About Maya Devi Temple
The Maya Devi Temple is the spiritual heart of Lumbini, Nepal. In the sacred garden adjoining the temple you can visit the Ashokan Pillar, denoting the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism.
Maya Devi Temple history
Around 563 BC, the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama is believed to have been born at the site of Lumbini. His mother, Maya Devi, was a Koliyan princess married to Suddhodana. In the Shakyas tradition, a tribe of rice-farmers near the India-Nepal border, the pregnant Queen Maya left Kapilavastu for her father’s kingdom to give birth. However, in Buddhist tradition, Buddha was born underneath a sal tree in Lumbini during the journey.
The original Maya Devi Temple was built during the Emperor Ashoka’s visit to Lumbini around 249 BC, using burnt bricks to safeguard the Nativity Sculpture and Marker Stone where Maya Devi had given birth. This temple was rediscovered in 1896 by General Khadga Shamsher and Dr. Anton Fuhrer, who also interpreted the Ashokan Pillar, recognising Lumbini as Buddha’s birthplace.
The mound of the original temple was excavated further by Sir Kaiser Shumsher, reconstructing the temple in 1939. The present Maya Devi Temple was built in 2003 by the Lumbini Development Trust.
In 2013, an international team of archaeologists digging underneath the temple found remains of an ancient tree shrine dated before 550 BC. Researchers, including the excavation leader Robin Coningham of Durham University, speculated this was one of the earliest Buddhist shrines in the world, although this conclusion was cautioned by other academics.
Maya Devi Temple today
Today, the Maya Devi Temple is undoubtedly one of the most revered sites in Buddhism, and therefore a popular site of pilgrimage. Visitors can go inside the current temple to view the original temple platform dating from the 3rd century BC.
Surrounding the temple in the sacred garden, you can also see ancient ruins of stupas, the sacred pool and maroon- and saffron-robed monks congregating under a Bodhi tree adorned with prayer flags.
Bring shoes that can be removed easily at the gate.
Getting to the Maya Devi Temple
The Maya Devi Temple is located at the farthest end of the Lumbini site, a 2.5km walk from the bus park. Lumbini is a 10 hour drive from Kathmandu and a 30 minute drive from the nearest airport at Bhairahawa. The Indian border town of Sonauli is a 1 hour drive from Lumbini, and Nautanwa railway station in India is just a few kilometres away.
Effectively hidden from the western world until the 1950s, Nepal is a country which is full of astoundingly well-preserved and detailed historical sites. Here's our pick of 5 of the best worth visiting.