Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in Nepal

Nepal is a country with diversity in various aspects be it naturally or culturally. Although the majority of the people in Nepal follows Hinduism, it is one of the most sacred places for the followers of Buddhism as well. Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is a popular destination for someone who is seeking for the peace and tranquility. Siddhartha Gautam, the founder of Buddhism, was born in the ancient kingdom of Nepal that automatically makes Nepal a very sacred place for the followers of Buddhism all over the world.

Buddhism flourished in Nepal from the ancient period. It all started after Emperor Ashoka erected the pillar in Lumbini. Afterward,Buddhism became the dominant religion in sparsely populated northern parts of the country. King Amshuvarma, the first Lichhavi king of Nepal, married his daughter Bhrikuti to the Tibetan ruler, King Songsten Gampo. Legends tell that, at her wedding, Bhrikutiwas gifted the begging bowl of the Gautam Buddha. It was Bhrikuti who flourished Buddhism in Tibet.

Today the followers of Buddhism are spread all around the world. Large Gumbas, monasteries, and stupas are built in almost every country in the world. Nepal is a hub for the followers of Buddhism and is most popular as a Buddhist destination. This is because Nepal is where the Buddhism originated and bloomed.

Here are some of the popular Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal.

Bouddhanath Stupa

Bouddhanathstupa is the largest stupa in Nepal and holiest site for the Tibetan Buddhist outside Tibet. One can experience the awesome Tibetan culture in the periphery of theBoudhanath Stupa.The stupa stood in a place called Boudha in the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu and was listed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The whole architecture of the stupa has a symbolic meaning. The plinth is the representation of the earth, the dome represents the water,and the square tower indicates the fire. The spire is the air,and the 13 levels in the spire symbolize the stages that an individual should pass to reach nirvana state. There is an umbrella at the top which symbolizes the void or beyond other space.

The Arial view of the stupa looks like a big Mandala. The 16-sided wall surrounds the stupa. There are many prayer wheels,and these wheels are engraved with the mantra- ‘Om Mani Padme Hum.’ The Buddhists prefer the mornings and the evenings for the Buddhist for their prayer and meditation.

Swayambhunath Stupa

The large Swayambhunath stupa is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for the Buddhism followers and is located at the top of a hill in Kathmandu. Because a large number of monkeys wander here and there around the temple, the temple is also popular as ‘the monkey temple.’ According to the ancient stories, there used to be a huge lake in the valley. The lotus bloomed in the lake,and the name of the valley was named Swayambhu, which meant, ‘self-created.’ The Swayambhunathis also a UNESCO World Heritage property.

The stupa also has a large dome base. The stupa also has two eyes and the 13 pinnacles on the top. The dome is the symbolization of the world; the eyes reflect the wisdom and compassion,and the 13 pinnacles represent the stages to gain enlightenment. The number ‘1’ is painted instead of the nose as an indication of unity.

There are large numbers of flags tagged at the top of the stupa. These flags hold the prayers and mantras.  Many temples, Chaityas, prayer wheels, and images of the deities surround the area. Swayambhunath is also a holy place also for the Hindusbecause the Hindus regard Gautam Buddha as another form of Lord Vishnu.

Kopan Monastery

Kopan hill is the ancient Buddhist town, near the town of Bouddhanath. The Kopan monastery lies on the same hill that rises to the terraced fields. Situated at the top of the hill, the monastery is visible from other various parts of the Kathmandu. The monastery is not open to the public except on Saturdays. Thus, the monastery especially receives a large number of visitors only one day a week.

Kopan monastery is particularly famous for the teachings of Buddhism for the foreigners who visit the monastery. The monastery is determined to help the individual to develop full wisdom and compassion. There is a KhachoeGhakyil Ling Nunnery nearby the Kopan monastery that provides the spiritual and practical education for the monks.

The monastery is home to more than 300 monks, Lamas, teachers,and workers from Nepal and Tibet. The age of the monks who come to the Kopan monastery varies widely; from seven years to sixty years. They have devoted their entire life studying the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni, and then practice those teachings throughout their lives.

Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery, Namo Buddha

Namo Buddha is located 40 kilometers southeast of Kathmandu and is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal. The Tibetans call the site by the name “Tigress Body Generosity.” Namo Buddha is the site where a young prince sacrificed himself to the starving tiger. The site contains a small shrine that contains the statue of the prince together with the tiger and the cubs. It is also believed that the Gautam Buddha once came in the village, made a three-round tour of the site and announced himself to be the reincarnation of the prince.

Thrangu Tashi Yangtse monastery is the major attraction of the Namo Buddha which was constructed in 1976 and especially visited during the February and March. The monastery was,however, officially opened in 2008.

Your trip to Namobuddha will be wonderful not only because it is the pilgrimage site for the Buddhist, but also its peaceful environment. The environment is all you need to calm yourself in any condition. Also, it is a perfect destination for the short hiking near Kathmandu as it provides the perfect view of the landscapes from the top. Main festivals and fairs are conducted in the Namo Buddha in Kartik Purnima and Buddha Jayanti. There is also a school for the young monks which is named ‘Shree Mangal Dip Branch School.’

Ramagrama Stupa

Ramagrama stupa is one of the eight original and natural stupas. The stupa lies almost 50 km east of Lumbini and 29 km east of Bhairahawa in Nawalparasi district, on the bank of JharahiRiver. The stupa is not like anything we see in the Kathmandu valley or anywhere in Nepal. Rather, it is the high brick mound of about 7m.

Ramagrama stupa is the important pilgrimage site for the Buddhist because it is supposed to be the only stupa that remains undisturbed in its original form and contains the remains of the Lord Shakyamuni Buddha. The stupa being the most undisturbed and original stupa, the place is where every Buddhist dream to visit at least once in their lifetime. There is also a park which contains the standing image of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha, which was built by the Japanese Buddhist Organization. This park worth’s a visit during the visit to the Ramagrama Stupa.

Lumbini

Last but not the least, Lumbini is the once in a lifetime destination of every Buddhist all over the world. Situated at the Kapilvastu district in Province no. 5 of Nepal, theLumbini is the holy place where Gautam Buddha was born. The site is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Lumbini is spread over 4.8 km by length and 1.6 km by the breadth and is separated by a water-filled canal into two distinct zones. The canal has motorboats and provides the visitors with the tour around the area.

Lumbini area is full of many temples and monasteries. There are more than 25 monasteries constructed by the Buddhism followers’ countries from all around the world.There are more than 60 excavation sites to explore around Lumbini. Maya Devi temple is one of the major attraction of Lumbini which was built in honor of Maya Devi, the mother of Gautam Buddha. The temple preserves the exact spot of the birth of Gautam Buddha.

Ashoka Pillar, built by the Indian Emperor Ashoka is another major attraction of Lumbini. Puksarni pond, where baby Gautam Buddha took his purification bath is where the devotees take a holy bath at present. And of course, you should not miss the Sacred Garden, World Peace Pagoda, Royal Thai Monastery, Myanmar Golden Temple, The Lotus Stupa, and the Lumbini Museum. Besides these, there are numerous other stupas and monasteries to visit in Lumbini.

The ever-glowing flame is also a must visit spot. The area also preserves the seven steps that the young Buddha took immediately after his birth. The Bodhi tree nearby the Maya Devi temple is the place for the meditation and prayer. Thousands of devotees visit the site every year. The place is beautifully decorated,and various rituals are performed during the Buddha Jayanti.

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