The Buddha, the founder of the great religious philosophy of Buddhism, lived in North India over two thousand and five hundred years ago and was known as Siddhattha (Siddhartha = one whose purpose has been achieved). Gotama (Sanskrit= Gautama) was his family name. His father, King Suddhodana, ruled over the land of the Sakyans at Kapilavatthu on the Nepalese frontier. His queen was Mahamaya, a princess of the Koliyas.
On a full-moon day of May, when the trees were laden with leaf, flower and fruit, and man, bird and beast were in joyous mood, Queen Mahamaya was travelling in state from Kapilavatthu to Devadaha, her parental home, according to the custom of the times, to give birth to her child. But that was not to be, for halfway between the two cities, in the Lumbini grove, under the shade of a flowering Sal tree, she brought forth a son.
Lumbini or Rummindei, the name by which it is now known, is 100 miles north of Variinasi and within sight of the snowcapped Himalayas. At this memorable spot where Prince Siddhattha, the future Buddha, was born, Emperor Asoka, 316 years after the event, erected a mighty stone pillar to mark the holy spot. The inscription engraved on the pillar in five lines consists of ninety-three Asokan (brahmi) characters, amongst which occurs the following:
'Hida Budhe jate Sakyamuni', 'Here was born the Buddha, the sage of the Sakyans'. The mighty column is still to be seen. The pillar, 'as crisp as the day it was cut', had been struck by lightning even when Hiuen Tsiang, the Chinese pilgrim, saw it towards the middle of the seventh century after Christ. The discovery and identification of the Lumbini park in I896 is attributed to the renowned archaeologist, General Cunningham.