World Heritage Sites of Nepal

Posted By : caravanahimalaya/ 168 0

There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS) in Nepal. Of these four WHS, -two are in the cultural category and two WHS fall in the natural category.

Contents

  • World Heritage Sites of Nepal
  • Historical Background
  • Kathmandu Durbar Square
  • Patan Durbar Square
  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square
  • Pashupatinath
  • Swayambhunath Stupa
  • Bouddanath Stupa
  • Changu Narayan
  • Lumbini – Birthplace of Lord Buddha
  • Chitwan National Park (932 sq. km.)
  • Sagarmatha National Park (1148 sq. km.)

 

World Heritage Sites of Nepal

There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS) in Nepal. Of these four WHS, -two are in the cultural category and two WHS fall in the natural category.

In the cultural category, the seven monuments of the Kathmandu Valley (together counted as one WHS) and Lumbini – the birthplace of Lord Buddha – are included whereas the other two WHS in the natural grouping are the Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park. The Kathmandu Valley WHS comprises of three historical palaces of Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square, two Buddhist Stupas – Swayambhunath and Boudanath, and two Hindu temples Pashupati and Changu Narayan. The densest concentration of these heritage sites can be found here owing to the cultural and political importance of the Kathmandu Valley. All these monuments were designed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in October 1979. Most of the places listed in the WHS were revered for thousands of years and there has been a series of contributions and renovations in the form of construction of temples, stupas and palaces over the centuries by different rulers and kings. The WHS of Nepal are an expression of the finest sensibility of the history and lifestyle of nepal and are a legacy of the Nepalese people to human civilization.

Historical background

The Kathmandu Valley civilization is around 3000 years old. It has been claimed that the valley was a large lake in the early geological period and it was only when the lake was drained that the valley was ready for human settlement.  There is also a legend which reinforces the story that a certain Bodhistav called Manjushree came to Kathmandu Valley and cut the gorge in Chobar with his flaming sword and drained the water out of the valley making it ready for human settlement.

 

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square lies in the heart of the Kathmandu city. The locals know this area by its old name Hanuman Dhoka – an ancient seat of the Nepalese Royalty. The Royal Palace during medival timese were not merely for Royal Activities but also used as the center of Administration, cultural activities and festivals.

The Historical buildings and temples in the area were erected from the time of King Ratna Malla (1484-1520 AD) to Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah (1875-1911 AD) covering the Malla, Shah and Rana period of Nepalese history. The entire palace complex here is named after a monkey god called Hanuman. One can see a huge stone statue of Hanuman painted all red next to the main entrance (the golden gate) of the palace. Hanuman here is regarded as a powerful protector of the entire Durbar Square.

 

Patan Durbar Square

Patan is also known as Lalitpur which means the city of arts. It is located across the river Bagmati which is 5 km south of central Kathmandu. This city founded in 3rd century A.D. by King Veera Dev has a distinction of being the home of the finest crafts and is considered oldest of all three cities of Kathmandu Valley. Most of the monuments in this square date back to the Medieval Malla period from 16th to 18th century and the monuments in the area are mostly created to King Siddhi Narsingha Malla, Shri Niwas Malla and Yog Narendra Malla.

 

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur meaning the city of devotees was founded by King Ananda Dev in 1197 A.D. according to the Gopal Raj Vamsabali even though the existence of the city could be traced back to the Licchavi period (185-750 A.D.). There are many monuments including pagodas, palaces, shikhara style monuments, courtyards and Buddhists shrines and monasteries. The Durbar Square was the seat of the Malla Kings and the present structures were erected from the 12th to the 18th century A.D. Bhaktapur is located at around 12 Km away from Kathmandu city.

 

Pashupatinath

Situates 5 km east of Kathmandu city center, Pashupati literally means “Lord of Animals” and is considered to be the patron deity of Nepal. Pashupatinath is regarded as one of the holiest sites for Hindus all over the world.
Pashupatinath temple is a pagoda style two-tiered golden roof with exquisitely carved four silver doors containing in its sanctum a phallic idol with four faces facing each direction and the other fifth one is looking up toward the zenith. A temple dedicated to shiva was constructed at the present site by Licchavi King Supushpa Verma according to an ancient chronicle. However the present temple is claimed to have been built by King Bhupatendra Malla in 1697 A.D. legend has it that a cow would frequently escape from its herds and offer milk on a jyotilinga (phallic symbol of Shiva) which denotes the point where the temple stands today. It is said that a certain cowherd much to his surprise found the self-generated jyotilinga when he dug the spot where the cow would give milk. The spot immediately became the center of worship that has been continued till today.

