Deepavali or Diwali popularly known as the “festival of lights,” is a festival celebrated between mid-October and mid-November for different reasons. For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha or nirvana by Mahavira in 527 BC.
Deepavali is an official holiday in India,Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore,and Fiji.
The name “Diwali” is a contraction of “Deepavali” (Sanskrit: दीपावली Dīpāvalī), which translates into “row of lamps”. Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps (diyas or dīpas) in Sanskrit: दीप) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst in order to drive away evil spirits.During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival, Naraka Chaturdasi, marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the third day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the Bali, and banished him to Patala. It is on the fourth day of Deepawali, Kartika Shudda Padyami, that Bali went to patala and took the reins of his new kingdom in there. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
Deepavali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and is the last major celebration before winter. Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.
There are two legends that associate the worship of Lakshmi on this day. According to the first legend, on this day, Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagar, the Ocean of Milk, during the great churning of the oceans, Samudra manthan. The second legend (more popular in western India) relates to the Vamana avatar of the big three Vishnu, the incarnation he assumed to kill the demon king Bali. On this day, Vishnu came back to his abode the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.
As per spiritual references, on this day “Lakshmi-panchayatan” enters the Universe. Vishnu, Indra, Kubera, Gajendra and Lakshmi are elements of this “panchayatan” (a group of five). The tasks of these elements are: Lakshmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities. Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction) Kubera: Wealth (generosity; one who shares wealth) Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth) Gajendra: Carries the wealth
Goshai Kunda is an holy places of Hindu and Buddhist religions. This place lies in Rashuwa District of Nepal. It is an highly altitude area, near about 5500 Mtr High from sea level. It takes around 3 days walk from Kathmandu, Sundarijal to reach over there and 2 days by bus and hill climbing from Rashuwa, Dunche. Some of the visitors used to effected by natural poison when reached there. It is also a Tourism Places of Nepal. According to Hindu Religion the Goshai Kunda is a holy residential places of Lord Shiva. The Goshai Kunda Places is surrounded by Mountain. Here we can viewed 108 ponds in the land side of High Pick Mountain. It is an amazing view for all visitors. But it is impossible to view all of these ponds by foot. We can views only 5 ponds, that are Surya Kunda, Goshai Kunda (Resident of Lord Shiva) Bhairab Kunda, Sarashowati Kunda, Nag Kunda so on…
Nepal offers a challenging and pleasant scenic ride from the tropical plains of terai, mid-hills, mountainous terrain and its lush valleys to the arctic climate of the high alpine region. The only way to discover these hidden treasures and its warm ever-smiling people is on mountain bikes. Mountain biking is a great fun and a perfect way to discover Nepal’s great diverse landscape, of tremendous terrain, tracks and trails. Where mountain bike takes you away from the hustle bustle of the city-town life into serene country life, on a hidden trail rarely visited area of local villages, its traditional rural life style that has preserved for centuries.
Around the Kathmandu valley the options for mountain biking are endless. You can challenge yourself on long, hilly rides out on the valley rim or just explore the many temples and Newari villages in the lower valley. Or for the less energetic you can have a strictly down hill tour.
Exploring the area on a bike is a fantastic way to experience the local culture and way of life. It allows you to get off the beaten track and explore rural farming areas, National parks and Hill Stations. For long trips there are plenty of guest house scattered around the valley rim, so you can travel easily. You don’t have to bring your own bike; good quality front suspension mountain bikes can easily be hired from Kathmandu or Pokhara.
For the adrenaline seeker there is some really good down hill routes on offer around Kathmandu and Pohkara as well as a newly opened up heritage trail in Langtang to challenge your technical abilities. For the serious rider, there are also mountain bike races throughout the year that are open to foreigners. Please contact us for detail and information. we can tailor any mountain biking trip to suit your needs. Here is a taste of some excellent tours for your Trip.
