Kathmandu : Temple and Stupas


Pashupatinath is regarded as the most sacred and the largest Hindu temple of Lord Shiva, and Shiva is the most worshipped god in Nepal. It is located in the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu; it is also the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu and was established in the 5th century. In the 14th century the Mughal invaders destroyed a significant part of the temple, so very little or nothing remains of the original 5th century temple exterior. Though the image of the bull and the black four headed image of Pashupati are at least 300 years old, the temple as it stands today was built in the 19th century. It also falls under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Attracting thousands of devotees from Nepal and India, Shivaratri or the night of Lord Shiva is the most important festival observed here.


Only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple premises, although non-Hindu visitors are allowed to view the temple from across the bank of the river Bagmati. Since the time of Malla king Yaksha Malla, the priests who perform the service at this temple have been Brahmins from South India. This tradition is believed to have been started at the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of India by encouraging cultural exchange. This practice is also followed in other temples around India, which were blessed by Adi Shankaracharya.

The temple is built in the pagoda style of architecture, with cubic constructions, beautifully carved wooden rafters on which they rest and two level roofs made of copper and gilded in gold. It has four main doors, which is covered with silver sheets and the western door has a statue of a large bull or Nandi, which is also covered in gold. The deity is of black stone, about 6 feet in height and the same in circumference.


Although there are a lot of pilgrimage places in Kathmandu, Boudhanath is one of the holiest Buddhist sites along with Swayambhunath. Boudhanath is also one of the must visit sites for the tourists, in the Kathmandu area. Boudhanath became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, and it is located about 8 km from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu. The stupas massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal.


Each religion has their own story about the formation of the stupa, and some say that it was founded by the Nepalese Licchavi king Sivadeva, though other Nepali chronicles date it to the reign of King Manadave. The Tibetans claim that a mound on the site was excavated in the late 15th or early century and bones of the king Amshuvarma were discovered there while other Nepali source claim it was constructed by a prince to seek forgiveness for unwittingly killing his own father. However, the Emperor of the Tibetan Empire Trisong Detsan is also traditionally associated with the construction of the Boudhanath stupa, after Srongsten Gampo was converted to Buddhism by his wives the Nepali princess Bhrikuti Devi and Princess Wen Chen of China in the 7th century and passes it on to Detsan.

The Stupa stands with four pairs of eyes in the four cardinal direction keeping watch for righteous behavior and human prosperity. It is built on an octagonal base inset with prayer wheels. The base of the stupa has 108 small depictions of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha and is surrounded with a brick wall with 147 inches, each with four or five prayer wheels engraved with the mantra, om mani padme hum. At the northern entrance where visitors must pass is a shrine dedicated to the goddess of small pox, Ajima. Many Buddhist pilgrims annually perform full body prostrations in the inner lower enclosure; circumambulate the stupa with prayer wheels and chant and pray. Thousands of prayer flags are hoisted up from the top of the stupa downwards and dot the parameters of the complex. The entry of large populations of Tibetan refugees from China has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan monasteries around Boudhanath.



As there are a lot of monkeys living in parts of the Swayambhunath it is also referred to as the Monkey Temple, Swayambhunath is probably one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal. Even though the site is considered Buddhist, the place is honored by both Buddhists and Hindus. King Pratap Malla, the powerful king of Kathmandu, constructed the eastern stairway in the 17th century. According to myths Swayambhunath was founded by the great-grandfather of King Manadeva, King Vrsadeva, in the beginning of the 5th century AD. This was later confirmed by a damaged stone inscription found at the site, which indicated that King Manadeva ordered work done in 640 AD. It is also said that Emperor Ashoka is said to have visited the site in the 3rd century BC and built a temple on the hill, which was later destroyed. Legend has it that the Buddha himself visited Swayambhunath and gave teachings there two hundred years earlier.

Swayambhunath is located 4km from the centre of Kathmandu. The Stupa is said to be 2000 years old, the stupa which forms the main structure is composed of a solid hemisphere of brick and earth supporting a lofty conical spire capped by a pinnacle of copper gilt. Painted on the four sided base of the spire are the all seeing eyes of the Lord Buddha looking in all four directions with the word “unity”. There are pentagonal toran present above each of the four sides with statues engraved in them. Behind and above the toran are thirteen tiers, above all the tiers, there is a small space above which the Gajur is resent. This hill is an assortment of small Chaityas and Pagoda temples.

The temple of Sweta Machchindranath is situated at Machchindra Bahal between Indra Chowk and Ason. It is a pagoda of considerably artistic beauty. The deity is also called Janmadyo or Machchindra.

A three-storey temple in the main market avenue, called Indra Chowk, the image of Akash Bhairav is displayed outside for a week during Indra Jatra, the festival of Indra, the God of Rain.


About 8km north of Kathmandu, at the base of Shivapuri hill is a remarkable enormous statue of Lord Bishnu, reclining on a bed of snakes. This is one of the masterpieces of stone sculptures of the Lichchhavi period. This fifth century statue is in the middle of a small pond and seems to float in water.

Situated about 5km northwest of Kathmandu, Balaju Garden features fountains with 22 crocodile headed water spouts dating from the eighteenth century. There is also a large swimming pool inside the park.

Near Pashupatinath Temple is another historic and holy temple of Guheswari. Only Hindus are allowen to enter the temple courtyard.

The lovely stupa of Chabahil is believed to have been built by Charumati, the daughter of the Indian Emperor Ashok, in the third century BC. There are ancient statues around the stupa.

The temple of Chandra Vinayak is situated about 200m north of Chabahil stupa. This double tiered brass roofed temple houses a tiny image of Lord Ganesh, the elephant headed god.

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