Shakyamuni Buddha was born in Lumbini, in southern Nepal, twenty-five hundred years ago. Since his time, Nepal has been a sacred ground for Buddhists as the birthplace of the Buddha. Lumbini is a small town in the southern Terai plains of Nepal, where the ruins of the old city can still be seen. Shakyamuni Buddha was born to a royal family.
Lumbini has been a holy ground for Buddhists all over the world. The restored garden and surroundings of Lumbini have the remains of many of the ancient stupas and monasteries. A large stone pillar erected by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC bears an inscription about the birth of the Buddha.
An important part of Lumbini is the temple of Maya Devi. It has a stone image of Maya Devi giving birth to Lord Buddha as she holds onto a branch. The tree is believed to have been well worn by the strokes of barren women hoping for fertility. To the south of the temple is a pool where Queen Maya Devi is said to have bathed and given her son his first purification bath.
A quiet garden, shaded by the leafy Bo tree (the type of tree under which Buddha received enlightenment), and a newly-planted forest nearby lend an air of tranquillity which bespeaks Buddha's teachings. Lumbini is now being developed under the Master Plan of the Lumbini Development Trust.
An important archeological site near Lumbini, Kapilvastu evokes the ancient palace where Lord Buddha spent his formative years. Scattered foundations of the palace are abundant, and archeologists have by now discovered 13 successive layers of human habitation dating back to the eighth century BC. Besides its religious and historical significance, Lumbini offers cultural insights into the village life of southern Nepal.
Today, Lumbini is beginning to receive travellers' and archaeologists' attention after centuries of neglect. Serious preservation work has only just been started in the latter half of this century and Lumbini as a slice of history is worth seeing and worth preserving.
Most of domestic airlines fly regularly to Bhairahawa, near Lumbini, and bus services are available from Pokhara and Kathmandu also.
Named after the legendary King Janak, Janakpur was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Mithila, the native country of goddess Sita, the wife of the Hindu god Ram and the heroine of the great Hindu epic Ramayana. Today Janakpur stands as one of the interesting places among all the towns of Terai
Janakpur has become a great piligrimage site for Hindus today. The most sacred sites are the Janaki Mandir, dedicated to goddess Sita, the Ram Sita bibaha(marriage) mandir, built over the spot where Ram and Sita were said to have been married, Ram Mandir, dedicated to god Ram and the holy pond Dhanush Sagar. Hundreds of Nepali and Indian devotees come here every year to pay their respect to the goddess at this temple.
Besides the religious importance, Janakpur is also the center for the revival of the ancient Mithila art and craft. As a tradition, Mithila women have always been decorating the walls of their houses with paintings depicting figures from Hindu mythology in abstract forms, sometimes resembling a mandala.
Chitwan National Park
Surrounding Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal is one of the best planned and most intelligently developed tourist areas in Nepal. Not only does it offer a wide variety of resorts and lodges, it is also easy to reach - by road or by air. Regular flights are scheduled by Nepal Airlines and other airlines to Meghauli, Simara and Bharatpur. Many resorts provide coach service. Local buses offer a choice between a night ride and a day ride.
Chitwan National Park is perhaps the best park in Nepal for seeing animals in the wild. In the earlier part of the century, when rapid deforestation was devastating Nepal's southern Terai belt, Government of Nepal intervened and proclaimed the Chitwan area a national park outlawed settlement and deforestation within its boundaries, and a campaign to save the animals began.
Royal Bengal tigers roam the region; one-horned rhinos can be seen charging through the underbrush, feeding and even courting. The Rapti River has been dammed to form a man-made lake called Lamital where water-birds and marsh mugger peckers and many other birds are found in plenty in these forests.
Elephant grass, five to six feet tall, provides excellent camouflage for animals. This grass serves as food for the gaur (a local bison), rhino and other herbivores. Once a year, local people are allowed into the park area to cut grass. The grass is dried, and used to thatch roofs or stored for food for the domestic animals during the dry season.
Chitwan is easily accessible from Kathmandu, being well connected by a national highway to Bhadrapur and Sauraha. There are daily flights to Meghauli airstrip just outside the park boundry.
Royal Bardia National Park
The Royal Bardia National Park is the largest and most undisturbed wild area of the Terai. Simialar to Chitwan but drier and more remote, it encompasses 1,000 square km of riverine grassland and sal forests.
Bardia has the country's second largest tiger population, plus blackbuck antelopes, a few wild elephants, Gharial crocodiles, birds and mammals, and some rare Gangetic dolphins in the Karnali River on its western border.
Bardia lies in the far-western region of Nepal. Most people prefer to fly to Nepalgunj, which has an airfield.