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Lumbini - Birth Place of Lord Buddha

 

 

A brief historical survey of the region is mentioned in order to follow the chronological framework of the study of sacred complex. Preliminary stages of the history of Śākyas and Koliyas are categorized under proto-history. Thereafter, the historical age begins in the area as we start getting evidences in the form of inscription, seals and sealing. The history of the area is divided into ancient, medieval and modern periods. The purpose of this short description is to delineate the cultural history, the life style of the people in the area, and to trace the dynamic cultural process of Lumbini.

Pre-history
On the basis of variation in shape, size, polish and their usage of stone tools, the period is divided into traditional three ages.

Paleolithic Age
Pre-historic men used to live in the foothills of the Siwālika ranges in this area. Most of the valleys of this range are formed of the sedimentary rocks of the Miocene and Pleistocene era containing shale, sand and pebble beds. Due to deforestation and landslides the range has no human habitation and is naked at present. River terraces are composed of gravels. Stone tool industries found in the gravels are of considerable importance to the pre-historian. A river cuts away its banks and carries the material along with it upto the sea where it is deposited. But all this depends on the velocity and volume of the flow. Some of the material is left only on the way. In this context, the rivers Koţhi, Ghāgarā, Tināu, Rohiņi, etc. are very important as the pre-historic dwelling sites in the region. In December 1980, a team of scholars from U.S.A. and Nepal, under the leadership of Dr. J.H. Hutchison, of which other members were Dr. James Munthe, Mrs. Dr. K. Munthe, Dr. R.M. West and Mr. Vishnu Dāńgol, T.U., fossil remains of Ramapithecus were found in a place near Butwal on the bank of the river Tināu attached to the rocks cliff. A piece of the upper left jaw which is 1 cm. in width and more than 1 cm. in length is kept in the Natural Museum in Kathmandu. It was dated approximately eleven million years old on the basis of palaeomagnetic dating method. This hominoid finding is own as the oldest in Asia and the second oldest in the world. Its life style and civilization was similar to the Kenyapithecus and Brahmapithecus of Asia. Having been great forest area the pre-historic men used to live by hunting and gathering wild fruits in the neighborhood of Lumbini.

Mesolithic Age
The stone tools of the Mesolithic age are found in limited number in Nepal. However, some evidences of this phase have come to light in the region. In course of excavation and exploration to the north-west of Kapilvastu district, Surāhi-nākā area, G.Corvinus, a German scholar, has discovered many prehistoric sites in the beds of the Surāi kholā107. There were workshop sites, camping sites, simple flaking and small activity spots. A lot of plant fossils of leaf impressions, fossilized carbonized wood and leaf material were found in the fine clastic deposits of clay stones and mudstones in the older period. In course of rock-cutting, a large bedding plane of a mudstone was exposed, on which a set of animal footprints of some smaller artiodactyls animals were seen. In course of the examination of these findings a profile column of 5500m. of Siwalik deposits was recorded with all the details of palaeontological and sedimentological data . Palaeontological and magnetostratigraphical studies along the Surāi kholā, north-west of Kapilvastu district, suggests dates on the basis of major lithological units that it is not so different from those found in Pakistan by Johnson, et al. and in western India by Ranga Rao. Above-mentioned evidences reveal that microlithic industries as will as Mesolithic tools had been used by the prehistoric man on the northwest of Lumbini.

Neolithic Age
The Neolithic culture of the Terai region is presented by surface collection. The warmer climates of the sheltered valleys of the Terai region were ideally suited for the habitat of the prehistoric man. The Neolithic culture presents a change. Permanent habitation, start of agricultural activities, animal husbandry, industries of pottery and polished microlithic stone tools were the main features of the Neolithic man. The culture associated with food-production and self-dependence was also developed in the western Terai region of Nepal.

