Practical Retreat Information
The Recommended Minimum Retreat Duration is seven days and this is the minimum length of a residential retreat at Panditarama-Lumbini. If you wish to do meditation at Panditarama for a period of time less than seven days you may apply as a "part time retreatant". For this Panditarama does not provide food or accommodation. However, there are nearby village lodges and other monasteries that provide food and lodging. You will be able to meditate during the day and attend the evening Dhamma talk, following the daily meditation schedule and rules of the meditation center. Please contact us prior to arriving for acceptance as a part time retreatant.
The Office Hours for arriving retreatants at Panditarama are from 8AM to 10AM and 12PM to 5PM everyday. Due to an increase in retreatants, we are asking retreatants to arrive at Panditarama from 8AM to 10AM and 12PM to 5PM seven days per week. If you arrive during the midday break (10AM till noon), you may wait near the canal until noon. If you arrive after 5PM, we request that you find other accommodation for the night (such as the Korean Temple, International Gautami Nuns' Temple or one of the guesthouses in the adjacent villages. There are also some hotels at the main gate and other nearby temples also accommodate guests.
Upon arrival meditators will be assigned a room, go through the registration and orientation process, and read the meditation instructions. Then you can begin with the practice.
Please read the Meditation Page for information relating to the meditation practice.
Getting There and Away
Lumbini, Nepal, is located 22 km west of Bhairahawa, which has a domestic airport. Lumbini is accessible from :
- Kathmandu by bus via Bhairahawa (8 hours) or by plane (30 min) and then by taxi or bus to Lumbini.
- Delhi (India) by train or plane (see below) via Gorakhpur, and from there by bus to Sonauli and Bhairahawa.
- Varanasi (India) by train and/or by bus via Gorakphur, Sonauli and Bhairahawa (10 hours).
Jet Airways operates almost daily non-stop flights in the sector : Delhi-Gorakphur(2 hours) and Calcutta-Gorakphur(8-9 hours) flights.
Please arrange your departure well in advance of the end of the retreat. If you need a taxi to Kathmandu or Sonauli please make your own arrangements a few days before your departure from Lumbini. A list of reliable taxi drivers is available. Flights from Bhairahawa to Kathmandu need to be booked several days in advance.
A few hours of sightseeing in Lumbini before you start the retreat or one or two days at the end of your stay are accepted.
Flights in India
Jet Airways, Air India, Indigo, and Spicejet operate different interesting domestic flight connections in India : Calcutta-Gorakhpur and Delhi-Gorakhpur.
Traveling Overland from Delhi to Lumbini
By train from New Delhi train station to Gorakhpur, by taxi (or bus) to the Nepal border and then by taxi (or bus) to the meditation center. The trip is about 19 hours. The reverse trip from Panditarama to New Delhi is essentially the same. The only real difference is buying a ticket at the train station in Gorakhpur. At the end of this section is a note about navigating the Gorakhpur train station.
The Lonely Planet India guide has a lot of info in it. As well as their Nepal guide. Prices are from October 2015. Following are some approximate exchange rates.
65 Indian Ruppees (INR) per 1 US Dollar(USD)
104 Nepalese Ruppees(NPR) per 1 USD
1.6 NPR per 1 INR (This is fixed)
Train from New Delhi to Gorakhpur(13 hours): The train leaves from the New Delhi Train Station which is in the Paharganj area of Delhi. There are a lot of tourist hotels in this area. Each is a short walk to the station. There are a number of hotels listed in the Lonely Planet guide. You can purchase the train ticket in the upper floor of the New Delhi Train Station in the ticket office for foreigners. This is cheaper than at your hotel.
The overnight train that I took was:
Train number: 12554
Train Name: Vaishali Express
Departure time from New Delhi: 19:50
Arrival time in Gorakhpur: 09:00 the next morning(often an hour late)
I think that this train runs seven days a week.
First class sleeper: 2730 INR
Second class sleeper: 1610 INR
Third class sleeper: 1130 INR
Note that there are two types of First class sleeper: AC1 and HA1. AC1 is just bunks. Of course, large and more comfortable than the other two classes. HA1 has compartments. There are either two bunks or four bunks in each compartment. The door locks from the inside in HA1. HA1 is better.
All of these are Air conditioned cars and reasonable by western standards. There are also other cattle class wagons.
