A quick tour around Lumbini’s temples

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ April 9th, 2013. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Taiwan temple in Lumbini

Taiwan temple: one of the many Lumbini temples

Lumbini’s Buddhist temples from around the world

I must firstly admit I am not a huge fan of endless Buddhist temples. From Nepal, to Tibet, China and Thailand I’ve had my fill of the “Buddhist lifestyle.”  Expensively ornate temples, cars, gadgets, hidden monk romances and the appearance of more than several monk offspring tends to make one a little less at peace with the lifestyle. It wouldn’t be so bad only most of this happens right next to everyday people in need who don’t often take vows.

That’s just me. I get “templed” and “monked” out quite quickly when it comes to these things nowadays.

None-the-less I approached my visit to Lumbini’s temples with as open a mind as possible. I was going to hire a bicycle but thought an early day’s walk in the hot humid weather to be more insane.

That grand plan didn’t last long!

Entrance to Lumbini temple area

Entrance to Lumbini temple area

Hiring a rickshaw and saving the best temple until last

The rickshaw touts outside the main gate were fairly okay. I declined.  Instead I watched a monk at the entrance get out of a new SUV while talking to a guard. Then take out his shiny mobile phone. Get back in the car and drive on.

I plodded on in the heat behind the plume of monk driven dust. I paid my 200 rupee “foreigner fee”. Grumbled at having to pay another 20 rupees for a camera. Then quietly hoped and was thankful I didn’t get charged another 200 additional rupees for a video fee.

I noted the typical Nepalese separate prices listed on a board. And then noted it wasn’t just Nepalese but “Nepalese and Indian” prices. Hmmm.

Next up a 15 minute walk up a pleasant enough driveway like road in the not too pleasant searing heat. At the top I was lost. Go right or straight? My guidebook map was useless and NCell was not able to load google maps. Lovely.

Travel Tip:

Want a real guide to Lumbini? Check out my travel guide to Lumbini. It’s free and tells you whether to go right or straight at the junction!

A couple of uninterested rickshaw drivers asked if I wanted a tour. Prices started flying. I walked away claiming I knew where I was going.

Five minutes later I was back having just walked straight into a chained off area. Rickshaw around Lumbini’s temples it was then …

When guidebooks and apps fail in Nepal – just take a rickshaw!


Chinese temple in Lumbini

There are a lot of temples in Lumbini

My decision to take a rickshaw rather than walk was an exceptional one. Lumbini, it turns out, is a lot bigger than my not to scale map made out. A lot bigger. Even if I’d hired a bicycle I’d be not have enjoyed it all so much. Well, not unless I knew the area better or had a proper map.

The rickshaw driver was also like a walking tour guide. He knew the names of all the temples and locations. While not so great about the detailed history of each temple we at least shared something in common with being templed out. Later he’d nearly get me kicked out of Lumbini for this expertise, but at least he was likable chap.

Here are some reasons why you might get templed out:

Lumbini is huge. It’s split into an East Monastic Zone dedicated to Theravada monasteries. And a West Monastic Zone dedicated to Mahayana traditional monasteries. There’s also a Lumbini Village Zone dedicated to education, research and residential. Finally there’s a world peace stupa at one end and Maya Devi Temple (Buddha’s birthplace) at another end.

In between all these there seemed to be temples from nearly every country in the world. We started with the French Buddhist temple. It looked nice from the outside. Then at the entrance was a monk and what I took for as a Frenchman. They were collecting shoes for people who wanted to go in.

My pet hate is removing my shoes. That and French man looked as if he was about to launch into a convert to the way of the Buddha spiel as I approached. So I diverted to the Tibetan temple next door. Apologies to the French.

Visiting a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Lumbini

The Tibetan temple was a colorful one. Far more colorful than the Tibetan temples I’d seen in Tibet. Perhaps understandably so. It even passed my test to be suitably impressive enough to remove my shoes and actually go in.