Swayambhunath

Located on a lovely hillock, Swayambhunath Stupa lies 4 km west of central Kathmandu. There are 365 steps leading all the way to the top commanding a magnificient view of Kathmandu valley and the breath-taking panorama of the snow-clad Himalayan Range. The tradition in the Stupa follows the Vajrayana for of Buddhism which is a tantric variation of the Mahayana Buddhism (the great vehicle). The stupa seem to have been constructed during the Licchavi Period. Religious and literally sources give numerous accounts of the establishment and the patronage of the Swayambhunath premises. It is also interesting to note that the stupa went a series of renovation during the Malla period in the medieval times with donations made by the merchants, monks, pilgrims and Buddhist followers.

 

Bouddanath Stupa

Boudanath is the biggest stupa of Nepal, is located 5km east of central Kathmandu. The stupa stands on a three-tiered platform raised over the crossed rectangles in order to bring out the yantra form.

The claims made in various religious and literary texts regarding the erection of the stupa is varied and conflicting. However, the stupa is believed to have been built in the 5th century A.D. during the reign of the Licchavi kings.

As in other stupa architecture, this stupa also has Vairochana at the center followed by Aksobhya, Ratna Sambhava, Amitabha and Amogha Siddhi in east, south, west and north directions respectively. Similarly, there are one hundred and eight small niches around the stupa accommodating the icons of Buddhas, Bodhisatavas and other female deities along with conjoint figures in erotic poses. Likewise, at the bottom level, it is surrounded with the praying wheels embossed with the famous mantra Om Mani Padme Hum fixed in more than hundred and forty niches.

The stupa along with the monasteries are centers of learning, cultural activities, prayers and meditation.

 

Changu Narayan

Located on a magnificent hill top commanding a fantastic view of Kathmandu Valley, Changu Narayan – a temple of Lord Vishnu – lies 6 km north of Bhaktapur. The temple is full of magnificent art works in metal and wood. In fact, it is one of the finest examples of Nepalese architecture. The first epigraphic evidence of Nepalese history found in the temple premises during the reign of the Licchavi King Mandeva dating back to 464 A.D. shows that change had already been established as a sacred site in the 3rd century A.D. the present structure was probably constructed in the 17th century, though older elements have been incorporated during the restorations. The pagoda style temple has several masterpieces of 5th and 12th century Nepalese art.

 

Lumbini –  Birthplace of lord Buddha

Buddha was born at Lumbini in southern Nepal on a full moon day in 623 B.C. the importance of Lumbini is testified by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka who visited Lumbini in order to pay homage to the great Master and erected a pillar in 249 B.C. to indicate the birthplace of Buddha. Near the Ashoka Pillar is the newly renovated Mayadevi Temple which houses the Nativity sculpture depicting the birth scene of the Buddha. The temple also houses Marker stone discovered in 1966 A.D. which depicts the exact spot where the Buddha was born is now kept in bulletproff glass in the Mayadevi Temple.

Accommodation; Lumbini offers good hotels that are equipped with modern amenities. Visitors cann also stay in Lumbini or the nearby town of Bhairahawa.

Attractions; Lumbini tour, Buddhist circuit tour, Village Tour, Monastery Tour, Meditation, Archaelogical Tour, Crane Sanctuary and Wet-Land Tour. Great celebration take place during Buddha Purnima (April-May)

 

Chitwan National Park (932 sq.km.)

Chitwan National Park is established in 1973 was declared UNESCO Natural Heritage site in 1984. The park that includes in its area a part of the shivalik hills is covered with deciduous forest overlooking the floodplains of Narayani, Rapti and Reu rivers and offering a wilderness of Rich ecosystem that includes mammals, birds, reptiles and water animals of several kinds. There are around 600 plant species, 50 mammals, 526 birds and 49 amphibians reptiles found in this park. The highlights, of course, are the One-Horned Rhinoceros and Royal Bengal Tigers that live in the dense forest of the park. Sharing home in this park are other animals like rhesus monkey, grey langur, deer, leopards, white stocking gaur, wild boar, wild dogs and wild cats. Among reptiles are different kinds of snakes including the python, while the river areas breed amphibians like the endangered snouted gharials popularly known as Gangetic crocodile and marsh crocodiles.

