Kathmandu is an incredibly diverse historic city with breathtaking Newari architecture, centuries old Hindu and Buddhist religious sites along with dedicated tourist-friendly accommodations and restaurants. Stepping into Kathmandu is like stepping into another world that everybody should experience at least once in their lifetime.
Kathmandu is a city where ancient traditions rub shoulders with the latest technology. The grandeur of the past enchants the visitor whose gaze may linger on an exquisitely carved wooden window frame, an 18th century bronze sculpture or a spiritually uplifting stupa. Kathmandu, the largest city of Nepal, is the political as well as cultural capital of the country.
Like any big city, Kathmandu has seen rapid expansion in the last decade, but despite the hustle and bustle so typical of metropolitan cities, its people remain refreshingly friendly. The city is a warden of its ancestral value “Atithi Devo Bhava” meaning "Guest is equivalent to God".
Retaining its ancient traditions, Kathmandu is blessed by Living Goddess Kumari and is enriched by endless ceremonial processions and events that take to the streets every now and then with throngs of devotees seeking joy in spiritual celebrations. These religious festivals are steeped in legends and are quite a spectacle with chariot processions and masked dancers often possessed by the spirits of deities.
Kathmandu is a result of diverse culture and lifestyle, a long history of faith and beliefs, and of arts and architecture. Therefore, more than just a city, Kathmandu is a living museum, it is an opportunity to travel back in time and to relive in the history.
A significant deity worshipped in Kathmandu is the Akash Bhairav who is also known as the 'Lord of the sky'. There is a temple dedicated to him merely 5 minutes away from Kathmandu Durbar Square, known as the Akash Bhairav Temple. Devotees worship Akash Bhairav with great dedication because it is believed that worshipping him ensures strength, safety and goodwill for Nepal and its people. In fact, the state-run airline has Akash Bhairav as their symbol to reassure this belief that the deity is protecting them under any circumstance. Indra Jatra, an annual 8-day festival devoted to the god, is also celebrated with great enthusiasm. Followers from all over the world come to Kathmandu to be a part of the important pooja rituals performed during this time of the year.
Legend and Iconography of Akash Bhairav
Akash Bhairav is also known as King Yalambar and Aaju which means the first king of Nepal. It is believed that the temple was actually once the palace of King Yalambar, the first king of Nepal who ruled the region about 3000 years ago and established the nation from Tista in the east and Trishuli in the west. The mighty temple is situated on the first floor of a two storey building and houses a gigantic mask or head, discovered in Kathmandu, representing the deity. It was dug up centuries ago and installed inside the temple on a throne made of silver.
The idol of the deity is accompanied by Bhadrakali and Bhimsen some say is Gautama Buddha and some think is Lord Brahma. The mask or the head is coloured blue representing the colour of the sky, has silver eyes and is adorned with ornaments and garlands. It is also believed to be the mask that King Yalambar wore to disguise as Bhairav when he was on his way to participate in the legendary battle of Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna, upon knowing that the King was going to help the losing party, chopped off his head in rage. This head is believed to have flown through the sky and finally fell in Kathmandu.
After the mask was found buried in the ground, it was dug up, restored and installed in the temple. The deity is mostly considered the progenitor of the peasant group. However, the legendary stories make him a deity for all, and he is worshipped either as King Yalamber or Akash Bhairav or Barbarika. Every year, during Indra Jatra, the sacred mask is taken out in a procession that passes through the street in front of Kumari Bahal, seeking blessings of the Kumari too. A pit stop at the Akash Bhairav Temple, the protector of the region is a must when strolling through the streets near Durbar Square.
According to sacred texts, Nepal is a place where the Hindu gods and ancient rishis have been coming to meditate and relax for thousands of years.
For todays visitors there are plenty of opportunities to experience meditation sessions in Nepal. You can join a retreat in a monastery or private center and practice the teachings that have enlightened so many or find a peaceful spot near one of the famous holy places like Boudhanath or Swayambhunath.
It is believed that meditation rejuvenates one’s energy level and zeal, hence its popularity. It has gained a following worldwide and is taught in many parts of the world. A meditation course will help you relax and explore the spiritual side within yourself. There are many specialized centers offering meditation courses. Some of these institutions provide accommodation and food along with the classes while others only provide classes. One of the most popular classes on meditation that is attended by a large number of foreigners is at Kopan Monastery not very far from Boudha. There are courses that last for months and accommodations are provided as apartments below the monastery.
Meditation has gained immense popularity in the last decade. There are many meditation centers in and around Kathmandu.
Nepal Vipassana Centre runs ten-day courses on meditation. A strict regimen is followed here throughout the course. Daily meditation begins at 4:30 am, and silence is kept for the entire ten days. To register or pick up a pamphlet on the course, visit the centre's Kathmandu office (Sun-Fri 10 am-5.30 pm) in the courtyard of Jyoti Bhawan, in Kantipath. All courses are funded by donations.
Vipassana is one of the most ancient meditation techniques. Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered by the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. Vipassana means 'to see things as they really are'. It is the process of self purification by self observation. One starts by observing the natural breath as a means to concentrate. With this sharpened awareness, one proceeds to observe the changing nature of the body and mind and experience the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and attain a state of egolessness.
The entire path (Dhamma) is a universal remedy for universal problems and has nothing to do with any organized religion or sectarianism. For this reason, it can be practiced freely by all without conflict with race, caste or religion; in any place, and at any time and will prove equally beneficial to all.
Vipassana is the ‘art of living’ which frees the individual from all the negativity of the mind, such as anger, greed and ignorance. It is a practice which develops positive, creative energy for the betterment of the individual and society. The Vipassana Center is located in Budhanilkantha near the entrance to the Shivapuri National Park.
Situated at a distance of 22 kilometres from Kathmandu, the Dakshinkali Temple is seated in the heart of the valley, only a kilometre away from the quaint village of Pharping. As the darkness of the night fades and gives way to the bright morning, this magnificent temple comes alive with a fusion of reverberating sounds of the loud gongs, conchs, bells and the rhythmic chants. The place of worship is one of the most important temples in the country and is dedicated to the fierce and feared Goddess Kali. The fame of this temple lies in its rituals and traditions. Twice a week, animals are sacrificed at this religious place - uncastrated male goats and cockerels in particular – as an offering to the ferocious spouse of Lord Shiva.
The Dakshinkali Temple derives its name from a compound of the words 'Dakshin', which means 'south', and the name 'Kali', which signifies the deity that is worshipped here. The nomenclature of this holy sanctum refers to its position near a resplendent river gorge situated to the south of the district of Kathmandu. The breathtaking idol of the Goddess is seen standing on top of a corpse, portraying the triumph of good over evil. Embellished with a sword in one hand, a skull cap in another, and a severed head in the third, the four-armed idol represents an image of a strong, empowered divine being who has arrived to conquer evil and emerge as victorious. The Dakshinkali Temple is one of the prime tourist attractions in Nepal, owing to its surreal atmosphere and the serene surroundings.
Legend of Dakshinkali Temple
The Goddess Mahakali is an intriguing incarnation of the Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahakala or Pashupatinath. The surreal Dakshinkali Temple is an ancient place which has a unique tale behind its establishment. It is believed that the Goddess Kali appeared in a dream of the Malla ruler who reigned over Nepal in the 14th century. The goddess supposedly ordered the king to construct a temple which would be devoted to her. The king then set out to follow her orders immediately, and the temple was built in an offbeat location with an image of the deity carved out from stone positioned in the shrine.
Animal Sacrifice at Dakshinkali Temple
The devotees of the Goddess Kali are firm believers of animal sacrifice as a way to please her. In keeping with the mythological tales and superstitious beliefs, the goddess is portrayed as a bloodthirsty celestial being who can be won over by sacrificing animals. Lined in front of the religious place of worship are numerous stalls which sell roosters and goats so that people can sacrifice them on the premises of the temple. A steady stream of people with the sacrificial animals, flowers, and oil lamps form long queues on the stairs that lead to the temple complex and wait for their turn to enter.
This ritual takes place once in the morning and again in the afternoon on every Tuesday and Saturday. As soon as the morning oblation reaches completion, the temple gates are closed for a short period to purify the temple and get rid of the stagnant pool of blood before the afternoon sacrifices begin. The blare of drums and the tinkling bells drown the bleats and clucking of the animals, and the devotees look on with bated breath. Overall, it creates a mysterious atmosphere in and around the temple. The sacrificial ceremony lasts just a few seconds for each animal, after which their limp bodies are taken to be processed in the temple complex itself. After that, the owners take the carcass to their homes and enjoy a lovely feast. The contentment on the faces of the faithful is impossible to miss, as they believe that their wishes will come true and that the Goddess has been satisfied.
