Today we have such hectic lives and with the help or hindrance of technology not making it any easier to switch off, but becoming a part of us, like an arm or a leg that we couldn’t live without, like many I am on a journey searching for that missing piece of the jigsaw, call it peace, nirvana or perhaps even enlightenment. Lord Buddha was born 623 BC Prince Siddhartha Gautama in the ancient city of Kapilavastu, today’s Lumbini. Let me take you on a spiritual pilgrimage with a journey in the footsteps of Lord Buddha, one that many pilgrims take today.
Following In The Footsteps Of Lord Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama
Getting To Sarnath, India
My journey began in Sarnath, 12 km away from India’s holiest cities, Varanasi. It is easy to reach by taxi or you might like to join a bus tour from Varanasi. It was a hot dry day, dust particles filled the air and I was full of anticipation. I have read the books and watched the plays/films/documentaries on Lord Buddha, fascinated by him and the endless possibilities that have been shown and are available to everyone.
What Not To Miss At Sarnath, India
It is said that Sarnath was where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon/ teaching of Dharma called Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, 5 weeks after attaining enlightenment. Today you can see the Dhamek Stupa, Bodhi Tree, Ashoka Pillar and Archaeological Museum and more!
The highlight for me was visiting India’s tallest Buddha statue at 80 feet tall constructed of 815 stones, surrounded by the beautiful landscaped floral gardens with an abundance of butterflies and birds. The Dhamek Stupa of 128 feet height and 93 feet diameter standing at Sarnath, Chaukhandi Stupa and ruins of the Mulagandhakuti vihara denotes that Buddha met his first disciples and he spent his first rainy season. There is lots more to see including the Tibetan Temple. Well worth a visit! Allow at least one full day to enjoy this beautiful and sacred area.
The best place to stay while visiting Sarnath is Varanasi with many accommodation options available.
Getting To Lumbini, Nepal
From Varanasi I took the train to Gorakhpur, which took 6 hours. The train ticket system in India is a rather strange one! You either have to purchase 3 months in advance or stand in line the day before. The train was busy but comfortable.
On this occasion I was sadly unable to visit Kushinagar (where Lord Buddha past away) and Bodh Gaya, where Lord Buddha attained supreme enlightenment.
Onward and upwards by car over the Indian/Nepal border to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The road was narrow and winding with deep scenic ravines. Crossing the border went seamlessly straight forward, passport control before leaving India is on the right hand side of the road while money changing took place on the left. Then about an hours drive further on we reached the Nepali border. Once the immigration form, passport photo and visa fee were handed over, the passport was stamped and away we went. It was a surprisingly pleasant experience, much better than the airport!
The journey by car from Gorakhpur to Lumbini took a further 5 hours. I must say, I was pleased to reach Lumbini at just after 4 pm having been up since 3 am!
The Buddha Maya Palace Hotel is ideally located on the main street at only a 10 minute drive away from the park (with eternal flame, Lord Buddha’s birth place and many temples). A 3 star hotel with good amenities including WiFi and a restaurant, there is even a beautiful swimming pool in a lush colourful landscaped garden. There is also a few other accommodation options including small hotels and guest houses.
After a delicious meal of the local dish – Momos it was time to turn in for the early start to visit the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
What Not To Miss In Lumbini, Nepal
I can highly recommend visiting for sunrise. We arrived just after 6 am, the place was just starting to stir and the light was magical.
The buses and cars park in the large car park surrounded by a little market selling gifts, snacks and the quite essential tea stands (nothing like a Nepali Masala chai). Very refreshing.
Being the first to arrive, there were no rickshaws, but I didn’t have to wait long before one eager gentleman with one was on hand. The price quoted and agreed was 500 rupees to take the rickshaw around the park taking 2 hours (upon returning to the car park, it turned into 800 rupees, something to keep in mind). Everything you have to see is in the park. The birth place of Lord Buddha is at one side having an entry fee of 200 rupees and the other side is free with an array of temples from around the world. In the middle of both sides of the park is an outdoor landscaped corridor with a central water feature and the eternal flame flickering through the early morning mist.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama, Lord Buddha’s birth place was very surreal and quiet, lined with the ancient walled ruins you can only but imagine what the original building looked like. The shine was gathering a large presence of Buddhists from around the world including Thailand, Burma today’s Myanmar and Malaysia. Outside you can see one of the Ashoka Pillars that have been dispersed throughout the Indian subcontinent from the 3rd century BC.
The temples on the other side of the park are all so very different, some elaborate with decorative paintings while others graceful and elegant housing a large stone/marble Buddha. There were also some that were closed or still under construction. The floors can be very cold, highly recommend socks!
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting and embracing the energy of such a spiritual and significant place. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my journey. If you have please, don’t forget to share. As always we would love to hear from you about any questions you may have or perhaps you have visited one of the four Lord Buddha pilgrimage sites and you have an insight to share with others. Please do get in touch. Happy Travels:) x
Disclaimer: All the above opinions and comments are my own.
Thank you to Discover Culture India