One of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world, Pashupatinath lies 5 km east from the city center. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga, or phallic symbol, of Lord Shiva as well as the noteworthy gold plated roofs and silver coated doors. This is the abode of God Shiva and is the holiest of all the Shiva shrines.Religious pilgrims and sadhus, like the one pictured here, travel all the way from the remote areas of India to visit this sacred sight, especially during Shivaratri (the night of Shiva) that falls between February/March. Even though these devotees have denounced worldly possessions, each carries a Sadhu ID (identifications card) to freely cross over the border between India and Nepal.Chronicles indicate Pashupatinath’s existence prior to 400 AD. Devotees can be seen taking ritual dips in the holy Bagmati river flowing beside the temple, also a World Heritage Site. The crematorium is just outside the temple and it is a dream of almost every Hindu to be cremated by the side of Pashupati Aryaghat after their death.
It lies about 6 km east of downtown Kathmandu and is the largest stupa in the Valley and one of the largest in the world. It looms 36 meters high and presents one of the most fascinating specimens of stupa design with hundreds of prayer wheels and 108 small images of Buddha all around. Just like the Swayambhunath, the stupa here is too has four sides with the watchful eyes of Lord Buddha. All the Buddhist throng to this stupa to take part in the sacred rituals during the Buddhist festivals.
This is a 2500 years old stupa situated on a hillock about 77 m above the ground level and over looking Katmandu valley. The painted eyes on four sides represent the all seeing eyes of Buddha and are watching all the time wrong doers and good doers.This is a very religious shrine of Buddhists. There are two Buddhist monasteries within the complex and a temple of Haratima where both Buddhists and Hindus worship this temple. The shrine is just 3 km to the northwest of Kathmandu city.
Kathmandu Durbar Square:
Durbar Square is the spiritual heart of Kathmandu. Around central Durbar Square, there is the Royal Palace, palaces, pagodas, courtyards, temples and the Kumari House, the residence of the Living Goddess. The old royal palace is situated at the centre of the city and was surrounded by the temples and other important buildings. Many of the old buildings were re-built after the 1934 earthquake. The Durbar Square area comprises of 3 squares. The Kasthamandap (Wooden temple) is situated in the south west corner and one of the most famous building of Kathmandu. It was built in 1596 by Raja Lachmina Singh from the wood of one enormous sal tree. It was originally a rest house or community centre and later converted into a temple dedicated to Gorakhnath, whose shrine sits in the centre of a small enclosure. These temples were built between the 12th and 18th centuries by the Malla kings. On the north side of the square is the Ashok Binayak temple, also known as the Maru Ganesh. This small, golden temple is dedicated to the god Ganesh. The Maru Tole is located on the left side of the Ashok Binayak temple and leads to the Visnumati river and the Swayambhunath temples.
The temple of the living goddess of Kumari is situated towards the Kumari Bahal and Kumari Chowk. The Hindus worship the goddess Kumari as the reincarnation of Siva’s consort Parvati. The cult was instituted just over 200 years ago by Jaya Prakash Malla. The Kumaris are drawn from the Newar Sakya clan of gold and silversmiths and are initiated into the role at the age of 4 or 5. The living goddess Kumari is only allowed to witness the festivals and other religious occasions. During the festivals, the goddess is carried through the streets in a palanquin and walks on the cloth, as her feet must not touch the ground. The 18th century temple of the Living goddess Kumari and monastic courtyard is guarded at the entrance by two painted lions. The building is in the style of the Buddhist monasteries and was constructed in 1757 by Jaya Prakash Malla, as an act of the penance. The stucco facade has a number of intricately carved windows. The lintels are carved with laughing skulls while deities, doves and peacocks decorate the balcony windows. The walls of the courtyard have remarkable decoration.
The Budhanilkantha Temple is situated about 10 kms. north of Kathmandu. The main attraction of the temple is the world’s largest statue of the Vishnu, reclining on the bed of serpents in the pool. This temple belongs to the 8th century AD. No one knows who built the statue, but according to the legend it was accidentally unearthed by a farmer. The 5 m stone statue of Vishnu, holds four things in his four hands. These things are a discus (symbol of the mind), mace (primitive knowledge), conch (the 5 elements) and lotus seed (universe). According to the legend, the Lord Vishnu sleeps for four months of the year and the festival of Budhanilkantha is celebrated in the month of November, on account of the waking up of the god after a long sleep. Various devotees gather here in large number during the Haribodhini Ekadasi and Kartik Purnima.
