The Asoka Pillar was erected here in Lumbini by the Emperor Asoka in 249 BC to mark the birthplace of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha and to commemorate his visit to Lumbini. The Asoka inscription engraved in Brahmi script and Pali language attests Lumbini to be the birthplace of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha.
The Asoka Pillar bears the first epigraphic evidence with reference to the birthplace of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha. The text written in Brahmi script and Pali language is translated as follows:
“King Piyadasi (Asoka) the beloved of the Gods, in the twentieth year of his reign, himself made a royal visit. Sakyamuni Buddha was born here, therefore the (birth spot) marker stone was worshipped and a stone pillar was erected. The lord having been born here, the tax of the Lumbini village reduced to the eight part (only) ”.
Erection of this Pillar in Lumbini by Emperor Asoka was also described by early Chinese travelers including Hiuen Tsang (636 AD) and Fa-hsien (399-413 AD). In 1312 AD, Ripu Malla, the king 40 of western Nepal paid homage to Lumbini and engraved the following words: Om Mani Padme Hum Ripu Malla Chiran Jayatu on the eastern side of the upper part of the pillar.
The pillar, which was lost in the bush after the visit of Ripu Malla was rediscovered by Dr. A. A. Fuhrer and General Khadga Shumsher JBR during the excavation carried out on December 1, 1896. The pillar is a conglomerate made up of sandstone and sedimentary rock. The excavation work by Indian archaeologist Mrs. Debala Mitra confirmed that the pillar has a Mauryan polish typical of finished stone from a quarry in the neighborhood of Chunar (near Varanasi, U. P. India). The pillar when first erected was about 40 feet long, and originally had three parts: (i) the monolithic pillar, (ii) a lotus bracket, and (iii) a crowning figure, which was possibly a horse. The present monolithic pillar is 30 feet 10.5 inches (9.41m) long. The middle part of the pillar ‘lotus bracket’ is recently placed on a raised brick platform near the pillar. As mentioned by Hiuen Tsang, the crowning part of the pillar was a horse image, which unfortunately is still missing.