The forest is alive during summer with the arrival of migrant birds like paradise flycatcher, Indian pitta and parakeets, while winter birds include waterfowl, Brahminy ducks, pintails, bar-headed geese, cormorants and migratory birds from Siberia. Other bird varieties are woodpeckers, hornbills, peacock, peahens, floricans and redheaded trogons. A rare attraction of the park is the world’s fresh water dolphin wariety sometimes seen in river Narayani. Another factor adding distinct touch to the Chitwan experience is the colorful Tharu culture. There are also sites of religious and historical importance of Devghat, Pandavnagar, Balmiki Ashram and Kabilaspur.

Activities: jungle safari on elephant back, jungle walk, canoe ride, jeep drive and observation of Tharu Culture.

Accommodation : Resorts, Hotels and Lodges

SAGARMATHA NATIONAL PARK (1148 SQ.KM.)

The prime attraction of Sagarmatha National Park established in 1976, is Mt. Everest – the highest peak of the world. The park was added to the list of World Heritage site in 1979. The park, a part of Himalayan ecological zone, has several other prominent peaks most of which are above 6,000 meters. With most of the park above 3,000 meters, Sagarmatha is full of rugged terrain with deep gorges, glaciers and huge rocks. With its Himalayan terrain and its culture, the parks offer a blend of natural and cultural tourist products. The vegetation at the lower elevation is dominated by pine and hemlock forest, while above 3,500 meters the forest is dominated with silver fir, birch, rhododendron and juniper trees.  During spring and monsoon the verities of rhododendron flowers are seen. The common wildlife in the park are Himalayan Tahr, Ghoral, musk deer, pikka (mouse hare) weasel and jackal. Other rarely seen animals are Himalayan black bear, wolf, lynx and snow leopard. Birds inhabiting the parks are of over 118 species. Common ones among them are the impeyan pheasant (Danphe), blood pheasant, red billed cough, yellow-billed cough, snow-cock, snow pigeon, Himalayan Griffon, and Lammergeyer. The area also provides warm Sherpa hospitality and has many monasteries and cultural landmarks. Tourism activities and farming are the main activities of the area. Growing barleys and potatoes and raising Yaks are some of the notable occupations. The majority of the youths are engaged as mountaineering and trekking guides in the season.

Activities: Trekking, Mountaineering, Cultural Observation and meditation.

Accommodation: Resort, hotels, lodges, camping

Spiritual Tourism

Posted By : caravanahimalaya/ 320 0

A prayer in the ancient Hindu Holy Acripture, Rig Veda, entreats upon God, “Tamaso Maa Jyotirgamaya, Asato Maa Sadgamaya, Mrityor Ma Amritam gamaya

Contents:

  • Spiritual enlightenment
  • Why Nepal
  • Things to engage in:
    Yoga
    Meditation
    Vedic Vaastu Shaastra
    Astrology and the Occult
  • Where to go:
    Osho Tapo ban
    Kapan Monastery
    Vipassana
    Satsang (Group discourse in righteous company)
    ISKCON Temple
    Natural health Care, Arogya Ashram
    Dhaami/ Jhaankri or Shamanism
    Tantra
  • What to take home?

 

 

Spiritual Enlightenment:

A prayer in the ancient Hindu Holy Acripture, Rig Veda, entreats upon God, “Tamaso Maa Jyotirgamaya, Asato Maa Sadgamaya, Mrityor Ma Amritam gamaya” or ‘Lead us from darkness(Ignorance) to Light(Knowledge), from falsehood to truth, from Death to Immortality’.

Every Human being on earth is in relentless pursuit of love, mental peace and spiritual happiness. According to sanatan Dharma, the eternal religion, the proven way to over come the tensions, stress and strain that one faces in daily life is faith in spiritualism (adhhyatma). Spritual practice (sadhana) casta “:light to do away with darkness’ and liberates a person from sorrow, gloom and despondency. Spritual enlightenment leads to blissful inner peace (Samadhi).

Travelling nepal can be not only a fascinating physical and visual journey through high mountains, cascading rivers, pristine forests and unexplored landscapes, but also a spiritual journey as well. Viewing the country through the spiritual lens will help see the people and the land in that extra dimensional element that one might have missed otherwise. Among the myriad and diverse attractions that have drawn people from far and abroad to visit Nepal, one aspect that is unique to this country, but has often been either overlooked or remained barely noticed, is the exalted standing this country holds in spiritualism.

