UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization) has included 830 properties in its World Heritage Sites which includes cultural and natural heritage. According to the World Heritage Committee, these sites have outstanding universal value. Among these 830 proprieties there are 644 cultural properties, 162 natural properties and 24 mixed properties. In UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Nepal has 10 of its famous destiantion listed in it which includes 8 cultural properties and 2 natural properties.
Cultural properties include:
- Kathmandu Durbar Square
- Patan Durbar Square
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- Pashupatinath Temple
- Changu Narayan Temple
- Swoyambhunath Stupa
- Bouddhanath Stupa
Natural properties include:
- Chitwan National Park
- Sagarmatha National Park
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Listed in the World Heritage Site by UNSECO, Kathmandu Durbar Square is the most famous historic tourist destination in Nepal. It lies in the heart of the city and is also known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square.It is a cluster of temples, palaces, courtyards and streets that date back from 12th to 18th centuries.
The major attractions in Kathmandu Durbar Square are:
Taleju Temple was established in 1564 by the then king, King Mahendra Malla after he dreamt of the goddess Tajelu Bhawani telling him to build a temple in Kathmandu.
Taleju Bhawani was originally a goddess from the south of India, but she became the royal goddess of the Malla kings in the 14th century, after which Taleju temples were erected in her honour in Patan and Bhaktapur, as well as in Kathmandu.
This three-roofed Taleju Temple is of a typical Newari architectural style and is elevated on platforms that form a pyramid-like structure. It is situated in the northeast of the Durbar Square. Even Hindus of Kathmandu valley are only permitted to go inside the temple on the day of the biggest festival celebrated in Nepal, Dashain.
Mahendreshvara Temple was also built by king Mahendra Malla dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a simple yet beautiful temple and have a religious value to the native people of kathmadu.
Jagannath temple is recoganized for its exquisite wood-carvings on the doors, windows and roof struts, depicting array of gods from the Hindu pantheon.
The temple has a three-tiered platform and two storied. The temple is believed to be originally dedicated to Lord Vishnu and later to Lord Jagannath.
The temple was built by Shivasimha Malla honoring the Mallas’ family deity, Degutale. It resembles Taleju’s shrine but with a tower-like base in place of the stepped platform. The worship of Degutale has its origins in a nature cult, the images being pieces of rock which the Newaris set up and worshipped.
Hanuman Dhoka has been named after the Hindu god Hanuman, the monkey god. The entire Durbar is also known as Human Durbar Square named after the statue of Lord Hanuman which is situated between the Degutale Temple and the Taleju Temple.
After you enter the main entrance to the Durbar (palace) next to the Hanuman Temple, is the Nassal Chowk courtyard. Nasal means “dancing one” and the name Nasal Chowk cames from the little statue of the dancing Krishna in the shrine on the east side of the court. Coronation ceremony used to be held in this courtyard.
As the occasional dwelling of the goddess Taleju, the court is barred to visitors. The Chowk is opened to Hindus once a year when, on the ninth day of the Dashain Festival, hundreds of buffaloes and goats are sacrificed to the goddess.
Bhandarkal is a botanical garden created by King Pratap Mall in the mid 17th century. The garden has been named after a seven-storied palace that possesses a statue of the Sleeping Vishnu, Jalashayana Narayan.
Between the Lalitpur and Basantpur Towers can be seen the magnificently carved façade of the three-storied Vilas Mandir, of a richness truly befitting a Temple of Luxury
Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple:
The three storied temple has the figure of Garuda placed in its front and incarnations of Lord Vishnu within the temple. It was built by Prithvi Bendra Malla in 1680, is the oldest temple in the group adjacent to the south-west corner of the palac.Look for the Vaishnavite images on the carved roof struts and the window screens with their decoratively carved medallions. Dances depicting the 10 incarnations of Vishnu are performed on the platforms to the east of the temple during the Indra Jatra festival.
The Shiva Temple in Darbar Square is a replica of the Jaisi Deval and was built by Riddhi Lakshmi in 1690.
Shiva Parvati Temple:
It is one of the famous temples in Kathmandu Durbar Square The long low building on the northern side of Durbar Square contains the beautiful shrines of Shiva and Parvati. This somewhat unusual building is believed to date from the time of Bahadur Shah. It is probably a reconstruction, the stepped platform on which it stands being considerably older than the temple itself.
