Nepal is a religious country where people of many religion have been living in peace for centuries. Nepal is the country where no blood has been shed in the name of religion. Despite the greatest diversity, Nepal has always been united as a one. In Nepal, the majority of the followers is Hindu which is followed by Buddhist. Apart from these two major, Christianity, Sikh, Islam, Kiranti are some of the other religion. The difference in religion is one thing, even the people following the same religion has a difference in customs and tradition because of difference is ethnicity. So, this varied variation in the belief of people and so many religion, there are many pilgrimage sites in Nepal, which is worshipped by Nepali people to pay homage to their deities. Some of these pilgrimage sites are well-known to the whole world too. Today, let’s peek at those holy homes of the gods.
Pashupatinath is the famous and sacred site of Hindus. The temple is located on the north-east side of Kathmandu in the bank of the holy Bagmati River. Pashupatinath serves as the seat of Nepal’s national deity, Lord Pashupatinath who is the incarnation of Lord Shiva as “lord of animals.” The temple was also enlisted in the list of World’s Heritage Site in 1979.
The temple of Pashupatinath was erected as new by the Lichhavi King Shupuspa in the 15th century after the older one was consumed by termites. And, even after that countless temples have been erected around the main two-storied temple. The complex of Pashupatinath is spread in the area of 264 hectares, and the land includes 518 temples and different monuments. Among these temples, there is the Vaishnava temple complex with a Rama temple from the 14th century and the Guhyeshwari temple from the 11th century. The main temple of the complex is pagoda styled and is guarded by the military.
Apart from the religious belief of temple, the temple is also one of the major tourist attractions. Many tourists prefer to visit the temple to look and study the Nepali culture and tradition in a more detailed way. During the festival of Maha Shivaratri, the temples welcome more than 1 million devotees.
Lumbini is one of the main pilgrimage sites of Nepal and for the people around the world as well as it is the birthplace of the Lord Buddha. In this very place, Queen Mayadebi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautam in 563, who achieved enlightenment sometime later in his life and became Buddha founding the religion of Buddhism. It is located in the Rupandehi district of Nepal. Lumbini also gained the status of World Heritage Site in 1997.
The complex is surrounded by many temples including the Mayadevi temple. Monuments, monasteries, and museum of the complex are also within the holy site. Countries like Myanmar, India, Thailand, China, Japan, and Canada have also built the temples around the area. There is a holy pond known as Puskarini, where Buddha’s mother took a ritual dip before giving him birth and where he had his first bath. In the Lumbini complex, there is also a pillar built by Ashoka, emperor of Maurya Empire of India. In that pillar, there lies a Brahmi inscription that gives evidence that Ashoka visited Lumbini in 3rd century BCE and identified it as the birthplace of Buddha.
Boudhanath is located in the northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu. It is a stupa with a very massive mandala making it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. The Boudhanath stupa is so large that it dominates the skyline and so it is the largest stupa in the world. The stupa is also in the list of World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1979.
The Boudhanath stupa is on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the valley of Kathmandu through the village of Sankhu in the northeast corner. The merchants of Tibet have rested and offered their prayers here for many centuries. Around the stupa, there are mostly Tibetan who entered Nepal from Tibet in 1950s. And, because of the influx of Tibetans, there are over 50 gompas around the stupa.
The stupa suffered major damage during the earthquake of April 2015. The earthquake cracked the spires severely, and as a result, the whole structure above the dome and the religious relics it contained had to be removed. However, in the present the reconstruction of the stupa is complete, and it stands anew.
Swaymabhunath is located in the top of the hill in the western side of the Kathmandu city. It is the ancient religious architecture. The site has a different name in Tibetan which means “Sublime Trees” for many varieties of trees that can be found in the hill. In the mythological history and origin myth as well as day to day religious practice of Buddhist Newar, Swayambhunath occupies a central place. Whereas for the Tibetans and the followers of Tibetans Buddhism, it comes in second place after Bouddhanath. The most of iconography of Swayambhunah comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Newar Buddhism. But it also an important site for Buddhist of many schools and is also revered by Hindus.
The complex of Swayambhunath has many stupas, monasteries, museum, library, and variety of shrines and temples and some of them even goes back to the period of Lichhavi kings of Nepal. Swayambhunath is also popularly known as the “Monkey Temple” because it is overly populated by the monkeys.
Pathibhara temple is located in eastern Nepal in the hill of Taplejung district. It is one of the most significant temples of Nepal and is one of the holiest places for the Limbu community. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Pathibhara, who is believed to possess supernatural powers and diligently answers the devotees’ prayer. It is believed that she is the manifestation of the divine feminine, who is also called by other names like Maha Maya, Maha Rudri and Adi Kali.
The temple is visited by many devotees from around the country and from India as well as there is belief a pilgrimage to the temple ensures the fulfillment of the pilgrim’s wishes.
Halesi Mahadev Temple
Halesi Mahadev temple is located in the Khotang district of Nepal at 3,100 ft-4,734 feet above sea level between the holy rivers of Dudh Koshi and Sun Koshi. The temple is also known as the Pashupatinath of eastern Nepal. It is the sacred pilgrimage site for Hindu as well as Buddhists, and the temple is a cave.
There is a belief that Lord Shiva used this cave to hide from the demon named Bhasmasur for 6,000 years. The temple celebrates the festival like Ram Navami and Ganesh Chaturthi. Apart from the devotees inside the country, Indians also visit this temple to pay to honor the god. The cave of Halesi Mahadev is 67 feet below the surface of the land, and it has round shape with a diameter of 193 feet with a separate cave lying beneath. The floor of the cave is 223 feet in circumference. Halesi Mahadev is also visited by many tourists.
Gosaikunda is located in the Rasuwa district within the Langtang National Park at an altitude of 4,380 meters. Gosaikunda is also very popular as the trekking destination. It is an alpine freshwater oligotrophic lake with a surface of 13.8 hectares. There are other lakes which are associated with Gosaikunda, and in total the complex is of 1,030 hectors. Altogether there are 108 small to medium sized lake in this area. Gosaikunda lake melts and sips down to form the Trishuli rivers and then remains frozen for six months in winter.
As per the Hindu mythology, Gosaikunda constitutes as the abode of the Hindu God Shiva and Gauri. It is also believed that Lord Shiva created the lake after he swallowed poison. He thrust his Trishul/holy Trident into the mountain to extract water so that he could cool his burning throat. In the Hindu scriptures like Bhagvat Puran, Vishnu Puran, and the epics Ramayan and Mahabharat, they all refer to Samudra Manthan which is directly related to the origin of the Gosaikunda. The water of this lake is considered holy, and the devotees visiting the lake make sure to take a dip in the lake. And, the water is considered of even more significance during the festival of Janai Purnima. The lake is visited by thousands of pilgrims from Nepal and from India as well to worship the lake.