Rhododendron is Nepal’s national flower of and found especially in the hilly areas above 1200m altitude. It blossoms from March to May in the spring season. The mid mountain vertical belt between 2,000 and 4,000 m serves as the ‘wild’ preserve of the rhodododendron, or GURANS and CHIMAL, the two words being used in Nepali. Below are the major areas for Rhododendron:
1. Langtang national park, near from Kathmandu
2. Makalubarun national park
3. Milke Danda-Jaljale Himal, a transverse mountain range which separates the two river systems of the Tamur and the Arun
4. Upper Tamur River Valley
There are 30 original kinds of Rhododendron and the one that is widespread throughout the country and not found elsewhere, is Rhododendron lowndesit. It has a lemon or velvety yellow flowers, which are short & well-shaped and are retiring or in pairs on the branch. It can be found near Muktinath and Phoksundo of western Nepal. Very grand sightings of Rhododendron can be assured in the south west side of Kanchenjunga area & the upper side valley of the Tamur river system. Nine species of Rhododendron can be observed In the upper area of Langtang Valley at around 2000m. The best time is from late March to mid June, and in addition to the Rhododendron, spring blooms of wild poppy, magnolia and primrose will undoubtedly make any trek a memorable one.
Nepal Geographical Information: Nepal, a sovereign Independent Kingdom, lies between 80 degree 12′ east longitude and 26 degree 22′ and 30 degree 27′ north latitude. It is bounded on the north by the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China; on the east by Sikkim and West Bengal of the Indian Union on the south by Indian States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and on the west by Uttar Pradesh of Indian Union. The length of the Kingdom is 885 kilometers east-west and its breath varies from 145 to 241 kilometers north-south. Climatically, it lies in the temperate zone with the added advantage of altitude.
The country can be divided into three main geographic regions:
Himalayan Region: The altitude of this region ranges between 4877 meters and 8848 meters with the snow line running around 48848 meters. It includes 8 of the existing 14 summits in the world which exceed an altitude of 8000 meters. They represent. (1) Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) 8848 m, (2) Kangchenjunga – 8586 m, (3) Lhotse – 8516m, Makalu – 8463m, (5) ChoOyo- 8201 m, (6) Dhaulagiri – 8167m, (7) Manaslu – 8163m, and Annapurna- 8091 m.
Mountain Region: This region accounts for about 64 percent to total land area. It is formed by the Mahabharat range that soars upto 4877 meters. To its south lies the lower Churia range whose altitude varies from 610 meters to 1524 meters.
Terai Region: The low-land Terai region which has a width of about 26 to 32 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 305 meters, which occupies about 17% of total land area of the country. Kechanakawal the lowest point of the country with an altitude of 70 meters lies in Jhapa District of the eastern Terai
” Hida Bhagavam Jateti Lumini Game” (The Lord Buddha was born here in Lumbini Village). The full text of the inscription in English reads: “Twenty years after the coronation, Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi (Ashok) visited this place and worshiped because here, Lord Buddha, sage of Sakyas was born”. – B. K. Rana 2
Lumbini, the present southwestern Nepalese Tarai, is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimages on earth. Lumbini presents herself as a land of eternal peace and serenity. In fact it is a fountain of love, compassion, nonviolence and world peace also. The importance of this holiest pilgrimage is profound because Buddha was born here some 2600 years ago.
The young pregnant princess Maya Devi was on her way from Kapilvastu to Devadaha 3, her father’s home, as the time had come to deliver 4 baby Siddhartha Gautama – the future Buddha. The ‘Pradimoksha Van’ – Lumbini Garden – so enchanting was it, she virtually could not resist! She thought to stroll around the garden and take a bath also in ‘Pushkarini’ pond down there since the destination was not that far away. After the bath, she felt some pain in her stomach. She went into labour before reaching Devadaha! And a baby boy was born to become – the Enlightened One – the Buddha, the prince of peace, love and compassion. It was on the full moon day, Friday, Vaisakha of 623 B.C. 5
As soon as the baby boy had entered the world, ‘he walked seven steps northwards on lotus petals; raised his right hand forefinger and spoke, “Aggohamamsi Lokassa” 6. At least two celestial figures began pouring water in his worship. In joy, lotuses were thrown down from the heaven also’. This is what the Buddhist texts read and the Buddhists believe in.
Emperor Ashok, having caused a huge bloodshed and loss of lives in the 12 year Kalinga War 7, eventually embraced Buddhism to spread Buddha’s message of nonviolence, compassion and love towards all living beings on the land. Hoping to find peace in mind, he paid a visit to this holiest site in the 20th year of his coronation in 249 B. C. He offered worship to the holy land and ordered exemption of 1/8th on produce tax from the people of Lumbini Village. Such portion used to be a considerable relief to the people of the land at that time.