For many, nepal remains a mystical land with its harmonious blend of two of the world’s prominent religious, Hinduism and Buddhism, its incredibly tolerant people living through a fascinating religious-cultural milieu and its amazing landscapes that in ancient times drew rishis(sages), ascetics, mystics and yogis who wandered in a spiritual mission in search of tatwa gyan (supreme truth), nirvana(enlightenment) and divine grace, and today draws spiritual seekers, aspirants of a new bewildered generation seeking tranquility, mental peace and answers to questions that people had long forgotten to ask.

 

Why Nepal?

Perched along the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, himabatkhanda Nepal, as described in the ancient Holy Scriptures, has since time immemorial been a punyabhumi, a holy land recognized for its sacred status as the Abode of the Gods. Many Holy sites and shrines associated with perons, places or events in the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata and even dating back to the creation of the universe as narrated in the Hindu holy Scriptures, Upanishads and puranas, abound in this land. Prominent pilgrimage sites such as Barah Kshetra, Mukti Kshetra, baidyanath Kshetra, Pashupat Khestra and numerous other holy sites recounted in the Upanishads, puranas and Swasthani bratha Katha, sprinkled across the geography of the country lend credence to fact that Nepal remained blessed as a spiritual land.

The isolated and inaccessible snowy Himalayas, the confluence of holy river, the sacred lakes, the pristine dense forests and the solitary mountain caves were the preferred destinations of sages, ascetics and yogis whose quest for NIRVANA (spiritual enlightenment) and mokshya (salvation) led them to places of serene solitude unperturbed by mundane distractions to engage in meditation, penance and self-realization.

Great sages of ancient times like the saptarishi(seven superior sages)- Kasyap, Bhardwaj, Biswamitra(Kaushik), Vashistha, Atri, Gautam and Jamdagni- and others like Bhrigu, Rishya Shringa, Ved byas, Balmiki, Jad Bharat and Pulatsya made their dwelling and meditated by the mountain caves, deep forests and confluences of the holy rivers in Himabatkhanda Nepal. Profound thinkers that they were, it is their sermons, discourses and utterances on spirituality that have made Hinduism the enduring and encompassing faith that it is.

In 623 B.C., in the southern plains of nepal on a full moon night in the month of baisakh(May), a baby born of royal blood in the hallowed gardens of Lumbini, as the blessed Mother was on her way to her maternal home to give birth to the child as was the prevalent custom then, gave the world a new philosophy of life, a new awakening with a massage of universal brotherhood and non-violence. Nepal and the world have joined hands in cooperation to restore the sacred site were Siddhartha Gautam was born to its ancient glory, sublime grandeur and serene tranquility. For the faithful, a journey to the sanctified site, before which other sites pale in religious significance, is a profound spiritual experience. Today Buddhism, the way of life lord Buddha propounded, has over a billion adherents and followers spread across the entire globe.

While sage and mystics are now pages of legend or history, yet saadhaks (aspirants) ffrom abroad on their spiritual odyssey to nepal are likely to come across sadhus, or holy men, who can be faintly described as the contemporary avatar (reflection) of the ascetics of ancient times. With their scant physical attire or ash-powered body, sadhus reveal sacred symbolism. They are believed in search of adhyatma gyam (spiritual awakening), God and answer to the question, ‘ Who am I in God’s creation’?.

They are wanderers, mystics and yogis choosing lone sanctuaries, deep forests or secluded caves far from the madding crowd for their dwelling that often makes access and contact with them challenging. They shun human company and publicity. In the not too distant past, ascetics addressed reverently as Mahatma, baba or Swami like Khaptad Baba (who made his dwelling in Khaptad, Achham district in far western Nepal) and Shivapuri Baba (who dwelt in the Shivapuri Hills north of Kathmandu as well as in Pashupat Kshetra) earned enduring devotion from the Nepalese people and abroad for their profound knowledge, sermons and spiritual practices.

The spiritual quest and mental tranquility that people around the world come here to seek have been complemented by the socio-religious-cultural rhythm of the people of Nepal that has remained largely undisturbed over the ages. The spontaneity, hospitality and friendliness that the people of this country display towards visitors reflect the true ethos and spiritual essence of Nepal. It may be difficult for many visitors from abroad to comprehend how despite their hard life and lack of basic amenities, people could still remain content, cheerful and unprejudiced. The answer could somewhere lie in their abiding faith in spiritualism as has been practiced over the ages.

 

Things to engage in:

  • Yoga

The word ‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning ‘union’ or to join. Yoga is a spiritual science that has been practiced and developed by the rishis and sages of India over thousands of years. Yoga implies harmoniously integrating the body, mind and soul to attain a balanced life and spiritually uniting the individual with the supreme. Yoga is the symphony of life.