Dedicated to Shiva the large three-storied Manju Deval on its unusually high stepped base seems to dominate Durbar Square. It was built in 1692 by the mother of Bhupatindra Malla of Bhaktapur. Inside the temple there is a Shiva lingam. The small shikhara (temple tower in the North Indian style) at the foot of the steps honors Kam Dev, Shiva’s shakti.
The house of the Living Goddess, the Kumari Bahal looks like the monastery that was constructed in 1757 by Jaya Prakash Malla. Inside it lives the young girl who is selected to be the town’s living goddess, until she reaches her first puberty and reverts to being a normal mortal.
Kasthamandap or house of wood is the building which gave Kathmandu its name. Legend narrates that the whole building is constructed from a Single Sal tree. At first it was a community hall where local people gathered for important ceremonies but later it was converted to a Temple of Gorakhnath. The image of Gorakhnath glitters at the center of the building.
Ashok Binayak Shrine:
The Ashok Binayak Shrine is the principle shrine of Lord Ganesha in the Kathmandu Valley. The stone image of Lord Ganesha stands beneath a golden replica of the Ashok tree which once shaded the shrine and eventually gave it its name.
Simla Sattal is located at the southern end of the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The residential style temple contains the Garuda Narayan figure, strange looking effigies and a little shrine of Harikrishna.
Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square situated in the centre of Lalitpur city. Laltipur means “beautiful city” and Patan means “eternity itself” and Patan Durbar Square is the spectacular sight of Asia indeed. The city is surrounded by 4 Stupas each at 4 corners of Patan. These stupas are said to have been built by the famous Emperor Ashoka. It is full of Hindu temples and Buddhist monuments with bronze gateways, guardian deities and wonderful carvings and many visitors come here to see these monuments. The Durbar Square is a marvel of Newari Architecture.
There are three main courtyards in the palace: Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Keshav Narayan Chowk.
Mul Chowk is the central courtyard. It is the largest, oldest and the most famous chowk among the three chowks. Bidya Temple is located at the centre and Taleju Temple stands around the courtyard.
Sundari Chowk is located at the south of Mul Chowk with a sunken tank and thus is also known as Tusha Hiti Mul Chowk. The entrance of the chowk is guarded by the stone statues of Hanuman, Ganesh and Narasingha(man-lion form of Lord Vishnu).
Keshav Narayan Chowk:
Keshav Narayan is located at the northern part with Degutale Temple next to it. Th chowk sits on the older foundation of a Buddhist Monastery. It is a site for the earlier Malla Palace.
There are many other places to see in Patan Durbar Square besides these three chowks.
Krishna temple by the name itself we can know that it is dedicated to the notorious Hindu god Krishna. The temple was built in 1637 by King Siddhinarasimh Malla. It is said that one night the King saw the gods Krishna and Radha standing in front of the royal palace.
The temple is said to be the gem of Patan Durbar Square. The temple is considered to be the first one to be constructed in elegant Shikara architecture, imported from India although it is unique in its own way. The temple is compared with sacred Mount Meru, which is abode of the god Shiva according to Hindu scriptures. The stone carvings along the bean above the first and second floor pillar are most notable. The first floor pillar carvings narrate the events of the Mahabharata, while on the second floor there are visual carvings from Ramayana. The temple is completely made of stone. There are 21 golden pinnacles in the temple. Below the pinnacles are 3 stories. The first floor holds the main shrine of Krishna with shrines of Radha and Rukamani at each side. The second floor is dedicated to Shiva and the third to Lokeshwor(Lord Buddha). The square is crowded with thousands of Hindu Pilgrims and devotees during Krishna Astami, a festival celebrated ad the birthday of Lord Krishna.
This temple was built by King Srinivasa Malla in 1680. This temple is dedicated to the Newa god of Business and Trade, Bhimsen. Bhimsen was known to be very brave and strong and is considered to be a great hero in Mahabharat.