Their unique way of expressing reverence to the idol has received several judgemental opinions and negative comments from many people, including the myriad devotees of the Goddess who argue that the Goddess Kali can never be content with bloodshed and unnecessary sacrifices of innocent animals. However, in contrast to this argument, many worshippers believe that butchering an animal and offering it to the Supreme Being averts the sufferings of the animals and helps them to be reincarnated as humans. Neither of the two theories are supported by factual statements and hence, the devotee act according to their beliefs and are free to either promote or denounce this extraordinary and rather bold, sacrificial ceremony.
In addition to being a religious place of worship, the area around the Dakshinkali Temple is also a popular hub for picnics or short treks. With thousands of worshippers thronging the place on a daily basis, the temple is undoubtedly one of the most mystical places in Nepal. Once you are inside the premises of the mystical temple, you will be welcomed with a magical aura which encompasses the holy place. With Nepal's beauty surrounding the temple, every visitor is offered a sight pleasing to the eye.
Changu Narayan is a synonymous word with both the old Nepalese temple and the village that surrounds it. Located in the Bhaktapur district some 12 km east of Kathmandu, the existence of this temple is more or less the only reason the village called Changu Narayan is known to the outside world. Changu Narayan has an authentic Newari style architecture very true to its roots. With its two storey brick-red edifice, the beautiful temple perches atop a hill which is also called Changu or sometimes Dhaulagiri.
Changu Narayan temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu and houses several of his avatars and some other deities as well. And like every other Hindu temple in the subcontinent area, this temple too has two separate faiths regarding its past – one corresponds with the recorded history as we know it and another one is a legend as told by the local folklore. Surrounding Changu Narayan are dense woods of Champak tree and this forest plays an important role in the legends associated with the temple.
'Sleeping Vishnu Temple' or "Budhanilkantha Temple" is located 9kms north of Kathmandu, is a popular 'Hindu Open Air Temple' in Nepal, dedicated toLord Vishnu situated below the Shivapuri Hill at the Northern end of the Kathmandu Valley dated 7th or 8th century. Kathmandu is about 4400 ft above sea level and is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Asia and capital of Nepal. It is also known as 'Narayanthan Temple'. The temple name as Budhanilkantha is not derived from the Buddha, but it stands for "Old Blue Throat" which gave name to this temple, which actually refers to Lord Shiva, who drank the poison of the ocean which turned his neck blue. To soothe the burning sensation in his throat Lord Shiva threw himself into Lake Gosaikunda, since then it is said, comes the water in Budhanilkantha tank. However this shrine itself is dedicated unambiguously to Lord Vishnu.
History of this Temple:
Legend says that once a farmer and his wife struck a figure while ploughing the field which started bleeding, ultimately it started soaking blood into the ground. There is a belief that this statue was lost a long time ago. Immediately that place turned out to be the statue of lost deity of Budhanilkantha, which was then recovered and placed as is seen in its present position.
Another Legend says that the statue was sculpted and brought to this place by 7th century Monarch Vishnu Gupta in Kathmandu during his reign, who controlled the Kathmandu Valley under the Lichchhavi King Bhimarjuna Dev.
Deity in the Temple:
The huge statue of Lord Vishnu at Budhanilkantha Temple is carved with a single block of black stone a type which is not found in the valley. The statue of the Deity is over 1000 years old. The statue is seen in a reclining position of about 5 meters tall (around 16.4 feet) and 13 mts long (42.65 feet) situated in the midst of a small pond as if floating, with His legs crossed. This Jalashaya sculpture of Lord Vishnu in mid of the pond symbolizes the Lord’s long meditative sleep on thousand headed Snake Ananth Nag in the cosmic ocean dated 5th century and is considered as the largest stone carving in Nepal. Lord Vishnu here is depicted as Chaturbhuja Dhari (having four hands ) with Sudarshana Chakra ( Discus ) - left of Vishnu’s head is the main weapon to fight demons and Clubin on one side, and Conch-Shell and Lotus Flower on the other side.
The "Haribodhini Ekadashi Mela" is temple's principal festival famously celebrated on the 11th day of Hindu month in Karthika month (October–November) and which also stands as a major site for visitors. This festival is attended by thousands of pilgrims, as this day is considered to be awakening of Lord Vishnu from his long sleep.
The Legend of the Nepal Monarchy:
The legend states that King Pratap Malla (1641–1674) had a prophetic vision which made him believe that Kings of Nepal would die if they visited the Budhanilkantha Temple. Thus the Nepali monarchs after King Pratap Malla have never visited the Temple in fear of the prophecy.
Doleshwar Mahadev Temple, which lies in Bhaktapur district of Nepal, is 20 km from the capital city of Kathmandu. It is approximately 30 minutes drive from Kathmandu to Doleshwar. For all the Shiva devotees, it is believed that the trip to Kedarnath is incomplete without visiting Doleshwar Mahadeva and Pashupatinath. The visit to all these three holy places is believed to wash off all the sins of one’s lifetime and an opportunity of receiving holy blessings from Lord Shiva.
On Aug. 22, 2009, the Doleshwar Mahadev was officially declared as the head of Kedarnath, one of the Char Dham Yatra, by Shree 1008 Jagat Guru Bheemashaankarling Shivacharya, the head priest of Kedarnath. The relation between Kedarnath and Doleshwar was unknown to the general public for the last 4,000 years.
Looking back at the history of Doleshwar Mahadev, it is believed that Pandava brothers, after the Mahabharata of Kurushetra, left for the Himalayas in search of forgiveness from Lord Shiva for the killing of many people during the war. But as Lord Shiva was not willing to forgive them he disguised in the form of bull. Having known about Lord Shiva’s disguise as the bull that was about to flee, Pandavas caught the tail of the bull and in this time, the head of the bull got separated from the rest of the body. It is believed that the remaining body is in Kedarnath in the Uttharkhand of India, and that people have been searching for the head part since then.
In the year 2013, after the devastating flood hit the temple of Kedarnath, situated in Uttarakhand, the regular prayers that were interrupted were carried out in Doleshwar Temple. The head priest of Kedarnath Temple requested regular prayers that used to be held in the Kedarnath Temple to be held in the Doleshwar Mahadev Temple.
According to the Skanda Purana Shiva disguised as a one-horned golden deer, hid himself from the gods and from mankind in Sleshmantaka forest. While he spent his days frolicking, the world suffered.
Vishnu the preserver, Brahma the creator, and Indra the king of the gods, took matters into their hands and searched for him.
A goddess revealed Shiva's disguise and when they finally caught the deer by the horn, it burst into fragments and Shiva revealed himself. He asked the three Gods to establish his horn in their three worlds.
Vishnu installed his section in his celestial abode in Vaikuntha, Indra in his realm in heaven, and Brahma enshrined it at the sacred site of Gokarneshwor Kathmandu.
Durbar Square refers to the places near Nepal’s royal palaces of the past. Temples, idols, statues, open courts and fountains along with other structures form part of Durbar Square. In the past Durbar Squares had been witness to events of importance including coronation of kings of the land. Now united as one country, Nepal was once a land that consisted of many small kingdoms. Durbar Squares are fine examples of the life and style of the ancient kingdom. The famous three Durbar Squares in Nepal are Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. UNESCO has declared these squares as World
It is also famously called as Basantapur Durbar Square and Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square. Located in front of Kathmandu’s royal palace, this spectacular Durbar Square reflects the artistry that prevailed in the past. Kathmandu Durbar Square houses palaces and ancient temples that belong to the periods between 12th and 18th centuries The Photo
History Behind 3 Durbar Squares of Kathmandu –
Ancient temples that belong to the periods between 12th and 18th centuries. The cultural spirit of Nepal centers in Kathmandu Valley and hence Kathmandu Durbar Square gains more prominence. It consists of two divisions, which are referred to as outer complex and inner complex. The outer complex has famous temples namely Taleju Temple, Jagannath Temple, Shiv-Parvati Temple, Big Bell and Kumari Bahal. The inner complex has old palace, courtyards, Basantapur Durbar, Hanuman Dhoka and other structures. The palace in the complex was the residence of the Nepalese Royal family until 19th century and coronation of kings took place here. The temples representing Hindu and Buddhist faiths are constructed in pagoda style. The stunning architecture involved in the construction of temples and palaces in Kathmandu Durbar Square makes the place one of the most frequented tourist destinations. No wonder, Kathmandu Durbar Square ranks amongst the eight Cultural World Heritage sites. Some of the important places in Kathmandu Durbar Square are: Taleju Temple: The first three-tiered temple of the land, Taleju Temple, is considered an important religious site by followers of Hinduism and Jainism. Legend goes that Goddess Taleju had appeared before the king in the form of bee to advice that the temple be built resembling the design of yantra. Jagannath Temple: Jagannath Temple was initially dedicated to Lord Vishnu and later it was re-dedicated to Lord Jagannath. The temple is a fine example of architectural splendor of the past. Exquisite carvings on the doors and windows are an inspiration to any artistic mind. Shiv-Parvati Temple: It is one of the famous temples in Kathmandu Square Durbar. Dedicated to Shiva and Parvati, the temple is believed to be reconstructed later. Kumari Bahal: Kumari Bahal is the abode of Living Goddess. Built in the year 1757, it resembles a monastery. A girl chosen to be living goddess of the town lives in the place until she reaches puberty aer which she returns to her normal life.
