The then United Nations Secretary General, U. Thant’s pilgrimage to Lumbini in 1967 was another milestone in the recent history of Lumbini. Deeply influenced by the sanctity of Lumbini, the Secretary General discussed the matter with the then King Mahendra and advised Government of Nepal to develop Lumbini as an international pilgrimage and a tourist center. Renowned Japanese architect Prof. Kenzo Tange was assigned the task of designing a master plan for the systematic development of Lumbini. The Lumbini Development Master Plan was approved by Nepal Government in 1978.
The Lumbini Master Plan, spread in an area of 1×3 square mile, oriented along the north-south axis, encompasses three zones (1) the Sacred Garden, (2) the Monastic Zone, and (3) the New Lumbini Village, based on the notion of the path to enlightenment. Each of the zones covers an area of a square mile.
The Sacred Garden is the epicenter of the Master Plan and comprises the sacred birthplace of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha. Historical monuments and objects of high archaeological, religious and spiritual value located in this zone include the Mayadevi Temple, the Asoka Pillar, the Marker Stone, the Nativity Sculpture, Sacred Pond (Puskarini), and many structural ruins including Buddhist Viharas & Stupas. The Sacred Garden landscape is encircled by a Circular Pond and a Circular Levee, which symbolise the purity and simplicity of the mandala, a mystic symbol of the universe.
The Monastic Zone, an area of 1 sq. mile in the middle of the Master Plan has been divided into two zones by a 1. 6km long pedestrian walkways and a canal in the middle.
2a) The East Monastic Zone represents the Theravada (Hinayana) school of Buddhism where 13 plots are allotted for construction of Viharas.
2b) The West Monastic Zone comprises 29 plots of land, each allotted for construction of Mahayana monasteries. Currently there are three meditation centers in operation in this zone. The statue of standing Baby Buddha, Central Canal and its boating facility, the Eternal Peace Flame, the Peace Bell etc. in the monastic zone are of great interest for the visitors.
The Cultural Center and New Lumbini Village represents “worldly” activities and provide information, accommodation and utility facilities for pilgrims and the visitors. Hotels, visitor information center, Lumbini Museum, Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI), administration complex etc. are located here. Other important sites of visitors’ interest in New Lumbini Village include the World Peace Pagoda of Japan and the Lumbini Crane Sanctuary.
After formation of Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) in 1985 AD, development activities in Lumbini including excavations and conservations of the holy complex are being carried out under the aegis of the Trust. Development of Lumbini in line with the approved Lumbini Development Master Plan is still going on.