Nepal - birthplace of the Thathagatha
When Buddhists go to temples they utter three formulas of adoration.
One of these deals with the Buddha himself, with his personal qualities
as teacher, sage, guide, philosopher and friend of mankind. Worship
consists not in prayer but in the hope that by striving to practise
those qualities in our own lives. For the devoted and dedicated pilgrims
the prime sacred site is the birthplace of the supremely enlightened
Buddha. His father was King Suddhodana who was the ruler of the Sakyans
and his Mother was Queen Mahamaya who belonged to the Koliya dynasty.
Their main city was Devadaha. Her father was King Anjana.
It was the custom of the Sakyas and the Koliyas for a wife to go to
her parents home for the birth of her first child. Following the
accepted tradition King Suddhodana arranged for Queen Mahamaya to travel
to her parents' home in Devadaha, when the birth of the child was due.
Queen Mahamaya was conducted in a splendid procession to Devadaha.
Her attendants and the retinue were there for her protection. On her
way to Devadaha she sensed her oncoming labour pains. Her retinue took
her along to the Lumbini park now Nepal for the impending child birth.
The pleasure park of Lumbini is reputed for its Sala groves. Queen
Mahamaya gave birth to the child under a Sala tree cared for by the
ladies in her retinue. Tradition has it that the infant prince took
seven steps towards the North immediately after he was born. He uttered
a joyous cry and said; 'I am the greatest in the world, I am the highest
in the world, I am the noblest in the world, this is my last birth, from
here there is no rebirth for me.
His exclamation may have been a forecast of the transformation he
would bring about later as mankind's most Supreme communicator. The
birth of the infant prince took place in Lumbini Nepal on the full moon
day of Vesak.
Lumbini in Nepal is the first place associated with the life of the
great master Sakyamuni Gautama his Janmaboomi where he was gifted to the
universe. Buddha himself has mentioned in Maha parinibbanasutta, that
Lumbini Nepal is one of the four sacred sites of Buddhist worship not to
be missed by any devotee.
Located close by Lumbini Nepal had been a beautiful pleasure park
maintained by the Sakyas as well as Koliyas. After Buddha's time Lumbini
in Nepal was called Rummindel.
A detailed account in Buddhist literature describes Lumbini as a
Pradimoksha - vana filled with fully grown Sal trees and vivid flower
trees with Bees and birds not second to Indias paradise in heaven. The
teaching of the Buddha is paccattam Veditabbo - it must be realised by
each man himself. It is also Opanaiko - it has a definite goal.
The Buddha which he set for himself and for everyman is the discovery
of truth. He defined truth as that which is as it is. When we understand
truth then we see things as they really are, then we possess knowledge
of what is - not as what we like it to be, not as other people say
things are but really at it is.
This reality has to be appreciated by each man for himself. Today the
pleasure park at Lumbini is in Nepal about 20 km from India Nepal
border. Visas are issued at the order to enter Nepal. There is
constantly a considerable crowding of vehicles at the border as the in
and out traffic has to be checked at the border. Cycle rickshaws are
available from the main road to the entrance of Lumbini park.
It is said that Sutta Nipata the Pali Tripitaka and attakatha refer
to Lumbini as a fascinating park of natural beauty. Well known Chinese
pilgrims Huian Isang and Fa Hsien described; 'Lumbini (In Nepal) where
the Lord was born is a place of heaven on earth and one could see the
snowy mountains amidst a splendid garden embedded with stupas and
Thanks to emperor Asoka he traced the sacred spot and marked it with
a monument to commemorate the sacred site. The Asoka pillar marks the
spot where the infant prince Siddhartha was born. In this pillar edict
set up in 249 BC Emperor Asoka proclaimed that since the Buddha was born
here the village of Lumbini was exempted from tax payment.
Archaeologists have revealed the original spot where the infant
prince was born. The masonry from the ancient 3rd century BC layers can
be seen at the new temple that has been built around it.
The pleasure of the princes birth was marred by the passing away of
Queen Mahamaya just 7 days after the birth of her son. Since then the
prince was nursed by his step mother Prajapati Gotami. The sacred sites
at Lumbini Nepal stand today to tell us the most significant
unforgettable incidents of the Buddhist era in the presence of our own
The sacred temple premises bear testimony to the Buddhas birth
serenity and calmness that followed. The legend says that deities Brahma
and Vishnu were there to receive the new born. To the South of the
Mayadevi temple there is the famous bathing pond where queen Maya is
said to have taken a bath before delivery and Sakyamuni is said to have
been given a divine shower by the deities.
Ladies venerate the statue of Mayadevi to fulfill their wishes of
having children. Devotees never fail to touch it for blessings so much
so that it has become smaller in certain places. There are small stupas
and the Asoka Sthamba in the vicinity.
A large religious establishment grew in and around Lumbini in Nepal,
with many viharas busy with monks and with chaityas and stupas built by
the rich and powerful.