Tibetan Temple in Lumbini

Tibetan Temple in Lumbini

Smooth stone flooring helps with shoe removal. A decorative mini garden and a pond distracted me well. All this in front of the impressively tall temple itself. There were quite a few people visiting this temple compared to many of the others in the area. Temple eye candy counts I guess.

Inside was just as colorful. A roof ceiling emblazoned with highly vibrant greens, reds, blues and vivid designs. Meanwhile the shiny marble floor held the center attraction of a Buddha statue.

A meek “no camera” sign and security guard had me wondering what the camera fee I’d paid for was for. I stepped outside and held my camera up. No good, the door cut off the ceiling. It was then the guard came over and said it was okay to take a photo! Finally some karma payback for being shoe-less perhaps?

If you are curious here’s a big photo from inside the Tibetan Temple in Lumbini.

More Lumbini temples again!

I could write about every temple I visited in Lumbini but even I am not that sadistic. Basically unless you are well into your Buddhism. Have a fascination for Buddhist temples or  have a penchant for documenting things (waves)  then it can get a little tiresome.

Many of the temples are actually closed. And a staggering amount were still under construction. Indeed that final point is why I chose not to fully document all the temples in Lumbini. Concrete shells and scaffolding don’t quite make a nice photo.

Instead I stuck with the complete temples and saved my socks some wear and tear for another day.

One thing for sure. It really is amazing just how many countries have temples here from around the world.

The eternal flame of Lumbini

On our way to Maya Devi we trundled by the eternal flame. Always curious I jumped out to read the inscription.

Eternal Flame at Lumbini inscription:

Eternal Flame at Lumbini inscription: This Eternal Flame Symbolising Peace was lit by the Chairman of the Lumbini Development Trust, His Royal Highness Prince Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah on the occasion of the international year of peace 1986, on the 1st of November 1986.

Conclusion on spending a day around Lumbini’s temples

Again, there are lots of them. Unfortunately many are not fully completed and are no more than concrete and scaffolding. Others look near abandoned. Others again were closed.

They are spread out into zones. I’m really glad to have taken a rickshaw rather then cycle around or more insanely walk. Especially if visiting in either monsoon or hot seasons. I’d have liked to have brought a packed lunch and very glad I brought extra water. I stopped off at a small eatery with the rickshaw driver and found some soft drinks with ease. Good food was scarce.

The second best thing I did was leave the star attraction to last. The Maya Devi Temple – Birthplace of the Buddha and one of the most revered religious / ways of life places on earth. A place that my loyal rickshaw driver nearly got me kicked out of …

Coming soon

Maha Devi Temple 

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13 Great responses to A quick tour around Lumbini’s temples

  1. Anna's World says:

    Hi, I never knew that there were so many different Buddhist variations out there. Are there lots of monks around too?

  2. Andre says:

    Must admit I have become a little complacent with the Buddhist lifestyle myself. Practice what you preach does not apply to any religion I know.

  3. Ivy says:

    Fantastic topic with beautiful pictures. Thanks Dave

  4. Inga says:

    Great insights. Do all the temples look the same inside?

  5. Jan says:

    Like other, I never knew much about this place. Great to read and see. I don’t know much about Monks either but hearing about some monks driving around in big cars doesn’t help a cause about living without possessions.

    • It’s been documented well about some monks living quite an different lifestyle to what many people perceive as the Buddhist way. I think some Buddhist leaders need to step up and address these things before there’s a big expose.

  6. Sk says:

    Nice coverage of Lumbini! I along with some of the employees of my workplace had traveled to Lumbini long back. It was my first time visiting Lumbini then. Anyways, I was just googling about visits to Lumbini and came across this. Thanks for covering Nepal on your blog!

    You can see the post here, if you are interested: http://www.everestuncensored.org/2132/2008/03/26/kathmandu-to-lumbini-to-kathamandu/