Location and physical features

Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, is situated about 22 km. from Bhairahawa (Siddharthanagar), below the Churiā range, the foothills of the Himalayas, on the western bank of Telār River in Rupandehi district of Lumbini zone in Nepal. 28 km. west of Lumbini lies Tilaurakot, the capital of the Śākyas and 38 km. east of Lumbini is Devadaha, the capital of Koliyas. It is about 34 km. from Naugarh Railway Station on the North Eastern Railway of India. It is about 100 MSL. Buddha, Known as the Lord of Asia, was born in Lumbini during the full moon day in the month of Vaiśākha in 563 BC. He was born under a sal (Shorea robusta) tree when Māyādevĩ was going to her maternal town on the occasion of delivery. Suttanipata has mentioned the earliest description of the birth of Buddha in Lumbini. After the birth of Buddha he took seven steps towards north and, looking in all directions, he declared that "I am the foremost of all creatures to cross the riddle of the ocean of the existence, this is my last birth and here after, I will not be born again. The site is spelt as Rummindei or Rupāndei (beautiful lady), the perverted form of Rupā devi, the queen Anjana of the king of Devadaha which was situated to the east of Kapilvastu in ancient time. The site is called Lun- min and La-Fa-Ni by the Chinese pilgrims Fa- Hien and Hiuen- Tsiang respectively. In course of exploration of the ancient Buddhist sites General Cunningham has mentioned La-Fa-Ni is sanskrit Lavani, a beautiful lady (Cunnigham, 1990:350). In Buddhist literature it is known as Pradimokşa vana blessed with various trees and flowers, which is compared to the Chittalata grove of Indra's paradise in heaven (Führer, 1972:4). The earliest Pali text Suttanipata has mentioned that, "The wisdom-child that Jewel so precious, that can not be matched, has been born at Lumbini, in the Śākya land for well being and joy in the world of men". A muslim historian of India named Abul Fazal has called Mokta (Cunnigham, 1990:351). It is also known as Paderiya (Parariya) where the Aśokan pillar is located in the Nepalese Terai. The name of the site is spelt Lumminigāme and Lumbini Vana in the Aśokan pilllar Edict still standing at the same place (Führer, 1972:31-33). Mukherji has also mentioned the name Rummin-dei in his report. In the Magadhi language, being used in the north-eastern pillar edicts in India and Nepal, 'la' is invariable substituted for 'ra'. The location of Lumbini is pointed out in the Buddhist literature, as well as, in the records of the Chinese pilgrims who visited India in the fifth and seventh centuries AD. As mentioned in Jātaka story this sāl garden was in joint possession of the Śākayas and Koliyas during the life time of Buddha. The Mahāvamsa, a Ceylones chronicle, and Nidāna kathā have also located it between Kapilvastu and Devadaha. During the region of the Śākyas of Kapilvastu and the Koliyas, Lumbini was a small dwelling site from where the visitors of two countries use to walk through there. Due to the use of bullock carts for the common people and horse chariots with palanquin for the richer people and royalties they travelled abou 20 km in a single day. In this situation they might have spent a night in Lumbini (Bidari, 2003:6). The sāl garden was the place of recreation during the reign of the Śākayas and Koliyas. Buddha charita of Aśvaghosa describes Lumbini as "gay like the garden of caitra ratha with trees of every kinds. According to Fa- Hien it is located about 50 li east of Kapilvastu (Giles, 1981:38). Hiuen- Tsiang had also pointed out that it was about 80 or 90 li. (21.729 or 24.445 km.) north-east of arrow-well (Beal, 1994:24). It was linked through popular ‘Uttara path' to Kapilvastu, Ramagrama and other important cities during the Buddhist period. The present location of Lumbini, the exact birth place of Lord Buddha, is absolutely clear in the western Terai region of Nepal. The narrow ridge of the Churiā range runs parallel to the Mahābhārat Mountain from east to west.

