Four sacred locations - Lumbini
Excerpt Bodhi Leaf 118:
The first place the Buddha urged his followers to visit was Lumbini, where he was born, the son of King Suddhodana of the Sakyan clan. At present Lumbini is in southern Nepal, less than half an hour’s drive from the Indian border. Very little remains here today to remind us of the Buddha. But Emperor Ashoka, who ruled much of India several centuries later, marked a hillock with a pillar proclaiming that he had come here on a pilgrimage because of the place’s importance as the location of Gotama’s birth.
His mother, Queen Mayā, had left her husband’s home in Kapilavatthu to travel to her parents’ residence when she knew her child was soon to be born. But on the way, quite unexpectedly, she gave birth while standing in a forest of sal trees, near Lumbini village.
Along the Path, The Meditator's Companion to Pilgrimage in the Buddha's India and Nepal is a wonderful guidebook, written by one of the guides involved in facilitating Pariyatti pilgrimages. Created for people wanting to travel in India to sit and serve at Vipassana centers, or with the Dhamma as leading part of the journey in general, the book functions as a travel guide with information on topics like transportation and accommodation, but it also traces the Buddha’s life as it unfolded across the sacred sites. It incorporates information on 'sitesitting' throughout, recommending sites to meditate at.
Excerpt: Site Sitting (Lumbini)
The atmosphere, as S.N. Goenka says, is “charged with the vibrations of purity, the vibrations of the Himālaya.” Innumerable beings have been meditating in the place where the Bodhisatta took his last birth. Go and take part!
A nice way to spend your days in Lumbinī is to go templehopping by foot, bike or rickshaw. The sacred garden is a peaceful haven, free from the noise and commotion at other religious sites in India and Nepal.
The Mahāmāyā Temple is said to have been built over the exact spot where Siddhattha was born, which, according to the Nepal Department of Archaeology, is the encased stone slab with a semblance of a rather large baby’s footprint on it.
Excerpt Bodhi Leaf 47 Women in ancient India (Collected Bodhi Leaves II):
Within a week after the birth of Prince Siddhattha who was to become the Buddha, his mother, Queen Mahā Maya, died, and from his infancy the young prince was tended and cared for by his stepmother Mahā Pajāpatī Gotamī who had become the consort of King Suddhodana, the ruler of the Sakya kingdom. Mahā Pajāpatī’s affection towards Prince Siddhattha was the same as for her own children and she took the greatest care of him.
The Life of the Buddha is a unique biography of the Buddha, drawn from the original Pāli texts, with recollections of his personal attendant Ananda and other disciples.
Excerpt Chapter One: The Birth and the Early Years.
“When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, he did not touch the earth. The four deities received him and set him before his mother, saying: ‘Rejoice, O queen, a son of great power has been born to you.’ “When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, just as if a gem were placed on Benares cloth, the gem would not smear the cloth or the cloth the gem—why not?—because both are pure, so too the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb unsullied, unsmeared by water or humours or blood or any sort of impurity, clean and unsullied. “When the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, two jets of water appeared to pour from the sky, one cool and one warm, for bathing the Bodhisatta and his mother.
“As soon as the Bodhisatta was born, he stood firmly with his feet on the ground; then he took seven steps to the north, and, with a white sunshade held over him, he surveyed each quarter. He uttered the words of the Leader of the Herd: ‘I am the Highest in the world, I am the Best in the world, I am the Foremost in the world; this is the last birth; now there is no more renewal of being in future lives.’