Friday, August 28, 2020

Trip To, Nay Pit Stop At, Lumbini - Buddha's Birthplace In Nepal

Mayadevi Temple - Lumbini - Nepal - Gautam Buddha - 01
"Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, in Nepal, not India". This was amongst the first sights that the eyes caught, emerging, the first time, out of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. From then on, it became the defining sight, visible all over Nepal. Trucks have it painted on all 4 sides & 7 dimensions of the Space-Time Continuum. To ID whether a truck is Indian registered or a local one, one just has to spot that message, Number Plate गया तेल लेने.

Since then, it never escaped the mind that a trip to that place had to be made. Having my earlier deputations to Sites a fair distance away from Lumbini, the trip stayed put on the To-Do list. As luck would have it, early this year, the Organisation deputed me to a project, located not far from Lumbini. Landing at the Bhairahawa Airport, I proceeded to the Site. In fact, thanks to it's proximity to the Holy Land, the Gautama Buddha International Airport is set to become Nepal's second Airport to handle overseas flights.

Lumbini - Gautam Buddha Birthplace - Nepal - 01

As they say, "Nearer the church, the farther from God". In this case, it became a literal case. The weekly off I'd avail each Sunday would be spent chillin'. A late start to that day, would include hitting the pool late-morning/early afternoon. A few laps in the water, lazing around in Dihydrogen Monoxide, soaking in the sights. Satiated, I'd return to the room & dial for afternoon food. The rest of the afternoon would be spent in the happy space between awake & not-awake, doing nothing worthwhile. By evening, with the day nearly over, a drive to Butwal would be made, eat Masala Dosa, because some amongst us craved it, catch up on a movie, or park backside on a lounge sofa. कहानी का तात्पर्य यह है की, despite being located just a few hours drive away, Lumbini wasn't still happening.

Lumbini - Nepal - Tortoise - 01
One day, in February, a confluence of circumstances, made it that day. Had needed to buy a Steel Ruler for some time there & the area had turned up ничего. An India trip had to be made for a 150 mm Ruler. A trip to the birthplace of Sita, a colleague, deputed at another Site, made for the same purchase.

One Sunday morning, the Hotel Manager called, asking if I wished to go to Sunauli, across the border. They were making arrangements for a wedding later that week, shopping for which needed to done from there. Why not, more so, since he owned a Dominar 400, a bike I had yet to ride, till then. One thing about Nepal is that people there don't seem own a bike fitted with anything less than a 150cc Engine. The Apache, Pulsar, Dominar or a Royal Enfield Bullet are much more visible there. The mountainous terrain may have influenced it. Anyway, hopped on the bike & away we went. En-route, chatting, I mentioned to him of my unfulfilled visit plans. A quick detour had us on the road to Lumbini.

Lumbini - Gautam Buddha Birthplace - Nepal - 02

The road is, currently, one long unending stretch of Spinal Chord compressing mess. Riding over it, sitting at the back of a bike, primarily meant to be ridden solo, is a test of your faith & desire to reach destination. Changed seats, began driving. With the International Airport under construction, the roads, too, are planned to have a better, butter-top future. But, today it makes for a back-breaking journey, in quite the literal sense.

Mayadevi Temple - Lumbini - Nepal - Gautam Buddha - 02
The original feature of Lumbini is the structure that the Mayadevi Temple encloses. Here, as you go inside it, you walk over a platform, that offers a view below, showing the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have been born. Photography is, unfortunately, prohibited inside.
Mayadevi Temple - Lumbini - Nepal - Gautam Buddha - 03
One striking feature there is the wide range of Currency Notes strewn all over the place. Every Buddhist inhabiting nation had monetary representation down there. Ended up spending more time ID-ing the countries from where people have visited & offered दक्षिणा, than invoking spiritual thoughts. Here, my friend displayed great alacrity & familiarity with the notes. Perhaps, the overseas guests staying at their place may have something to do with the acumen displayed.
Lumbini - Gautam Buddha Birthplace - Nepal - 03
A trend amongst Nepalese, is a work stint abroad, India not included. You'd be hard-pressed to find an adult Nepalese male who hadn't gone to विदेश for work, at some point in his life, & constantly seeking opportunities to go back. The chattier Room Attendant worked earlier in Malaysia assembling Samsung Televisions. One of the Cooks worked in Bahrain, as a 'Mixologist'. The tales he narrated, of it's elites, engaging in activities, away from public gaze, would require them to be re-born multiple times, in order to be stoned to death equal number of times, as per their societal norms. Every other street corner has a banner of Nursing recruitment drives for jobs in Japan. Australia is another destination of choice for their educated Middle-class. The Manager, too, had worked in South Korea & UAE for extended periods of time.
Myanmar Golden Monastery - Lumbini - Nepal - 01

Of Lumbini, it has the appearance of a fairly recent Construction. Every Nation, having Buddhist citizens, has built a Monastery there. Buddhists in France too, I learnt, as they have an under-construction Monastery there. Germans, too, have adherents of Lord Buddha, demonstrated by their Monastic presence in Lumbini. The place has a generally neat & tidy upkeep. After driving past many Monasteries, viewing them in passing, we resumed driving to India, for our main job. 50 metres after crossing the Sunauli border, the first Stationary Shop we visited had the Steel Ruler.

Lumbini - Gautam Buddha Birthplace - Nepal - 04
In hindsight, it is good that we visited Lumbini in February itself, not waiting to visit it more leisurely. The very next month, the Wuhan Coronavirus came calling & we were recalled back from Nepal. A proper tour of Lumbini, visiting all the Monasteries, would require a complete day or two of planned visit to that place.
Mayadevi Temple - Lumbini - Nepal - Gautam Buddha - 04
The plan, here, just entailed striking off an activity from the To-Do list. Mission accomplished.
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Also Read: An Ivoirien …. Without Prologue Or Epilogue