To commemorate his visit, the emperor erected a stone column engraving a short edict which even today reads: Hida Budhe Jateti Luminigamme – ‘Budddha was born here in Lumbini Village’ so it will be – Ubalike Kate Athabhagiya cha – waived 1/8th of tax on produce henceforward. The Ashokan visit to Lumbini revived waning Buddhism prompting more construction works of monasteries and the like around the birth place from the 3rd century B.C. to 6th century A. D. – recent Lumbini excavations reveal.
Although, not trained in archaeology or epigraphy but having deep interest in the subject and visited Lumbini scores of times and seen through eyes the inscription on the Ashokan Pillar beside the present Maya Devi Temple and other archaeological sites such as Devadaha, Niglihawa and Gotihawa etc. here in this sort write-up, I intend to discuss the profound importance of the Lumbini Ashokan Inscription in determining where the Buddha – the Light of Asia – was born.
Discovery of Ashokan Inscriptions:
Dr. Anton A. Fuhrer discovered Lumbini Ashokan Pillar on December 1, 1896. He saw the pillar ‘standing nine feet above the ground’. And which he later excavated and found the Ashokan inscription ’10 feet below the surface and 6 feet above the base’ 9. The inscription definitively reads Buddha being born in Lumbini of present Nepal. However, there are some researchers out there who doubt it and opine Lumbini ‘a Fuhrer-forged name’ of the village. Whatever be the case, the Ashokan inscription on the pillar standing in the Lumbini Garden can not be debated for its originality.
A similar type of Ashokan inscription was also discovered in Kapileswara, Orissa in 1928. Naturally, this new Ashokan inscription caused a kind of sensation among archaeologists around the world. Thus a controversy on the Buddha’s birth place began. The Kapilesawara inscription gave birth to a new controversy on the Buddha birth place which has not yet ceased even though a century has passed.
A few researchers, particularly from Orissa, India hold a ‘nationalistic view’ regarding the Buddha birth place which may seem natural on their part but such a view appears more partisan than of any academic credence. The Kapileswara inscription is the sole object brought forward in this case; which eminent epigraphists and anthropologists have not received and shared seriously, but rather termed it – ‘not genuine’ or a ‘spurious copy of the record’.
The Orissan scholars argue that Buddha was born in Kapileswara village near the present Bhuvaneshawra in Orissa; not in Lumbini of Nepal. Those who hold this view basically have the following while making their points:
a) Kapileswara Ashokan Inscription discovered in 1928 10,
b) ‘Lembai Pragana’ seen in the maps of 1817 and,
c) Kapileswara in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.
i) Raising a question of authenticity on the present Lumbini Ashokan inscription, Prof. Nabin K. Sahu, a historian from Orissa published a book in 1959 and wrote ‘Buddha was born in Orissa’ 11. Then another book came out to the public eye which reads: ‘the real birth place of Buddha is Kapileswara; not Lumbini of Nepal’. This is apparently a book more for fun-reading than any academic excellence 12. The writer also goes deep into cultural level and finds the Buddha marrying his maternal uncle’s daughter – Yashodhara.
He says, ‘this culture is living in Orissa even today’ 13. Such culture is also living even today among Nepal’s Magar people who live near the hills of Lumbini 14. There are some other cultural issues the writer brings forward with which I prefer not discussing in this short write-up. The Buddha-era culture is living with the Magars of Nepal but a question pops out: Can such a culture last more than 2600 years in some particular community of people?
ii) The ‘Lembai Pragana’ seen in Orissan maps of 1817 has been brought forward in support of the Orissa Buddha birth place claim. The Orissa scholars seem to have found Nepal’s Ashokan ‘Lumbini’ as the corrupt form of ‘Lembai’ of Orissan Kapilesawara or vice versa. These two toponyms look similar but phonetically they are not. They do not have the same philological value either. [Please see – Lumbini Lexical Analysis – below]
iii) The Orissa scholars do not accept present Nepal’s Kapilvastu as the place where the Buddha grew up and where King Shuddodhan ruled from. Their belief strengthens even more when western scholars, like Alexander Cunnigham [1814 – 1893], believe such historic spot near Bhulia in Basti district of North West Indian province. They brush aside Max Muller who disagrees with Cunnigham terming the latter’s view ‘clearly wrong’ 15. Max Muller holds the view that present Nepal’s Kapilvastu is the kingdom that Buddha renounced.
