Nepal, a mystical country with immense natural beauty, is a land steeped in legends and mythology. As the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, Nepal is one of the important centers of Buddhism. Nepal has been a meeting place for Buddhist teachers and scholars, as the country played an important part in the expansion of Buddhism and preservation of various Buddhist manuscripts. Despite having a dominant Hindu Population, Hinduism and Buddhism have harmoniously co-existed in Nepal as nowhere else in the world. Nepal offers various well preserved holy shrines and monasteries for the Buddhist Pilgrimage.
Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists. Queen Maya Devi of Kapilvastu gave birth to a child named Siddhartha Gautam in circa 563 B.C. After living in Lumbini for 29 years, the child began seeking the true meaning of life and was later renowned to the words as Lord Gautam Buddha. The birthplace of the “Apostle of Peace”, Lumbini, is the most sacred site for Buddhist Pilgrims from all around the world.
Lumbini is segregated into the Sacred Garden Zone, the Monastery Zone, and the Educational and Cultural Zone. The sacred zone has the Mayadevi Garden, Mayadevi Temple, Puskarni Pond and the Ashoka Pillar. The Monastic zone has the monasteries built by the followers of Theravat and Mahayana Buddhist. Considering the importance of the site, UNESCO listed Lumbini as the World Heritage Site in 1997.
Boudthanath Stupa is one of the largest Stupas in the world, measuring 100 meters in diameters and about 40 meters in height. The massive dome sits on a three-layered base surrounded by 108 deity figures and hundreds of prayer wheels. Every symbol or the structure of the monument’s architecture has an abstract spiritual meaning. The peaceful Buddha’s eyes gaze in all four directions from the top of the dome.
The stupa is said to enshrine the remains of the past Buddha Kashyapa. The Boudthanath premises has a number of monasteries of Mahayana Buddhism, which provides spiritual peace to every visitor’s soul.
Swoyambhunath, a hilltop stupa, is a clean white dome with glittering golden spire and the wisdom eyes of Buddha looking all the four directions. This is one of the most ancient shrines in the valley, which is believed to be built around 250 B.C. The Swoyambhunath stands on a lotus mandala base and has a huge gold plated Vajra, the priestly symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism. The holy Stupa has many other holy temples and monuments surrounding the monument. The stupa can be reached by climbing the hundreds steps up the hill or by following the winding road leading to the other gate of the stupa.
Nearby the Swoyambhu Stupa lies the beautiful Anandakuti Vihar. The Vihar was established in 1943 by the Sri Lankan Monks following Thervada Buddhism. The Buddhist Boarding school called Anandakuti Vidyapeeth runs under the Vihar’s jurisdiction.
Hiranyavarna Mahavihar, situated in Patan, is a three-roofed pagoda-style temple holding a large silver figure of Shakyamuni Buddha. The vihar is known for its beautiful architecture with a gilt roof and copper Patakas and has a smaller temple in front, (metal banners descending from the top). It is believed that visiting the Golden Temple is like visiting all the other temples in valley collectively, as the temples has the shrines of most of the major temples of the valley, including a lovely silver replica of Swayambhunath.
The Mahvihar courtyard has the various deity figures and a prominent Dharma Dhatu Mandala with a large Vajra which sits on a double lotus podium with the. The premises also consist of a Gumba (prayer hall) with Amoghapasa Lokeswor (eight-handed Buddha), where monks gather for prayers.
Kopan Monastery is a major center for the study and practice of Mahayana Buddhism. The Monastery was founded in 1972 by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, with the first community of 25 monks. The monastery now accommodates more than 360 monks and Lamas. Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery is built near the monastery to house the 300 nuns.
Seto Gumba (Druk Amitabh Mountain Monastery):
Seto Gumba or the White Monastery established in 1989 stands on top of a hill, 3 km away from the Swoyambhunath Stupa. The monastery founded by his holiness Gyalwang Drukpa has 300 nuns housed in Druk Gawa Khilwa. The splendid Tibetan style architecture has beautiful statues, paintings and a lovely garden. The quite Monastery has a peaceful and refreshing ambience.
Namobuddha is located 10 km from an ancient Newar town of Panauti. The place holds the legend of the Prince Mahasatwo of Panauti. According to the legend, the prince encountered a starving tigress and her cubs weakened to the state that they were unable to move while the price approached. The price was deeply moved by the state of the animals and cut his flesh to feed the starving cubs. A festival is held every year in April and May to commemorate this extra-ordinary sacrifice of the prince.
Dharma Kirti Vihar:
The Dharma Kirti Vihar in Kathmandu was established in 1965 by Thervada Buddhists. The Vihar has 20 nuns conducting regular Buddha Puja and Dharma Desana. The Vihar also runs Dharmakriti Sikshya Sadan to give Buddhist moral education to the preschoolers. Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar was once a student at the Vihar.
There are many other holy Buddhist sites around the country. The northern region of the country has many Buddhist sites and monasteries influenced by the Mahayana Buddhism while the Valley holds a strong Vajrayana Buddhism of the Newars. As a whole Nepal offers numerous holy sites for the Buddhist Pilgrims.
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