhist Federation for the restoration of Maya Devi Temple revealed the exact birthplace of Lord Buddha with the Marker Stone and a monastery complex nearby. The Mauryan emperor Asoka having erected the stambha (pillar) and placing the Marker Stone, on the birth-spot seems to have constructed a vihar in the complex. The excavations carried out in this particular area have revealed the remains of a Mauryan structure ( monastery) around the pillar. Thus since the 3 rd century B.C. Lumbini was visited by many kings, pilgrims, scholars to pay homage to Lord Buddha up to 1312 A.D., when Ripu Malla, the famous king of Karnali region in western Nepal paid a visit there. However, due to unspecified reasons, the area remained ignored and undetected after 1312 A.D. till the late 19 th century.
Due to the efforts of General Khadga Shamsher Rana, the then Governor of Palpa, and Dr. A. Fuhrer, the Asokan Pillar was discovered on Dec 1, 1896 A.D. Henceafter the Buddhists and peace loving people of Nepal and the world began to be attracted to the spot. The popularity of the site further increased after 1930s and 1950s.
The idea of developing Lumbini in the right perspective, which originated during the 4 th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) in Kathmandu , Nepal in 1956 A.D, started taking shape with the visit of late U Thant, Secretary General of the UNO to Lumbini in 1967. Mr.U Thant expressed his strong desire to help develop Lumbini as a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage centre for all the people of the world. He had also a discussion with late King Mahendra about the need for the development of Lumbini. As a result, the UN made a decision to get the Master Plan prepared for the development of Lumbini in the right perspective.
The International Committee consisting initially of 13 and later of 15 members was formed under the Chairmanship of Nepal’s Permanent Representative to the UN to help prepare the Master Plan and to mobilise the resources.
In Nepal the late King Mahendra formed the Lumbini Development Committee.
The Master Plan for Lumbini’s Development.
Initiated in 1970 the Master Plan was completed in 1978 by the renowned Japanese architect-planner Prof. Kenzo Tange. The Finalisation and acceptance of the Master Plan by His Majesy’s Government / Nepal (HMG/N) and the UN created a new wave of enthusiasm among the Buddhists and peace loving people of the world for the fast development of the Lumbini complex in the right perspective.
The International Committee for the Development of Lumbini, New York, USA, and Lumbini Development Committee (LDC), Nepal , became vigorously active in the mobilization of resources and working for the achievement of the goal of the Master Plan. Adequate land was acquired from the local villagers. Soon afterwards, the afforestation program was also launched according to the Master Plan. Further, the holy site of Lumbini was made easily accessible to the visitors.
Below is a summary of the main achievements mentioned.
Land acquisition :
About 774 hectares i.e. 1150 bighas of land was acquired for developing Lumbini. Seven villages and a bazar (local market) were removed from the newly acquired area. All the affected people were given liberal compensation. The affected as well as other local people were/are given facilities as well as job opportunities most generously by the Lumbini Development Committee, (later Lumbini Development Trust). Besides, many other facilities like drinking water, road access, telephone, electricity, etc. are also provided to the local people.
When the development efforts began, Lumbini lacked proper vegetation. The holy shrines were dotted in the middle of farms and small settlements. Afforestation program was the urgent need of the day to restore the history glory of the site. In order to achieve the goal of making the complex green with lush sal and other historic trees, around 6,20,000 saplings (of different varieties) were planted to restore the natural beauty of Lumbini’s tropical landscape. The afforested area has attracted many birds (migratory also) and animals. Thus the area has become an attractive area with favorable environment.
The formation of the three zones
The Master Plan of Prof. Kenzo Tange has divided the entire project area into three main construction-conservation zones running from north to south, namely:
- The New Lumbini Village
- The Monastic Enclave, and
- The Sacred Garden Complex
Below is a brief introduction to these zones.
- The New Lumbini Village
This zone is called so because before the plan began there were several villages spread in the 1×3 sq. mile area. The villages were displaced and moved outside the project area after the land was procured for construction. This is a secular are where a visitor begins his pilgrimage residing in lodges and hotels. This is thus the ‘initial reception point for visitors to Lumbini’ (Gurung, 1998:26). There are telephone, post- office, bank, police station, fire station, restrooms, school, staff quarters and other related offices.
Philosophically, from this zone a visitor to Lumbini is supposed to orient him/herself toward religious sites and environment they provide. There is a road in this zone going east to west – from Siddharthanagar to Kapilvastu.
The Cultural center/Monastic zone
This is the middle zone in the Master Plan. As the title suggests, there are two parts in this zone – cultural and monastic. The cultural zone has museum and library. The museum houses artifacts collected from the sites nearby. They are related to the life of Lord Buddha and the history of Lumbini. The building has a good size seminar hall, large ground floor for display of objects office, and lab.
Just across the street from the museum is the cultural center, popularly known as the LIRI or Lumbini International Research Institution.
Construction of this huge and architecturally stylistic complex was made possible with the financial support of the Reiyukai, Japan . The ever growing library has a very good collection of Buddhist texts, manuscripts, journals, etc. The institute also publishes important manuscripts on Buddhism. This is an attractive and useful facility for serious researchers who cannot only use the library but also the hospitality inside the complex with a moderate payment.
- The Monastic zone There are two monastic zones in the middle section of the Plan along the central link – one is allocated for the Theravada and the other for the Mahayana sects of Buddhism. The green zone and the central canal separate the two sections. Lumbini Development Trust has made land plots of a definite size for different Buddhist countries and organizations for the construction of their monasteries – hence the name. The concerned countries are encouraged to introduce their vernacular architectural style or follow traditional religious pattern while constructing their monasteries. There will be facilities for pilgrims, meditation and meetings, etc. in each monastery complex.
So far – plots have been allocated for monastic construction. Of them – monasteries have either been completed or nearing completion. They represent China, Vietnam, Mahabodhi Society, India, Myanmar, Manang Society, Mustang, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tara Foundation (Germany), Geden International (Austria), Mongolia (proposed), Panditarama (Myanmar), Dhammawati guruma’s vihara, the Vipassana center.
- The Sacred Garden Zone
Moving south from the middle or monastic zone, one crosses the circular levee and enters the Sacred Garden , the focal point and the heart of Lumbini. It was in this place where Shakyamuni Gautam was born in 623 B.C. The main landmark of this site is the Asokan Pillar with a five line inscription which says that after 20 years of his coronation Emperor Asoka had visited the place where Buddha was born. He had caused erection of a stone pillar, had a stone railing made and exempted the locals of the Lumbini Village from particular type of taxes.
In February, 2004 Lumbini Development Trust organized a national seminar on the interpretation of the pillar inscription. This is one of the three pillars erected by Asoka, two others being the Niglihawa and the Gottihawa pillars.
In the later centuries more monuments – temples, viharas and stupas were added by the devotees. In the center of all stood a shrine housing the nativity sculpture. But for many centuries the entire site remained lost in the forest. It was only in 1895 when the pillar was sighted. In the month of December, 1896 the then governor of Palpa, Khadga Shamsher and a surveyor named Fuhrer happened to discover the Pillar. Later PC Mukherjee, and other scholars read and translated the pillar inscription and did preliminary survey of the archaeological sites nearby.
In the 1930s Gen. Kaisher Shamsher JBR cleaned the site including the Maya Devi shrine complex. He reconstructed a makeshift shrine to house the nativity sculpture exactly on the spot where the old shrine stood. From 1960 Indian (under the Colombo Plan) and Nepali archeologists carried out excavation, conservation and preservation of the site. In 1978 the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) was constituted.