Nepal begins conservation of Buddha's birthplace

An international conservation team has begun work on restoring three endangered monuments at Buddha's birthplace in Southern Nepal. The team, led by Italian conservation expert Costantino Meucci, will restore the Marker Stone, Nativity Sculpture and Ashoka pillar in Lumbini, 250 kilometres (150 miles) southwest of Nepal's capital Kathmandu. Lumbini, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1997, is visited by Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, and the month-long restoration campaign is funded by the Japanese government. The marker stone is believed to be the exact site of Buddha's birth while the nativity sculpture is a carving that shows Buddha's mother holding a tree branch for support during his birth. The Ashoka pillar was built by an Indian king in the third century BC.