To the south of Bhimsen Temple stands Vishwanath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built in 1627 during the reign of Siddhinarasimha Malla.This temple is considered as the masterpiece of Shikhar style temple in Nepal. The roof supports are decorated with erotic carvings and the temple is guarded by two stone elephants in the front entrance. On the other side of the temple is the sculpture of a bull, Shiva’s vehicle and a stone lingam is enshrined inside the temple.
Taleju Bhawani Temple:
Taleju temple was built by Siddhinarasrimha Malla in 1640 and rebuilt by Srinivasa Malla in 1667 after a fire accident. It is a five-storey temple with triple-roofs.Taleju Bhawani was the personal deity or the royal goddess of the Malla kings.
The temple of Mahabouddha is a masterpiece of terra-cotta. This ‘Temple of the Thousand Buddha’ is modeled after the temple of the same name in Bodhgaya, India, where Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment. Each brick in the structure bears the image of Buddha. Built by the priest Abhaya Raj, the temple is believed to date back to the late 16th century. It was felled by an earthquake in 1934 but was rebuilt (albeit in a somewhat different design).
This temple was built by King Jayasthi Malla in the 13th century. It is a pagoda style temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. In Nepal, there are only two 5 storied temple. One is at Bhaktapur, named Nyatapol temple and second one is this .Inside the temple area, there are many famous gods and goddess. Once a year, there takes place a ritual bath in the natural spring inside the temple compound whose source is said to be the famous glacier lake Gosaikunda, on the auspicious day of Janai Purnima.
Jagat narayan Temple:
The Jagat Narayan temple is a tall shikhara-style temple consecrated to Lord Vishnu. It is located at Sankhamul, on the banks of the Bagmati, is a tall red brick building with many fine stone and metal statues of Garuda( Humanoid Bird also considered as the Mount of Lord Vishnu), Ganesh(Hindu God with Elephant Head) and Hanuman(The Hindu Monkey God).
Hiranya Varna Mahavihar:
Hiranya Varna Mahavihar or The Golden Temple was built in the 12th Century by King Bhaskar Verma. It is located just north of Durbar square. This three-roof Buddhist monastery is adorned with a golden facade, four large gateways, a clock tower, and two lion sculptures. Inside are golden images of Buddha, wall carvings, and a prayer wheel.
Rudra Varna Mahavihar:
Rudra Varna Mahavihar is a Buddhist monastery with a temple and a courtyard that has many fine wood, bronze and stone statues.It is said that Kings were crowned in this temple in ancient times.Many of the treasures offered by the people can be seen here even today.
The Ashokan Stupas:
Indian Emperor Ashoka visited Nepal in 250 B.C and constructed four ancient stupas at the four corners of Patan. The four stupas are located in Pulchowk, Lagankhel, Ebahi and in Teta (way to Sano Gaon) respectively.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur is one of the three royal cities in Nepal, the other two being Kathmandu and Patan also known as Lalitpur. Bhaktapur is a charming valley as it highlights the idols of ancient kings perched on top of stone monoliths, the guardian deities looking out from their sanctuaries, the wood carvings in very place – struts, lintels, tympanums, gateways and windows – all seem to form a well orchestrated symphony. Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’, the ‘City of Culture’, the ‘Living Heritage’, and ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’. It is also known by the names Bhadgaon and Khwopa.
The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is located about 20km east of Kathmandu. The Bhaktapur Durbar Square consists of four distinct squares i.e. Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square and Pottery Square. Bhaktapur Durbar Square is an assortment of pagoda and shikhara-style temples grouped around a fifty-five-window palace of brick and wood.
The major attractions in Bhaktapur Durbar Square are:
Fifty-five windowed palace:
Fifty Five windowed palace was built during the reign of King Yakshay Malla in 1427 AD and was subsequently remodeled by King Bhupatindra Malla in the 17th century. However it was not completed until during the reign of Jaya Ranjit Malla, who was the last of the Bhaktapur Malla kings. Among the brick walls with their gracious setting and sculptural design, is a balcony with fifty-five Windows, considered a unique masterpiece of woodcarving.