Proto-history
Lumbini was a part of Kapilvastu of the Śākyas in the western Terai region of Nepal. The Śākya kingdom was formed here by the vanished sons and daughters of the Kosala king Okkaka. According to the Divyadana the town of Kapilvastu was situated by the side of Bhāgirathi (Gańges), close to the āshrama of Rishi Kapilmuni. According to the Lalitavistār in course of ages it was organized into a big town as other people came from other sites to dwell in the new settlement. Two theories have been propounded regarding the origin of the tribal name Śākya-the first is based on the name of the sāl forest (Shorea robusta), where Kapila used to live, and the second theory is based upon the legend of the banished sons and daughters who married each other to protect the purity of their blood. The four brothers married to the four younger sisters and appointed the eldest sister as queen mother (Rockhill, 1972:11). When the father of the children came to know about them, it is said, he delightedly exclaimed: "Śākya vata-bho-kumara-parama Śākya-vata-bho kumara" (Aha! smart men indeed, Śākya indeed are the princes, very smart men)'. So the endogamous tribe is known as Śākya. Different sources have incorporated different names of the Śākya kings. According to Lalitavistara, Opura was the first king of Kapilvastu and Suddhodana belonged to this dynasty. He became the king in the seventh generation (descent) after him (Oldenberg, 1971:94-99). Mahāvamsa has mentioned that Ulkamukha was the first king of Kapilvastu and after several generations, Jayasena became the king of Kapilvastu. He was succeeded by his son Simhahanu, father of Suddhodhana. Simhahanu had five sons namely Suddhodana, Dhautodana, Shakradana, Sulkodana and Amŗitodan and two daughters named Amrita and Pramita. Princess Amŗita was married to Prince Suprabuddha of Devadaha, the father of Yasodhār. Mahāvamsa refers that Māyādevĩ and Prajāpati were the daughter of Anjana, Śākya chief of Devadaha (Rockhill, 1972:19-21).

Suffering from leprosy the queen mother, Priya, resided in a cave in the forest, where the king of Varāņāsi, Ram, also resided as he was suffering from the same disease. After sitting under a Kolan (nauclea Cordifalia) tree they got cured and both of them were married. To the east of Kapilvastu they organised the town named Devadaha and procreated the race of Koliyas. It is known as Devadaha, Vyāghrapur, Kolinagara or Rāmagrāma.

The Śākyas of Kapilvastu and the Koliyas of Devadaha had established matrimonial relations in future as well. King Suddhodana of Kapilvastu had married Māyādevĩ and Gautami, the princess of Devadaha. Siddhartha Gautam was born from the womb of Māyādevĩ in Lumbini. Thus, the ancient Buddhist literature reveals that the present study area was inhabited by the Śākyas.

In course of exploration and excavation of the region, a lot of art remains, structural remains as well as habitation depositions are found. In 1964 Deo has discovered a few rammed-up clay walls of plain huts from the low flattish heavily eroded mounds of Baňjarāhi, near Lumbini. Habitation deposits on the opposite bank of the Dāno River has yielded similar evidences indicating that the ancient habitation deposit were bifurcated by the river. According to the excavator it is dated from 700 to 600 BC. The pottery of P.G.W, Red ware and N.B.P. ware are also found in course of excavation from the site (Deo, 1968:3-7). In the sixth century BC, Siddhartha was born in Lumbini garden under a sāl or Aśoka or pipal tree, which is comparable to the Chittalata grove of Indra's paradise in heaven in the Śākya land. Lord Buddha himself had advised the monks and followers from his death bed at Kusinagar to visit the four places, viz. Lumbini, Bodhagayā, Sāranātha and Kusinagar. So, Lumbini remained not only as a pleasure garden, but it also developed as a place of pilgrimage after the birth of Lord Buddha (Führer, 1972:63). Structural remains as well as artifacts found from Lumbini reveal that monks and his followers used to stay here from the beginning of the Buddha's enlightenment. The excavation conducted in 1970-71 has indicated that the earliest human habitation in ancient Lumbini grāma must have started in N.B.P. period (Rijal, 1975-77:30). The site seems to have been occupied from the time of Lord Buddha, i.e. the sixth century BC. The successive human deposite in the southern mound of Lumbini dates from sixth century BC to the Gupta period on the basic of its antiquities.

