Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. His original name was Siddharth (meaning one who has accomplished). He was also called Sakyamuni, i.e. the sage of the tribe of Sakya. He was born in the year 563 B.C. in the village of Lumbini near Kapila Vastu, within the present borders of Nepal.
According to legend, an astrologer foretold his father, the king, that young Gautama would give up the throne and luxury and renounce the world the day he would see four things (i) an old man, (ii) a sick man, (iii) a diseased man and (iv) a dead man. Hence, the king confined Gautama in a special palace which was provided with all worldly pleasures. He was married at the age of sixteen to Yasoddhra.
At the age of 29 after the birth of his first son, Gautama on the same day saw an old man, a sick man, a diseased man and a dead man. The impact of the dark side of life made him renounce the world that same night and he left his wife and son and became a penniless wanderer.
He studied and practised Hindu discipline initially, and later, Jainism. For several years he observed rigorous fasting along with extreme self-mortification. On realising that tormenting his body did not bring him closer to true wisdom, he resumed eating normally and abandoned asceticism.
At the age of 35, one evening as he sat beneath a giant fig tree (Bodh tree), he felt that he had found the solution to his problem and felt that he had attained enlightenment. Thus, he came to be known as ?Gautama?, ?The Buddha?, or 'The Enlightened One'.
Later, he spent 45 years in preaching the truth that he felt he had discovered. He travelled from city to city bare-footed, clean-headed, with nothing more on his self than his saffron robe, walking stick and begging bowl. He died at the age of 80 in the year 483 BC.
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