Bhandarkhal: is yet another attraction in Kathmandu Durbar Square. It is a botanical garden established by King Pratap Mall during the 17th century. The garden earns its name aer a palace that houses the statue of Jalashayana Narayan, the Sleeping Vishnu. With wide range of fauna, Bhandarkhal is a haven for nature lovers.
Patan Durbar Square
Patan, also known as Lalitpur, is located on the south of Bagmati River and it is one amongst the three royal cities in Kathmandu valley. Patan Durbar Square has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Famous for its rich cultural heritage, Patan is home to fine arts. The splendid wood carvings and metal statues speak stories of the skills of artisans. Considered to be established during the 3rd century BC, Patan is a cultural center where many festivals are celebrated every year. Four Ashoka Stupas built in four cardinal points of Patan are considered very important architectural treasures of the land. The Stupas are said to be built by Emperor Ashoka during 250 BC. Temples, palaces, statues and stone baths are some of the constructions found in Patan Durbar Square. Given below are some of the famous places in Patan Durbar Square. Hiranya Varna Mahavihar: Also referred to as the Golden Temple, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar was built by King Bhaskar Verma during the 12th century. The golden façade of the threestoried Pagoda looks stunningly beautiful. Buddha’s golden images and wall carvings are found inside the temple. Patan Museum: Patan Museum ranks among the best museums in the Asian continent. The museum is situated in an ancient palace, which dates back to 1734. The collections in the museum depict the rich cultural history of Nepal. Most of the collections are bronze statues and gilt copper objects. The garden adjacent to the museum oers a pleasant sight and a peaceful resting place. Patan Zoo: Nepal’s only Zoo, Patan Zoo, was established in the year 1932. Initially a private zoo, the year 1956 saw the zoo opened to public. The zoo is home to more than 700 species of animals, which include 14 endangered animals in Nepal. The pond in the zoo oers boating facilities. Godavari Botanical Garden: Godavari Botanical Garden is situated on the southern side of Patan Durbar Square. The garden has a wide range of plants and the dense forest oers great scope for bird watching and hiking. It is also a famous picnic spot. Kumbeshwar Temple: Kumbeshwar Temple is one among the two 5-tier temples in Nepal. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple dates back to 1391 and it was initially a two tiered construction. The natural spring inside the temple is considered to come from the famous Gosainkunda Lake.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durbar Square presents a combination of pagoda and shikhara style of temples. The place is an architect’s delight as it is a fine specimen of sculptures and wood carvings. The temples are located around the fifty-five window palace made of brick and wood. Bhaktapur Durbar Museum represents the traditional art of Nepal. The ancient city engages you with a fine display of magnificent local products, pottery, and various other artworks apart from the beautiful temples. Some of the most important places in Bhaktapur Durbar Square are: 55 Window Palace: Dating back to 15th century AD, 55 Window Palace is a marvelous construction that displays architectural splendor in a very fine form. It was built by King Yakshay Malla and later was renovated by King Bhupatindra Malla during the 17th century. The palace derives its name from the unique construction of 55 windows in a balcony, which is a fine example of woodcarving. The Golden Gate: The main entrance to the courtyard of ancient palace of 55 Windows, Golden Gate, is an awe-inspiring specimen of architectural excellence. King Ranjit Malla erected the Golden Gate, which is embellished with mythical creatures.
The Lion Gate: The Lion Gate was erected in 1696 AD. It has two big-sized lion statues on either side. The statues of Lord Shiva and Ugrachandi are compelling attractions of the gate. It is believed that Bhadgaon King cut of artisans' hands are they completed the artwork to ensure that such work is not repeated elsewhere. The Art Gallery: The Art Gallery houses ancient paintings representing the faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism. The gallery is frequented by researchers of these faiths to obtain an insight into the traditions that prevailed in the past. All the three famous Durbar Squares give you an insight into the life and style of the ancient kingdom. The well-constructed temples and other structures display the artistic minds behind such delivery. Touring these places in Kathmandu is sure to delight you and elevate your spirits several planes higher. These places are not just feast to your eyes; they take you further to enjoy the essence of the cultural heritage of the land
Golden Temple (Hiranayavarna Makavikar). An enormous number of gold- and silver-covered decorations and some excellent bronze statues make this well worth being the only temple in Patan. Patan Durbar Square is situated at the centre of Lalitpur city. It is one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of its attractions is The Ancient Royal Palace where Malla Kings of Lalitpur resided. The Durbar Square is a marvel of Newa architecture. The Square floor is tiled with red bricks. There are many temples and idols in the area. The main temples are aligned opposite of the western face of the palace. The entrance of the temples faces east, towards the palace. There is also a bell situated in the alignment beside the main temples. The Square also holds old Newari residential houses. There are various other temples and structures in and around Patan Durbar Square built by the News People. Lalitpur is believed to have been founded in the third century BC by the Kirat dynasty and later expanded by Licchavis in the sixth century. It was further expanded by the Mallas during the medieval period. There are many legends about its name. The most popular one is the legend of the God Rato Machhindranath, who was brought to the valley from Kamaru Kamachhya, located in Assam, India, by a group of three people representing the three kingdoms centered in the Kathmandu Valley.
The Gosainkunda trek takes hikers to one of Nepal’s most beautiful lakes of the same name, located 14,374 feet above sea level.
According to legend, it was formed when the Hindu god, Shiva, pierced a glacier with the trishul, his trident, so he could obtain water after he swallowed poison that made his throat turned blue and sting.
People have often claimed that they could see Shiva asleep in the water. If so, he is one of the few lifeforms present in the lake. This lake is oligotrophic – low in nutrients. As a result, there are few fish and little algae, the latter making the waters very clear and eminently drinkable. Gosainkunda Lake is 40 square miles in size and there are around 108 other lakes in the vicinity.
The lake is now a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, with the peak period being the full moon festival of Janai Purnima in August, when over 25,000 visit the lake! It is believed that bathing in the lake will wash away one’s sins. There is much dancing at the festival. Shamans demonstrate their skills to teachers to qualify for the post of village shaman. Sadly, many pilgrims fall prey to altitude sickness, having climbed too fast. Dehydration can also make the situation worse if they are fasting. The inhabitants of the Gosainkunda area are mostly Tamangs. The Tamang people constitute 5.6 percent of the population of Nepal and have their own language.
The highlight of this Gosainkunda trek is sunrise at Laurebina, where there is a panoramic view of Langtang ridge. This is the sunrise of a lifetime. At 15,120 feet, this is the highest point you will reach.
The Gosainkunda trek can take anything from 8 to 16 days, depending on how pushed for time you are.
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a risk on this short trek as sudden increases in altitude cannot be avoided.
Guhyeshwari Temple is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus as well as Buddhists. Located around one kilometer east of the main Pashupatinath Temple, it is one of the most important temples within the Pashupatinath area. Recognized as Shakti (power) Peetha, it is considered as a symbol of power. It is believed that a body part of Sati Devi (wife of Lord Shiva) fell after her death at the very place where the temple is now located. This temple was built by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century.
Pashupatinath and Guhyeshwari are beautiful representations of the Shiva and Shakti unity. Located at the banks of River Bagmati, the temple portrays the female side of the divine. Guhyeshwari is also known for its Tantric rituals (esoteric tradition of Hinduism). It is believed that people who want to gain strength visit this temple to worship Mother Goddess.
The pagoda-style temple has a distinct interior. Instead of a standing figure of the Goddess, it has a flat figure parallel to the ground that is worshipped by bowing down. Next to the divine figure is a pond, the Bhairav Kunda. Devotees put their hand inside the pond and whatever they get is considered holy and is accepted as a blessing from the divine.
