Gudrun Buhnemann

The Buddha’s Return Journey to Lumbinī

According to Newar Buddhists, Śākyamuni Buddha visited his birthplace Lumbinī after his enlightenment. Depictions of this journey became popular in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Nepal. They show the Buddha riding standing up on a snake while
being attended by Hindu deities in service to him. The scene, known as the lumbinī-yātrā, is represented in numerous paintings and in wood and metal work, and is also described in texts. This strand of the Buddha legend is specific to Newar Buddhism and
not attested in Indian biographic or hagiographic accounts of the Buddha’s life. This paper will trace the history of the lumbinīyātrā theme by examining descriptions in texts and artistic representations. Professor Buhnemann will then discuss elements of the yātrā which are also found independently in other contexts. In conclusion, she will offer some thoughts on the significance of the lumbinīyātrā theme.

Professor Gudrun Buhnemann received a Ph.D. (Classical Indian and Buddhist Studies) from the University of Vienna in 1980. Her areas of specialization are Classical Indian Studies (Indology), Sanskrit language and literature, Hinduism, Indian Buddhism, Tantric iconography and ritual.