The various assortments of ascanas, or postures, works with the body on a structural level providing enhanced physical strength, endurance and the resistance to diseases. At the mental level, it strengthens concentration and resilience raising the consciousness to a level where one can perceive the spiritual dimension. Yoga aims to attain the state of “Kaivalya”(emancipation or ultimate freedom) by means of its eight paths which in sequential order consist of yama (self-restraint), Niyama (self-observance), Asana (body postures), Pranayama (breathing control), pratyahara (withdrawl of the senses), Dharana (concentration of mind), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (self-realization, super consciousness). Yoga is, therefore, a spiritual quest whereby the aspirant attains health, happiness, mental peace knowledge.

Nepal offers a number of places in the capital city, Kathmandu, and elsewhere to practice yoga and meditation. Among the prominent Yogic schools where Yogic Asana (postures), pranayam (control of breathing) and Dhyan (Meditation) are taught and practiced are the Yog Ashrams  or Peeths as they are called. Yoga is immensely popular and practiced in Nepal.

 

  • Meditation

There is a close inter-relationship between yoga and meditation. Ancient Yogis maintained that in order for a person to be in harmony with oneself and one’s environment, there in order for a person to be in harmony with oneself and one’s environment, there is a need to balance the body, mind and spirit, that is Yoga and Dhyan (meditation). The tensions and strain of living in a hectic world create conflicting thoughts and actions that leave negative imprints in our mind. Meditation is an effective way to combat stress and tension in life. The Yogis claim that in human spiritual evolution, a stage comes when relationships and material wealth lose a sense of purpose, and a confused and weary person becomes disillusioned with the ephemeral nature of worldly possessions and sensual pleasures.

This awakening breeds in a person a quest for life that is eternal, one that is detached from the infatuation off the ephemeral and the blind pursuit of material possession and pleasure. It is then that the person starts looking for a meaningful life and a way to attain mental peace and permanent happiness. Such a state of mind is the ripe condition for the practice of Dharma. Meditation is a state of consciousness that cultivates a calm and positive state of mind and awareness. Through regular practice, the energy of the body and mind and awareness. Through regular practice, that energy of the body and mind is liberated with a feeling of bliss that Yogis say, can only be experienced and not described.

In Kathmandu, meditation is taught and practiced in the Yoga camps Osho Tapoban, Vipassana Center, Kapan Monastery and Art of living Foundation, among others.

 

  • Vedic Vaastu Shaastra:

The word ‘Vastu’ originates from the term’Vastoshpati’ uttered in the Rig Veda. Vaastu Shastra is an ancient science that originated in India in the Vedic age where the sages reflected on the effects off sunlight, gravitational and magnetic forces flowing from the different geographical directions and sub-directions. They sought to stabilize the nature’s five elements, also known as pancha tatwa or paanchbhoota, namely Akash (sky or ether), prithivi (earth), Jal (water), Agni (fire) and vayu (wind) in a proportionate way so as to bring about a harmonious balance amidst natural energies like cosmic, solar, lunar energy, etc. The proper combination of these five elements, life- force energy which moulds the natural environment, creating congenial living conditions for the inhabitants leading to a life of concord, happiness, harmony and peace.

According to Vaastu, two forces “positive” and “negative” are constantly interacting with each other on the surface of the land. These forces get disturbed whenever any structure is erected on a vacant land. If there are more positive energies than the negative energies, the result of such a construction would yield more benefits to the in habitants and vice versa. Vastu Shaastra deals with various aspects of designing and building residential structures that are in harmony with the physical and metaphysical forces in the eight geographical directions north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west.

Vaastu shaastra has been in practice in nepal since ancient times dating back to the Lichchhavi period in nepal’s history when the Lichchhavi Kings took recourse to this erudition to build the famous temples. Every detail of Vaastu was meticulously followed from determining the site and direction of the temple in their respective geographical positions to bring about the most harmony in its worship. They also followed tantric principles and rituals in determining the location and in the construction of the Temples.

Vaastu played an important role in the establishment of settlements and towns in ancient towns in the Kathmandu Valley were designed in certain shapes with the gods and goddesses (Shakti peeths) being established at certain locations along the periphery surrounding the towns according to Vaastu and Tantric principles in such a way that the people dwelling in the center remained peotected by them. Among such Shakti Peeths (places of worship consecrated to the goddess sati) in Kathmandu are swet kali, Kankeswari, Shova Bhagwati, Pachali, Raj Rajeswari, bhadra Kali, Sankata, Dakshin Kali, Guheswori, to mention a few.