The Newar community performs various Puja at Guhyeshwari Temple. Newari Bhoj (feast) is also held at the temple during festivals. Newar Bajracharya Buddhists worship Guhyeshwari as Vajrayogini. This temple has great value to Hindus as well as Buddhists. During the first 10 days of Dashain (Navaratri), the main festival of the Hindus, devotees from all over Kathmandu come to worship Goddess Guhyeshwari. A lot of importance is placed in visiting this temple during this time. Statues of different forms of Durga (Hindu Goddess) are placed around Guhyeshwari Temple during this time.
While visiting these temples, the Guhyeshwari Temple is visited before the main Pashupatinath Temple. This tradition is still followed by members of the earlier Royal family. The Guhyeshwari Temple is worshipped first and then other temples are visited. It is because of the belief of worshipping Shakti before Shiva.
Guhyeshwari Yatra is a festival, which is a tour that starts from Guhyeshwari following Pashupatinath Temple and ends at Hanuman Dhoka, Basantapur. This tradition has been prevalent since a long time.
Surrounded by the vast forest and different monuments, Guhyeshwari Temple holds many myths. The surrounding of this holy temple is peaceful yet powerful. The aura you get while visiting here is strong and vibrant. People come here with hope and dedication towards the divine. Devotees surrender their problems and feel hopeful.
Panauti is situated at the confluence of Rosi and Punyamati rivers though there is said to be a mystical third river that only mystics can see. Beautiful Panauti by the river, Kathmandu
Panauti is historically associated with Lord Shiva who takes part in an interesting story from the towns past. The story tells of a sage who lived with his wife near the conﬂuence. Indra, the king of gods, was attracted to the sages wife and decided to seduce her. To do this Indra disguised himself as the sage and took advantage of her The sage’s wife became mortified by this event and transformed into a rock which can be seen in the Indreshwar Temple Complex. When the sage discovered this he cast a spell on Indra that covered him with yonis (female genitals). Indra and his wife had met at Panauti and were none too happy. Shiva took pity on Indra’s wife Indrayani and turned her into a mystical third river, Padmavati, that joins the other two rivers at the conﬂuence. After many years Shiva decided Indra had learned his lesson and appeared as a large lingam. Indra then bathed in the river and the yonis disappeared. Today the lingam is where the Indreshwar Temple stands and the conﬂuence is regarded as a holy bathing area.
Santaka temple: Across a small bridge to the rear of the ghats is a countryside area. You should just about be able to make out a rare small temple compound dedicated to Santaka. The walled in temple is a relatively recent build however the Sankata shrine beneath it is undated and judging by its worn look is quite old. Sankata is the goddess of danger and has a unique following for both Hindus where she is taken as an incarnation of Durga and for Buddhists. Little archaeological evidence exists to show how or why this shrine is isolated. Head out the of Tribeni area though the archway next to the pilgrims rest house. Walk straight until you see a sign for the Panauti Museum or Indreshwar temple. Indreshwar temple complex: At the center of Panauti lies the magnificent Indreshwar temple complex. There's an entrance fee which give you access to the complex and the excellent little museum there. The three story Indreshwar temple is dedicated to Shiva and holds one of the largest Shiva Lingams in Nepal. It is opened at about 6pm in the evenings. A small Nandi (bull)sits in front of it. Stone lions guard each of the four entrances to the temple while a taleju bell stands to the south. The wooden roof struts have erotic carvings but you might notice that they are rather subdued compared to many others found in the valley. Some may take them as being more posturing than erotic. Given the history of the temple this is somewhat ironic as the Indreshwar temple contains a large lingam placed here by Shiva himself. There’s an inscription inside that states King Jayasingh made an oﬀering here of gold equal to his body weight in 1383 CE. The small stone pillar outside was where the scales were used on that occasion. It sits on a large raised platform. that has several statues at its furthest end.
Satya Narayan shrine: Around to the rear of the Indreshwar Temple is this unusual shrine to Narayan with a brick outer wall and a small archway. Behind the archway is a black statue of Narayan as the Supreme Vishnu. The statue itself is formed from black stone but the years of vermilion being rubbed onto it has given it a maroon-like color. All along this rear area are even more shrines to Narayan worth looking at until you come to the large rectangular temple.!
Kala Bhairav is a grand temple located at Kathmandu Durbar Square in the religious complex of Hanuman Dhoka, dedicated to a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva. In this form, the lord is depicted carrying the decapitated head of Shani, wearing an ornamental snake, tiger skin and a ritual apron made of human bones. The 12-foot image here was sculpted in the 6th century and is regarded as the largest in the world. The place of worship is an open-air area in the complex and has a gigantic 12-foot tall idol of Kala Bhairav. The idol and the structures that surround it are made of stone and were carved in the 5th century. It was discovered by King Pratap of the Malla dynasty amidst paddy fields in the 17th century. Back in the time, people believed that anyone who would lie down in front of the idol would attain freedom from their lives. This may not be necessarily true. However, locals still continue worshipping this grand and fierce incarnation of Lord Shiva with all their devotion.
About Kala Bhairav
Kala Bhairav is the terrifying avatar of Lord Shiva, who is also called the Lord of Time and Death. He is worshipped by the Hindus as the guru of Lord Shani who is ruled by the planet Saturn and as Manjusri, Heruka, Yamantaka and Vajrabhairava in Vajrayana Buddhism. The idol of Kala Bhairav is seen standing in a violent form, stepping over a dead body holding a decapitated head in one hand.
According to a legend, Kala Bhairav had decapitated one of Lord Brahma's five heads and as punishment, was made to carry that head and roam around for many years till he was forgiven. This avatar of Lord Shiva is fierce and unforgiving. He is mostly associated with vetala (ghouls) and pisaca (ghosts). The name 'Bhairava' literally means a terrifying form that is not afraid of anything. Thus, he can protect his devotees. He is also believed to be the supreme one after Lord Vishnu and can create, sustain and dissolve life on earth.
Located in the heart of Kathmandu, the Kathesimbhu Stupa is famous for being the copy of the Swayambhunath Temple. The courtyard, also called the Swayambhunath Complex, is quite a surprise when tourists find it while exploring the region. It comprises of a stunningly grand 16th-century stupa installed in between smaller stupas. Mostly secluded, it seems to be a favourite hangout of the pigeons in the region. The entrance is marked by a concrete gate, and there are no compound walls to the attraction. There are smaller stupas, and the temples all around that are built in such a way that it resembles a square.
The stunning Kathesimbhu Stupa at the centre has a white coloured dome built on a pedestal with a shikhara kind of a structure on the top in gold. The topmost part has something that resembles tassels and is adorned with strings of prayer flags tied from the buildings that surround the dome to the top centre of the stupa. The smaller stupas have beautiful carvings of Gautama Buddha sitting in a meditative posture. There are two temples at the square, one of which is dedicated to the Goddess of smallpox, Hariti while the other is the Dragon Jangchub Choeling Monastery. It takes about 15 minutes to reach Kathesimbu Stupa from Durbar Square. There is no entry charge and tourists can visit any time of the day. However, early mornings or evenings are much advisable. The spiritual significance of the square is undeniable. However, the busy street may not promise tranquillity. Nevertheless, the square is worth a visit when exploring that part of Kathmandu.
The Kumari or Kumari Goddess is the only living goddess worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists. The literal meaning of Kumari is Virgin. The Kumaris are young pre-pubescent girls who receive the power of Goddess Kali and Taleju. Kumari Goddess is the living incarnation of Goddess Taleju. Kumari is the human embodiment of Goddess Taleju and symbolizes power and protection.
There are several tales regarding the history and origin of Goddess Kumari. Among the few, two similar tales concerning the King and Goddess Taleju are widespread and believed by many communities.
The first tale is of Jaya Prakash Malla, the last king of the Malla Dynasty. According to the legend, Goddess Taleju visited Jaya Prakash Malla’s chambers during night time as a beautiful woman. They would play Tripasa (a dice game). The goddess visited the king’s chamber every night on the condition that the king refrains speaking about their meetings to anyone.
One fateful evening, the king’s wife followed him to his chambers and inspected on his secret meetings with the goddess Taleju. The goddess became aware of the king’s wife and left furiously. Goddess Taleju told Jaya Prakash in his dream that she would reincarnate as a living goddess in children among the Shakya and Bajracharya community of Ratnawali. In his attempt to make amends with Goddess Taleju, Jaya Prakash Malla searched for children possessed by Taleju’s spirit and hence started the Kumari Goddess tradition. Jaya Prakash also built a house for Kumari to stay near the palace and named it “Kumari Ghar.”