The Siwalika Range

The Mahabharata range is composed of loose non-metamorphic rocks in the western Nepal (Hashimoto, 1973: 286). Almost the Neogene rocks in Nepal are the molasse deposits of the Siwālika group which forms the Churiā hills. The lower Siwālika, regarded as late Miocene in age, are the Chinji formation consisting of reddish clay stones with minor sand stone. According to Hagen most of the exposed Siwālika ranges in this region belong to the middle Siwālika of mio-Pliocene era (Hagen, 1959:3-48). Due to rapid increase in human activities in this region rather gently inclined bad land areas had developed, especially in the area between Butwal to Nepalgunj along the southern side of Dang valley. It is formed of grey to pale-brown medium to coarse grained sandstone and pale-brown mudstone. Its basement is formed by a thick bed of ill sorted conglomerate of more than fifty meters in thickness (Yoshida, 1982:64). This belt shows a few scattered houses made of wooden pillars and dry-grass as a protection-tower against wild animals. Sandy soil with boulders of the region is not so fertile for regular cultivation.

The Terai Zone

On the south of the Siwālika range the Indo-Gańgetic plain named the Terai is distributed with an elevation lower than two hundred meters MSL from Nārāyaņī to Rāpti River in the region. The Terai is composed of gravels and sands and of the late Pleistocene to Holocene age (Ibid). The fertile and sandy alluvial soil in the region is formed by the great river system, viz. Rohiņī, Tināu, Koţhī, Bāņagañgā and their tributaries. In course of his pilgrimage Hiuen-Tsiang has pointed out that the soil of the region was fertile and farming operations were regular in suitable weather (Watters, 1961:1).

The Forest and Weather

In this region thick forest contains Shorea robusta (sal, sakhuwa) pinus longifolia (chir), elephant grass, acacia catechu (khair), Salmalia mala boica (simal), Dal bergia Sissa (Sisau), Zyiphus Jujuba (Bair) even now, especially in the northern belt from east to west in the region (Sharma, 1973:2-3). In the sixth century BC plaksha tree (Ficus lacor), mango tree (Mangifera indica), pipal tree (Ficus religiosa), sal tree (Shorea robusta) and Aśoka tree (Saraca indico) were associated with the indigenous trees of the area (Bidri, 1996:11-24). According to Bhadda-Sala Jataka there were trees in the park for making columns of the palace; but transportation was impossible due to rough road (Cowell, 1901:91-97). This evidence reveals that natural forests as well as parks had been developed in the Buddhists period. Mahavana and Lumbinivana were associated with this region (Upadhyaya, 2018: 293-299). This region has hot and humid climate. Lumbini (elevation 100 m) has a tropical monsoon climate characterized by a cold season, hot season, monsoon and transitional periods. The core of the cold season extends from the beginning of December to the end of January with temperature occasionally dropping to +60c. Rainfall is minimal and relative humidity may reach 89%. There tends to be a spell of 7-10 days of foggyo weather in December and another such spell in January otherwise sunshine prevails. The hot season lasts from the beginning of March until June. During the peak of the hot season (May) temperatures may rise to +390c with a low relative humidity and minimal rain fall. Some times strong winds blow across Lumbini. HMG Department of Meteorology cites June 12 to September 23 as the period of the annual monsoon in Nepal. The highest rain fall (approximately 300mm.) is recorded in July and August. The maximum temperature in June (Approximate +370c) gradually comes down to slightly above +300c doing July, August and September. Minimum Temperature was 80c and maximum 400c in January and May 2004. The monsoon remains active between June and September. Being alluvial and fertile area, it is known as the granary of the western Nepal.