Some scholars have misquoted Cunningham as saying the Lumbini inscription is “not at all related to the name Kapilavastu nor the word Kapil also” 16. It is a perplexing remark made against the English scholar because he was already dead in 1893 before the discovery of Lumbini inscription. The Lumbini was discovered in 1896. Of course there can be an agreement that Sir Cunnigham does not seem to have a clear view on whether the Buddha was born in present Nepal’s Kapilvastu or Lumbini as he writes the Buddha was born in Kapila (Kapilvastu); proceeds forward in another page and again writes the lord was born in Lumbini. But his description offers a clear picture of present Kapilvastu where the Buddha spent his childhood and youth age as well.
While discussing the territory of Sravasti, Cunnigham discusses some of the western regions of present Nepal also. He quotes Hwen Tsang’s travelogue that Sravasti was in between Karnali River in the west and the mountain Dhaulagiri and Faizabad in the east. The Karnali River, one of the major rivers in western Nepal, flows south, even today, towards River Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, India. Mt. Dhaulagiri is one of the eight-thousanders in western Nepal. From Sravasti both Fa-Hian and Hwen Tsang proceeded towards Kapilvastu in the south east direction [both measure 13 yojanas or 91 miles and 500 li or 83 miles respectively] 17. Although the description is hazier, it can point to the right location of present Kapilvastu.
Moving back to the Kapileswara inscription in discussion, Prof. Dines Chandra Sircar, a distinguished epigraphist of India, degrades it as ‘a recent forgery’ and ‘spurious nature of record’. He has discussed it at length in his book and even ridiculed Prof. Vincent A. Smith [1843 – 1920] for publishing a ‘retouched facsimile of the record’ in his history books prescribed for school and university level students of India.
Prof. Sircar adds further up, “The same facsimile became widely known in Eastern India with its reproduction in Hari Parsad Sastri’s ‘History of India’ (in Bengali) meant for school children and later in some text books of the kind. There can hardly be any doubt that the people responsible for the Kapilesawra inscription copied it from the same facsimile not much earlier than 1928.” 18
On the Kapileswara Ashokan inscription, U. C. Mohanty has quoted Prof. Nirmal Kumar Bose, a renowned anthropologist of India as saying, “In order to clarify this issue I asked Maharana to explain this deviation at the end. Maharana narrated that while he was carving the inscription, at the last line there was some shortage of space. When Maharana pointed this difficulty to Biren Babu he suggested to him to cover the empty space with some chisel marks so that the line could not be completed.”
Mohanty further quotes Prof. Bose as saying “when this discovery was announced, the Government made some local enquiries through the Collector of Puri. But Biren Roy was shrewed enough to bribe a Brahmin of Kapileswar with a ten rupee note and this Brahmin deposed before the Revenue Officer that the inscription had been discovered from a broken wall of his house while it was being reconstructed 19.”
Lumbini Lexical Analysis:
The Lumbini Ashokan Pillar standing by the ‘Maya Devi Temple’ in Lumbini Garden speaks the fact. The writing on the pillar,- ‘hida bhagabvam jateti Lummnigame’ – exclusively provides a proof that the Buddha was born in present Nepal’s Lumbini some 2600 years ago. It is therefore worthwhile discussing the lexical importance of – ‘Lummini+game’ i.e. ‘Lumbini’ also.
Fa-Hian transcribes ‘Lumbini’ as ‘Lun-min or Lun-ming’ with two distinctive nasal variations whereas Hwen Tsang ‘sinotizes’ it as ‘La-fa-ni’. These two Fa-Hian and Hwen Tsang variations are due to their reception of a different family lexis. Such difference normally occurs among the speakers of different language families. Here the Indo- European ‘Lumbini’ has either become ‘Lun-min’ or ‘Lunming’ or ‘La-fa-ni’ in Sino-Tibetan, which is very understandable. This is natural and there should be no specific meanings attached to them. But some scholars find Hwen Tsang’s ‘La-fa-ni’ corresponding with ‘La-va-ni’ of Sanskrit, which means ‘a beautiful woman’. Phonetically, ‘La-fa-ni’ and ‘La-va-ni’ bear same voiceless and voiced i.e pharyngeal fricative features. ‘La-fa-ni’ more in the sense is a ‘folk-etymological toponymy’ of ‘Lumbini’ which could have been something like ‘Lam-ba-ni’ referring to later Chinese Buddhist lexicography 20. This lexicography looks somewhat funnier. The lexes ‘Lafani’ and ‘Lavani’ here seem to be referring to Buddha’s grand mother who might have been a beautiful woman.