For several centuries the place was in ruins, however the exact
location of Siddharthas birthplace was found in December 1886 by a
wandering German Archaeologist de Alois A Fuhrer who came across the
stone pillar Buddhas birthplace.
Located in the plains of South Western Nepal at the foot hills of the
Churia range Lumbini and its surrounding area are endowed with a rich
natural setting of domesticable fauna and favourable agri environs. The
region is an exquisite treasure trove of ancient artifacts and
antiquities dating back to pre Christian era.
The site is described as a beautiful garden in the Buddhas time and
still retains its legendary charm and beauty befitting the Buddhas
How Europeans saw Sri Pada
Robert Knox says that according to Sinhalese the tallest mountain is
situated south of Kandy City. People call it Himapola. The Portuguese
and Europeans call it Adam's Peak or the mountain of Adam. This appears
as a heap of sugar but flat on top with a stone. On this stone there
appears an impression similar to a foot print of a man. But this
footprint is bigger than that of a human, about two feet in length. The
Sinhalese with their kith and kin climb this rock and worship the foot
print. This pilgrimage season starts before the Sinhalese new year in
the month of March. Several rivers originate from this mountain peak and
flows towards, the west and north. The main river among the rivers is
Mahaweli which flows towards the North. The Sinhalese believe that the
Buddha disappeared from the earth and placed His footprint on the summit
of this peak.
Sri Pada. Picture by Lakshan Maduranga
They bring flowers, oil, camphor, incense and other offerings to
worship this footprint. A king had permitted the Moors to climb this
peak and collect these offerings. There are a large number of Moors on
either side of the climb to collect the offerings. Dr Davy who lived in
Kandy in the early eighteenth century says that the first European to
climb this peak was Lt Malcot who surveyed this peak and recorded that
the peak is 74 ft. long and 24 ft. broad. It is enclosed with a stone
built wall of 5 ft. in height.
The peak is about 8 ft. high. The Sinhalese believe that the Buddha
placed his foot print here on His first visit to Lanka. There is a
crevice here about 5 ft. 3 4/3 inches by 5 ft. and 5-7 inches.
This crevice is plastered with brass plates and gem stones of low
value. This is enclosed with a structure built with four stone pillars
and the hood covered with a celluloid material. There are iron chains
tied to the four pillars. The Buddhist believe that the Buddha on his
visit to Kelaniya rested on this peak before His visit to Deegavapi. The
orientalists believe that Alexander the Great visited this place
accompanied by St Belicus. They cut the steps to facilitate the climb
and also planted the iron bars and chains.
A Persian poet also describes the visit of Alexander the Great. Iban
Batuta who was caught to rough wind in the sea landed in Puttalam in
1347 AD and came through Gampola to climb the peak, which the Sinhalese
say Sri Pada Samanala or Samanthakuta. Iban Batuta specially mentions
about a kind a leaches and apes who frequented the area. Iban Batuta was
accompanied by four yogis, ten Brahmins and fifteen of king's attendants
with food items and other necessary paraphernalia. The four yogis made
an annual visit to Lanka to go on pilgrimage to Sri Pada.
One Vivian Majendi climbed the summit on January 1, 1896 and made his
observations. I started the climb in January and saw thousands of
pilgrims, among them were disabled been carried, young and old, among
them were paralyzed, feeble and some of them died on the way. There were
Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Burmes,
Africans and pilgrims from Siam. There were leaders of three main
religions and kings, princes and princesses. Some are carried to the
summit. I too came through a difficult terrain as others came via
Maskeliya and Oosamale.
The pilgrims take this arduous route because they believe that they
acquire more merits by going through hazards. All these pilgrims,
specially the Buddhists tie a thread in a tree at Oosamale. This is
because of the belief that the Buddha mend His robe at this place. When
the climb is difficult the pilgrims cling onto the iron chain and they
yell something in Sinhala.
Marcopolo who visited here in the thirteenth century too has made
notes on this yelling by the Sinhalese. The bell erected here is rung by
the pilgrims according to the number of visits by them. The spectacular
scene to be observed from the summit is the morning sun rise.
The rays of the sun shines through the misty clouds for a distance
about eighty miles and set on the sea. This is a very rare phenomenon.
Various opinions exists on this natural occurrence but the most logical
and scientific analysis is by Hon Ralph Abacrombi in his article to the
'Philosophy' magazine of January 1887.
The dew drops are pushed to the height of over seven hundred feet by
the South West monsoons from the Mahaweli valley making this spectacular
and mesmerizing scene. It is no mircle but a natural happening. We chose
the 31st of December for this trip so that we could be on the summit on
the 1st January. We stayed overnight at Maskeliya Rest House and started
the journey at 10 pm and arrived the peak at 5.10 am. We soon descended
as it was so cold and my legs were shivering. I believe in the saying
that the descend is arduous than the ascend.