The main entrance of the courtyard of Palace of fifty-five windows, the golden gate is a masterpiece of artwork and was erected by King Ranjit Malla in 1756. The Golden gate is said to be the most beautiful and richly moulded specimen of its kind in the entire world. The door is surmounted by a figure of Hindu goddess Kali and Garuda (mythical griffin) and attended by two heavenly nymphs. It is embellished with monsters and other Hindu mythical creatures of marvellous intricacy. Percy Brown, an eminent English art critic and historian, described the Golden Gate as “the most lovely piece of art in the whole Kingdom; it is placed like a jewel, flashing innumerable facets in the handsome setting of its surroundings.”
The massive gate that dates back to 1696 AD is guarded by two huge statues of lions at the either sides. Alongside there are two stone images of Bhairab (the dreadful aspect of Shiva) and ugrachandi (the consort of Shiva in her fearful manifestation)..The magnificent and beautiful gate was produced from artisans whose hands were cut off after finishing touch to them by the envious then King so that no more of such masterpiece would be produced again
The Picture in the Art Gallery is of considerable value which contains ancient paintings belonging to the Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism of various periods and descriptions. the National Art Gallery is the house of many Buddhist Paubha scroll paintings, palm leaf manuscripts, and stone carvings.
The Statue of King Bhupindra Malla:
The Bronze Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla in the act of worship can be seen on a column in front of the Vatsala Durga Temple. The statue was created in 1699 and its mirrors the similar statues in the Durbar Squares of Kathmandu and Patan. He was the best known of the Malla kings of Bhaktapur, and contributed to much of the architecture in town. This is considered the most magnificent statue among the many statues in the squares.
This is the most famous pagoda of Nepal, which was built in 1702 A.D by Bhupatendra Mala. This temple was dedicated to Siddhilaxmi, the tantric mother goddess of supreme power. Nyatapola in Newari means a five tiered symbolizing five basic elements – water, earth, fire, wind and sky. It stands on five terraces, on each of which squat a pair of figures: two famous wrestlers, two elephants, two lions, two griffins, and Baghini and Singhini — the tiger and the lion goddesses. Each pair of figures is considered ten times stronger than the ones immediately below, while the lowest pair, the two strong men Jaya Malla and Phatta Malla, were reputedly ten times stronger than any other men. This is one of the tallest pagoda-style temples in Kathmandu Valley and is famous for its massive structure and subtle workmanship.
Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple:
Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple was built by King Yakshya Malla in 15th century and is also known as The Pashupati Temple. It is a replica of the famous Shiva temple Pashupatinath by the Bagmati river in Kathmandu and is widely noted for the erotic carvings on its struts.
Vatsala Temple and The Bell of The Barking Dogs:
This 17th century stone temple, dedicated to a mother goddess, Vatsala Devi, is full of intricate works on stone. However it is most famous for its bronze bell, known to local residents as “the bell-of barking dogs,” as when it is rung, dogs in the vicinity bark and howl. The colossal bell was hung by King Ranjit Malla in 1737 AD and was used to sound the daily curfew. It is now rung twice every morning when goddess Taleju is worshiped.
The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous, sacred Hindi Temple dedicated to Pashupatinath or Lord Shiva. It is located on the banks of the Bagmati River 5 kilometres north-east of Kathmandu Valley in the eastern city of Kathmandu.
It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath was founded. Tradition says it was constructed by Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty in the 3rd century BC, but the first historical records date from the 13th century. The ascetic Pashupata sect was likely related to its foundation. The temple was erected anew in the 17th century by King Bhupatindra Malla after the previous building had been consumed by termites.
According to a legend recorded in local texts, especially the Nepalamahatmya and the Himavatkhanda, the Hindu god Shiva once fled from the other gods in Varanasi to Mrigasthali, the forest on the opposite bank of the Bagmati River from the temple. There, in the form of a gazelle, he slept with his consort Parvati. When the gods discovered him there and tried to bring him back to Varanasi, he leapt across the river to the opposite bank, where one of his horns broke into four pieces. After this, Shiva became manifest as Pashupati (Lord of Animals) in a four-face (chaturmukha) lingam. There are many other legends of how Pashupatinath Temple came into existence but there is n evidence to support them.
The Pashupatinath temple consists of around 235 small temples and shrine. Main pagoda style temple is located in the fortified courtyard within the temple guarded by Nepal police and has a police outpost post along with living quarter within .In front of the western door there is a huge statue Nandi bull, in bronze along with many temples and shrine of vaisanava and shaiva tradition. Earlier non-Hindu people were not allowed in the temple but now the gates have been open for tourists also.
