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Lumbini Development Programme
Lumbini was described as a beautiful garden full of green and shady trees at the time of Lord Buddha’s birth around 623 BC. It was in its grandeur for some centuries. In 249 BC, when Emperor Asoka visited Lumbini it was a flourishing village. Shui-Ching-Chu in 4th century AD recorded the existence of the Asokan pillar and seven stones marking the first seven steps taken by the Buddha. Chinese travellers Fa-Hien (403 AD) and Hiuen Tsiang (636 AD) visited Lumbini saw trees and stupas constructed by Asoka. At that time, the whole region was in ruins with many dilapidated stupas, monasteries and palaces. Huan Tsiang also observed the Asokan pillar split into two, probably struck by a lightening.
Lumbini remained in neglected state for centuries, until Alois A Fuhrer, a German archaeologist, discovered the Asokan pillar by chance on December 1, 1895 AD while wandering about the foothills of Churia (Shiwalik) mountain range. Since then numerous archaeologists have undertaken excavation works of the place. The Asokan pillar bears an inscription in Brahmi script, which in English translation reads as King Piyadasi (another name for Asoka), beloved of the gods, having been anointed 20years, came here and worshiped saying ‘ Here Buddha Sakyamuni was born.’
In recent times, the late king Mahendra visited the place in February 1956 and donated 100,000 rupees for its development on the occasion of the Fourth World Buddhist Conference held in Nepal in 1958. In 1967, then Secretary General, U. Thant visited Lumbini and made Lumbini Development Project an international concern. In keeping with this trend for development of Lumbini, late King Birendra also had shown keen interest in its development as evidenced by occasional directives, sanctions and grants. To develop it further, a Lumbini Development Committee was established. In 1970, The Lumbini Development Project was conceived and development programme was divided into three parts:
1. Drawing up a Master Plan
2. Arrangements for improving existing infrastructure
3. Implementation of the plan
Prof. Kenzo Tange, a famous Japanese architect, did the designing of the Master Plan. It was finalised and approved by United Nations and the Government of Nepal in 1978.
Expansion of airport facilities, some construction work, tree plantation, provision of water and electricity supplies, road construction from Bhairwa to Lumbini, renovation of various chaityas and stupas, archeological surveys etc. was done by the Government of Nepal. It was estimated to cost about 60 million rupees (3 million US dollar).
The third phase is the implementation of the Master Plan. Twenty million US dollars are expected to be spent on this phase. This amount will be raised purely as donation. The main donor countries are Japan, Korea, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Other countries like India, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mauritius, and United States are also involved in fund raising.
The Master Plan for Lumbini Development covers an area of three square miles and divided into three zones:
a). The Sacred Garden Zone
b). The Monastic Zone
c). The New Lumbini Village Zone.
a). The Sacred Garden Zone
The Sacred Garden will include the area related to the birth of Gautam Buddha and will reflect the great ideals of peace, compassion, purity and brotherhood. It will include the Maya Devi temple, Asokan Pillar, various stupas, chaityas and old remains of garden and trees.
b). The Monastic Zone: It is divide into East and West Monastic Zones.
East Monastic Zone is reserved for construction of Theravada monasteries from various countries. Burma and Nepal have already completed the construction of their monasteries. Others have either started the construction or have reserved the site for future construction. Beside the monasteries a Vipassana meditation centre also will be constructed in this zone.
West Monastic Zone is dedicated to construction of about 15 Mahayana tradition monasteries from all over the world. A magnificent Chinese monastery is already complete and the rest are either under construction or will start constructing in near future.
About 49 stupas and Viharas (monasteries) would be constructed by various individuals, associations and countries in monastic zone. In the middle of this area, there will be a road with Sal trees on both sides, a garden, an open stage, court yards etc.
c). The New Lumbini Village Zone:
This zone is purely allocated for physical facilities like hotels, pilgrims’ inn, post and telegraph offices, a hospital and a school. There are also provision for construction of a museum, a library, an International Buddhist Research Centre and a Tourist information centre. Also within this zone, the highest World Peace Pagoda of Asia has already been completed by Japanese Buddhists. This was the place where a hideous crime of murdering a Japanese Buddhist monk, Nabatame took place in 1997.
In 1998, a world Buddhist Summit was held at Lumbini from 30 November – 2 December in collaboration of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal and Lumbini Development Trust. The summit proposed to adopt Nepal’s declaration of Lumbini as the Fountain of World Peace and the Holiest Pilgrim Centre of the Buddhists and peace loving people of the world.
The second Buddhist summit was held at Lumbini from 30th November to 2nd December 2004. A ten point declaration was issued at the end of the summit.
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