A second myth about the origin of Kumari Goddess circles around King Trailokya. According to myth, Goddess Taleju and King Trailokya played Tripasa every night and discussed the welfare of the country. One night, Trailokya made sexual advances towards the Goddess and infuriated her. As punishment, Goddess stopped visiting the King’s place. Trailokya worshipped and pleaded for her return. Later, Goddess Taleju agreed to appear in the body of a virgin girl from the Shakya family. Hence, the Kumari Goddess cult was established.
After being selected as a Kumari, a girl life changes entirely. She will leave her palace only for ceremonial purpose, her family will rarely visit on a formal capacity and her playmates will be from the caretaker’s family. The Kumari always wear red clothes, hair in a topknot and the fire eye painted on her forehead.
The Kumari’s walk in the Durbar Square is the last time her feet will touch the ground until the Goddess Taleju departs from her body. The Prime Minister and President touch the feet of Kumari and seek for a blessing. The Kumari is carried when visiting outside the palace in her golden palanquin.
A Kumari’s glimpse is believed to bring good fortune. Many people visit the courtyard in front of Kumari’s window to get a glance of the living goddess. The more fortunate and better-connected people visit the Kumari in her chambers. She sits upon a gilded iron throne. Many people who visit her are those suffering from illness and menstrual disorders. It is believed that Kumari has special powers over such illness. Bureaucrats and high ranked government officials also visit Kumari Goddess. During the visit, the actions of the living goddess are closely watched because her actions are interpreted as a prediction of the visitor’s life. Some actions and its meaning of Kumari Goddess are:
The process to find a living goddess is quite vast and has many criteria. Five senior Buddhist Bajracharya, Chief Royal Priest, Priest of Taleju and royal astrologer oversees the selection ritual of Kumari. Some basic characteristics searched in children are sound health, no evidence of scars and marks on the body, uncut and blemish body skin, pre-menstrual and no loss of teeth.
Once a girl passes through the basic requirements of Kumari Goddess, she is then further examined for “Battis Lakshan” 32-body perfections to decide the future Kumari. Some of the characteristics of Battis Lakshan are:
The children also must not be scared of blood and masked man. Every child is shown several sacrificed buffalo and masked men dancing on top of the blood. If a child shows signs of fear, she is deemed not worthy of Goddess Taleju’s power. The girl that shows courage amidst the blood and dancing is then selected as the next incarnation of Goddess Taleju.
During the 8th day of Dashain, Kala-Ratri, the selection process of Kumari Goddess begins.
Kumari Goddess is the human symbol of power and protection. Kumari is the sole embodiment of pureness among Hindu and Buddhist followers. A Kumari must be in her pre-pubescent and should not have lost any drop of blood from her body. After the Kumari enters her adolescence and begins her first menstruation, she is considered impure, and the search of new Kumari starts. In some cases, the title of Kumari is lost when the reigning Kumari suffers a cut and loses blood from her body. If a Kumari loses blood from her body, she becomes like any other humans and loses the power of Gods bestowed on her.
Every person dreams to be among the Gods once in their life, yet it is not easy to sustain the life of a living goddess. Kumari Goddess is selected at a very young age from as small to three years. After being selected as Kumari, the children leave their parents and birth house until another living goddess replaces her.
The children live without their parents from such an early age. The parents are proud of giving birth to Goddess Taleju, but also remain sad parting away with their daughter. The parents aren’t allowed to visit their daughter and only see their children when Kumari ventures in special facilities, about 13 times a year.
Kumari lives in the Kumari house (Kumari Ghar), an old palace building without modern facilities. Until recently, the Kumaris weren’t taught education and allowed to use the internet facilities inside the Kumari Ghar. The Kumaris spend their days inside a four-wall room poorly lit with candles and lamps. It is not easy being the only living goddess in the world.
A recent discussion and pressure from Human rights and Children rights activists of Nepal on the Kumari system have somewhat changed the strict governing of Kumaris of Kathmandu. Kumaris weren’t given proper education and knowledge about social life and surrounding. This made the transition from a living goddess to mere mortal after dethroning much more troublesome.
Now a days, Kumari in the Kumari house is provided with a personal tutor and education. There is even service of the Internet, books, and magazines. The Kumari attends national exams inside the palace under supervision. There is a step towards a better future of Kumari Goddess after they lose the title of living goddess.
There are many Kumari Goddesses in Nepal indigenous to several locations and communities. Patan, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Bungamati and other Newar communities have their own Kumaris. The Kumari of Kathmandu is considered as the Royal Kumari, the supreme of all.
Interesting facet of Kathmandu is its background and culture. Those visiting don't just get to see the city but also get introduced to a different system of belief that may widen their mind and spirit. One such tradition followed is that of worshipping the Kumari Devi. This practice involves worshipping pre-pubescent girls because, according to the Hindu tradition, they are believed to be an avatar of the divine feminine energy, Goddess Taleju. It is believed that the divine powers of the Goddess are borne by the one who meets all the requirements of the system of belief. Post a stringent round of selection, the chosen Kumari then resides in a sacred palace called the Kumari Bahal and is worshipped as the Living Goddess of Nepal until she starts menstruating.
Situated atop a 1300-meter hill, 105 kilometers to the west of Kathmandu, the Manakamana Devi temple is a highly venerated sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati. The name Manakamana is derived from two words, Mana, meaning heart and Kamana, meaning wish. It is believed that the Goddess Bhagwati rewards those who make the pilgrimage to her shrine by granting their wishes, and she is especially popular with Newari newlyweds who pray for sons.
The history and location of the Manakamana temple are explained by a curious legend. The Queen of the 17th century Gorkha King, Rama Shah, was said to have magical powers that only her devotee, Lakhan Thapa, knew about. One day the Queen’s husband became aware of her secret when he saw her in the form of a goddess and Lakhan Thapa in the form of a Lion. Soon thereafter the King mysteriously died and the Queen, as was the custom of the day, committed sati (ritual immolation) upon her husband’s funeral pyre. Prior to her death, the Queen had promised her devotee Lakhan Thapa that he would soon again see her. Some time later while plowing a field, a farmer discovered a stone from which blood and milk were pouring. When Lakhan Thapa learned of this he was convinced it was a sign from the dead queen, and at the site where the stone had been discovered he constructed a temple in her honor. The present 19th century temple is a replacement of the one built by Lakhan Thapa. Tradition has it that the temple priest must be a descendent of Lakhan Thapa.
The Manakamana temple overlooks the Trisuli and Marshyang-di river valleys, and offers breathtaking views of Manaslu, Himalchuli and Annapurna mountains to the north. The temple is set in a square, which is overlooked by an enormous sacred magnolia tree. Two popular festivals, Dasain (in September-October) and Nag Panchami (July – August), draw large numbers of pilgrims from throughout the country. In the past, pilgrims used to make a long and arduous trek up to the hilltop temple from the town of Kurintar on the Trisuli River. Nowadays, a cable car ride of 10-15 minutes brings visitors from the base-station in Cheres to the temple site.
An hour walk from the Manakamana temple leads past the Bakeshwar Mahadev Mandir Shiva temple to the Lakhan Thapa Gurpha sacred cave, which is named after the founder of the Manakamana temple.
The Shrine of Manakamana renovated many times over the centuries has four story pagoda style roofs with entrance from the South-West. The pujari performs daily prayers and rituals in the temple behind closed doors by offering eggs, oranges, rice, red powder and strips of cloth to the deities. On completion of the pooja of the shrine by the priest, the turn of the public begins.
As a page was turned in the book of Nepal's history, the monarchy was replaced by democracy. Of the few things which stand as witnesses to this enormous change, the Narayanhiti Palace Museum is one. Located to the east of the famed Kaiser Mahal in close proximity to Thamel, the museum is a former royal palace which was home to the monarchs of the country. The four-walled wonder is a major attraction among tourists and history buffs, especially owing to its rich historical importance which speaks of the rapid and significant political change that Nepal had gone through within a few weeks.
The name Narayanhiti is a blend of two words: 'Narayan' signifies the Hindu god 'Lord Vishnu', and 'Hiti' translates to 'water spout'. The name is particularly significant because of the temple of Lord Vishnu which is situated right opposite to the palace complex. Moreover, a waterspout does adorn the eastern side of the main entrance, thus adding further significance to it. The Narayanhiti Palace has witnessed some major historical incidents through all these years.