What to See:
- Gold-painted images of guardian deities
- Chaturmukha (four-faced statue)
- Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century
- Brahma Temple
- Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken
- Arya Ghat (cremation place)
- Gauri Ghat (holy bath)
- Pandra Shivalaya (15 shrines) Gorakhnath and Vishwarup Temples
- Guhyeshwari (Guhjeshwari) Temple
- Kirateshwar Mahadeva Mandir
- Surya Ghat
Changu Narayan Temple
Changu Narayan is an ancient Hindu Temple located at the top of a hill named Changu or Dolagiri. The temple is surrounded by forest with champak tree and a small village, known as Changu Village. This hill is about 8 miles east of Kathmandu and a few miles north of Bhaktapur. The Manahara River flows beside the hill. This shrine is dedicated to Lord Visnu and held in especial reverence by the Hindu people. This temple is considered as the oldest temple in Nepal and came in existence in 4th century.
The Pagoda styled temple is adorned by some of the best specimen of stone, wood, and metal craft in the valley. The temple stands as the epitome of culture, religion, history and faith of the Kathmandu valley.
According to the Legend, in ancient time a Gwala, a cow herder, had brought a cow from a Brahman named Sudarshan. The cow was known for producing large quantity of milk. The Gwala used to take the cow to Changu for grazing. At that time Changu was a forest of Champak tree. While grazing the cow it always went to the shade of a particular tree. In the evening when the Gwala took the cow home and started milking the cow he got only very few amount of milk. This continued several days. He became very sad so he called the Brahmin and told him that the cow is not giving enough milk. Brahmin after observing the fact from his own eyes then planned with the Gwala to inspect the activities of cow during the day while she was grazing in the forest. Both Brahmin and Gwala hide themselves behind the trees and spectate the activities of the cow. The cow went into the shade of a particular champak tree. To their surprise a small black boy came out from the tree and started drinking the cow milk. Both became very furious and they thought that the boy must be the devil and tree must be its home. So Brahmin cut down the champak tree. When the Brahmin was cutting down the tree a fresh human blood came out from the tree. Both Brahmin and Gwala became worried and they thought that they have committed the great crime and they started crying.From the tree lord Vishnu emerged out and he told the Brahmin that it was not their fault. Lord Vishnu told them the story that he had committed a heinous crime by killing Sudarshan’s father unknowingly while hunting in the forest. After that he was cursed for the crime. He then wandered on earth on his mouth, the ‘Garuda’ eventually descending on the hill at Changu. There he lived in anonymity, surviving on milk stolen from a cow. When Brahmin cut down the tree, lord Vishnu was beheaded which freed Lord Vishnu from his sins. After hearing these words from Vishnu, Brahmin and Gwala started worshipping the place and they established a small temple in the name of Lord Vishnu. Ever since that day, the site has been held sacred. . Even today we can find the descendant of Sudarshan Brahmin as priest of the temple and the descendents of Gwala as ghutiyars (conservators).
What to See:
- Garuda Narayana Temple
- Shrine of King Bhupalendra Malla and his mother
- Krishna Shrine
- Nateshvara Shrine
- Sculpture of Sri Mahadev
- Sculpture of Garuda
- Shrine of Somalingeshvara
- Sculptures: Vishnu, Durga Avalokitesvara and Garuda Ganesh
- Ganesh Shrine
- Bhagvati Temple
- Vishnu Vikranta
- Vishnu Vishvarupa
- Lakshmi Temple Shiva Temple
- Stone Column
Historic Places in The Temple
Inside the Changunarayan temple is an esteemed figure of Garuda. The statue is offered sweets by the devotees every year on Nag Panchami. This is done in remembrance of the epic struggle with the great snake Taksaka. The drops of moisture, believed to be effective against diseases such as leprosy and ulcers, are collected by the priests.
King Bhupendra Malla Statues:
Statues of King Bhupalendra Malla of Kathmandu and his mother can also be seen in a shrine. Bloody fighting characterised their politics during the 17th century but both were generous when it came to revering the gods.
