Patan Durbar Square is situated at the centre of the city of Lalitpur in Nepal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Patan is the oldest of all the three cities of Kathmandu valley. It is best known for its artistic heritage. The city is situated on a plateau across Bagamti River. The city is surrounded by 4 stupas at 4 corners of Patan, one at each corner of its cardinal points and is believed to be built by the Emperor Ashoka. The former royal palace complex is the center of Patan’s religious and social life and houses a museum containing an array of bronze statues and religious objects. There are three main courtyards or chowks in Patan Darbar Square – central Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Keshav Narayan Chowk. The Sundari Chowk holds in its center a masterpiece of stone architecture, the royal bath called Tushahity.
The square was heavily damaged in the earthquake of 25 April, 2015.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the plaza in front of the royal palace of the old Bhaktapur Kingdom, 1400 m above sea level. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the current town of Bhaktapur also known as Bhadgaon which is 13 km east of Kathmandu. The complex consists of four distinct squares – Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square and Pottery Square. The whole area is informally known as bhaktapur Durbar Square.
The Durbar square is surrounded by spectacular architecture that vividly showcases the skills of the Newari artists and craftsmen, over several centuries. The royal palace was originally situated at Dattatraya square and was only later moved to the Durbar Square location.
The Mini Pashupatinath Temple in Bhaktapur Durbar square is a replica of the original one in Kathmandu. Also known as the Yaksheswara Mahadev Temple, it was built by King Yaksha Malla in either 1475 or 1482. The legend is that Lord Shiva asked the king to build the Pashupatinath Temple and so he did. The temple contains several graphic erotic carvings in the pillars and roof struts.
The Durbar Square houses the 55 window palace which was constructed by King Jitamitra Malla and was home to the royalty until 1769. It is now a national gallery. The main attraction is the golden door, the most beautiful and richly molded specimen of its kind in the entire world. Close by is the golden gate which leads into Mulchok Court which is home to the Taleju Temple. This temple like other in the main towns of Kathmandu valley is dedicated to the goddess Taleju Bhawani and includes shrines to both the Taleju Bhawani and Kumari.
Nyatapola Temple is a five storey pagoda, built by King Phupatindra Malla in 1702 and dedicated to the Goddess Siddhi Lakshmi. To make the brick and wood temple strong and powerful, King Bhupatindra Malla ordered guardians be placed in pairs on each level of the base leading up to the Nyatapola Temple. On the first level is a pair of likenesses of Bhaktapur’s strongest men, Jaya Malla and Phatta Malla. On the next tier are two elephants, followed by two lions, two griffins, and finally ‘Baghini’ and ‘Singhini’, the tiger and lion Goddesses. The entities in each level are supposed to be 10 times as strong as the one on the next lower level. The temple is the tallest temple in the Kathmandu Valley and stands 100 feet high. It was so well designed that it withstood a powerful 8.3 earthquake in 1934.
The Dattatraya Temple is as old as the 55 windows palace. Consecrated by King Jayayakshya Malla in 1427, this temple, according to popular belief, was built out of the trunk of a single tree. It was subsequently repaired and renovated by King Vishva Malla in the mid 16th century. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva and shows symbols of both gods.
The Siddhi Lakshmi Temple is a Sikhara style temple next to 55 Window Palace. The steps up to the temple are flanked by male and female attendants.
Next to the Vatsala Devi Temple, in front of the 55 Windows Palace is the Chayslin Dega. This octagonal temple was originally a viewing point for noble writers, observing festivals and rituals. It was built during the 17th century by King Jitamitra Malla and was used as a rest house by the pilgrims.
The Vatsala Devi Temple is a small temple in right in front of the Golden Gate. This Sikhara style temple completely constructed in sandstone and is built on three stage plinth. It is dedicated to Batsala Devi, a form of Goddess Durga. The stone temple shows many intricate carvings. It is most famous for its bells.
The Bhairabnath Temple is dedicated to the dreadful aspect of Lord Shiva. It stands a short distance away from the Nyatapola Temple. This three storied temple was originally constructed by King Jagaj Jyoti Malla and remodelled by King Bhupatindra Malla.
More views from the Bhaktapur Durbar Square…
A major earthquake on 25 April 2015 had badly damaged many buildings in the Bhaktapur Durbar square. The mini Pashupatinath temple lost its roof, while the Vatsala Devi Temple was demolished by the earthquake.
Sarangkot is a village just above Pokhara, famous for its spectacular views of one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, the Annapurna range including the Annapurna I which is the 10th highest mountain in the world. At dawn, the sun transforms the peaks from pink to celestial gold. Never miss a visit to Sarangkot while in Pokhara, which also offers a nice glimpse into the peaceful, slow village life and more.
The distance to Sarangkot from Pokhara is around 12 km. You can hire a taxi in the early morning to make a visit to the view point at the time of sunrise. The main village is just below the ridge, but a set of steps leads uphill to a dramatic viewpoint, the site of an ancient kot or fort.