Boarding the train was a little tricky. There are probably 30 wagons on the train. I went to the station the night before to see how it worked. The train actually showed up at the platform about 40 minutes before departure time. It left from Platform 8. There is a big board in the main station room showing the departing trains platform (with train number and train name in English). As you go into the station (from the PaharGanj side) the train goes from left to right. So the head of the train is on your right. To get to platform eight you go on an overhead walkway. All of the cars listed above (first, second & third class) were almost toward the back end of the train and they were together. The first class wagon had "A. C. FIRST" (as in Air Conditioned) written on the side. All of these cars had "A. C." on them. They are very distinct from the cattle class. It is easy in the summer. All of the other wagons had the windows open and all of these air conditioned wagons had the windows closed. At the door to the wagon as you climb on is a computer printout with all of the passengers names and the berths(Coupe) each is assigned to. The wagon number and the berth (coupe) should also be on your ticket.
From Gorakhpur to Sonauli (The Nepali border) (3 to 5 hours):You will be accosted by touts as you leave the station in Gorakhpur. As you get off the train, look for any westerners who might be headed the same direction.
Figure on an hour to get things sorted in front of the train station and get on the way to the border.
There are two choices to get to the border. By bus (a good four hours) or by taxi (a good three hours). The bus costs 90 INR or so. The taxi you negotiate. I paid 800 INR for the ride in the taxi. I have paid 400INR. You can also share with others. This reduces the price considerably. You may get a ride for 100 or 200 INR. And with four people crammed into the front seat.
Crossing the border (1 hour):The taxi let me off about one kilometer from the actual border. He said there was a problem with the police. There are plenty of rickshaw drivers trying to get you to the border. The first offered 35 INR to take me the kilometer to the border. I turned that down and started walking. He then offered it for 20 rupees. I accepted.
The rickshaw takes you to within 30 meters of the border. From there it is a mass of humanity you wade through to get across. Just before the actual border (you will see the arch over the road) is the Indian immigration (on the right). You need to fill in a declaration form and they stamp your passport (less than 10 minutes with few people waiting) that you are leaving India.
Cross the border to the Nepalese Immigration (20 meters and also on the right). The fifteen day visa is $25 (US Dollars).A thirty day visa is $40 (US). And a 90 days visa is $100(US). They only accept US dollars. You need one (passport size) photo of yourself. It is always better to carry some extra photos with you. If you do not have any, they accept a photocopy of your passport photo. You can easily get this about a two minute walk from the Customs Office (during the day). (This adds another 10 to 15 minutes).
I also exchanged some dollars for Nepalese Rupees at one of the local places just after Nepalese customs. The rate is lousy but there were not many choices.
My negotiating strategy with Indians and Nepalese became a game. No matter what they first offered I turned it down and told them it was too high. They then would (usually) give a second offer. Sometimes I would not accept it and grab my bags and start walking. They then would usually come back with a better offer. I never hesitate to walk off and let them chase me nor do I hesitate to ask several of them for prices. It is not a problem to turn the offer down, walk 30 steps and then turn around and accept the offer. It is just a game.
Getting to Panditarama from the border (a short hour), Again, you negotiate. At Nepal customs, ask other travelers if they are going to Lumbini so you can share a taxi and costs. If you do not have NPR, you can still negotiate a price. I paid 1600 NPR for the ride. It is difficult to take a bus. But the bus is very cheap. To get the bus, you first need to get a rickshaw to the Bhairahawa market (half hour). This will probably be 100NPR to 150NPR. Then find the bus to Lumbini Village (one of the main intersections) (about 80 NPR). I do not know how often the bus service is but it is more than a one hour ride to Lumbini Village. It is best to ride inside the bus. It is entertaining and breath taking to hang on the side or ride on top like others. But not advisable as a first experience in Nepal.
This takes you to the gate of the Monastic Park. You then pay a rickshaw for the ride across the park. I paid 150 NPR.
Now you will find peace and harmony.
Note on purchasing a train ticket in Gorakhpur to go to New Delhi. There are about five daily trains to Delhi. They leave from early afternoon to late afternoon. Arriving in Delhi between 4AM and 9AM. In the train station, go to window 811 for a ticket. It is for non-Indians. It is also for trains for that day. If there are no seats available, you have to go to the Reservation Centre. To get there, go out the main entrance, across the big parking lot to the main road. The Reservation Centre is about 500 meters down the road on the right. With all of my luggage, I took a rickshaw for 20 INR. At the Reservation Centre, go to window 811. You will need to fill out a reservation form that you can pickup at any window. Just fill in the basic name, address, etc on it. Ask the ticket agent about the trains with seating available. Fill in the rest (train number, train name, etc.) while standing there. Most trains go to either the New Delhi train station(station code NDLS) or the (old) Delhi train station (station code DLI). The New Delhi station is more central.