King Vidudhabha of Kosala had attacked Kapilvastu four times. Buddha saved three times from the attack; but, at last, Buddha did not interfere. During the attack several Śākyas were massacred and stone slabes of the mote hall was washed with their blood. The Śākyas, who saved their lives, fled in different directions, some to Nepāl (Kathmandu), some to Rājgŗiha and Vaiśāli, some to Vedi, some to Pippalivan. Thus, the city of Kapilvastu came to an end during the life time of Buddha, i.e. 500 BC (Upadhyaya, 2018:291).

The Mauryan Period. According to the Kundavadana of Divyavadana, having led King Aśoka in to the Lumbini jungle, the Venerable Upagupta pointed out with his right hand and said, "oh! great king here the Buddha was born ". Thereafter king Aśoka made an offering of one hundred thousand gold coins and established the first pagodas (ceitiya) in the twentieth year of his reign. Thus, the above-mentioned documentary and circumstantial evidences reveal that Lumbini region was absolutely developed as the Buddhist pilgrimage site during the Mauryan period. Mauryan terracotta human and animal figurines, stone sculptures and structural remains, viz. vihār, temple foundation, stūpas and bricks are found here.

Condition After Aśoka. Almost all the habitational sites had been deserted, but the religious complex and some portion of the region had been actively mobilized during the Suńga, Kushāna and the Gupta periods. During these periods terracotta human and animal figurines, stone sculptures, beads, bangles, seals, sealing as well as architectural monuments, viz. vihār, stūpa Buddhist temples and loose bricks are found. Various art remains of the region are assignable, on the basis of comparative study with the Magadha antiquities, to fourth century AD. Accounts of the Chinese Pilgrims. In the fifth century AD Fa-Hien had seen some monks and a few families of the common people living at Kapilvastu. He mentions that "Fifty li to the east of the city (Kapilvastu) is the royal garden called "Lum-min"(Lumbini); it was here the queen entered the bath to wash herself, and, having come out on the northern side, advanced twenty paces, and then holding a branch of the tree in her hand, as she looked to the east, brought fourth the prince. When born he walked seven steps; two dragon kings washed the prince's body , the place where this occurred was afterwards converted into a well, and, here, as likewise at the pool, the water of which came down from above for washing (the child), the priests draw their drinking water (Beal,1983 )."About 80 or 90 li (21.729 or 24.445km.) to the north-east of the Arrow Fountain there were bathing tank, Aśoka flower tree, two stupas, a great stone pillar surmounted with a horse figure on the top and river of oil were seen in Lumbini by Hiuen-Tsiang in the seventh century AD at the birth place of Lord Buddha (Watters,1961:15). Lumbini can be clearly identified with the site near present Bhagawānpur in Rupandehi district. 300 li (81.486km.) to the east of Lumbini, he reached to the ruined town named Lan-mo (Rāmagrāma) where the accounts of these pilgrims are reliable excepting some events mentioned by them. There are a few differences in the details of the descriptions, such as the direction and distance of it; but such discrepancies are very negligible. Lumbini, which is the main key to identify other sites even now, has been identified on the basis of the descriptions available in the Chinese accounts. In addition, the details given in the accounts entitled Shui-Ching- Chu describes Aśoka tree, Siddhartha's birth under the tree, sweet-smelling flowers and Aśoka had shielded the imprint of Siddhartha's feet on long slab of lapis lazuli (Petch, 1950:34-35). With the help of this description it was possible to prove the real position of the conglomerate stone, discovered in the foundation of the old Mayadevi temple in Lumbini (Uesaka, 1997:15).

