Lumbini is sacred ground for Nepal's Buddhists, for it is the place where the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautam, was born. The birthplace of his mother in Devdaha is nearby as well.
Siddhartha Gautam was the son of King Suddhodhan of the Shakya dynasty, who ruled in Kapilvastu in southern Nepal in the fifth century BCE. At the birth of prince Siddhartha, a wise man told the king that the boy would be either a great emperor or a great sage, either ruling the world or saving it. The king took this prophecy to heart and taught Siddhartha to be a great warrior. The king also kept his son isolated from the outside world, and Siddhartha saw nothing as a child of aging, pain or death.
When prince Siddhartha reached maturity, he was shocked and dismayed by his discovery of the evils of the world, and he renounced his family and crown and went out into the world to find the truth.
For years Siddhartha roamed the plains of what is now north India and followed the traditional ways of seeking enlightenment: meditation, yoga and mortification of the flesh. He learned many truths but not the single truth he sought. One day at Bodhgaya in India, Siddhartha sat under a great tree and vowed to stay there until he perceived the ultimate answer. In a moment of complete understanding, he was released from attachment to the world and became enlightened.
For the rest of his life, Siddhartha Gautam, now a Buddha, taught his Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. The Buddha’s teachings were a personal philosophy and a structure for living a good life. He clearly did not intend to start a religion and expressly forbade his followers to worship him.
When the Buddha died, his cremated remains were divided, distributed, and placed under eight burial mounds at places where he had taught. Those mounds became some of the earliest symbols of Buddhism. Their symbolic value continues to this day in stupas and chaityas.
A large area around the birthplace - first marked in the 3rd century BCE - is reserved now for temples, stupas and monasteries. It is an interesting day tour for the casual visitor; the trip of a lifetime for Buddhists. The nearest airport is Bhairawaha, about 15 miles / 25 kilometers away. Flight schedules usually require an overnight stay.