On our way back we paid a visit to the Radhakrishna Temple, Bindhyabasini, Pokhara. Atop a hill this temple complex with amazing views around is worth a visit.
The Pashupatinath Temple is located on the banks of the Bagamati River in the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. This is the most sacred of all the Hindu temples in Nepal and the seat of national deity, Lord Pashupatinath. This temple complex is on UNESCO World Heritage Sites list since 1979. The temple was erected anew in the 15th century by Lichhavi King Shupushpa after the previous building was consumed by termites. Over a time, countless further temples have been erected around this two storied temple. The area of Pashupatinath encompasses 264 hectares of land including 518 temples and monuments. Main pagoda style temple is located in the fortified courtyard within the complex on the western bank of the Bagamati River. The two storied roof is made of copper and is covered with gold. The temple is richly decorated with wooden sculptures and the most astonishing decoration of the temple is the huge statue of Nandi.
There are several complex stories involving the origins of Pashupatinath. One story goes that Shiva and Parvati came to the Kathmandu Valley and rested by the Bagamati while on a journey. Shiva was so impressed by its beauty and the surrounding forest that he and Parvati changed themselves into deers and walked into the forest. Many spots in Kathmandu Valley have been identified as places where Shiva went during his time as a deer. After a while the people and gods began to search for Shiva. Finally, after various complications, they found him in the forest, but he refused to leave. More complications ensued, but ultimately Lord Shiva announced that, since he had lived by the Bagamati river in a deer’s form, he would now be known as Pashupatinath, lord of all animals. It is said that whoever came here and beheld the lingam that appeared there would not be reborn as animal.
Only followers of Hinduism can enter the main temple, but all the other buildings are available for foreigners to visit. From the eastern bank of the river Bagamati the main temple can be seen in its whole beauty. Numerous religious buildings are also located on the eastern bank of the Bagamati, most of them devoted to Shiva. Along the western bank of the river numerous platforms for funeral pyres are built. The cremations on these platforms are a common sight at any point of time. Even though there are many other places in Kathmandu where cremations take place, this place is considered to be the best as the ashes are cleared into the Bagamati River which eventually flows in to the Ganges. By the river side there is a home were terminally ill people can wait for their death and can be cremated here. According to the Nepalese Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times in to the Bagamati River before cremation, so that the reincarnation cycle may be ended. Yes, here on the banks of sacred Bagamati, one moves from mortality to immortality. The chief mourner (usually the elder son) who lights the funeral pyre must take a holy river water bath immediately after cremation. Many relatives who join the funeral possession also take a bath in the Bagamati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation. It is believed that the Bagamati River purifies the people spiritually.
Once you cross over to the eastern bank of the river, you will be met with many sadhus covered with ashes and colourful robes. Watch out for monkeys in the temple complex, who may snatch things from the tourists and pilgrims.
Pokhara is the second largest city of Nepal and the headquarters of Kaski District. It is located 200 km west of the capital Kathmandu. Due to its proximity to the Annapurna mountain range the city is a base for trekkers undertaking the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas. Pokhara is home to many Gurkha soldiers. It is the most beautiful and clean city in Nepal and also the most expensive city.
The Seti Gandaki River (White River) flows through the Pokhara city. In the south, the city borders Phewa Lake a fresh water lake which covers an area of 5.23 square km. It has an average depth of 28 feet. The Tal Barahi Temple situated in the middle of the lake is a major attraction. Baidam is the eastern banks of the Phewa Lake which is also known as Lakeside. This is the area where all the hotels, lodges, restaurants, book shops, souvenir shops etc. are located.
Pokhara Shanti Stupa
This Buddhist pagoda style monument on Ananda hill is a major tourist attraction of Pokhara. It was built by Nipponzan-Moyohoji monk, Sonin with local support under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii a Buddhist monk and founder of Nipponzan-Myohoji. It provides panoramic view of the Annapurna mountain range, Pokhara city and the Phewa Lake. The hilltop provides splendid view of sun rise and sun set. Nepal has two of the eighty peace pagodas in the world one in Lumbini and the other in Pokhara.
The pagoda is 115 feet tall and 344 feet in diameter. It has two tiers for the religious people to circumambulate. Second tier displays four statues of Buddha presented as souvenirs from different countries – ‘Dharmachakra Mudra’ from Japan, ‘Bodh Gaya’ from Sri Lanka, ‘Kushinagar’ from Thailand and ‘Lumbini’ from Nepal. Each statues represents the important vents related to Buddha and named according the place where it took place.
There are several ways to reach the peace pagoda. There are hiking trails, cycling tracks and the blacked topped road to the stupa. However the most popular and adventurous trails is by crossing the Phewa Lake by a local boat and climb uphill through the local villages that takes about an hour and a half to reach the hilltop. We followed this trail which was very soothing to the eyes owing to the nice views of the mountain range and the aerial view of the Phewa Lake. There have been cases of mugging in these trails, in the previous years.