History of Narayanhiti Palace - Through the Ages
Just like Rome, the Narayanhiti Palace was not built in a day. It had to undergo several transformations before it assumed the form it has today. Needless to say, the residence of the monarchs was always as glorious as ever.
The First Abode
In the initial years of the Shah dynasty, the site on which the magisterial palace stands today used to be occupied by Kaji Dhokal Singh Basnyat and his family. From him, the ownership of the residence changed hands many times. During the infamous Kot Massacre which took place in September 1846, the minister, along with his brothers and father were slain by Jung Bahadur Rana. Following this unfortunate event, the Narayanhiti Palace came into the hands of Colonel Ranodip Singh Kunwar, who was to be the future Prime Minister of Nepal. After the Colonel took over the throne, the palace was renovated again, this time being extended into a luxurious, multi-winged palace.
The Monarch Resides
Following the demise of the Prime Minister Maharaja Ranodip Singh Kunwar, the throne was ascended by Bir Shumsher JBR. He also took over the entire palace complex and within a year, uprooted the monument to build a new, more lavish palace in its place with the aid of the renowned Nepalese architect Jogbir Sthapit, as a present to Maharajadhiraj, Bir Sumsher's beloved son-in-law. Thus, the Royal residence of the Monarchs of the Kingdom of Nepal was relocated from the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar to the Narayanhiti Durbar.
The Palace at Present
After King Mahendra took over the throne and reigned over Nepal, he ordered the demolition of the whole complex in 1963 so that a new palace could be erected in its place. Built in the traditional Nepali architectural style with intricate details and wonderful forms and features, the construction came to an end in 1969. The housewarming ceremony of the palace was celebrated on the occasion of the grand wedding celebrations of the heir of King Mahendra, Prince Birendra.
Nepal's Greatest Tragedy
The Narayanhiti Palace witnessed what is popularly referred to as the greatest tragedy of the country. On the 1st of June, 2001, King Birendra, along with his wife Queen Aishwarya and their family members were slain in a massacre by the Monarch's son, Prince Dipendra. After fatally injuring his family members, Dipendra shot himself in the head and was declared king while he was in a coma. He breathed his last three days later, after which, Gyanendra, his uncle, ascended the throne. Even though the mystery behind the massacre never unveiled itself, it is widely believed that Dipendra assassinated his family because they opposed to his marriage to his beloved, Devyani Rana.
In 2008, after the declaration of Nepal as a democratic and secular state, King Gyanendra was given only two weeks to vacate the palace so that the then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal could take over the country. Pushpa Kamal Dahal was the very Maoist guerrilla ruler who is said to be one of the people who were largely responsible for Gyanendra's sudden fall from grace. The Narayanhiti Palace was turned into a museum open to the general public from the 26th of February, 2009.
Interiors of Narayanhiti Palace - Beautiful on the Inside
Temple on the premises of Narayanhiti Palace
The regal Narayanhiti Palace is spread across a whopping 3794 square metres and is categorised into three sections, namely, the private wing, the guest wing, and the state wing. Built upon the Late Victorian style of architecture, the interior of the Narayanhiti palace is home to 52 rooms which are collectively called Sadan, and are named after the districts of the country. The southern entrance to the palatial complex is situated at the junction of the Durbarmarg and Prithvi Path roads.
Referred to as the Kaski Sadan after the Kaski district, the resplendent Reception Hall of the Narayanhiti Palace is adorned with two life-sized stuffed Royal Bengal Tigers which appear to be in their charging postures. The wall beside the staircase holds life-size portraits of the monarchs, each of them painted by Amar Chitrakar. It is in this very hall that the oath ceremony of the heads of the constitution and the Prime Ministers was performed. Housed behind the beautiful Gaurishankar Gate, the Kaski Sadan is where the Shah Monarchs addressed the politicians in official matters.
Where the Royals Reigned
The Throne Room of the Narayanhiti Palace, referred to as the Gorkha Baithak, is the core of the entire palatial complex. This magnificent room is built upon the Hindu temple style of architecture, which includes a colossal 48 feet chandelier hung from a 60 feet high ceiling which resembles a Pagoda and is held by four pillars, each representative of the Naga. The room is ornate with gaudy idols of the Hindu gods Ashta Bhairava and Ashta Matrikas. It is beneath this ceiling where the rulers announced their Royal Proclamations. Situated to the right of the Throne Room is the Dolpa Sadan, which was used solely for the guests of the royal family who were not invited but were allowed to view the proceedings of the Throne Room via a one-way mirror.
Not to miss out in the interiors of this palace are the modest yet classy royal bedrooms, the enthralling banquet halls, and the plethora of stuffed heads of tigers, gharials, and rhinoceroses lined along the walls of the rooms. Just as impressive is the diamond-studded crown, and a quick peek into the lifestyle of the royals by having a glimpse of their wardrobes. However, the scene that takes the cake is the morbid location where the prince killed his family. On some of the walls, bullet holes still show themselves to visitors, and the entire scene is a gory reminder of the gruesome massacre of 2001.
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is one of the most captivating heritage buildings in the country of Nepal. Standing majestically in Kathmandu, the palace has not lost its grandeur to this day. Hundreds of curious people throng this place on a daily basis to know more about the Nepal Massacre of 2001, and to take a look at the regal lifestyle from behind the curtains of mediocrity.
Pashupatinath is more than just a religious destination. It is a combination of religion, art, and culture. It offers peace and devotion. The temple, spread across 246 hectares of land abounds in temples and monuments. Hundreds of rituals are performed here every day. The temple premises is an open museum. This national treasure was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1979.
This temple is an important destination for art historians. It displays a variety of temple design some of which are Dome style, Pagoda style, Shikhara style and so on. Additionally there are varieties of statues and sculptures around the complex. There are statues made out of stone, metal, and wood. The door and pillars around the temple area are carved in beautiful shapes of God and griffins.
Pashupatinath stretches from the main temple of Pashupatinath to Guheshwori. There are many famous temples inside this area including the Bhuwaneshwori, Dakshinamurti, Tamreshwor, Panchdewal, Bishwarupa, and others.
The temple of Kali, located on the banks of River Bagmati has an interesting appearance and loaded with mythology. The myth is that the statue grows out of its original spot and that the world will come to an end when the half-in half-out figure is fully exposed.
Each temple has its own set of rituals to be performed, and every temple has specific values and customs. On the other side of the river is a small forest Shleshmantak, home to animals like deer and monkeys. A traditional crematorium stands on the banks of the River Bagmati.
Pashupatinath's vast area embraces cultural heritage, forest, and water resources which need to be preserved and managed. Hence the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) was founded in 1996. Since then, the activities at Pashupati are governed by this administrative body.
The exact date of Pashupatinath’s construction is unknown. Despite this fact, the Pashupatinath is considered the oldest Hindu temple of Kathmandu.
The earliest evidence of the temple’s existence dates back to 400 A.D. The current main temple of Pashupatinath complex was built at the end of the 17th century to replace the previous one, destroyed by termites.
Countless smaller temples were constructed around the main temple on both banks of the Bagmati River during the last few centuries.
There are numerous legends, connected with the construction of the temple. The most famous one claims, that the temple was built on the site where Shiva lost one of his antlers, while he was in the guise of a deer. He and his wife arrived at the bank of Bagmati and amazed by the beauty of the site decided to change themselves into deers and walk in the surrounding forests.
After a while gods and humans decided to return them to their duties, but Shiva refused to return and they had to use force. In the fight Shiva lost one of his antlers, which later became the first lingam worshipped by Hinduists in Pashupatinath. Later this relic was lost, and according to another legend, found again by a herdsman, whose cow showed the location of lingam by irrigating the place it was buried with her milk.
Pashupatinath is a place where century-old Hindu rituals are practiced in their astonishing initial form, giving a chance to the visitors to feel the unique spirit of Hindu traditions of life, death and reincarnation.
One of the most sacred Hindu temples of Nepal – Pashupatinath Temple is located on both banks of the Bagmati River on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu.
Pashupatinath is the most important temple dedicated to the god Shiva. Every year this temple attracts hundreds of elderly followers of Hinduism.
They arrive here to find shelter for the last several weeks of their lives, to meet death, be cremated on the banks of the river and travel their last journey with the waters of the sacred river Bagmati, which later meets the holy river Ganges. Hinduists from every corner of Nepal and India are arriving here to die.
It is believed that those who die in Pashupatinath Temple are reborn as a human, regardless of any misconduct that could worsen their karma. The exact day of their death is predicted by astrologers of the temple. If you are attracted to the places where the spirit of death can be felt, then consider Pashupatinath as your first destination. It is a temple with a special atmosphere of death; death is present in almost every ritual and every corner of it.
