Incredible Discovery Reveals Birthplace of Buddha
In what will become one of the most significant discoveries in Nepal in decades, archaeologists have found the birthplace of Buddha and therefore the origins of Buddhism. This is the first ever archaeological finding directly linked to the life of Buddha.
The ground-breaking discovery was made following excavations within the sacred Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which has long been believed to be the birthplace of Buddha. Archaeologists worked alongside meditating monks, nuns, and pilgrims to unveil what will perhaps become one of the greatest sites for the half a billion Buddhists around the world.
Under a series of brick temples, the research team found a 6 th century BC timber structure with an open space in the centre, which links to the nativity story of Buddha. Even more surprising was evidence of tree roots and a tree shrine, which supports Buddhist ‘mythology’ that the birth took place under a tree.
“By placing the life of the Gautama Buddha firmly into the sixth century B.C. we can understand the exact character of the social and economic context in which he taught — it was a time of dramatic change with the introduction of coinage, the concept of the state, urbanization, the growth of merchants and the middle classes,” said Robin Coningham, co-leader of the project and archaeologist at Durham university.
Until now, the earliest archaeological evidence of Buddhist structures date no earlier than the third century BC, the time when Emperor Asoka ruled the country and was responsible for spreading Buddhism to neighbouring countries, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Buddhist tradition maintained that Queen Maya Devi, the mother of Buddha, gave birth to him while holding on to the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden. Now researchers firmly believe that the open space in the centre of the timber structure contained the very tree that Queen Maya Devi clung onto as Guatama Buddha entered the world. This is further supported by the fact that brick temples were later built upon the timber once, also arranged around the central space, which was unroofed, most likely to accommodate the tree.
“The fact that all three shrines were constructed around a tree also provides us with a unique insight into Buddhist veneration before the introduction of the image of the Buddha centuries later,” said Coningham.
Buddha is recorded as having recommended that all Buddhists visit Lumbini and evidence for the sites’ popularity goes back as far as the first millennium AD.
"These discoveries are very important to better understand the birthplace of the Buddha," said Ram Kumar Shrestha, Nepal's minister of culture, tourism and civil aviation. "The government of Nepal will spare no effort to preserve this significant site."