The Legend of Buddha
Buddha was born in 563 BC, in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal to the king of Kapilavasthu (Shakya kingdom) Shuddhodana and Queen Mayadevi. He was given the name Siddhartha Gautama then. It is believed that, shortly after his birth, an astrologer named Asita prophesied to the King that Siddhartha would either become a great king or renounce the material world to become a holy man. The astrologer also said that it depends on what life he would see outside the palace walls.
King Suddhodana only wanted his son to succeed his throne and kept Siddhartha unaware of the tragic life outside the palace. Prince Siddhartha was brought up in such a way that he was oblivious of the miseries of common man until he became inquisitive about the life outside the palace. It was only when one day Siddhartha insisted his chariot driver to take him to the streets, that he became aware of the sufferings of ordinary people. The sights he encountered during his visits to the streets moved his heart. It is known in Buddhists literature that Prince Siddhartha had to encounter a series of four sights. He came across a crippled man, a corpse, a sick person and finally an ascetic holy man. It was when he walked back with a perturbed mind, that he met the holy man who seemed to have triumphed over worldly temptations and attained the highest bliss of life. This encouraged the prince to choose the spiritual path and he decided to give up all worldly pleasures.
Siddhartha’s encounter with the miseries of the world prompted him to abandon the material life. One midnight, he bade goodnight to his family and went out on a spiritual quest. Then, he was aged 29 and had a wife and a son. During the first seven years of his quest, he had to undergo several austerities. He abandoned the pleasures completely and wandered many places in search of the real meaning of life. Finally, he got enlightened under a banyan tree at Bodh Gaya (in present-day Bihar, India), where he is said to have meditated for years. Thereafter he came to be called as Gautama Buddha.
The supreme light of enlightenment dawned on Buddha on the Vaisakha Purnima (Full moon day in the month of Vaishakha), under a Bodhi (a Fig/Peepal or Banyan) tree. It is believed that Buddha left the mortal world on the same date after living for eighty years. Bodhgaya – the place where he attained Nirvana is one of the most sanctified places of pilgrimage. He gave rise to a new religious and philosophical movement which made wide influence throughout southern and eastern Asia. In India, Buddha is also revered as an avatar of Lord Vishnu.