Early Medieval Period
In the early medieval period the older convention of art began to be replaced by new conceptions in the ninth century AD. After the rise of the Rajput states in different parts of the country colossal creation and cosmic conception was refined in the field of art (Agrawal, 1965:257). A lot of stone sculptures belonging to the Pāla-Sena school of art of eastern India, are found from the surface of the region, and are dated in ninth and tenth century AD. King Ripu Malla, Sańgrāma Malla, Nagarāj's descendant of Karņāli region, had visited and got engraved their inscriptions on the Asokan pillars in Lumbini (Führer, 1972:33). The visit indicates that this region was under the sovereignty of this dynasty and that this region was still widely known as holy place of pilgrimage. In this context various antiquities and monuments reveal that Lumbini was continuously inhabited from the sixth century BC to the fourteenth century AD. The surface collections of the site include some beads of terracotta and semi-precious stones, fragments of iron nails and small bits of bronze objects.

In the fourteenth century AD after the termination of the Nāga dynasty, the region was ruled by Malebom and his successors. During the period of Chaubĩsĩ it was under Tanahu principality of Magar rulers, in the fifteenth-sixteenth century (1489-1517AD). Sikandar Lodi, then Sultan of Delhi, might have conquered the weak Magar kings of Tanahu. In this connection, Lodi Sultan might have destroyed the stone sculptures as well as monuments at Lumbini and Kapilvastu in the process of propagation of Muslim movement in the region (Pradhn, 1979:30-35). A number of stone sculptures are found without leg, hand, nose, mouth, cheek, forehead, shoulder etc. It seems that they were broken by force. Muslim rulers may have been instrumental in this destructive activity in the area as it has been a case in the Northern portion of India in this period. The king of Pālpā had conquered the Magar principality of Tanahu during the period of Mukunda Sen I. After the partition of the Sen kingdom, Vināyaka Sen became the king of the Terai region of Pālpā, the site of the area. Mukunda Sen I had built a seasonal palace Rańga Mahala at Butwal Phūlabāri area. In the reign of Mukunda Sen II [1750-82AD] a conflict arose with the Nawab Vazier of Oudh. But the king of Pālpā had got some terrain lands, to the west of Gaņdakĩ river, on lease due to their friendship with them later. Mahadatta Sen, son of Mukunda Sen, had also received more terrain lands including its peripheral area. The rate of the lease was cheap because it was an unhealthy, unproductive and swampy area. In1801 the British Government of India and Nawab Vazier of Oudh had imposed a treaty under which Gorakhpur, Rohilakhaņd and the area under study became a part of the British rule (Vajracharya and Nepāl, 2014:88). In 1806 Pālpā, including the Terai region, was conquered by the Government of Nepāl. Thus, Nepāl Government became the lessee and the British Government was a lesser of the region.

Modern period After the unification of the region the Government of Nepal had established the administrative Headquarter of the region at Pālpā from where all the disputes were decided and creative activities for the welfare of the people were under taken (Mishra, 1999:129-35). The Terai region of Kapilvastu and Rupandehi, including Butwal area, became the issue of debate between Nepal and British Government of India for suzerainty over it. This led to the Anglo- Nepal war in 1814-1816. At last the Treaty of Sugauli was signed on March 3, 1816, which provided the ownership of the region to the Nepal Government. This region was under the jurisdiction of Butwal, Siurāj and Khajahni districts under the overall charge of the Governor of Pālpā before 1962. In rearrangement of the administrative districts, this area was incorporated in Rupandehi district of the Lumbini zone.

Some monuments and sculptures are also seen in the region built under the dynamic leadership of the Sena kings of Palpa principality. Being far from the capital, a Governor from Kathmandu was appointed for the regional administration during reign of the Rāņās. During all these periods' kings, nobles as well as people of the area had contributed to make artifacts for the purpose of their domestic and religious life, which provide us a glimpse of the social activities of the region.

 

 
 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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