 

  • Astrology and the Occult

As Hindus, the people of Nepal put faith in rebirth and Karma. They believe that the constellations of the plantes (graha – nakshyatra) ecert certain influence over the destiny of a person, which is decided by the alignment of the stars at the precise time of a person, which is decided by the alignment of the stars at the precise time of his/her birth. As such, they have a horoscope (janma patrika) made by learned astrologers that is said to interpret the guideline of the life of the person, the highs and lows and important incidents in his/her life. Nepalese people in General have fair amount of trust in the horoscope, astrology, palmistry and such other occult sciences when it comes to matters deciding important occasions in life, and especially when going through a difficult phase in life. There are learned astrologers who make horoscopes of persons if given the precise time and place of birth. It may be worthwhile to know what the future has in store for the uninitiated.

 

Where to Go:

  • Osho Tapoban

“Tapoban” in Sanskrit means a forested place for sadhana(meditation). Located in the wooded raniban in the Nagarjun Hills at balaju, some 12 Kilometers west of Kathmandu, Osho Tapoban, the “Forest retreat” is an international commune that came into existence through the joint efforts of swami Anand Arun, an intimate disciple of Osho(who is also the coordinator of Osho Tapoban) and Osho disciples or sanyasis as they are called. Osho desired to live his last days in the Himalayas, but that wish remained unfulfilled. However, the ‘Osho Samadhi’ at the Tapoban contains the sacred mortal remains of the Guru. The Tappoban has turned into an increasingly popular destination for meditation and osho teachings.

The center has meditation camps, a meditation hall, common rooms, dormitories and deluxe rooms to accommodate the guests. The sylvan surroundings, serenity and science beauty of the place provide a peaceful environment of inner tranquility where one can explore oneself in meditation. This retreat offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on one’s life. Osho Tapoban conducts Satsang (group discourse in righteous company) programmes and meditation camps of varying durations every month. Satsang, Yoga and meditation are aspects of the healing process from anxiety, depression and mental stress.

So, what is it draws people from around globe to the Tapoban?

Osho Tapoban is a place for those who seek the path of inner exploration. Osho’s way of life is a departure from Sanatan Dharma and does not demand renunciation of family and abandonment of worldyy possessions on the part of the saadhak (disciples). This freedom or flexibility to pursue their spiritual endeavour and an innovate, practical and honest interpretation of love and sex is what appeals to people from all walks of life to Osho’s teachings.

Osho Teaches that “Spirituality contains everything about life. Love and sex are vital elements of life. Unless they are first settled, nobody can follow a spiritual path. Love is not enough, awareness is needed. If love is there without awareness it becomes imprisonment, and if love is there with awareness it becomes a freedom”.

 

  • Kapan Monastery

Kapan Gompa is situated on the outskirts of Kathmandu, near Bouddhanath stupa in Bouddha. It is about 8 km from the airport and 12 km from downtown city.

Kopan was conceived by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche as a place of study and meditation for students from the Himalayan Sangha (fraternity) and foreign countries. It started as a monastic school for the local children in the solukhumbu region (route to Everest Base Camp); the monastery was later shifted to Kopan, Kathmandu in 111971 to escape the high altitude harsh climate which made study in winter well-nigh impracticable. Hence, the name Kopan. Nearby is the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery for nuns. When started in 1979, it was an uncommon practice to Tibetian monasteries at that time to admit women to monastic education. Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery opened the doors of classical Buddhist education to the nuns.

Monks and nuns from the age of seven come from all over Nepal and the Himalayan periphery countries to receive a classical monastic education. Education at the monastery is totally free for all monks and nuns, financed through meditation courses for foreign visitors as well as sponsorship scheme in which people supportive of the monastery sponsor the living cost of a monk or nun.

Today, Kopan has become a unique meeting place between the east and west. Kopan draws large numbers of foreign visitors every year, mostly those seeking mental peace, a meaningful life and inner happiness. Regular month-long introductory sessions in Buddhism and meditation are conducted. Course participants are supposed to strictly observe certain house rules of austerity, appropriate dress code, adherence to time schedules and respect for the monks. According to monastic rules, accommodation for male and female visitors is segregated.

