The gardens of Lumbini in Nepal have found a place in the annals of History as one of the sacred places of Buddhism as Gautam Buddha was born here. While pilgrims visiting this place have their own itineraries mapped out, we have listed down the top ten things to do at Lumbini to satiate the wanderlust in you.
If you would rather read the Lumbini Travelogue, click here.
1) Soak into the divine aura of the Maya Devi temple:
The Maya Devi temple is built around the exact spot where the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha was born. This is the single most important destination at Lumbini. As you step into this dimly-lit temple you will find many devotees praying at the wall that has a marker-stone pinpointing the exact location of birth, supposedly. Join them as they pray and follow them along the wooden path as they toss coins onto the protected ruins wishing for good luck. This complex also contains the famous Ashoka Pillar, the Nativity sculpture depicting the Buddha’s birth scene and the Puskarna Pond in which Maya Devi bathed after giving birth to the Buddha.
2) Go Monastery-hopping:
With Monasteries built by countries from around the world in a single complex, choose any or all of the monasteries to visit. As each monastery is built in the architectural style of the country donating it, you would have taken a mini world-tour by the time you are done seeing all of them. You can choose to explore the huge Chinese Monastery or admire the grandeur of the German Monastery or notice the finesse of the Thai Monastery. Rather than restricting yourself to these main monasteries, we urge you to explore monasteries from France, Canada, Austria, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Vietnam and of course, Nepal.
3) Attain Nirvana under a tree:
When you are done appreciating the beauty of the Maya Devi temple, take a moment to appreciate the serenity too. It is said that the Buddha achieved enlightenment meditating under a Peepal tree, you are welcome to try your luck here by sitting underneath any of the beautifully decorated trees near the Puskarna Pond. That is, if you can resist gawking at the thousands of colourful prayer flags that make this temple a pretty scenic location.
4) Experience the life of a monk at a Korean Monastery:
The Korean Monastery offers visitors a sneak peek into the lives of Korean Sen (Zen) monks. You can spend an entire day here to learn the customs of the monks or opt to stay for a period of time and join the monks and experience their lifestyle firsthand. Do note that the stay involves abstinence from many comforts of modern life, so be prepared to sleep on thin mattresses, take cold showers, eat modest, vegetarian food and limit the time spent with modern gadgets. We met a couple of travellers who were staying here and they assured us that this was a life-changing experience. The monastery is somewhat picky and may turn down travellers just looking for cheap accommodation.
5) Cycle or get Rickshawed through the Lumbini Development Zone:
Hire a cycle from any of the hostels in the Lumbini market area, pack some water and start exploring the zone. This is one of the best and preferred ways to get around Lumbini if the weather is not too hot. Should the sun shine down with all its might, then the Nepalese Rickshaw is the way to go. Hop onto one of these and get ferried from monastery to monastery whilst avoiding the sun. Even otherwise, hop onto one for a joy ride and a beautiful memory.
6) Indulge in a traditional Nepalese meal:
Satiate your taste buds with the traditional ‘Thukpa’ that is eaten by the locals here. Trust us when we say you have no idea how delicious noodle soup could be until you have tasted the ‘Thukpa’. If you could survive street food, grab a bowl from any vendor that is thronged by the locals. The sensuous taste of fresh vegetables slow-cooked with noodles is only enriched by the emanating aroma. Once you are done with your main-course, try a noteworthy Chaat item instead of a dessert. We personally recommend the Papdi Chaat with a dollop of curd and Tamarind Chutney; Papdi is a type of crisp made of flour.
7) Click photos at the World Peace Pagoda:
The picturesque World Peace Pagoda offers many photo opportunities for the shutter-happy, be it on the gardens around the Pagoda or on the many levels of the Pagoda itself. The Pagoda is rather close to what was once the Lumbini Crane Sanctuary and if you are lucky, you could catch a glimpse of a bird or two even though the sanctuary is dry now. Take a pair of binoculars with you and spot the Maya Devi temple and Eternal Flame from here, the three of these are on a straight line. Notice the poses of the Buddha on the stupa, each of these poses depicts a posture that the Buddha assumed during his lifetime.
8) Spend time watching workers in paddy fields:
While Nepal conjures up images of mountains and snow-clad peaks, Lumbini breaks this stereotype by providing you with a dose of green farms filled with paddy crops. So green and beautiful that you could wade into one and start working with the farmers. Alternately, you could merely sit and watch pairs of skilled hands pulling out weeds or replanting the paddy.
9) Enroll yourself in a Meditation Course for Inner Peace:
You could choose meditation courses from any of the three centres available here: Dhamma Janani, Panditarama and Laddak. Register for any of the courses using the links given here. Lumbini is a great place to relax and meditate, while meditating under a tree does have its perks, if you are a rookie, then start by enrolling yourself in any of these courses. Short single-day courses as well as long 10-day courses are available here. Hopefully, by the end of the course, you would have found your inner peace.
10) Plan a day-trip to nearby spots:
You could easily plan a day-trip to any of the many nearby places such as Tilaurakot, Kudan, Gotihawa, Nilgihawa and Sagarhawa. Each of these places bears some significance in the life of the Buddha.
Alternately, you can choose to visit the Chitwan National Park; it is one of the last habitats of the One-Horned Rhino. It, being a 4-hour drive from Lumbini, is worth a two-day visit. Be prepared to reach there before 11 in the morning to catch the jeep safari.