The main temple of Pashupatinath is a building with a bunk roof and a golden spire.
It is located on the Western bank of Bagmati and is considered a masterpiece of Hindu architecture.
It is a cubic construction with four main doors, all covered with silver sheets.
The two-storied roof is made from copper and is covered with gold. This richly decorated temple with wooden sculptures is believed to make wishes come true. One of the most astonishing decorations of the temple is the huge golden statue of Nandi – Shiva’s bull.
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 the main temple can be seen in its whole beauty. The western bank of Bagmati also hosts the so called Panch Deval (Five temples) complex, which once was a holy shrine but now serves a shelter for destitute old people.
Numerous religious buildings are also located on the eastern bank of Bagmati, most of them are devoted to Shiva. The majority of these buildings are small single storey constructions made from stone. From the outside these buildings are reminding crypts, but in reality these are sacral buildings, created for holding the symbol of the deity Shiva – lingam (erect phallus). Lingams can be found all over the complex.
Along the right bank of Bagmati numerous platforms for funeral pyres are built. The cremations on these platforms are a common activity.
Usually tourists have the chance to see at least one open-air cremation.
The majority of religious rituals are culturally unusual and even mind-blowing for Westerners, but probably the most culturally unusual thing in Pashupatinath is the specific smell of cremated bodies. Unlike any expectation the smell has nothing in common with the smell of decaying flesh, but rather reminds the smell of clabber mixed with different spices.
Another culturally shocking thing in Pashupatinath is the image of local women washing clothes downstream the river. The waters of Bagmati contain animal fat because of the ashes of cremated Shiva followers and easily wash the dirt from linen. It is believed that this is how the soap was invented.
As far as Shiva is considered the patron of animals and all living organisms, monkeys and deer are wandering all around the temple complex on both banks of Bagmati. Monkeys are very often unfriendly, they beg for food, snatch things from careless tourists and may even be dangerous.
It is also very common to meet sadhus in Pashupatinath.
Sadhus are wandering ascetic yogis, who are trying to acquire liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth by meditating.
They have very unique appearance with specific yellow paintings on their bodies.
Majority of sadhus are very tourist friendly and eager to pose for photos with foreigners, but it is not free of charge. They live in caves or tiny cells on the territory of Pashupatinath. Sadhus have extremely ascetic and even miserable life but for a Westerner their independent and unconstrained behavior looks mysterious.
The glorious temple of Lord Shiva and his Consort Goddess Parvati, Shiva Parvati Temple is located in the religious area of Durbar Square. It is as important as the Kumari Bahal or the Kasthamandap and is often visited by pilgrims and tourists. Built in 18th century by Bahadur Shah, every inch of the temple wall is covered in immensely intricate carvings. From a distance in the outer portion of the Durbar Square, one would notice someone looking down a window of a two-storey pagoda style building that opens into a courtyard. It is, in fact, the idols of Shiva and Parvati installed in the window right in the centre of the top floor of the temple. The striking idols coloured in white and blue are seen wearing colourful accessories and blessing the visitors.
The grand building has been built over a raised three-level platform which resembles one of the ancient performance stages at Durbar Square. One can climb up a small flight of stairs at the entrance where two ancient stone statues of lions are installed and explore the shrine as they circumambulate. It is believed that the lions guard the temple. As one explores further, they would notice how beautiful the intricate carvings on the wood are. There are different forms of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and other captivating traditional designs on the structure too. This area of Kathmandu is usually traversed on foot and shouldn't be missed when in Durbar Square.
It is located near the Sahid Gate. The temple is at the eastern side of Tudikhel. This temple is also known as Shree Lumadhi Bhadrakali. It is one of the most renowned “Shaktipith” of Nepal. A form of the Goddess Kali, Bhadrakali in Sanskrit means “blessed, auspicious, beautiful and prosperous” and she is also known as “Gentle Kali”. Another name for the goddess is Lazzapith
The temple was built in the year 1817 and was previously known as “Module Thumpko”. The temple is believed to be built after Goddess Bhadrakali told the priest to dig the hill where they found her statue. Since then, the temple lies there and is protected by the Nepal Army. It overlooks the Singha Durbar, Prime Ministerial office, on the eastern side.
Bhadrakali bears influences from the western part of India. The ancient writings in the Vayu Purana and Mahabharat explain the creation of Bhadrakali by the Devi’s wrath when Daksha insulted Lord Shiva during the great Ashvamedha Yagya (Horse Sacrifice). Tantra Rahasya mentions her rising from the north face of Lord Shiva, (Uttaramnaya Amnayas) which is blue in color and has three eyes. She is believed to take on a terrible aspect that is represented with three eyes and four, twelve or eighteen hands carrying weapons with flames flowing from her head and a small tusk sticking out from her mouth. According to the myths, a farmer used to plough land nearby and kept his food (bread) on the side. The bread used to turn into gold so the temple got its name as Lumarhi/Lumdi Devi’s temple as Lumdi in Newari means ‘golden bread’.
Goddess Bhadrakali is also widely worshipped in East India during Dussehra Festivals specifically.
The main murti is a black stone statue of Bhadrakali and is believed to have been enshrined by the Lichchhavi kings. They are religiously linked to Nepalese Hindus and are looked up to by many people.
The major festival celebrated here is Navratri, which takes place usually during the months of September–October (as per the traditional Hindu Calendar).
People worship the protector goddesses of Lumadhi Ajima, Watu Ajima and Kanga Ajima on three-day increments. Nyatamaru Ajima goddesses Jatra observed during 12 years of Nyata Maru Ajima Pahacharhe is one of the most important festivals of Kathmandu. Bhadrakali is the patron Deity of the Nepal Army.
Jagannath Temple, located in the very famous Kathmandu Darbar Square, is most famous for its architecture and religious significance. It was built in the early 16th century during the reign of King Mahendra of the Mala dynasty and is one of the oldest shrines in the city. From what remains now, one can get a gist of how fascinating the structure would have been. It is a two-storey building raised over a platform and built in the traditional pagoda style architecture mostly made of wood and bricks. One thing that draws tourists in large numbers is the exquisite erotic carving all over the structure. Some parts of the temple were damaged in an earthquake in 2015. However, some portions have been restored and open for the tourists to explore.
Kathmandu Durbar Squares largest and most important temple sits behind a large walled enclosure in the northern section. The temple suffered some roof damage in the 2015 earthquake but has since been completely repaired. The Taleju goddess originally came from south India but was adopted by the Malla kings who built temples to her. The three-storey temple sits on top of twelth brick platforms which towers over the area. The tallest building in Kathamandu Durbar Square the Taleju Temple The temple itself is behind a locked gate which is only opened up for one day every year during the dashain festival (ninth day).
The Taleju temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square is not the oldest! It is the most important but the oldest is the Taleju temple in Bhaktapur which was built in the 14th century. The Kathmandu Taleju temple was built in 1564 by King Mahendra Malla. As you may know the Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley had an artisic and physical rivalery so all three cities have a Taleju temple. The Taleju temple that you see today is mainly the result of additional work carried by King Pratap Mall who is known as the most artistic of all the Malla kings. The Kathmandu Taleju temple temple was modeled on the shape of a yantra, a form of mandala or a mystical diagram with magical powers. This idea came from the Hindu Goddess Taleju Bhawani herself. When the temple was opened Taleju Bhawani made a special appearance, one of the few gods every to be noted for doing so. That aid the . Goddess Taleju showed up disguised as a bee!
It is forbidden for any building to be constructed that is taller than the Taleju building.
About the Taleju Temple (Mul Chowk) Once you pass through the Golden Gate you'll find the Taleju temple in a courtyard to your left. There will be guards outside the main doorway. The temple was virtually untouched during the 2015 earthquake with all the shrines inside intact. Taleju Temple Bhaktapur in Bhaktapur However, it was not completed until 1754 during the reign of Jaya Ranjit Malla, who was the last of the Bhaktapur Malla kings. Today the 55 Window Palace still stands as Bhaktapur's Royal Palace on ceremonial occasions. It is still prohibited for any non-Hindu to enter the Taleju temple or for anyone to take photographs inside. The guards are so protective of it you probably won't even be able to take a photograph of the courtyard. There is more to see in the outer area so do read on! You can also look inside the main temple compound from the doorway. No leather, shoes, hats or cameras are allowed inside the Taleju temple.