 

  • Vipassana

Vipassana is a form of meditation propounded by Lord Buddha some two-and-a-half millennia ago. Vipassana meditation is at the heart of Buddha’s teachings. Though the practice lost way in the course of events in history, it was later revived. Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It is an art of living which frees the individual from all the negativities of the mind, such  as anger, greed, envy and desire. It is a practice which develops positive creative energy for the practitioner. It includes practices aimed at developing insight and wisdom by seeing the true nature of reality. The path (dhamma) is a universal remedy that can be practiced by anyone at any place at any time.

In the practice of Vipassana, the devotees or pupils are first taught to see things dispassionately so that one is not emotionally involved. The very first thing they learn is to create a mental space, so that what happens to oneself, pleasant or unpleasant, is seen objectively. The pupils are taught to realize, understand and see the “three marks of life”, i.e., suffering, impermanence and selflessness. Understanding of the impermanence or transient nature of pleasure and the urge to cling to it is what takes away the mind from the goal. When a person sees pleasure for what it is, impermanent and transient, for him worldly pleasure become worthless and the person assumes a state of dispassionateness and detachment. Vipassana teaches one to see and feel this truth with full concentration of the mind.

Vipassana was introduced in Nepal in 1981. Nepal Vipassana center is situated at Dharmashringa, Mohan Pokhari, Budhanilkantha, some 16 kms from downtown.

 

  • Satsang (Group Discourse in righteous company)

Satsang is attending and joining a group discourse with like-minded aspirants where bhajans, spiritual discourse and recitation of the Holy Scriptures take place. Religiuos gathering are a common and regular phenomenon in Nepal’s towns and villages where pundits, ascetics and spiritual personalities render sermons, sing bhajans and recite the Holy Scriptures like the puran and shree Madbhaagvat. Deevotees in hundreds and thousands throng such gatherings to listen to the discourses on spiritualism and offer puja. Devotees are seen to donate freely huge sums of money, in cash, kind or land, during such puran Baachan (recitals) for some noble cause.

 

  • ISKCON Temple, Budhanilkantha

The Sri Radha Krishna temple in Budhanilkantha is an ideal place for a Satsang. This place of worship is a 10- minute walk from the famous Budhanilkantha Shrine, the reclining massive stone idol of Lord Vishnu. The ISCON Temple is situated amidst tranquil countryside surroundings at the foothills of the Shivapuri National Park and on the bank of the Bishnumati River. The Temple complex covers an area of 50 ropanis of land that includes the main temple, guest house, garden, gaushala (cow-shed) and a restaurant. Daily bhajans (chanting of prayers) and aarti (offering of lighted lamps) are conducted in the morning and evening with discourses on the life and heroic acts of Lord Krishna.

 

 

  • Lumbini Garden

The sacred garden of Lumbini where Siddhartha Gautam was born offers a placid environ for meditation and spiritual quest. Spiritual discourses on Buddhism are offered at the monasteries here every day. It is the ideal setting for meditation and spiritual enlightenment. Countries with significant Buddhist populations have constructed monasteries and stupas in their native design reflecting their art and culture, and they offer space and a tranquil environment for meditation and spiritual quest.

 

 

  • Natural health care, Arogya Ashram

Arogya Ashram founded in 1964 is located now at Tangal in Kathmandu. The Ashram offers training in yogic exercises and services in therapies such as herbal therapy ( physical therapy with herbal products, oils, powder, leaves and pastes), massage therapy ( therapeutic massage, hard, soft, pressing massage, dry or with oil) and steam bath ( which activates the internal immunity system given locally or to the whole body)

Other remedial cures as Reiki ( natural force or energy that opens and cleans the blockage and toxins of the body) are offered at the Reiki Centers in Kathmandu. Acupuncture and acupressure Therapy is available at the Nepal Red Cross Society building at the BaghBazaar Bus Park. The science of acupuncture maintains that the flow paths of life energy in our body called meridians are connected with certain points in the body called acupoints. By injecting needles and pressing those certain points, many health problems can be cured.

Certain Places in Nepal are Known for natural hot springs that claim curative healing powers for a series of ailments from skin to gastric. The most well-known is the Singha natural hot water spring in Myagdi district in mid-western Nepal. It is a continually flowing hot water spring that has recently been channeled into ponds-seperated for men and women. As news of the curative powers of the hot spring bath have spread far and wide, there have been a heavy rush of patients, both local and foreign , yo take a dip in the hot waters to heal ailments that patients complain normal allopathic medicine allegedly failed to cure.

Another hot water spring located near the border with Tibet, China at Tatopani.