One meditator reported taking the bus from Sonauli to New Delhi. It was probably not expensive. But he reported that it took 30 hours. He would never do that again.
Cloak Room at the Gorakhpur Railway Station. Also known as the Left Luggage room. At the Cloak Room, you can deposit your luggage for a few hours. This is handy if you are waiting for a train. Also if you need to go to the Reservation Center to buy a ticket(see paragraph above). I paid 30 rupees for two bags for about five hours. They claim they are open 24/7. I would not count on that through the nite!!!
The Cloak Room is very easy to find. Gorakhpur has two entrances to the station (from the big parking lot). The main entrance has a number of ticket windows and the second entrance is to the right(East) about 30 meters from the main entrance The "Cloak Room" is on one corner, next to the tracks, at the second entrance. There is a big sign "Cloak room" just in front next to the tracks.
But there is one Gotcha with the "Cloak Room". They do require every piece of luggage to be locked. They will not accept it otherwise. But I think the stupid part is that the lock can be even the simplest lock. But that does put a limit on backpacks. I would presume that if the backpack locks, you could have a small bag to pull everything out of the side compartments and carry that with you so they would be satisified. Things like that also depend on the person who happens to be there that day.
Border Crossing - by land - Sonauli
The following information applies only to the Indian-Nepali border crossing in Sonauli and is not exhaustive. Please note that this might have changed by the time you will cross the border.
Border crossing : Lumbini, Nepal, is located 22 km west of Bhairahawa, which has a domestic airport. Bhaiarahawa is located 5 km away from the Indian border. Belahiya is a small village situated on the Nepali side, Sonauli is situated on the Indian side.
Money : the main currencies (USD, Euro, Indian Rupees) can be changed on both sides of the border. No commission is applied on the Indian side, a one percent commission is taken on the Nepali side. The usual rate is 100 Indian Rs for 160 Nepali Rs.
Phone calls : international phone calls are cheaper in Sonauli and can be paid in Indian or Nepali rupees.
Internet : internet is available only on the Nepali side - in Belahiya or Bhairahawa.
Food : restaurants are present only on the Nepali side.
Shopping : last minute shopping of basic items can be made in Bhairahawa before coming to the center.
Additionally, extensions can be obtained from the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu for up to 15 days for $30 US and extended for a maximum period of 150 days in a single year for $2 US per day.
Overstaying one's Nepali visa may entail a fine of up to Rs. 50,000 or imprisonment.
A Nepali visa and any further extensions must be paid in US Dollars (USD) or equivalent convertible currency. One passport picture per person is required for each visa and/or extension. Passport photos can be obtained in Lumbini Village quickly and cheaply. But be sure and bring at least one photo for the first time you cross the border to Nepal.
Department of Immigration
Tel. : +977 1 4429659 / 4429660 / 4438862 / 4438868
Fax. : +977 1 4433934 / 4433935
Office hours: Sunday to Thursday 10 am - 5 pm in Summer; 10 am to 4 pm in winter(Nov. to Jan)
Friday 10 am - 3 pm
Visa application hours : Sunday to Thursday 10 am - 3 pm, Friday 10 am - 1 pm
E-mail : email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site : www.nepalimmigration.gov.np
A Word of Caution
As the political situation in Nepal is quite volatile it is recommended to check for the latest development before undertaking the journey to Nepal. So far Lumbini remains relatively peaceful.
For further information follow the links below (Links open in a new tab):
Lumbini (elevation 100m) has a tropical monsoon climate characterized by a cold season, hot season, monsoon, and transitional periods. The core of the cold season extends from the beginning of December to the end of January with temperatures occasionally dropping to +6°C. Rainfall is minimal and relative humidity may reach 89%. There tends to be a spell of at least 7 to 10 days of foggy weather in December and extending into January. Otherwise sunshine prevails.
The hot season lasts from the beginning of March until June 11. During the peak of the hottest part (May) temperatures may rise to +39°C with a low relative humidity and minimal rainfall. Sometimes strong winds blow across Lumbini.
The Dept. of Meteorology cites June 12 to September 23 as the period of the annual monsoon in Nepal. The highest rainfall (approximately 300mm/month) is recorded in July and August. The maximum temperature in June (approx. +37°C) gradually comes down to slightly above +30°C during July, August, and September.