Some scholars believe ‘Anjan, the king of Devadaha 21 made a beautiful garden and named it ‘Lumbini’ after his Queen Lumbini. The queen was Buddha’s grandmother from his mother’s side’. Not much information is available on the Queen Mother Lavani, however, she could give a famous name to the garden where the Buddha was born 22. Etymologically, ‘Lumbini’ or Lumbinidevi, Rummindei, Rupandevi and Rupandehi all bear the same distinctive feature.
What has also been claimed is that Lumbini is another form of ‘Lhum + beni’ 23 with an aspirated ‘l’ of which ‘Lhum’ means ‘a vast land’ and ‘beni’ means ‘confluence of two rivers’. Lumbini is on a vast land or ‘Tarai’ of western Nepal. And also, there seem to have been some sizable waters around Lumbini in those days. Such as some springs at Lumbini and the Telar River 24 flowing south east of it. They should have made a confluence near Lumbini.
Lumbini Fuhrer Forged Name?
In some cases, Lumbini and Anton Fuhrer stand complementary to each other. Fuhrer discovered the Ashokan pillar and read the engraved letter ‘hid bhagavam jateti Luminigame’. And knew the place was called Lumbini. He discovered the right spot where Buddha was born. But some scholars both inside and outside Orissa cast doubt over the landmark Fuhrer discovery. Some have named it ‘Fuhrer archaeological scandal’ also. The present site is not what Fa-Hian or Hwen Tsang have described in their travel stories or written in other Buddhist scriptures – they add. They even say that Fuhrer confessed his forgery in writing also.
Here if we agreed to Fuhrer being a fraud in naming ‘Lumbini’ of the spot where the pillar was standing; does it mean the present Lumbini should have had some other different name ? Is there any name documented for the place other than ‘Lumbini’ ? If so what was it ? Prof. Smith has written ‘Padaria’ was a neighbouring village of Lumbini. This suggests that he has recognized present Lumbini as the real birth place of the Buddha. But this does not suggest at all that he meant the Buddha was born in ‘Padaria’. Also this does not mean Prof. Smith has ‘challenged Fuhrer’s statement’ on the naming of Lumbini village 25. There is no mentioning, in the Lumbini Ashokan inscription, of ‘Padaria’ whatsoever. Lumbini was already there before Fuhrer discovered it. The name for the village was engraved on the pillar “Hid Bhagavam Jateti Lummini Game”. The Orissan as well as other scholars’ interpretation of what has been written in Prof. Smith’s work is totally misleading – I would rather write here.
The controversy over present Nepalese Lumbini has not ceased over almost a century. Scholars, writers, journalists from around the world write mainly from two different angles: Whether Buddha was born in Lumbini of Nepal or somewhere in India. Some people also argue Buddha was born neither in Nepal’s Lumbini nor in any part of India. A bunch of western scholars hold this view point. What is even startling is that a few other scholars have started writing Buddha was born in Iran! 26 The Lumbini Ashokan Pillar Inscription has not received a universal recognition yet.
And, not a single research paper or book has come out without any partisan line in this subject. Some scholars are found solely sticking to ‘manufactured myths’ while discussing the Buddha birth place. Myths are manufactured in leisure and mostly are unreliable. From the part of Nepalese scholars, they have even now begun discussing’ a ‘marker stone’ 27 that they hope ‘would determine the exact location !’
How could such a stone be definitive evidence that the Buddha was born exactly in that chamber there ? What on earth would researchers and scholars from around the world simply accept such publicity in media and ‘put the debate to rest’ as the prime minister had hoped for? 28 This view contradicts with that in scriptures or travelogues of different famous travelers that the Buddha was born under a tree either Ashok or Sal – we don’t know for sure. But of course, we can believe the Buddha was born in present day Nepal’s Lumbini.
Nepal, not in India:
The Buddha was born in present Nepal, not in India – clear and simple. Some Indian writers in the past willfully or otherwise supplied wrong information in history books about the Buddha birth place and put them into school, college syllabuses. Then each generation of students began receiving wrong information. Inculcated with wrong information, the new generation students later grew up and began disseminating ‘false information’ without going deep into the facts. What they were taught, they wrote. The facts on the ground did not match and the controversy began.