Thamel has been and continues to be, one of the most popular centres in Kathmandu City of Nepal. In addition to being a famed tourist spot in the capital, Thamel is also one of the oldest areas. Be it cultural monuments or discotheques, cosy restaurants or magnificent temples, Thamel is a thriving tourist hub and for endless good reasons. For over four decades, this district has continued to serve as the tourist industry of the country. It can easily be referred to as the hotspot for tours and travels.
Formerly, this place was known as Tabitha Bahal. The maze of streets that make up Thamel is home to numerous stalls lined after one another. Even though the 'touristy' tag has led to an increase in the prices, the goods that are sold here are worth it. If you are looking for food or are in need of some new clothes, if you wish to purchase a new music album or just cannot do without a trekking gear, the street shops in Thamel have got you covered. The numerous travel agencies that line the street are especially convenient for visitors who come to explore this district for the first time. Along with scores of pedestrians strolling down the road, one can find no dearth of vehicles, including cycle rickshaws, taxis, bicycles and two-wheelers. Thamel is also home to several restaurants that serve delicious and varied cuisine, which is sure to draw in any food connoisseur. For the adventurers too, Thamel is a popular spot, owing to its base camp for mountaineers. Be it merely for enjoyment or employment purposes, Thamel is the place to be.
Shopping in Thamel - Shop till You Drop!
Thamel is the shopper's paradise in the country. From intricate handicrafts to warm woollens, from interesting novels to embroidered shirts, Thamel is the ideal hub to satisfy your shopping urges. What's even better? You can almost always get a good bargain on the items that are sold here, especially on handcrafted materials. For the ones who are not good at bargaining and wish to stay safe from being duped, there is an option of hiring a Nepalese shopper's assistant. Their inherent knowledge of the local language and the price rates can prevent you from overspending on an article. It is actually quite a good investment. If you are looking for some trinkets to take home, all you need to do is explore a little, and you will come across the perfect thing to buy. The satisfying experience of shopping in Thamel is one of the prime reasons why tourists are so drawn to this region.
Nightlife in Thamel - It's Party Time!
Thamel is the prime entertainment district in the capital city of Kathmandu. With a plethora of bars, clubs and casinos, most of them operating for 24 hours, Thamel steals the limelight from its neighbouring regions. The casinos are undoubtedly the focal point of the happening nightlife in this area. Head out to one of the four licensed casinos located in the Yak and Yeti, Soaltee Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Everest Hotel, and the Hotel de l'Annapurna and lose yourself in some exciting competition.
As the sun sets, the lounges and nightclubs come alive in Thamel. With quirky names like Electric Pagoda and Funky Buddha, these places are thronged by zealous people every night. Apart from these, you can also check out the Neon Pub, J-Bar, Tantra Bar, House of Music, and the Tamas Lounge.
Thamel is also a favourite among the movie buffs with latest Nepali and Hindi movies being screened in most theatres, including the QFX movie halls and the Big Cinema.
Restaurants in Thamel - Hungry? Head Out to These Places!
Thamel is a bevvy of bakeries, street food joints, and cosy restaurants. From Italian to French, from Israeli to Indian, the restaurants serve all kinds of food. However, for the best taste, you should always opt for the traditional Nepali cuisine. The aroma and the mouth-watering flavour along with the delicious flavour have won the hearts of many, and continue to do so until today. Among the famed eateries of this place are the Flat Iron Grill, Momo Star, La Dolce Vita Resto, Northfield Cafe, Fire and Ice, Cafe Mitra, and Black Olives.
Attractions in Thamel - Take a heritage walk
Even though the thriving nightlife and the pumped-up shopping sprees are the high points during a visit to Thamel, one cannot fathom how rejuvenating and enlightening a heritage walk across Thamel can be. Very few people know the other side of Thamel, the side which goes beyond parties and impulsiveness. Thamel is over a thousand years old and has more concealed gems than meets the eye. At its centre, this district has the serene Vikramshila Mahavihara Monastery which dates back several decades and stands with dignity till today. The manuscript Swayambhu Purana, which narrates the story of Kathmandu Valley, is said to be housed within it. In addition to this historical treasure, Thamel houses several other cultural monuments.
Tri Devi: One of the lesser known temples in Thamel, this place of worship houses temples devoted to the Goddesses Jawala Mai, Dakshinkali, and Manakamana.
Sunken Ganesh Shrine: Below a pavement in the northern region of Thamel stands a bland concrete monument with the most beautiful deity of Lord Ganesha inside it. Planted below street level, the deity is ornate with intricately detailed ornaments and carvings.
Ghairi Dhara: Head out to witness the colossal natural water source which is still in use in spite of being damaged by the massive earthquake that hit this region in 2015. For several centuries, this spot has been used by the locals to draw water for different purposes.
Shiva Shrine: Close to the Thamel Marg stands the picturesque Shiva Shrine. Being the centre of attraction amidst the park of shrines that are housed in this place, the place of worship is thronged by devotees on a daily basis.
Ashoka Stupa: The mesmerising Ashoka Stupa, dedicated to the renowned Indian Emperor Ashoka, is a newly renovated Stupa which holds a rich historical significance. Even though there are no written archives stating the age of the monument, it is said that this glorious piece of architecture is here for over a thousand years.
Thamel is one of those places which draw people to it time and again. Owing to the jovial locals, superb food, and thrift stores, this place teems with tourists. For everyone who is planning a visit to Nepal, a quick getaway to Thamel is a must!
Located inside the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, the Tribhuvan Museum contains the personal artefacts of Nepal' King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah. This part of the palace was built in the late 19th century and suffered a huge damage during the 2015 earthquake. It is believed that the Late King used to sit here and observe the problems and prosperity of his people.
Built to celebrate the king's successful reign, the Tribhuvan Museum houses a fabulous collection of historical artefacts that were owned and used by him. These include statues, woodwork, stonework, weapons, the king's attires, his walking stick, boxing gloves, thrones among other things. The museum also has his priceless collection of coins and a number of photographs on display from the historic events that King Tribhuvan was a part of and his hunting sprees. A section of the museum also has a recreated model of the king's study and his bedroom. For about a century now, artefacts from King Tribhuvan's life, his victories and his memories have been treasured in the museum.
King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah
Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah was born to King Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah and his wife, Queen Divyeshwari Lakshmi Devi Shah on 23rd June 1903. He was crowned king at the early age of eight after the death of King Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah. The queen served as the regent for her son till he came of age. The king had a successful reign between 1911 and 1955. During this reign, he went into exile while he protested against the Ranas. In 1951, he formed a new ministry, put an end to the Rana family rule and founded a democratic system. King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah passed away in 1955 at the age of 55 under mysterious circumstances in Zurich.
Located on a hilltop, the Vajrayogini or Bajrayogini Temple is a Tantrik Temple dedicated to the Buddhist Tantric Goddess in Nepal. It is also known as Bodhisattva's Temple and is situated in Sankhu, a small place in the Kathmandu Valley. One needs to climb a stone stairway to reach the temple complex, but once there, every visitor is bound to be fascinated with the beauty of the ancient temple complex that includes stonework, wood carvings, metalwork, smaller temples, caves and a stupa belonging to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni. In 2015, the temple was struck by a massive earthquake and its architecture took a major hit. Some sections have been restored, but some run a risk of crashing down. Most of it is supported with wooden planks. Tourists, however, can observe them from the outside and even click pictures.
Legend of Vajrayogini
Legend has it that during the ice age, when the entire planet was covered with ice, there once was a piece of stone that was forked and emitted fire. Soon after, five coloured flames started emitting out from that piece of rock, and the Goddess Vajrayogini emerged from it. She is, thus, referred to as the Volcanic Goddess. She ordered the locals to build a temple on the spot.
There are several caves surrounding the central shrine in the temple complex. The priests who took care of the temple and worshipped the goddess for centuries lived in these caves. It is also believed that the Goddess has superior powers. She is said to have blessed the first ever priest with enlightenment, a power that only specific Hindu Gods and Goddess have.
Vajrayogini Temple Structure
The striking temple is a 16th-century structure built during the reign of King Pratap Malla. Goddess Vajrayogini is often believed to be associated with Ugra Tara and is followed by the Buddhists, as well as the Hindus. The idol of the presiding deity is installed inside a temple that has three storeys built according to the traditional pagoda style architecture. Two lion statues guard the entrance to the temple and two temple bells hang on stone frames, one on each side. A small staircase leads to the raised pedestal where the main temple is located.
As one walks ahead, they would notice the decorative sculptures and metal work all around the door frame. Do pause a moment to admire this intricate work. Inside the shrine is a commanding idol of Goddess Vajrayogini with a face coloured red and possess three eyes and three hands - a sight not commonly found in Nepal.