Bouddhanath is the center of Tibetan culture in Nepal. The 36-meter-high stupa of Bouddhanath is one of the largest stupas in South Asia. Bouddhanath Stupa was renovated by Licchavi rulers in the eighth century. The mandala design in Bouddhanath is a copy of the one in Gyangtse in Tibet.
The stupa is located in the area of ancient trade route to Tibet where Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers for many centuries. When refugees entered Nepal from Tibet in the 1950s, many decided to live around Bouddhanath. Hence, a complete township has developed around Bouddhanath.
The stupa is said to entomb the remains of a Kasyap sage venerable both to Buddhists and Hindus. Smaller stupas are located at the base. Gompa monasteries, curio shops, and restaurants surround Bouddhanath.
Because of its location and size, it seems much larger than the Swayambunath Stupa, with the same hemi-spherical dome symbolizing the emptiness from which everything emanates. On top is the harmika painted on each side with the eyes of the Buddha symbolizing awareness, and above the spire with its 13 stages to the canopy. At ground level there is a brick wall with 147 niches and 108 images of the meditational buddha inset behind copper prayer wheels. Early morning and evening are the times to visit Bouddha to join the local residents in kora (walking the pilgrim's circuit, sometimes with Tibetan pilgrims on their hands and knees).
Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for Shiva devotees. Pashupatinath, dedicated to Shiva the Destroyer, is the holiest Hindu pilgrimage destination in Nepal. Although the Pashupatinath Temple was only built in the fifth century and later renovated by Malla kings, the holy site is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium.
A gold-plated roof, four silver doors, and wood carvings of the finest quality decorate the pagoda temple of Pashupatinath. Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath. Nearby is the temple of Guheshwori dedicated to Shiva's consort Sati Devi. Behind the temple is the River Bagmati. On the banks of Bagmati are raised platforms used as cremation sites for Hindus. Only Hindus are allowed inside the Pashupatinath courtyard.
Pashupatinath is the other popular name of Shiva. Shiva in the form of Rudra was imagined by the early Aryans and later was worshipped in the form of a Linga, a Phallus, a vertical piece of stone placed in an upward position on a round pedestal. The Indus Valley civilisation in Pakistan has shown that the peo- ple there worshipped Shiva in the form of a Linga in about the 3rd century BC. Besides south Asia, archaeological excavations in some ancient cities of Europe have revealed that the linga-worship cult ex- isted there too.
Pashupatinath, in a limited sense, literally means the Lord of the Animals. But animal is also a term that denotes the animal like instincts in human beings. Capable of destroying instantly every evil force either with his trident or the third eye, when it comes to his devotees, the Lord Pashupatinath destroys their igno- rance. Be it an issue of material gain or release from the cycle of mortal existence he is the height of compassion, generosity, as well as consciousness.
Shiva has been worshipped in Nepal from the beginning of the Neolithic civilisation in the Kathmandu Valley, with scientific archaeological studies and findings around the temple proving that the god Pashupatinath was worshipped here from about the beginning of the Christian era. From about the 7th century onwards it became the first and foremost temple of Nepal, with kings, aristocrats and the rich offering a great deal of wealth and land in trust to the god, making it one of the richest temples in Nepal. Many temples and stat- ues around the temple were added making it a big complex rather than just a temple. The main God or the Linga of Pashupatinath is carved on a blackish stone, with four faces engraved on four sides of the Linga.
Nepal is constitutionally a Hindu kingdom so non- Hindus cannot enter the temple, although Buddhists can. But no one is allowed to enter the inner sanctum except the Bhattas, the main priests who come from the south of India. The temple starts swarming with devotees around 4am every morning. However the top of the hill to the east of the temple is the ideal place for the non Hindu visitor to view the temple, its rich surroundings, and below on the edge of the Bagmati river the ghats where the dead are brought to be cremated Situated on the top of a small hill about 15 kilometers east of Kathmandu and only a few miles north of Bhaktapur, the temple of Changu Narayan is perhaps the best and oldest in the context of Nepa- lese art and architecture. Built around 239 A.D., it s not only the temple but the whole complex which is an open air museum - breathtaking and bewildering in character.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is located in the center of Bhaktapur. The Square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the Valley as it highlights some of the finest medieval arts of Nepal. The main items of interest in Bhaktapur Durbar Square are the Lion Gate, the Golden Gate and the statues of kings on stone monoliths. The Golden Gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla as the entrance to the main courtyard of the Fifty-five Windowed Palace.
The Palace of Fifty-five Windows was built during the reign of King Yakshya Malla in A.D. 1427 and was remodelled by King Bhupatindra Malla in the seventeeth century. The art gallery of Bhaktapur Durbar Square contains ancient paintings belonging to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of various periods. This gallery is open everyday except Tuesday.
Patan Durbar Square complex, situated in the center of Patan city, houses the residence of the former family of Patan. The Square and its surroundings provide very good example of ancient Newari architecture. The palace has three main courtyards the central and the oldest is Mul Chowk. To the west of the complex are a dozen free standing temples of various sizes and styles. Krishna Temple, Bhimsen Temple, the Golden Temple of Hiranya Varna Mahavira and Sundari Chowk mark the architectural excellence of its era. The Sundari Chowk with the sunken bath of Tusha Hiti, contains exquisite woodcarvings, stone, and metal sculpture. Patan Durbar Square also houses a temple of Taleju Bhawani.