In short, the Orissan claim that the Ashokan Inscription was copied and a duplicate pillar was erected in Lumbini of Nepal bears no substance at all. The simple question to this claim is, who would have copied the old Asokan inscription hundreds of years later and hid it in Nepal’s Tarai to protect from those violent Sankarachayras hundreds of miles away? Why did they not dig a hole and hide it under ground somewhere in Orissa as in Kathmandu’s Budhanilkantha 29 ?
Besides Hwen Tsang and Fa-hian’s travelogues, the internal evidence of the Pali canon is clear enough: the Buddha was born in Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, which used to be one of the Bihar-area tribal Gana polities like their neighbors; the Malla, where he died, or the powerful Vrijji etc. All of them were in present Bihar or Nepalese Tarai, not in Orissa.
Majjhima Desha, Jambu Dwipa:
There can hardly be any different opinions that the importance of media in the Google age is extraordinarily great and challenging. Therefore, media people are always expected to publish or transmit correct information to the public. But as of the Buddha birth place conspiracy theory, some of those media persons have been found misquoting scholars of international name and standing.
Such a misquoted scholar has become Prof. Hermann Kulke, a renowned indologist now awarded with ‘Padma Shri’ for his outstanding contribution towards Indian History and Culture. The award is the fourth highest of civilian awards given by the Indian Government generally to recognize someone’s distinguished contribution in various spheres of activity including Arts, Education, Industry, Literature, Science, Sports, Medicine, Social Service and public life.
Prof. Kulke needed to issue a public statement following a leading daily newspaper from New Delhi, India and some other news outlets 30 misquoted him ‘backing the Orissan claim’. Refuting what had appeared in the media, Prof. Kulke posted a statement on December 21, 2004 31.
Another less heard but interesting claim so far made by another Orissan scholar is that Buddha himself had said he was born in the “Majjhima Desha of Jambu Dwipa”. He argues the ‘Majjhima Desh’ of Jambu Dwip can not be Nepal. Here the writer himself appears to be forgetting that Orrisa too, doesn’t happen to be in central India or ‘Majjhima Desh of Jambu Dwip’. Orissa is on the east edge by the Bay of Bengal in the Indian subcontinent. It is not at the center of India.
The writer quotes, “Edward J. Thomas 32 had clearly said that the Jatakas and Lalita Vistara described the words of Buddha himself in this connection” of his birth in the Middle Province of India. 33
Here the “Pali Majjhima-desa is a small area in Malla country near Lumbini” 34 – not in Orissa. It is called ‘Madhyadesha or modern Madesh”. Nepal’s Tarai is also known as ‘Madhesh’ which may look identical to Madhya Pradesh of India, but not any particular place in Orissa.
On the growing list, the Orissan scholars have also dragged down a noted Oxford historian Prof. Vincent A. Smith to the Lumbini – Fuhrer controversy. They claim Prof. Smith did not accept Dr. Fuhrer’s naming of ‘Lumbini’ as the spot where the Ashokan pillar was standing.
This is also a wrong interpretation of what the historian has written. Posting the top-part-broken, half-excavated photo of the pillar in his book Prof. Smith writes, “The Rummindei ruins lie 4 miles inside the Nepalese border, and a little to the west of the Tilar river” 35. I am at a loss to understand why the Orissan scholars have required dragging this scholar into the controversy?
The other interesting point brought in this conspiracy theory is that ‘no Buddhism was adopted in Nepal until the 6th Century A. D. So the Lumbini Ashokan inscription bears no truth.’ This is also another bewildering remark the Orissan scholars have made so far in this connection.
What can be said here is that King Ashok had visited Nepal (Kathmandu valley) sometime after his pilgrimage to Lumbini and constructed four stupas in four different corners of the valley. He gave his daughter Charumati to Devpal – prince of Nepal. Charumati lived in Chabahil near Pashupati Temple. After the death of her husband Devapal, Charumati built a town and named it – ‘Devpatan’ – in memory of the dead husband. Later she became a nun herself and spread Buddhism in the valley.
So, where was Buddha born? The straight answer to this question is absolutely ‘yes, in present Nepal’s Lumbini’. The Lumbini Ashokan inscription is the evidence. Alongside the Lumbini garden; are Bodha Gaya in Bihar, Kushinagar, [Kshauvati in Jatak Katha, the Capital City of Malla] in Utter Pradesh and Sarnath, also in Utter Pradesh. These are the other Buddhist holiest places in the Indian Subcontinent closely related to life and death of the Buddha. Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar are near Nepal border whereas Saranath [also called Isipatana in Pali Canon, is near Vanaras] in Uttar Pradesh. Being in the proximity of Lumbini, these holiest sites also offer themselves as another proof that Buddha was born here in Nepal’s Lumbini. If the Buddha were born in Orissa or somewhere else, these kinds of holy sites would have also certainly been near Orissa or somewhere else by some different names.
