Patan, Pashupati and Boudhanath - 1 Day

Patan Durbar Square: Lying connected to the 5 km South-East of Kathmandu Valley by Bagmati River, 459 hectares of Patan is bounded by 4 stupas built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC as recorded in history. Patan is also called Lalitpur. There are several legends attached to the origin of the term, Lalitpur. One such legend says that in ancient times Kathmandu was engulfed with severe drought and three people were assigned to summon God Red Machhendranath from Kamaru Kamachhya, a place in Assam, India, into the valley for rainfalls. Among the three people, one was a farmer named Lalit who was believed to have contributed more. When the rain finally poured into the valley, people as a sign of gratitude Sanskritized the valley after his name and the term ‘pur’ meaning township, and was finally named Lalitpur. Another tale boasts that the valley was named after king Yalamber. Patan people refer to Patan as Yala. History has it that Patan was founded in the 3rd century by the Kirat dynasty and later was modeled into perfection by Lichhavis in the sixth century followed by the Malla dynasty.

Pashupatinath: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. Built-in the 1st or 2nd century and later renovated by Malla kings, the site itself is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when a Shiva lingam was discovered here.

The largest temple complex in Nepal stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River which is considered holy by Hindus.  The main pagoda-style temple has a gilded roof, four sides covered in silver and wood carvings of the finest quality. Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath.

Nearby is the temple of Guheshwori dedicated to Shiva’s consort, Sati Devi. The cremation of Hindus takes place on raised platforms along the river. Only Hindus are allowed inside the gates of the main temple. The inner sanctum has a Shiva lingam and outside sits the largest statue of Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Shiva. There are hundreds of Shiva lingam within the compound. The big Maha Shivaratri festival in spring attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees from within Nepal and from India.

Experience this highly recommended religious hub for a mix of religious, cultural, and spiritual experiences. Located 3 km northeast of Kathmandu on the banks of the Bagmati River, the temple area also includes Deupatan, Jaya Bageshori, Gaurighat (Holy Bath), Kutumbahal, Gaushala, Pingalasthan, and Sleshmantak forest. There are around 492 temples, 15 Shivalayas (shrines of Lord Shiva), and 12 Jyotirlinga (phallic shrines) to explore.

It is also a cremation site where the last rites of Hindus are performed. The site and events at cremation are not for the faint-hearted; still, visitors are seen watching curiously from across the river from the hill.

Boudhanath: Boudhanath epitomizes Tibetan Buddhism. It lies 8 km East of Kathmandu and was built by Licchavis King Man Dev in the 5th century A. D. Its colossal and ancient stupa is regarded as one of the world’s biggest stupa and has been built on a stepped octagonal base and inset with alcoves representing Buddha and his teachings. After the Chinese invasion in 1959, Tibetans in thousands came to this famous Buddhist Chaitya and energized the stupa. The stupa is surrounded by various temples or ‘gompas’. The atmosphere of the whole place lightens up with zest as the fragrance of incense drifts through the air. Chanting of monks and creaking of prayer wheels can be heard while strolling around the base. It is one of the prime sites for pilgrims and tourists in the country.

From above, Boudhanath Stupa looks like a giant mandala or diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. And as in all Tibetan mandalas, 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 (sky, water, earth, fire, and air), which are represented in the stupa’s architecture.

There are other symbolic numbers here as well: the nine levels of Boudhanath Stupa represent the mythical Mt. Meru, the center of the cosmos; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightenment, or “Bodhi” hence the stupa’s name.

At the bottom, the stupa is surrounded by an irregular 16-sided wall, with frescoes in the niches. In addition to the Five Dhyani Buddhas, Boudhanath Stupa is closely associated with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Padmapani), whose 108 forms are depicted in sculptures around the base. The mantra of Avalokiteshvara (Om Mani Padme Hum) is carved on the prayer wheels beside the images of Avalokiteshvara around the base of the stupa.

The base of the stupa consists of three large platforms, decreasing in size. These platforms symbolize the body, brain, and speech. Boudhanath is topped with a square tower bearing the omnipresent Buddha eyes on all four sides.

Instead of a nose is a question-mark-type symbol that is actually the Nepali character for the number 1, symbolizing unity and the one way to reach enlightenment through the Buddha’s teachings. Above this is the third eye, symbolizing the wisdom of the Buddha.

Surrounding Boudhanath stupas are streets and narrow alleys lined with colorful homes, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and street vendors.

Overview

Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. The largest temple complex in Nepal stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River which is considered holy by Hindus. Nearby is the temple of Guheshwori dedicated to Shiva’s consort, Sati Devi.

Boudhanath Stupa represents the mythical Mt. Meru, the center of the cosmos; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightenment, or “Bodhi” hence the stupa’s name. The mantra of Avalokiteshvara (Om Mani Padme Hum) is carved on the prayer wheels beside the images of Avalokiteshvara around the base of the stupa.

Patan is also called Lalitpur. There are several legends attached to the origin of the term, Lalitpur. One such legend says that in ancient times Kathmandu was engulfed with severe drought and three people were assigned to summon God Red Machhendranath from Kamaru Kamachhya, a place in Assam, India, into the valley for rainfalls.

Itinerary

Day 1

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Patan, Pashupati and Boudhanath
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