Seven highlights of Nepal

Nepal is one of those mystical places of which many people dream of visiting, but don’t make the effort to get there.

The Himalayan country is best known for its mountains and for the many great treks you can do.  Nepal also has 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include Everest National Park and Chitiwan National Park.  The people of Nepal are very religious, and their religion and culture is celebrated in many of the remaining UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Here is a short guide to some of those Sites:

Swayambhu
This is where a golden spire crowns a conical wooded hill.  Swayambhunath Stupa is the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu valley. Its lofty white dome and glittering golden spire are visible for many miles and from all sides of the valley. Historical records, that were discovered on a stone inscription, give evidence that the stupa was already an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination by the 5th century AD. Its origins however, date to a much earlier time, long before the arrival of Buddhism into the valley. A collection of legends about the site, the 15th century Swayambhu Purana, tells of a miraculous lotus, planted by a past Buddha, which blossomed from the lake that once covered the Kathmandu valley.

Bouddha
Bouddhanath is among the largest stupas in South Asia, and it has become the focal point of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. The white mound looms thirty-six metres overhead. The stupa is located on the ancient trade route to Tibet, and Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers here for many centuries. When refugees entered Nepal from Tibet in the 1950s, many of them decided to live around Bouddhanath. They established many gompas, and the “Little Tibet” of Nepal was born.        

Bhaktapur
Situated at an altitude of 1,401 m, the heritage-listed city Bhaktapur covers an area of four square miles.  Bhaktapur or “the City of Devotees” still retains its medieval charm.  Visitors to this ancient town are treated to the myriad wonders of cultural and artistic achievements. The past glories of the Malla rulers continue to be reflected at the Durbar Square. Pottery and weaving are its traditional industries. The city lies about 14 km east of Kathmandu.

Changunarayan
Narayan, or Vishnu, is considered to be the preserver of creation to Hindus. His temple near Changu Village is often described as the most ancient temple in the Kathmandu Valley. A fifth century stone inscription, the oldest to be discovered in Nepal, is located in the temple compound and it tells of the victorious King Mandev. The temple now covers sixteen hundred years of Nepalese art history. This temple, which was built around the third century, is decorated by some of the best samples of stone, wood, and metal craft in the Valley. In the words of one tourist guide.

Pashupatinath
Pashupatinath is the holiest Hindu pilgrimage destination in Nepal. There are linga images of Shiva along with statues, shrines, and temples dedicated to other deities in the complex. A temple dedicated to Shiva existed at this site in AD 879. However, the present temple was built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1697. A gold-plated roof, silver doors, and woodcarvings of the finest quality decorate the pagoda construction. Guheswari Temple, restored in AD 1653, represents the female “force”. It is dedicated to Satidevi, Shiva’s first wife, who gave up her life in the flames of her father’s fire ritual.

Kathmandu Durbar Square
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the seemingly uncountable monuments in the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The house of the Living Goddess ( Kumari Ghar ), the ferocious Kal Bhairab, the red monkey god, and hundreds of erotic carvings are a few examples of the sights at the Square.  The buildings here represent some the greatest achievements of the Malla dynasty, and they resulted from the great rivalry between the three palaces of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur from a time when the Valley was divided among the children of Yaksya Malla.

Patan Durbar Square
This whole square is a cluster of fine pagoda temples and stone statues; it is at the same time the business hub of the city. At every step one comes across a piece of art or an image of a deity, testifying to the consummate skill of Patan’s anonymous artists. The ancient palace of the Malla kings and the stone baths associated with various legends and episodes of history are especially interesting to visitors. The stone temple of Lord Krishna and the Royal Bath (Tushahity) with its intricate stone and bronze carvings are two other masterpieces in the same vicinity.

Lumbini
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in Lumbini, in southern Nepal, twenty-five hundred years ago. Since his time, Nepal has been a sacred ground for Buddhists as the birthplace of the Buddha. Lumbini is a small town in the southern Terai plains of Nepal, where the ruins of the old city can still be seen. Shakyamuni Buddha was born to a royal family.  Lumbini has also been a holy ground for Buddhists all over the world. The restored garden and surroundings of Lumbini have the remains of many of the ancient stupas and monasteries. A large stone pillar erected by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC bears an inscription about the birth of the Buddha. An important part of Lumbini is the temple of Maya Devi. It has a stone image of Maya Devi giving birth to Lord Buddha as she holds onto a branch. It has been well worn by the strokes of barren women hoping for fertility. To the south of the temple is a pool where Queen Maya Devi is said to have bathed and given her son his first purification bath.

New destinations can be so much better when shown to you by a local.  If you wish to get to know Nepal through the eyes of a local, then try Encounters Nepal, their years of experience is just for the benefit of you.

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