The Buddha came to this world, obtained enlightenment, preached his ‘dharma’ and died in those four different holy places. Except for those four different places, he does not seem to have visited some other places in his life. So there should be no question at all whether the Buddha was born in Orissa or had ever visited it. It is therefore relevant to put here the widely acclaimed native Orrisa historian Prof. Karuna Sagar Behera’s view in this connection.
Prof. Behera said, “The Buddha was neither born in Orissa nor visited the place during his lifetime.” 36, But he added that Orrisa contributed immensely to the growth and development of Buddhism in the Indian sub-continent. Keeping in view, the paramount historical and religious importance, of these four holiest Buddhist pilgrimages, concerned governments should always endeavour to preserve them and develop for tourism and education also. These governments should also keep close eyes on school curricula exclusively on matters relating to the birth place of the Buddha so that coming generations would receive correct information and no chances would be left wide open for any kind of antagonism between the peoples of these two neighbouring countries.
Additionally at the end, there were no boundaries that we have today in between Nepal and India when the Buddha was born. We do not know for sure whether these two countrynames ever existed then. Here is a quote from George Curzon, former Viceroy of India but earlier a geographer who trekked through the Pamirs and wrote a book about it: “The idea of a demarcated frontier is itself an essentially modern conception which finds little or no place in the ancient world.” 37
And, Prof. Michael Witzel 38 of Harvard University says, “Between 1816 and 1864, the Buddha was born, at Lumbini (Rummindei), in British India. Before and after that date: in Nepal”.
The towering Himalaya Mountains attest to the colossal tectonic force of the Indian Subcontinent as it plows into mainland Asia.
Nepal also marks the collision point between Hinduism and Buddhism, between the Tibeto-Burmese language group and the Indo-European, and between Central Asian culture and Indian culture.
It’s little wonder, then, that this beautiful and diverse country has fascinated travelers and explorers for centuries.
Capital and Major Cities:
Kathmandu, population 702,000
Pokhara, population 200,000
Patan, population 190,000
Biratnagar, population 167,000
Bhaktapur, population 78,000
As of 2008, the former Kingdom of Nepal is a representative democracy.
The president of Nepal serves as chief of state, while the prime minister is head of government. A Cabinet or Council of Ministers fills out the executive branch.
Nepal has a unicameral legislature, the Constituent Assembly, with 601 seats. 240 members are directly elected; 335 seats are awarded by proportional representation; and 26 are appointed by the Cabinet.
The Sarbochha Adala (Supreme Court) is the highest court.
The current president is Ram Baran Yadav; former Maoist rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Prachanda) is Prime Minister.
According to Nepal’s constitution, all of the national languages can be used as official languages.
There are over 100 recognized languages in Nepal. The most commonly used are Nepali (also called Gurkhali or Khaskura), spoken by nearly 60 percent of the population, and Nepal Bhasa (Newari).
Nepali is one of the Indo-Aryan languages, related to European languages.
Nepal Bhasa is a Tibeto-Burman tongue, part of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Roughly 1 million people in Nepal speak this language.
Other common languages in Nepal include Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, Awadhi, Kiranti, Magar, and Sherpa.
Nepal is home to nearly 29,000,000 people. The population is primarily rural (Kathmandu, the largest city, has less than 1 million inhabitants).
Nepal’s demographics are complicated not only by dozens of ethnic groups, but by different castes, which also function as ethnic groups.
In total, there are 103 castes or ethnic groups.
The two largest are Indo-Aryan: Chetri (15.8% of the population) and Bahun (12.7%). Others include Magar (7.1%), Tharu (6.8%), Tamang and Newar (5.5% each), Muslim (4.3%), Kami (3.9%), Rai (2.7%), Gurung (2.5%) and Damai (2.4%).
Each of the other 92 castes/ethnic groups make up less than 2%.
Nepal is primarily a Hindu country, with more than 80% of the population adhering to that faith.
However, Buddhism (at about 11%) also exerts a lot of influence. The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born at Lumbini, in southern Nepal.
