Nepal has a diverse set of cultures, castes, and religions which makes it a very interesting country. Such diversity allows the people of this country to celebrate their differences. Just to give you a brief understanding of this, Nepal became a secular state under the Constitution of Nepal 2015 due to which there is freedom of religion for the citizens. The largest religions are Hinduism followed by Buddhism. This is why Nepal is a popular destination for Hindus and Buddhists alike.
Foreigners intrigued by the diverse culture as well as religious people arrive in Nepal to celebrate their faiths. Some of these are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a wonderful place to visit at least once in your life. Popular destinations for this purpose include Boudhanath, Swoyambunath, Pashupatinath, Manakamana and Dakshinkali.
Boudhanath is one of the most peaceful places in Kathmandu and it has a very relaxing ambience. Foreigners require tickets of Rs. 400 (US$4) to enter inside the stupa. There are many souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants located inside. You can see pilgrims and other followers circulate around the stupa in what is known as “kora”. It is a religious practise and mostly done in the mornings and evenings.
The main stupa which lies in the centre is in the shape of a whitewashed dome and it is painted with the “all seeing eyes” of the buddha on each side. It is a beautiful piece of architecture and in order to get a good view of it, you can take a seat at any of the rooftop restaurants and cafes located there.
History: It was built in the 14th century after the Mughal invasions and is an important centre of Tibetan Buddhism. From above it looks like a giant mandala. There is a square
shaped tower attached to the dome where the “eyes” of the Buddha are drawn. There is a question mark painted instead of a nose to symbolize the Nepali character 1 and represents unity and the one way to reach enlightenment. The square tower is topped by a pyramid with 13 steps, representing the ladder to enlightenment. The triangular shape represents the abstract form for the element of fire. Prayer flags tied to the stupa are believed to carry mantras and prayers heavenward.
This is a beautiful and peaceful religious architecture in the middle of Kathmandu city. It is one of the holiest buddhist stupas in Kathmandu and it offers a panoramic view of the city. It is also famously known as “The Monkey Temple ” due to the vast amount of monkeys gathered around the temple. Swoyambunath serves as a place of religious harmony due to the many Hindu temples and deities being incorporated in this Buddhist site.
The architecture here is quite similar to Boudhanath except that it is located on a hill so the steps leading up to the shrine are quite steep. The main entrance has 365 stone steps that need to be taken before the main stupa can be reached. There are also motor roads which can be taken. Foreigners are charged Rs. 200 (US$2) to enter.
Some of the main points to see besides the stupa are the Vajra (lightning bolt), the Buddhist Museum, Shakyamuni Buddha, Pratappur temple and more.
This is one of the most important and revered sites in Asia for followers of the Hindu god, Shiva. Pashupatinath Temple is one of the eight UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites of the Kathmandu Valley. It is rich in culture and religion with people coming to pray everyday.
The main festival celebrated here is called “Maha Shivaratri” which occurs every year in February as per the Hindu lunar calendar. Extensive prayers are done by the hundreds of devotees that arrive at Pashupatinath on that day.
It is also a cremation site where the last rites of Hindus are performed. While the cremation ritual is not for the faint hearted, tourists and other visitors curiously watch this ritual from across the river. To have an out-of-this-world experience, it is worth visiting Pashupatinath Temple.
Enjoy a scenic ride with a cable car in Manakamana. This is one of Nepal’s most popular and sacred Hindu temples. Manakamana is at a height of 1,302m due to which you will be able to see mountains such as Mt. Manaslu, Mt. Himalchuli and the Annapurna range. This is a holy place that is visited by the people of Nepal at least once in their life for the purposes of praying for blessing and protection. It is believed that all your wishes will come true if you pray to Manakamana Devi who resides in this temple.
This Hindu temple is famous for the age-old tradition of animal sacrifices offered to the goddess ‘Kali’. Local vendors sell piles of marigolds, coconuts and other offerings meant for the goddess. Only Hindus can enter the courtyard where the image of Kali is located whereas visitors can watch from the surrounding area. During the festival season of “Dashain”, animals are sacrificed as an offering to the goddess and this marks spiritual significance for the followers. There is a blood-bath in the temple during this time.