Scattered across Asia, from India to South Korea, thousands of Buddhist temples, monasteries, stupas and pagodas serve as places of worship and reminders of the principles of Buddhism.
But none of these architectural gems hold the symbolic and historical value of Lumbini, a province at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains in the Terai plains of southern Nepal. One of four holy pilgrimage sites for the 488 million Buddhists worldwide, this region marks the birthplace of Buddha, who was born Prince Siddhartha Guatama in 623BC to King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya Devi.
A World Heritage Site since 1997, Lumbini has attracted travellers and worshippers for centuries. In 249BC, Indian Emperor Ashoka visited and left his tribute to Buddha: four stupas and a stone pillar with a figure of a horse on top. After a period of neglect, the site was rediscovered in 1896 by German archaeologist Alois Anton Führer and later recognised as Buddha's birthplace based on the analysis of archaeological remains.
Today, more than 400,000 travellers visit the sacred site each year, wandering among the ruins of ancient monasteries and stupas. They walk clockwise around Ashoka's stupas and stone pillar to pay homage, and they explore the Maya Devi Temple, where it's believed that the queen gave birth, bathing in a nearby pond beforehand.
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