Boudhanath is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. This stupa is located about 11 km from the center of Kathmandu. The stupa is one of the largest in the world. It is known as ‘Khasti’ in Nepalese Language. The Stupa is on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the Kathmandu Valley by the village of Sankhu. The influx of large population of refugees from Tibet has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan Monasteries around Boudhanth. As of 1979, boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Gopalarajavamsavali says Boudhanath was founded by the Nepalese Licchavi king Sivadeva (590-604 AD), though other Nepalese chronicles date it to the reign of King Manadeva (465-505 AD). However Tibetan emperor, Trisong Detsan (755-797 AD) is also traditionally associated with the construction of the Boudhanath Stupa.
Myths of the Holy Stupa
Once in ancient Nepal, there lived a very grumpy, rude and irreligious man who was detested by everyone and never once did anything pious in his life. He owned a shop in the complex but no one really came to his shop because he used to speak ill of everyone who came there. When he died he fell straight to hell and when he was about to get sentenced for his sins, the Buddha appeared and nullified his sentence. When the demons asked the holy one why he did this the Buddha said “Yes, this man has done many sins in his life, but once he circled the Boudhanath while chasing a dog and had gained a little merit thus the Buddha shall grant him one chance to atone”. After this incident it is believed that even if a person who has committed great sins circles around the stupa even once shall be granted one chance to atone for his sins.
Boudhanath stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha. According Theravada Buddhist tradition, Kassapa is the twenty-seventh of the twenty-nine named Buddhas, the sixth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity and the third of the five Buddhas of the present Kalpa.
The earthquake of April,2015 has badly damaged the Boudhanath Stupa, severely cracking the spire.
Swayambhunath complex located atop a hill in the Kathmandu valley located west of Kathmandu – consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. Swayambhunath occupies a central position, probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. A Tibetan monastery, museum and library are more recent additions. The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on it. Between them, the number one (in Davanagari script) is painted in the fashion of a nose. The site has two access points, a long stairway with 365 steps leading directly to the main platform of the temple and car road around the hill from the south leading to the southwest entrance. Much of Swayambhunath’s iconography comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. However, the complex is also an important site for Buddhist of many schools and is also revered by Hindus. In local Nepalese Language the name of the complex is Singgu which means ‘self-sprung”.
The first sight, on reaching the top of the stairway is the Vajra or the thunderbolt sceptre. The Vajra is essentially a type of club with a ribbed spherical head. The ribs may meet in a ball shaped top or they may be separate and end in sharp points with which to stab. It is a weapon which is used as a ritual object to symbolize both properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and thunderbolt (irresistible force). The Vajra is used symbolically by the dharma traditions of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism often to represent firmness of spirt and spiritual power. The use of the Vajra as a symbolic and ritual tool, spread from India along with Indian religion and culture to other parts of Asia.
According to Swayambhu Purana, the entire valley was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus. The valley came to be known as swayambhu meaning “self-created”. The name comes from an eternal self-existent flame over which a stupa was later built. Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living around the temple. They are holy because Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhunath temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and had lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.
Manjusri had a vision of the lotus at Swayambhu and travelled there to worship it. Seeing that the valley can be good settlement and to make the site more accessible to human pilgrims, he cut a gorge which drained the water out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The lotus was transformed into a hill and the flower became the Swayambhunath Stupa.
Lumbini is where according to Buddhist tradition, Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BC. Located in the Rupandehi District of Nepal, it is one of the many magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in place pivotal to the life of Gautama Buddha. Lumbini has a number of temples including the Mayadevi Temple. Many monuments, monasteries and a museum (the Lumbini International Research Institute) are also located within the holy site. Also located there is a Puskarini or Holy Pond where the Buddha’s mother took ritual dip prior to his birth and where he too had his first bath. Lumbini was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1997.
In 1896, Nepalese archaeologists discovered a great stone pillar at Lumbini, suggested to be placed at the site by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in 245 BC. Records made by the Chinese pilgrim Faxian in the early fifth century were also used in the process of identifying this religiously acclaimed site. Recent excavations beneath existing brick structures at the Mayadevi Temple at Lumbini have uncovered evidence for an older timber structure beneath the walls of the newer brick Buddhist shrine, which was constructed during the Ashokan era.
The present day Lumbini historic site is 4.8 km in length and 1.6 km 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 have the Theravadin monasteries, the wester having Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries. The holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Ashokan pillar and the Mayadevi Temple, where the supposed place of birth of Buddha is located. Pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.
Lumbini can be easily accessible from Bhairawa also known as Siddharthanagar on the Terai plains of Nepal which is 265 km west of the capital Kathmandu and three km north of the Indian border at Sunauli.