The Rivers

The rivers flow southwards and meet Gańges in India forming wide beds (Sharma, 1977:39-40. During the Miocene the Churia range was under the shallow sea and its river system was responsible for the deposition of the present. Due to the deposition of sediments from the rivers, flowing from north to south, Indo-gańgetic plain was created. The rivers related with Himalayan, Mahabharata and Churiā ranges, were responsible for the formation of the Terai region. The level of the plain land rose due to the sedimentation of Indo-Gańgetic trough forming new river channels in this area for the drainage. Rivers flow from the north to the south slope in this area. The Tināu, Dāno, Tilār, Bāņagańgā (Bhāgirathi) and Koţhi have their origin in the Himālayan and northern hills. The position of the Rohiņi, Tilār, Bāņagańgā (Bhāgirathi) and Anoma is more precisely indicated by the Chinese pilgrims and Ceylonese chronicle. During the modern period, after the eradication of malaria, many people of the hills have migrated in this Terai region. The present population of the region included the aboriginal Tharu, Indian immigrants viz. Muslim, Yadav, Pasi, Mallaha, Dhobi, Kalwar and hill migrants, viz. Brāhmaņ , Kshettri, Sanyasi, Magar, Gurung, Kami, Damāi, Sunar etc.

Ancient Pilgrimage and Trade Routes The region of the present study and India has been culturally closely related due to the open border between two countries. The trade routes between India and this region of Nepal pass through western hills and the Himalayas. During the lifetime of Siddhartha Gautam his followers, especially monks and nuns, used to pass through these routes (Rhys Davids, 1971:44). As stated in the ancient Buddhists literature the Brahamaņ and ascetics used to travel from Kausambi to Vaisali passing through Sāketa, Śrāvasti, Setabhya, Kapilvastu, Kuśinagar, Pāvā. Vinaya piţaka refers to a direct road from Kapilvastu to Vaisāli (Regmi, 1982:39). Buddhist monks and followers used to travel in the ancient period to Tibet and Mangoliā through a route passing through Kapilvastu, Butawal, Pālpā, Ridi, Kāga-beni and Muktinātha. On 21-30 September, 1995 Buddhist Route Expedition conducted by UNESCO surveyed this area (Pandey, 1985:2). It was frequently traveled by the Buddhist pilgrims through the Terai to the Himalayan region, particularly Mukatinātha, Tibet and Mongolia. The other important route was Surāhi-nākā, at the North West corner of Kapilvastu district, from where the traders as well as pilgrims frequently traveled to Surkheta, Dailekha, Rukuma and other sites to the Western Nepal. Emperor Asoka had come to Lumbini and Kapilvastu with his spiritual teacher Upagupta in the twentieth year of his reign. Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hien and Hiuen-Tsiang had entered in Lumbini, Kapilvastu and its vicinity during the fifth and seventh centuries AD respectively through Śrāvasti. They have mentioned the direction and distances of the places, viz. circuit of the capital town of Kapilvastu, various Budhhist monuments and images of Kapilvastu, Royal field, Arrow-Fountain , Lumbini, birth place of Lord Buddha, and Rāmagrāma which help us to identify the ancient ruins of those places today. It is being identified with some ancient sites of the western Terai region of Nepal, whose geographical feature and situation is known through the accounts of the Chinese pilgrims as well as Buddhist literature. In the eighteenth century Prithivi Nārāyaņ Shah had also come through Varāņāsi, Gorakhpur, Nautanawā and Butwal to Gorkhā from time to time. These routes are regularly followed by the pilgrims and traders even now. The region is plain and fertile and is known as the granary of the western Nepal. The northern portion of Rupandehi district is formed mainly by sandstone and pale-brown mudstones of the siwālika range, as such, is not fertile. To the south of siwālika range the fertile and alluvial soil is also covered with Chara kose jhadi [about thirteen km. deer. Tiger, leopard, lion, elephant and rheinos live in the dense jungle. Rice, wheat, corn and mustard crops are cultivated by the people in the fertile lands. Bāņagañgā, Telār, Ghāgharā, Rohiņi and Koţhī rivers are ancient rivers mentioned in Buddhist period. All the commercial goods are taken to the hill region of the western Nepal from the southern Terai region as well as from India. Thus, these ancient routes are still important to the traders and pilgrims as it was in the past.


Make a Free Website with Yola.