Nepal is a secular nation that is deeply rooted in its religious values. Also, it hosts two of the world’s oldest religions; Hinduism and Buddhism. Hinduism also dominates Nepal with 81%, while Buddhism covers 9% of the total population.
These religions present many architectural structures and religious sites, which have enhanced the spiritual experience in Nepal. Several religious travelers fly from abroad every year to embark on their spiritual journey.
Most of the pilgrimage sites in Nepal date beyond thousand years and have even made their name the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Travelers from around the globe visit Nepal for these sites, especially during the festive seasons, such as Dashain, Janmashtami, Shivaratri, Tihar, Baishakh Purnima, and many more.
Nepal’s Top Pilgrimage Sites
Nepal’s religious path has a glorious past with significant figures of Hindu and Buddhist mythology. In Hindu mythology, pilgrims are divided into four sections: Char Dams, Pashupat Kshetra, Mukti Kshetra, Ruru Kshetra, and Baraha Kshetra.
However, in Buddhist mythology, their main pilgrim is Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautam Budhha. Apart from it, there are also multiple monasteries all around.
Widely popularized as the “Monkey Temple,” Swayambhunath Stupa lies on the west-side hill of the Kathmandu Valley. It is a popular site that portrays harmony between two main religions in Nepal, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
This particular site consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines, and temples, where some even date back to the Licchavi period. Moving on, the site can be reached through two access points. Here, the main structure is the stupa with Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on it.
This stupa has a dome-like structure with a cube at the top, and pentagonal toranas are presented on all four sides of the cube.
The Janakpur Dham of Mithila is one of the important tourist destinations of the Terai plain. This historical town holds high values of ancient and authentic temples, monasteries, colorful arts, and unique crafts. Back in the day, this particular town used to be the capital of the ancient Mithila Kingdom and was named after the sage king Janak.
Not to mention, it is also the birthplace of Sita – the consort of Lord Ram and a brave daughter of Nepal. Today, this town holds a significant value as a religious destination, where the Janaki temple is the most popular site in the city.
The Janaki Temple stands in Moghul design with hundreds of rooms, stages, prayer rooms, store rooms, and sitting rooms. Apart from this pilgrim, there are other holy sites such as the Ram Mandir, Vivaha Mandap, Janak Mandir, Laxman Temple, and the sacred Sagars (Ponds).
Often festivals and occasions such as Ram Navami, Vivaha Panchami, and Chhath are celebrated in full swing.
Gorakhnath Cave in Gorkha
This particular cave in the Gorkha palace is a part of the important Hindu pilgrimage site and is religiously sacred. The Gorakhnath cave lies ten meters deep south of the Gorkha Palace, home to King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who unified Nepal.
This cave is well-hidden and shelters the statue of Gorakhnath Baba (sage). According to the historical pages, Gorkha was inspired by the sage, who is also believed to have inspired King Prithvi Narayan Shah for unification.
Well, this cave is made up of solid rock and holds immense value to the Hindu followers. Especially Brahmans, and Chhetris. During Baisakhi Purnima, devotees from all over the place come to worship here, and it is a famous spot for the pilgrimage tour. If you are in Gorkha, you can go sightseeing and hiking.
It is the largest dome shape stupa in the world, presented in the mandala structure. It was established in the 14th century and is visible from the Tribhuvan International Airport. Not only this, but it is also the largest spherical stupa in the world.
Here, this stupa reflects the rich Tibetan culture, and Buddhists worldwide come to visit it. Furthermore, Boudhanath Stupa presents “Bodhi,” the path to enlightenment. Moving on, this stupa is surrounded by several handicraft stores selling Tibetan souvenirs, statues, prayer flags, ceremonial horns, Tibetan drums, singing bowls, thanks, and other items.
In addition, the Boudhanath Stupa also maintains a facility for people to feed pigeons. Just by the road, it also has the Taragaon Museum and the Bodhisattva Gallery.
It is one of the sacred Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva near the banks of the Bagmati river in a picturesque area. The name Pashipatinath refers to the “Lord Of All Animals” and was constructed in the 3rd century BC.
This particular temple has a pagoda-style architecture with four entrance doors to the temple covered with silver sheets. Likewise, this area has multiple sculptures and paintings with images of various Gods and Goddesses.
Furthermore, while visiting this area, you will also witness the open-air cremation on the banks of the Bagmati river near the temple. Most people gather in this temple during this special occasions like Mahashivaratri, Teej Akshaya, Ekadasi, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse), and Poornima.
It is one of the greatest pilgrimage sites for Buddhists, as it is the birthplace of the Lord Buddha. It lies in Nepal’s southwestern Terai region. Also, this site is divided into two zones, with the Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries situated in the western zone and the Theravadin monasteries in the eastern zone.
Additionally, this site consists of multiple temples, among which Maya devi is one of the most popular. Other temples are:
- The International Gautami Nuns temple.
- Nepal Buddha temple.
- Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha Vihara.
Talking about its structures, Lumbini is made with medieval architecture with large monolithic images of Buddha. While here, some of the major attractions in the area are Lumbini Museum, Gotihawa, Kudan, Niglihawa, Sagarhawa, Ramgram Stupa, Tilaurakot, Ashoka Pillar, Puskarni, Kapilvastu, and Aroarakot.
Frequently Asked Question
Four major Buddhist pilgrimage sites apply to all Buddhists. These are Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar.
A pilgrimage is a journey, usually, a religious one, made by an individual or group to a sacred place as an act of devotion, penitence, or spiritual renewal. The purpose of the pilgrimage is to deepen one’s faith, seek divine intervention or blessings, fulfill a vow, or commemorate an important event or person in the history of the religion. Pilgrimages can also serve as a means of spiritual self-discovery, reflection, and renewal.