To the north of the temple is a sculpture of Lord Vishnu seated on Garuda (Garudasana Vishnu). This image appears on the Nepalese 10 rupee note. Vishnu sculpture dates back to 9th century.
Vishwaroop sculpture, dating back to 8th century A.D., presents Lord Vishnu in his universal form.
The stone idol, harking back to the 8th century A.D, is of the most powerful form of Lord Vishnu. It is related to the Hindu legend of Vaman, an incarnation of Vishnu, who measured space with feet.
Vishnu Riding Garuda:
This figure of Vishnu mounting Garuda, the mythical bird, dates back to the 10th century A.D.
This form of Lord Vishnu, the Narsimha, is in half human and half lion form.
Lumbini meaning “The Lovely”, birthplace of Lord Buddha, is the centre of holy faith for the millions of Buddhists all over the world. Located in south-western Nepal in Rupendehi District, Lumbini holds several reminders of Lord Buddha. One of the most important historical sites in Nepal is endowed by nature with rich natural beauty. Lumbini is one of many magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of Gautama Buddha; other notable pilgrimage sites include Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya and Saanath.
Lumbini historic site is 4.8 km (3 mi) in length and 1.6 km (1.0 mi) in width. The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone in which only monasteries can be built, no shops, hotels or restaurants. It is separated into an eastern and western monastic zone, the eastern having the Theravadin monasteries, the western having Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries.
What to See
The garden spreads over 9 sq. km. It is foremost attraction in Lumbini tourism. It was here in the garden that Prince Siddhartha Gautam was born in 623 BC, who later achieved nirvana sometime around 543 BC became the Buddha. The nativity site is marked by a colossal stone pillar erected by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka of India during his pilgrimage to the holy site in 249 BC. The account of the birth of Buddha is inscribed on it. Number of Stupas, monasteries and temples surround the garden.
This temple is dedicated to Maya Devi, the mother of Lord Buddha. The temple attracts praise for its architectural beauty. In 1895 German archaeologist discovered this temple. The temple is remarkable in the way Maya Devi is shown giving birth to Lord Buddha. A large number of Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world visit Lumbini to pray at the Mayadevi Temple where excavations have revealed the “marker stone” showing the exact spot where Siddhartha Gautam Buddha was born.
Pushkarni Pool is a sacred pond , it is believed that queen Mayadevi took a dip in the pond before giving birth of prince Siddhartha. The prince also had his first bath in the pond. Brick steps of the pond lead to the emerald-green water.
To the north of the Sacred Lumbini Garden are monastic zones where different countries have built temples and monasteries depicting different sects of Buddhism.
The Myanmar Temple (Lokamani Cula Pagoda) is a shiny gold and white structure that resembles the Shwe-dagon Pagoda of Yangon .
The International Gautami Nuns Temple is a replica of the Swayambhu Stupa of Kathmandu.
The China Temple, built by the Buddhist Association of China, is a complex of pagodas, prayer rooms and meditation cells.
The Japan Peace Stupa, built by Nippon Jon Kyohoji of Japan, is a 41-m tall structure with four different Buddha statues set into the stupa’s dome facing the four cardinal directions.
Other beautiful monuments and temples have been built by Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, South Korea, France, Germany and Sri Lanka.
Swoyambhunath Stupa is the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu valley. Atop a hill in the west of Kathmandu Valley it is also known as the Monkey Temple amongst Tourist as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. The Tibetan name for the site, Shing.kun means ‘Sublime Trees’ for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. The local Newari Language name is Singgu, meaning ‘self-sprung’. For the Buddhist Newars in whose mythological history and origin myth as well as day-to-day religious practice, Swoyambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to boudhanath stupa.
Historical records found on a stone inscription give evidence that the stupa was already an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination by the 5th century AD. However, scholars believe there was probably a shrine here as early as the 1st century, long before the arrival of Buddhism into the valley.
