Gautama Buddha, also popularly referred
to as Buddha, is the founder of the Buddhism
religion. Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha
to King Shuddhodana and Queen Mayadevi. It is
believed that he was born around 566 BC at
Lumbini in Nepal in the Terai lowlands near the
foothills of the Himalayas. Siddhartha means
"one who has achieved his aim." King Shuddhodana
was the chief of ?akya clan. Hence, Siddhartha
was also called ?akyamuni which meant "the sage
of the Sakyas."
Soon after Siddhartha's birth, an astrologer predicted that he would give up all worldly pleasures and his right to the throne and lead the life of a sage. This greatly troubled Siddhartha's parents and so they decided to keep a close watch on him and prevent their son from being exposed to the world outside. Siddhartha was married at the age of 16 to Yashodhara, the beautiful daughter of a nobleman. At the age of 29 he became the father of a beautiful child who was named Rahula.
One particular day, he went out to tour his city with his charioteer. There he saw four images that changed his life entirely. These four scenes were - a helpless and weak elderly man by the roadside, a sick man in great pain, the corpse of a person being carried for cremation and lastly, a sage who was serene and calm. These four sights greatly troubled his mind and made him ask several questions. At the age of 29, on one night he left his wife, his son and his luxurious lifestyle and went out to seek truth.
For almost 6 years Gautama Buddha wandered in the valleys of the Ganges River as an ascetic, meeting several spiritual teachers and studying their methods and systems. When nothing satisfied him he decided to seek truth in his own way. Then at the age of 35, after 49 days of meditation under a Bodhi tree, Siddhartha attained enlightenment. From that day onwards he came to be known as Buddha, meaning the 'Awakened One'. He delivered his first sermon in Deer Park near Benares to his five old friends, who were ascetics themselves. Later they travelled to different countries together to teach people the key principles of Buddhism, which later came to be known as the Noble Truths. Buddha also preached that human desire can be conquered by following the Eight Fold Path, which included: Right Views, Right Thoughts, Right Action, Right Efforts, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Mindfulness and Right Meditation.
Lord Gautama Buddha finally passed away at the age of 80 in 483 BC. His birthday is celebrated by the Buddhists as Buddha Jayanti between the months of April or May.