Patan Durbar Square
Patan located on lovely little plateau across the Bagmati is only 7-k.m southeast of Kathmandu. This city roughly inhabited by some 125000 people in considered oldest of Patan Durbar Square all three cities of Kathmandu valley. This city founded in 3rd century AD. By King Veera Dev has a finest Newar crafts since time immemorial. Meaning the city of fine arts has hundreds of fascinating Hindu and Buddhist monuments scattered in and around. The most important monument area of course is Patan Durbar Square. Recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The Square has been described as one of the most picturesque collection of buildings that have been set up so small a place by the piety of oriental man. Most of the monuments in this square date back to the medieval Malla period 15th to 17th century as the golden period of Nepalese art and architecture. The important things to be seen in this area include the Golden Gate and the Golden Window of the old Palace, the beautiful piece of traditional metal crafts, the famed Krishna temple with 21 golden pinnacles, the Royal bath of Sundari chowk, a perfect piece of the classic work in stone. Royal Taleju temple, Viswa Nath Temple and Char Narayan temple are the finest examples of the unique craftsmanship in wood; the temple of Bhimsen with the magnificent golden balcony overlooking the square outside plus many other shrines and sculptures scattered in and around the square.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Situated at an altitude of 1401 meter above sea level Bhaktapur only is a very unique old town. This city divided into 24 traditional locality covers an area of 5 square kilometers. Founded by King Anand Dev in 889 AD Bhakatapur is said to have been built in the shape of conch shell a sacred symbol of Lord Vishnu. The word Bhaktapur means the city of devotees. Before the unification of Nepal, Bhaktapur was an independent principality ruled by the Malla Kings, who were very much devoted to religion, culture and art. During the period many magnificent temples and mansions were built. This period is remembered as golden period in the Nepalese art and remains a unique example.
Changu Narayan Temple
It is situated on a ridge overlooking the Valley, about 12 km to the east of the city. It is dedicated to the Hindu God Bishnu – the Preserver. One of the finest and oldest specimens of pagoda architecture, the temple is embellished with exquisite wood and stone carvings and is said to be the oldest pagoda style temple in Nepal built sometime back in 323 A.D. The sacred complex is a World Heritage Site and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding at 125 meters.
Namo Buddha is a beautiful place. Namo Buddha is about 40km away from the heart of Kathmandu city. It is in Kavre District in the southeast of the valley. There is no need to exaggerate this. The place is very quiet and pure. Its environment is very clean, with no pollution, and the natural air is so fresh, cool and healthy. It is also the right place for meditation and practice. In the morning when you wake up, you can see a beautiful sunrise. In the evening you can see a wonderful sunset. You can enjoy snow-covered Himalayan ranges which look so amazing and pure.
From the Buddhist point of view, Namo Buddha is one of the most important religious sites in Nepal. There are three major Buddhist pilgrimage sites: Boudha Stupa, Swayambhunath Stupa and Namo Buddha.
Located 30 km to the east of Kathmandu on the valley rim, Nagarkot is for those on the lookout for Himalayan scenery and rural serenity. Nagarkot, situated at an elevation of 2,175 m, provides a panorama of five of the world’s 10 tallest peaks – Everest (8,848 m), Lhotse (8,516 m), Cho Oyu (8,201 m), Makalu (8,463 m) and Manaslu (8,163 m) – and many other lesser summits. Visitors also go to Nagarkot to watch the stunning sunrise and sunset. It is a favorite weekend getaway for Kathmanduites to beat the heat during summers and to enjoy, if there is, the snowfall during winters. The accessibility, only 30 to 45 minutes’ drive from Kathmandu, and tourist facilities, play a part. Surrounded by terraced hillsides and picturesque houses, the hilltop resort is an idyllic escape – far from the noise and din of Kathmandu’s city life. Bird watching is a joy in the forests here. Short hiking options abound. You can take a walk down from Nagarkot along a ridge to the temple of Changu Narayan – with views of Sankhu village to the right and Bhaktapur to the left. Another trail leads south from Nagarkot to Nala and Banepa on the Arniko Highway to the Tibetan border.
Dhulikhel is about an hour’s drive east of Kathmandu along the Arniko Highway leading to Tibet, China. Banepa, passed en route, was once the capital of a 14th-century kingdom that boasted diplomatic relations with China’s Ming emperors. Dhulikhel was an important trade post, and you can see an impressive vista of the snowy central Himalayas making a backdrop to the gentle hills. Dhulikhel is central to a number of day excursions such as an early morning 30-minute hike up to the Bhagawati Temple for an unforgettable sunrise over the Himalayas. Trails lead along the ridge north of the town. A leisurely all-day hike can be undertaken to visit Namo Buddha, a sacred site that has drawn reverent pilgrims for many centuries. Legend tells that the Buddha sacrificed his body here to feed a starving tigress and her cubs. A carved stone slab on the top of the hill depicts the moving story, a lesson in compassion and selfless giving. A dirt road (sometimes suitable for vehicles) leads from Dhulikhel to Namo Buddha via Kavre – a pleasant roundtrip walk of eight hours.
Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, in the Terai plains of Nepal is one of the greatest pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. More than 400,000 Buddhists and non Buddhists visit Lumbini every year. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Culture) and holds immense archeological and religious importance. Sacred Garden: It was here in the gardens of Lumbini that Prince Siddhartha Gautam, who later became the Buddha, was born in 623 BC. The nativity site is marked by a commemorative pillar erected by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka of India during his pilgrimage to the holy site in 249 BC. The inscription on the Ashoka Pillar indentifies the Sacred Garden – spread over 9 sq. km – as the spot where the Enlightened One was born. 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. The sacred Puskarni Pond where Queen Mayadevi had taken a bath before the birth of Buddha lies to the south of the pillar. It was also in this pond that the infant Buddha was given his first bath.
JANAKPUR, the birthplace of Janaki or Sita, the consort of Lord Ram, is an important religious pilgrimage site in the Terai plains, in south central Nepal. In ancient times, Janakpur was the capital city of the Kingdom of Mithila and the centre of Maithil culture during the Treta Yug, or period, nearly 12,000 years ago. Janakpur has held a special significance for Thai Royal families since ancient times. The Royal household of Thailand still receives mangoes from the orchards of Janakpur. These fruits which are in abundance only during the peak summer months from May to mid June are savored for their sweet taste and unique flavor.
Pilgrims flock here by the thousands to pay homage at the massive and magnificent Janaki Mandir – Janaki being the other name of Sita, the daughter of King Janak. The temple was constructed in 1874 and is a blend of Mughal and local architecture. The temple is a three-storey building and has 60 rooms, making it the largest temple in Nepal. The temple houses an idol of Sita which was found near Ayodhya, the kingdom of Ram. The marriage anniversary of Lord Rama and Sita is celebrated in Janakpur every year on Vivah Panchami day which falls in December. In the southwest corner of Janaki Mandir is the Vivah Mandap, which has been built at the site where the marriage of Ram and Sita is said to have been taken place. Another well-known temple in the vicinity is Ram Mandir, built in pagoda style, and hence is different from the other temples in Janakpur which generally bear resemblance to Mughal architecture. It houses a female statue, said to be of Yogamaya, which has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful images of female forms in Nepal. Other holy sites of interest include the Laxman Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple and Hanuman Temple.
The Mithila region prides itself in having a large number of ponds. Janakpurdham is said to have as many as 115 ancient ponds of historical and mythological importance. Among the ponds, Ganga Sagar, Parshuram Kunda and Dhanusha Sagar are held extremely sacred.
BANDIPUR Located on a 1,000 m ridge overlooking the Marshyangdi River Valley in Tanahu district, some 140 km from Kathmandu on the way to Pokhara. Once a vibrant commercial center on the Tibet-India trade route, Bandipur offers mountain views, artistic Newar houses, shrines, forts and caves. While the Newars are predominant in Bandipur, the Magar and Gurung ethnic groups, who have traditionally joined Indian and British armies, inhabit the hillsides growing rice, millet, corn and mustard on terrace fields. People: While the Newars are predominant in Bandipur, the Magar and Gurung ethnic groups inhabit the hillsides growing rice, millet, corn and mustard on terrace fields. Brahmin, Chettri, Kami, Sarki, Damai ethnic groups have also made Bandipur their home since the Magars first settled here.
Situated at an altitude of 2,328 m, Antu Danda is famous for its spectacular views of the sunrise and sunset over the eastern Himalaya. From here, magnificent views of the 8,586-m Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, as well as Kumbhakarna and other snowy summits can be had. Antu Danda is surrounded by scenic terraces, slopes and plains covered by different types of vegetation. On a clear day you can see the middle hills and plains of neighboring Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India. There are homestay facilities at Antu Danda, which is about 35 km southeast of Ilam Bazaar, the district headquarters,
MAI POKHARI (2,121 m):
A popular pilgrimage site, Mai Pokhari is a 9-cornered pristine lake considered the sacred abode of Goddess Bhagawati. It lies 13 km north of Ilam Bazaar and is surrounded by dense forests of fir, juniper, birch, pine and medicinal plants. Rare animals like the musk deer, leopard, porcupine, jackal as well as numerous migratory birds and rare insects are found in the area. People from different parts of Nepal visit Mai Pokhari in Ilam for an annual festival on Kartik Ekadasi which falls in October-November. Mai Pokhari is about 1 ½ hours’ drive from Ilam Bazaar.