A collection of legends about the site, the 15th century Swoyambhu Purana, tells of a miraculous lotus, planted by a past Buddha, which blossomed from the lake that once covered Kathmandu valley. The lotus mysteriously radiated a brilliant light, and the name of the place came to be Swoyambhu, meaning ‘Self-Created or Self-Existent’. Saints, sages and divinities traveled to the lake to venerate this miraculous light for its power in granting enlightenment. During this time, the Bodhisatva Manjushri was meditating at the sacred mountain of Wu Tai Shan and had a vision of the dazzling Swoyambhu light. Manjushri flew across the mountains of China and Tibet upon his blue lion to worship the lotus. Deeply impressed by the power of the radiant light, Manjushri felt that if the water were drained out of the lake Swayambhu would become more easily accessible to human pilgrims. With a great sword Manjushri cut a gorge in the mountains surrounding the lake. The water, draining away, left the valley of present day Kathmandu. The lotus was then transformed into a hill and the light became the Swayabhunath Stupa.
The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. A Tibetan monastery, museum and library are more recent additions. The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on. There is no nose between the eyes but rather a representation of the number one in the Nepali alphabet, signifying that the single way to enlightenment is through the Buddhist path. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye, signifying the wisdom of looking within. No ears are shown because it is said the Buddha is not interested in hearing prayers in praise of him. There are also shops, restaurants and hostels. The site has two access points: a long stairway with 365 steps, leading directly to the main platform of the temple, which is from the top of the hill to the east; and a car road around the hill from the south leading to the southwest entrance.
Atop Swayambhunath hill is another fascinating, though smaller and less visited temple. This is Shantipur, the ‘Place of Peace’. It is believed that inside Shantipur, in a secret, always locked, underground chamber lives the 8th century Tantric master Shantikar Acharya. Practising meditation techniques which have preserved his life for uncounted centuries, he is a great esoteric magician who has complete power over the weather. Earlier when the valley of Kathmandu is threatened by drought, the King of Nepal would enter the underground chamber to get a secret mandala from Shantikar. Soon after the mandala was brought outside and shown to the sky, rain begins to fall. Frescoes painted on the inside temple walls depict when last this occurred in 1658. The small temple has a powerful atmosphere; it is mysterious, stern and slightly ominous.
The surroundings of Swyambhunarayan Stupa consists of chaityas, temples, painted images of deities and numerous other religious objects.The temple is dedicated to the goddess of smallpox and other epidemics. The presence of the Harati Devi temple signifies the intermingling of the pantheons of Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal.
Boudhanath Stupa is located about 11 km (6.8 mi) from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu. It is one of the largest Stupas in the whole world and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is also known as Khasti in Newari Language, Jyarung Khasyor in Tamang Language or as Bauddha by speakers of Nepali. It is the centre of Tibetan Culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism.
Legend says that King Manadeva erected the Bouddhanath stupa during the Lichavi period. It has been refurbished many times. The present stupa was renovated in the seventeenth century.
The Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath dominates the skyline. The influx of large populations of refugees from Tibet has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan Monasteries around Boudhanath. Along with Swoyambhunath, it is one of the most popular tourist sites in the Kathmandu area.
The stupa has a diameter of about 100m and height of 40m. The stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. It has a round path at the bottom while another path is made of three-tier plinth. And the four of the Dhyani Buddhas mark the cardinal points, with the fifth, Vairocana, enshrined in the center (in the white hemisphere of the stupa). The five Buddhas also personify the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), which are represented in the stupa’s architecture.
The nine levels of Boudhanath Stupa represent the mythical Mt. Meru, center of the cosmos; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize thepath to enlightenment, or “Bodhi” — hence the stupa’s name.
As at Swayambhunath, Bodnath is topped with a square tower bearing the omnipresent Buddha eyes on all four sides. Instead of a nose is Nepali character for the number 1, symbolizing unity and the one way to reach enlightenment i.e. through the Buddha’s teachings. Above this is the third eye, symbolizing the wisdom of the Buddha.
The square tower is topped by a pyramid with 13 steps, representing the ladder to enlightenment. The triangular shape is the abstract form for the element of fire. At the top of the tower is a gilded canopy, the embodiment of air, with above it a gilded spire, symbolic of ether and the Buddha Vairocana. Prayer flags tied to the stupa flutter in the wind, carrying mantras and prayers heavenward
Lhosar, Tibetan New Year festival begins with prayers and worship. Thousands of Tibetans dress in traditional attire and dance after expressing reverence for Buddha. Number of Tibetans comes from Laddakh, Sikkim, Bhutan to take part in this festival.