In fact, many Nepalese people combine Hindu and Buddhist practice; many temples and shrines are shared between the two faiths, and some deities are worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists.
Smaller minority religions include Islam, with about 4%; the syncretic religion called Kirat Mundhum, which is a blend of animism, Buddhism, and Saivite Hinduism, at about 3.5%; and Christianity (0.5%).
Nepal covers 147,181 sq. kilometers (56,827 sq. miles), sandwiched between the People’s Republic of China to the north and India to the west, south and east. It is a geographically diverse, land-locked country.
Of course, Nepal is associated with the Himalayan Range, including the world’s tallest mountain, Mt. Everest. Standing at 8,848 meters (29,028 feet), Everest is called Saragmatha or Chomolungma in Nepali and Tibetan.
Southern Nepal, however, is a tropical monsoonal lowland, called the Tarai Plain. The lowest point is Kanchan Kalan, at just 70 meters (679 feet).
Most people live in the temperate hilly midlands.
Nepal lies at roughly the same latitude as Saudi Arabia or Florida. Due to its extreme topography, however, it has a much wider range of climate zones than those places.
The southern Tarai Plain is tropical/subtropical, with hot summers and warm winters. Temperatures reach 40°C in April and May. Monsoon rains drench the region from June to September, with 75-150 cm (30-60 inches) of rain.
The central hill-lands, including the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys, have a temperate climate, and are also influenced by the monsoons.
In the north, the high Himalayas are extremely cold and increasingly dry as the altitude rises.
Despite its tourism and energy-production potential, Nepal remains one of the world’s poorest countries.
The per capita income for 2007/2008 was just $470 US. Over 1/3 of Nepalis live below the poverty line; in 2004, the unemployment rate was a shocking 42%.
Agriculture employs more than 75% of the population, and produces 38% of GDP. The primary crops are rice, wheat, maize, and sugarcane.
Nepal exports garments, carpets, and hydroelectric power.
The civil war between Maoist rebels and the government, which began in 1996 and ended in 2007, severely reduced Nepal’s tourism industry.
$1 US = 77.4 Nepal rupees (Jan. 2009).
History of Nepal:
Archaeological evidence shows that Neolithic humans moved into the Himalayas at least 9,000 years ago.
The first written records date back to the Kirati people, who lived in eastern Nepal, and the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. Stories of their exploits begin around 800 B.C.
Both Brahmanic Hindu and Buddhist legends relate the tales of ancient rulers from Nepal. These Tibeto-Burmese peoples feature prominently in ancient Indian classics, suggesting that close ties bound the region almost 3,000 years ago.
A pivotal moment in Nepal’s history was the birth of Buddhism. Prince Siddharta Gautama (563-483 B.C.), of Lumbini, forswore his royal life and devoted himself to spirituality. He became known as the Buddha, or “the enlightened one.”
In the 4th or 5th century A.D., the Licchavi dynasty moved into Nepal from the Indian plain. Under the Licchavis, Nepal’s trade ties with Tibet and China expanded, leading to a cultural and intellectual renaissance.
The Malla dynasty, which ruled from the 10th to 18th centuries, imposed a uniform Hindu legal and social code on Nepal. Under the pressure of inheritance fights and Muslim invasions from northern India, the Malla were weakened by the early 18th century.
The Gurkhas, led by the Shah dynasty, soon challenged the Mallas. In 1769, Prithvi Narayan Shah defeated the Mallas and conquered Kathmandu.
The Shah dynasty proved weak. Several of the kings were children when they took power, so noble families vied to be the power behind the throne.
In fact, the Thapa family controlled Nepal 1806-37, while the Ranas took power 1846-1951.
In 1950, the push for democratic reforms began. A new constitution was finally ratified in 1959, and a national assembly elected.
In 1962, though, King Mahendra (r. 1955-72) disbanded the Congress and jailed most of the government. He promulgated a new constitution, which returned most of the power to him.
In 1972, Mahendra’s son Birendra succeeded him. Birendra introduced limited democratization again in 1980, but public protests and strikes for further reform rocked the nation in 1990, resulting in the creation of a multiparty parliamentary monarchy.
A Maoist insurgence began in 1996, ending with a communist victory in 2007. Meanwhile, in 2001, the Crown Prince massacred King Birendra and the royal family, bringing the unpopular Gyanendra to the throne.
Gyanendra was forced to abdicate in 2007, and the Maoists won democratic elections in 2008.