KANYAM AND FIKKAL:
On the way to Ilam Bazaar, Kanyam and Fikkal have large tea estates that have made Ilam famous for more than a hundred years. These tea gardens are popular among tourists for picnicking, sightseeing and photography. Fikkal is a business center in eastern Ilam and lies on the Mechi Highway leading to Ilam. It is also the junction from where one can go to the eastern border city of Pashupatinagar adjacent to Darjeeling. Indian and Nepali nationals can cross over to the other side of the border with valid documents.
One of the few “off-the-beaten-track” destinations in Nepal is the ancient hill town of Tansen with its old artistic Newari houses and cobbled streets. Midway between the Indian border and Pokhara, it is a picturesque hill town lying on the lap of the Srinagar Hills. Tansen is the headquarters of Palpa district and the hub of the mid-west culture of Nepal. The district varies from 250 to 2,000 m in elevation. Palpa was the seat of the Sen kingdom that ruled over this region from the 16th century for almost 300 years. The name “Tansen” has its origin in the Magar language, meaning “northern settlement.” The Magars are assumed to be the first settlers in this area. However, the town’s houses are strongly influenced by traditional Newari architecture as the Newars, originally from the Kathmandu Valley, had migrated to Palpa in search of opportunities of trade and craft.
Gorkha is a picturesque hill- town that has a rich history of its own. The place is situated on a small mountain at the height of 3500 feet and offers a magnificent view of the Himalayan Peaks. King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who unified the Kingdom of Nepal during eighteenth century and got an upper hand over the Ranas, was born here. Actually king Drabya Shah founded this kingdom in the year 1560 and since then, the place has acted as the den for the Shah dynasty. In the war of throne with Ranas, the Gorkhas had the last laugh as the Gorkha soldiers succeeded in conquering the Kathmandu valley. The capital of the Nepal was shifted to Kathmandu since then. But this beautiful township has always remained as the center of attraction for many Nepalese as well as foreign visitors.
Among the sites to visit, Gorkha Durbar tops the list. This historical palace is a one-hour walk from the downtown Gorkha. The palace is strategically located over a fortified hillock. On the southwestern side of palace lies the temple of Goddess Gorakhkali. A cave that claims to shelter the statue of Gorakhnath, the Tantrik sage, adjoins it. The place is picture-perfect to have a view of Mansalu and Himalchuli peaks of Himalayas. Nevertheless, the best place to have a view of the palace and peaks is Upallokot, a viewpoint made on a pedestal over the hill at the height of some 5000 feet.
Manakamana temple is situated at about 1300 meters at a top of a hill surround by a small village community. It is about 9 Km north-east of the town of Mugling and at about 90 Km West from Kathmandu and East from Pokhara.
Manakamana is temple of Durga Bhawani (Hindu Goddess), situated in Gorkha District of Nepal. Manakamana means the “wishes”. It is believed that Goddess Manakaman fulfills the wishes of ones who worship her with pure heart. It is very true when someone wish something from the heart; it is fulfilled by the God.
Manakamana is Hindu Goddess so she is worshiped with offerings of flower, sound, scent, dress, make-ups and colors. There is a tradition of sacrificing animals at the temple. Devotees stand in line for even for 5-10 hours during festivals. The line started from the temple gate reach longer than few kilometers sometimes. People can be seen standing in line with pooja samagri (worship materials) in hand and some of them carrying duck, cock or goat with them. People seem to enjoy standing in the line without food, some even with no water.
It is said queen of Ram Shah was a goddess. It is only known to her devotee. Even, king was unaware of it. Ram Shah is king Gorkha born in AD 1614. One day the king found his queen in goddess incarnation. He told this to Lakhan Thapa. King dies instantly, in AD 1636. The queen went Sati (commit cremation with the husband’s pyre as per custom of that time). Lakhan Thapa objected and dismayed on her Sati. The queen convinced him that she would reappear again. In six months after queen’s death, Lakhan Thapa heard news that a farmer hit a stone while he ploughs his field and a stream of blood and milk came out from the stone. Immediately, he started performing Hindu tantric rituals and worship (hom and pooja) at the place. As soon the flow of blood and milk ceased, he established it as Manakamana Mai. It later on grew as Manakamana Temple. The current priest at the temple is the 17th generation descendant of Lakhan Thapa. Manakamana is only one of very few of its kind of temples where priest is from Magar community of Nepal.