LUMBINI, Nepal – A dozer was clearing a plot of land in Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, on Saturday afternoon. The preparation was for the construction of a sanctuary in the shape of a lotus flower on the eastern part of the Monastic Zone in Lumbini.Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, an American Buddhist leader, is building the structure with the hopes of creating a pilgrimage site.
When completed, it is likely to be a major tourist draw among other monasteries that have been constructed in Lumbini, said officials at the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT), an agency established by the government to oversee the implementation of the master plan to develop Lumbini as a pilgrimage site.
“Tourists from a particular country feel connected to the holy place when they see monastery of their country. It is a reason why Lumbini is increasingly seeing more tourists in recent years,” said Gyanin Rai, chief of Kathmandu-based office of LDT.
After the construction of various pilgrimage sites like monasteries, tourists visiting the Lumbini have increased drastically. The tourist footfall increased by 40.57 percent to 1.19 million in 2014.
According to data of LDT, a total of 849,273 tourists from 83 different countries visited Lumbini last year. In 2012, 758,269 visitors arrived.
Similarly, domestic tourists comprised the highest number visitors to Lumbini in 2014, followed by those from India. A total of 902,621 Nepalis visited Lumbini in 2014, up from 573,529 in 2013.
Many organizations and religious leaders from countries like China, Japan, Vietnam, Germany, France, South Korea, Singapore, Burma, Canada and Cambodia have either constructed or are in the process of building monasteries in the zone as part of the Master Plan of Lumbini by raising funds.
The lotus-shaped sanctuary, which has been named “The Mahasiddha Sanctuary for Universal Peace,” is one of such structures.
The sanctuary is designed by Germany’s famous architect Stephan Braunfels, who had designed the building of German Parliament in Berlin. The site is less than a mile away from Maya Devi Temple.
Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, the spiritual leader behind the initiative, said that he wanted to construct the structure to draw attention of the people across the world to Nepal. “I believe that the construction of such beautiful structures will help the birthplace get wider popularity. Plus, it makes the holy site even more beautiful,” added he, who has already constructed Shyalpa Holistic Healing and Retreat Center adjacent to Shyalpa Monastery in Kathmandu.
The sanctuary, which will be three-story tall, will consist of a magnificent main hall honoring the birth of the Buddha, a museum, a print and digital library (containing a complete collection of Buddhist literature to date in all languages), a retreat center, conference facilities, and accommodation for monks and nuns. The hall, which can accommodate over 1500 people, will serve as a meditation center for pilgrims visiting the holy place.
“We want the structure to serve as a focal point for everyone to channel their energies towards the great purpose of universal harmony and happiness,” he said, adding, the building is be constructed by raising funds from Buddhist people across the world.