Chitwan National Park
House of 544 species of bird, 68 species of mammals ,56 species of herpetofauna, 126 species of fish and more than 45 species of amphibians and reptiles, Chitwan National Park is situated 120 km South West Of Kathmandu. It is the first National Park in Nepal and is well- for diversity of eco-systems. It was established in 1973 A.D. and covers an area of 932 sq. km. The National park is especially renowned for its protection of One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile. Within the park are Churia hills, ox-bow lakes, and the flood plains of Rapti, Reu and Narayani rivers.
The park harbors not only the world’s largest terrestrial mammal, wild elephant but also the world’s smallest terrestrial mammal, pygmy shrew. A total of 544 species of birds has been recorded so far including 22 globally threatened species including critically endangered Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture and Red-headed Vulture.
Chitwan has a tropical monsoon climate with high humidity all through the year. There are tropical and sub-Tropical forests in Chitwan. Roughly 70% of the National Park us covered by Sal Forest and the rest 30% includes grasslands, riverrine forest and sal with chir pine. The grasslands are mainly located in the floodplains of the rivers and form a diverse and complex community with over 50 different types of grasses including the elephant grass, renowned for its immense height i.e. upto 8 meters.
- The National Park offers interesting sites and activities. One can get many fascinating information on wildlife and conservation programs.
- Souvenir shop offers a variety of handicrafts and other local products for gifts and souvenirs.
- Elephant safari provides an opportunity to get a closer view of the endangered One-horned Rhinoceros. One may also get a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger.
- The Elephant Breeding Center at Khorsor, Sauraha gives you information on domesticated elephant and the baby elephants born there.
- The museum at Kasara, the park headquarters, has informative displays.
- Near the headquater, visitors can see Bikram Baba, a Hindu religious site of archival value.
- The Gharial Breeding Center, which is also home to the Marsh mugger and a number of turtles.
- Inside the park, there are 7 resorts run by park concessionaires that can provide lodging and access to wildlife activities. Various resorts and lodges situated outside the park also offer a variety of services.
Sagarmatha National Park
The Sagarmatha National Park is the highest national park in world. Located above 3000 meters i.e. 9700 feet covering an area of 1,148 square km the National Park was established in 1976 A.D. in Solu-Khumbu district. Amidst the peaks which are counted among the tallest in the world including Mount Everest also known as Mount Sagarmatha, which is where the name comes from, the National Park is a home to More than 118 species of birds, 26 species of butterflies and several rare species such as snow leopard and the red panda.In 1979, it became the country’s first national park that was inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site. Its recognition as a National Park intends to protect its unique cultural, physical and scientific values and ‘contains superlative natural beauty and is of great aesthetic importance. Other well known peaks such as Lhotse, Thamerku, Pumori, Ama Dablam, Cho Oyu, Kwangde, Kangtaiga and Gyachyung Kang are also located nearby. The park comprises the upper catchment areas of Dudh Kosi and Bhote Kosi Rivers. Most part of the landscape is rugged terrain and gorges of the high Himalayas.
The property hosts over 20 villages and over 6000 Sherpas who have inhabited the region for last four centuries continuing their traditional practice of cultural and religion, including the restriction of animal hunting and slaughtering and reverence of all the living beings. This practice combined with indigenous natural resource management practices, have been major contributing factors to the successful conversation the National Park.
The park can be best experienced on foot. Nothing can match the walker’s sense of excitement at complete fusion with the world of Nature by observing the park’s vegetation and wildlife. From Sagarmatha National Park, trekking trail to Kala Pathar Peak is the most popular, though the treks to Gokyoand Chukung Valleys are no less thrilling.
Apart from the greatly varied flora and fauna as well as the impressive mountain scenery of the park, there are some monasteries and gompas in the Sagarmatha National Park premises that hold the travellers’ attention.Thame Gomba is one of the most important religious centers in the area. Renowned Mani Rimdu festival is celebrated here in May. In June the Dumje festival is observed here as well as at the monasteries of Namche and Pangboche.
Park Visitor Center is located at Mendalphu, the park’s Headquarters. The natural history and cultural heritage museum is very knowledgeable.
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