Health Related Issues
Meditators who join the retreat should possess sound physical health as the meditation practice is quite strenuous and health care in Nepal is not highly advanced. A prophylaxis for malaria is not necessary, as Lumbini is free from malaria. Japanese Encephalitis has been reported in the Terai especially during the monsoon but so far no such cases have occurred in Lumbini itself. A vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis is not absolutely necessary. Please do bring the medicine that you may need during the retreat to maintain your health. Pharmacies in Mahilawar and Bhairahawa sell mostly generic medicine. The meditation center will provide very basic medicine for minor health problems. In case of some serious illness the following hospitals and clinics in Bhairahawa and Kathmandu are available :
Universal College of Medical Sciences (teaching hospital)
Milan Clinic, Dr. P.K. Gharg Lumbini Eye Clinic funded by Lion's Club of Switzerland
Sri Krishna Netralaya (private eye clinic), Dr. S.P. Dhital
Clinic Travel Medicine Center(CIWEC) (in Kathmandu) www.ciwec-clinic.com
Certain complicated medical conditions may have to be treated in Kathmandu, Gorakhpur (India) or Bangkok (Thailand).
The CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu is highly recommended.
The United States Embassy Website (available to everybody) has medical resource information for the New Delhi region:
For further information visit:
The United States Embassy Website(available to everybody) also has medical resource information for Nepal. For further information visit:
Drinking water provided by the meditation center is filtered.
The center provides dormitory style accommodation for short-term meditators in the main building. Accommodation for long-term meditators is in three triplets and nineteen meditation huts (kammatthana kuti). The rooms in the triplets have attached bathrooms. These rooms may have to be shared with other meditators depending on the number of long-term meditators. We try to honor the need for privacy as much as possible. Panditarama provides each meditator with a mattress, bed sheet, pillow and pillowcase, two blankets and a mosquito net for the bed and another mosquito net for the meditation hall. It is recommended to bring a warm sleeping bag for the cold season. The meditation hall is furnished with plenty of cushions and a few benches for sitting meditation. Please bring your own bench if you are in the habit of using one.
Meditators are provided with two meals a day, following the Theravada tradition, namely breakfast and lunch. In addition juice is served daily at 7:00 pm. Food is nutritious, balanced, clean, healthy and mostly lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Breakfast usually consists of various cereals (muesli and cornflakes), fruits, milk and home baked bread. The main staple for lunch is rice accompanied by a variety of Burmese, Nepali, and international dishes prepared from vegetables and soybean products. Meditators can choose from a variety of hot drinks : coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate, etc. Meditators with special food needs are advised to supplement their meals by bringing special food items along. Many of the fruits and vegetables served are grown at the meditation center itself. Water is from a 300 ft(100 meter) deep well on the meditation compound. It is naturally clean, since we are very near the Himalayan mountains, where it originates. As well, the drinking water and food preparation water is filtered with commercial water purification units (reverse osmosis) for maximum cleanliness.
Cleanliness, Neatness and Quietude
For the Eye of Insight to open, it is essential to have cleanliness, neatness, and quietude.
Ven. Sayadaw U Panditabhivamsa
We ask meditators to be aware of the surrounding nature of the center and to respect and preserve it.
Certain cleaning duties have to be performed by all meditators. Please kindly sign up on the list of Cleaning Duties. Please carry out your duties conscientiously and to the complete satisfaction of your fellow meditators.
Meditators do their own laundry. Please bring your own detergent or laundry soap. Buckets for laundry are available.
Panditarama Lumbini International Vipassana Meditation Center
International dialing : + 977 71 580118
Local dialing : please check out to know what numbers to drop off according to your calling district.
Information for Meditators
Email, STD/ISD (local and international phone access) and postal facilities can be found in Bhairahawa or in Mahilawar or on the Nepali side of the border with India.
Ingoing and outgoing postal service is possible to and from the center.
What to bringEssential
Note books & pens
Special food items
Sleeping bag (winter)
Hot water bottle
Bench for meditation
“Noisy” clothing (made out of nylon, etc.)
If you require particular medicines, it is a good idea to bring extra. It is very difficult to find some western prescription drugs even in Kathmandu or sometimes Delhi, it is easier if you plan ahead. For example, if you are coming for a one month retreat, you might bring two months of medication then, if you decide to extend your retreat or travel afterwards, you have plenty.
Also consider bringing "Grape Fruit Seed Extract" as a diet supplement which helps keep gastrointestinal diseases away.
Should you not be quite fluent in English, consider bringing a dictionary.
All toilets are equipped with hand sprays though the center now does provide toilet paper.
It is worthwhile to bring along rechargeable batteries for your flashlight. With that, bring your own battery recharger. The voltage in Nepal is 220 volts with 50 Hz. The recharger wall prongs in Nepal are round like in Europe.