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Kathmandu has often been by some as a flawless jewel in a unique setting. No other place in the world has the concentration of culture, art and tradition that exists in the Kathmandu valley (1300m.). Kathmandu is the crossroads for the many ethnic groups of Nepal and for visitors from all over the world every year. Nestled in the central hills of Nepal, Kathmandu is at once medieval and modern. The Kathmandu valley sprawls at the junction of two sacred rivers, Bagmati and Bishnumati. Just cross the Bagmati River to the south is Patan, on ancient city of temples, while Bhadgoon with its thousands of homes and temples shrines lies six miles to the east. More then two hundred years ago these three cities housed the Royal places of three different kingdoms that divided the valley palaces surviving today.
Lumbini, the peaceful city located in Rupandehi district of Nepal, is the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and thus is the most important pilgrimage destination for all schools of Buddhism all around the world. Lord Buddha, the enlightened one, was born here as Prince Siddhartha Gautam in 623 B.C., the son of King Suddhodhan of the kingdom of Kapilvastu and his queen Maya Devi. According to the Buddhist literary sources, on the day of Baisakh Purnima, Maya Devi, while on her way to her maternal home took bath in Puskarini (a pond in the garden of the palace) and immediately felt the onset of her labor pain. She grabbed the branch of a big shady tree nearby for support and gave birth to a beautiful baby prince. It is said that as soon as he was born, the new born prince took seven steps in the holy soil under each of which a lotus flower bloomed immediately. Lumbini garden, where Maya Devi gave birth to Gautam Buddha, remained neglected for a long time but now it has been beautifully maintained, and the region is now listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What Gautama Buddha Said About Lumbini to His Disciple Anand
"Anand, understand that Lumbini is the holy birthplace of Tathagata and should be visited by every devout person who has a desire to attain enlightenment of the soul and consciousness of the mind. And Ananda, if a devoted pilgrim dies while on a visit to this place, he will receive Mahaparinirvana (liberation from the material world)"
Lumbini as a pilgrimage destination: The peaceful spiritual atmosphere of Lumbini does not let you forget that this is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha – the advocator of peace and non-violence. This is the reason why this place has been visited by several important public figures as well. Since the ancient times, Lumbini is able to silently attract millions of Buddhist devotees all round the globe and will continue to do so in future as well.
One of the earliest pilgrims to the region was Emperor Asoka of Maury Dynasty. He came to the holy site in 249B.C. and erected a stone pillar as an evidence of his visit to the region. The pillar has an inscription clearly indicating that Lord Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini and thus is bona fide evidence that Buddha belongs to the Nepali soil. The ancient pillar was discovered much later in the 19th century and that helped the archaeologists uncover many other historic ruins in the area. Also, the inscription on the top of the Asokan Pillar "Om Mani Padme Hum Ripu Malla Ciranjayatu" is a proof of King Ripu Malla's visit to the site in 1312 A.D.
As time passed by, the place turned into ruins and its importance slowly forgotten. The name Lumbini changed into Rummindei in course of time and then to the present name Rupandehi. Again, realizing the importance of this holy birthplace of supreme Lord Buddha, General Khadga Shumsher and Fuhrer Alois of British India started excavations in the ruins of Lumbini and discovered the Asokan pillar in 1896. This was after which the people started viewing Lumbini as an archaeological site. Then in 1930, General Keshar Shumsher renovated the Maya Devi Temple and uncovered several other ancient monuments and structures in the area. Later, in 1972, the entire responsibility of the conversation and maintenance of the site was handed over to the Department of Archaeology of Nepal, followed by the formation of Lumbini Development Trust in 1985, which is responsible for all the excavations and archaeological surveys in the region.