Thousands of visitors come to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha every year. Many come from countries where Buddhism is a predominant religion, such as Japan and Sri Lanka, and for them, it is more of a pilgrimage rather than just a tourist destination. For others, Lumbini not only attracts them because it is where the ‘Apostle of Peace’ was born, but also because of the beautiful landscape and the lovely monasteries situated thereon.
The Lumbini Development Trust area is divided into three zones, 1. Sacred Garden Zone 2. Monastic Zone, that includes the East Zone where followers of Theravat Buddhism (Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, etc.) have built monasteries and the West Zone where countries with predominant followers of Mahayana branch of Buddhism (Vietnam, Kampuchea, Bhutan, Japan etc.) as well as followers of Tibetan Buddhism (like, Drigyul Kagyul Sect) have built monasteries and 3. Educational and Culture Zone that includes a research area.
It was in 1976 during a visit by U Thant, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, along with His Majesty, the late King Birendra, that the idea of developing the site into an international Buddhist Center was first mooted. A one by three mile area was immediately sanctioned for the purpose and the Lumbini Development Trust was established to oversee the project. Japanese architect Kenzo Tange was appointed chief architect who, by 1978, had drawn up the master plan.
The largest plots in the area measure 160 meters by 160 meters while the smallest are 80 meters by 80 meters. Many Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China, Myanmar, Kampuchea, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka besides of course Nepal have built monasteries there. Among the many monasteries, one stands out in particular. Located on plot number WB4 on the west side of the Monastic Zone, it measures 120 meters by 120 meters (14,400 sq. m) and is one of the prominent monasteries in the area rising to a height of 40 meters (similar to the Shanti Stupa at the site). This is the famous ‘The Great Lotus Stupa’.
Construction began in May 2000 and on 27th February 2004, ´The Great Lotus Stupa´ was inaugurated. The centrally located meditation hall is 10 meters high with a diameter of 20 meters, and above it is the stupa which alone measures 27 meters. It is said that ‘Where there is a stupa, there is a Buddha’ and so, you will find the meditation hall right beneath the stupa. Externally, the main hall is square shaped, but inside it is a column-free dome-shaped construction. Besides the main hall and the stupa, accommodations for comfortably housing 50 to 60 people have been built on the site.
Commissioned by Tara Foundation, which has built stupas in Germany, near Frankfurt, in Austria, India (Sanskara and Pitthorgarh), and in Nepal (Swayambhu, Tatopani), the massive project had Rajesh Shrestha of Vastukala Paramharsh as its architect. Reportedly, the stupa design goes back to the writings of Tibetan scholar Rigzin Choskyi Drakpa and is based on his ideas. The measurements and style of the stupa are according to principles dating back thousands of years.
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