Lumbini is Lord Buddha’s birth place and one of the four pilgrimage sites that every Buddhist must visit. The other three sites are – Bodh Gaya where He attained Supreme Enlightenment, Sarnath where He gave His first discourse after attaining Supreme Enlightenment, and Kushinagar where He attained Maha Parinirvana. Lumbini happens to be in Nepal near the Indian border state of Uttar Pradesh. Lumbini can be reached from India via a border crossing called Sunauli on the Indian side (90 km from Gorakhpur, connected by bus) and Belahiya on the Nepal side. From this border crossing, one needs to get to Bhairahawa (Nepal) which is about 4 km from the border. Shared taxi and buses are available from the border to Bhairahawa. Lumbini is approximately 25 km from there. Please read my article on travel between Lumbini and Sunauli for guidance. Buses coming from Kathmandu and other places in Nepal first stop at Bhairahawa and then go towards Lumbini. Hence, it will be easy to get a bus from Bhairahawa to Lumbini. Otherwise, a taxi will always be available but will cost a lot more. If one is travelling to Lumbini from Kathmandu, there is an excellent bus service called Saleena, that starts at 8.00am from Kathmandu and goes all the way to Lumbini reaching there before 5.00pm. Read more about the Saleena Bus Service here. Keep reading…
Lumbini is a small place with the Lumbini Development Zone at the center of it. Lumbini Development Zone is a cluster of monasteries and monuments built around the Maya Devi Temple which is dedicated to Lord Buddha’s mother Maya Devi and is situated at the exact spot of Lord Buddha’s birth identified by Emperor Ashoka. Maya Devi Temple is not a temple in the real sense because there is no idol or statue inside and no regular prayers are held there. It is just the excavated site of Lord Buddha’s birth pin-pointed with a “Marker Stone” and surrounded by many other rocks. Photography inside the temple is prohibited but there are some pictures of the inside of the temple on the internet. The “Ashoka Pillar” erected by Emperor Ashoka is situated outside the temple. The small pond called Pushkarni in which Maya Devi bathed is located next to the temple.
Entry to Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi Temple is located on the eastern side of the Zone near Gate number 4. The temple is open to public everyday from sunrise to sunset. An entry ticket needs to be purchased to see the temple from the ticket office located at a few yards from the temple’s main gate. For visitors from SAARC countries, the entry ticket is priced 16 Nepali Rupees. An additional ticket for carrying a still camera is required to be purchased which costs 20 Nepali Rupees for SAARC citizens. For visitors from other countries, entry and camera tickets cost more. There are separate rules and prices for video and professional movie cameras. About 30 – 45 minutes will be enough to see everything in Maya Devi Temple complex. The rest of the time in Lumbini can be used to see the Museum and the several monasteries built by different countries like China, Germany, Thailand, and Nepal, etc.
The Lumbini Museum is located at the Northern side of the Zone. Northern side has the bus park where tour buses stop. The museum opens daily except Tuesday from 10.00am to 4.00pm. An entry ticket is required to be purchased for the museum which costs 20 Nepali Rupees for SAARC visitors. This museum houses articles related to Lord Buddha’s life collected from all over the world. If one is keen on seeing the museum, the visit to Lumbini should not be planned for a Tuesday.
There are several monasteries, some really worth seeing. The German and the Chinese Monasteries are most popular. One cannot see all of them so it would be wise to see the museum and save time for the Maya Devi Temple. The rest of the available time can be allocated for sightseeing in the monasteries.
Suggested Plan for trip to Lumbini and spending a day inside Lumbini Development Zone
If it is possible for someone to reach Lumbini early in the morning, then Lumbini can be seen within a day. Otherwise, it is recommended to plan a two day visit to Lumbini. Arrive in the evening of the first day and relax in your hotel. There are several hotels in Lumbini particularly on the Eastern side known as Lumbini Bazaar. I stayed in Hotel Ananda Inn and it was really good. Ananda Inn has a decent in-house restaurant called Maitri. Most hotels in Lumbini have their own restaurants. On the Eastern side, there is another good restaurant called Kudan in Hotel Peace Land. I found only one stand-alone restaurant there called “Lumbini Invitation 365” which had a nice bar too and really easy-on-the-pocket pricing.
On the morning of the second day, wake up early and go to Maya Devi Temple and spend the morning there before breakfast. Return to your hotel for breakfast and go back to the Zone by 9.00 am. It is important to see the monasteries before noon because some of the good monasteries close for lunch between 12.00 and 14.00 hours.
You will need to hire a cycle rickshaw because the Zone is really big and it is impossible to see it on foot. Some people also hire bicycles that can be arranged by your hotel. Rates for cycle rickshaw are fixed by the authorities. The price of a 2 hour 30 minute trip inside the zone on a cycle rickshaw costs 400 Nepali Rupees for Nepal’s citizens and 500 Nepali rupees for foreigners. 2 hour 30 minute would be enough for seeing the monasteries but not for the museum. So my suggestion is, assuming you are staying on the eastern side, to see the Maya Devi Temple on foot. It is just 500 meters from Gate number 4. Take the cycle rickshaw for the monasteries and spend the next 2 hour 30 minutes on sightseeing. At the end of the trip, ask the rickshaw guy to drop you at the museum. If you have started the rickshaw trip at 9.00am, you will be at the museum by 11.30am. You can see the museum in the next two hours and take a rickshaw to return to gate number 4 for lunch. Relax for 2 hours after lunch and return to the Maya Devi Temple’s gate. A road leads from this gate towards the Eternal Peace Flame and a canal that goes towards the Peace Pagoda (see the picture below). It is an open and green area and really good for an evening stroll. Walk as much as you comfortably can and return to your hotel.
Next morning, you may leave for your next destination in Nepal. If you wish to cross over to India or travel to Kushinagar (which is close to the Indian border), I have an article on Travel from Lumbini to Kushinagar using taxi and public buses.