 

 

  • Dhaami/ Jhaankri or Shamanism

Shamanism refers to beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. Practitioners of shamanism, known as shamans, or dhaami/jhaankri in Nepalese local dialect, engage in alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit and in treatment of ailments/ illness of humans or domestic animals supposedly caused by evil spirits. Shamanism believes that the individual as well as the community itself is subject to invisible forces or spirits intending to do good or bad, and that the dhaami/jhaankri can heal such illness induced by the evil spirits.

Shamanism is  practiced by a large number of Nepal’s ethnic and linguistic Tribal groups. Shamans function as spiritual leaders of the community and therapeutic healers. Even today when modern medical treatment is relatively more available than earlier in most of rural Nepal, illness over a prolonged period of time often prompts the patient’s family to seek out spiritual guidance and remedy from the dhaami or jhaankris (shamanic healers). The shamans try to heal the patient by entering the spirit world into an ecstatic trance, chanting and quivering, being possessed by the spirits which apparently gives them healing powers to drive out the infectious spirit. Most dhaami/jhaankris are said to possess experienced knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area, and as such also administer herbal treatment for illness.

Besides personal illness or diseases affecting the community, rural people visit the dhaami/jhaankris for advice in the event of natural calamities such as floods or droughts, crop failure, unexplained death of domestic animals, even extending to cases relating to infertility in women, and family and community disputes. People believe them to possess the power to appease and clam angry deities and evil spirits, and even help liberate the souls of deceased people from the dead body which has for some reason beed deprived of certain religious rituals that were to be performed on death.

On Janai purnima (full moon) day which normally falls in the months of August, devout hindu Pilgrims make the arduous mountain trek to the solitary and serene Gosainkunda lake, situated at an altitude of 4,312 m. amidst the high mountains of Rasuwa district. On this full-moon occasion, the shores of the icy Gosainkunda Lake, the rocky shrine of Risheswar Mahadev in daman Simbhanjyang, the rugged Kalinchwok peak and the mountain of Thulo Sailung pulsate to the sound of the Jhaankri drums into the night.

These religious places of pilgrimage are visited by jhaankris in their full attire, dressed in long white robes, feather head-dress, body and waist festooned with small round bells tinkling as they dance in a trance to the beat of the dhyangro (drum), and often armed with a sword and some holding a black rooster.

Hindu religious myth has it that lord Shiva had wandered to the desolate high mountains in agony to cool his burning throat caused by consuming the kalakoot venom that spewed out in the churning of the celestial ocean (samundra manthan). Lord Shiva then pierced the mountain cliff with his trident from where burst three streams of ice cold water to form the holy Gosainkunda Lake, where he rested to cool his throat. Lord Shiva thereafter has been referred to as also Neelkantha (One with the blue throat).

 

 

  • Tantra

Tantrism, a primeval religion, was in practice as a way of life in pre-medieval Nepal. Tantra antedates probably every major religion that is in practice today. Tanta is evident in Hinduism and Buddhism, the two major religion in Nepal, and Shamanism, This is corroborated by the paintings and sculptures, where deities are often depicted in different postures. The Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is a prominent center of tantra worship. Lord Pashupatinath is worshipped according to certain tantric rites.

Sri Yantra, the main symbol of Tantra, a labyrinthine maze of interlocking triangles, is used in the worship of ‘Nath’ as the lord is reverently named. The Yantra is used to establish the deity to envaision the presence of god. Temples in Nepal are said to be built according to Tantric principles where deities are enshrined there according to Tantric rites. Various deities like Surya, the sun god, Ganesh, Shiva, Durga and Shakti are placed at precise geographical positions within and outside the temple according to Tantric and Vaastu principles.

 

More than a religion, tantra is a lifestyle whose goal is salvation. Tantra has two fundamental aspects. The first is the theory of creation, which postulates that the universe has no begning and no end, and that all its manifestations are merely the projections of divine energy of its creator.

The second is the belief that the performance of tantric techniques and rituals facilities access to this divine energy, enabling their practitioners, or Tantriks as they are called, to empower themselves and other associated with them. The knowledge and correct application of Tantric techniques and rituals are believed to harness the creator’s cosmic energies to the promotion of worldly as wellas spiritual goals. Tantra upholds the effectiveness of mantrasi (chants) and yantras (symbolicdiagrams) to attain physical and spiritual fulfillment. Tantra involves Yoga, meditation, hypnosis, asanas, exercise and self-control for the fulfillment of worldly desires and attainment of spiritual experience.

According to Aghoris (a religious sect who are said not to discriminate in eating or drinking anything, considered however defiled or foul), existence is dominated by two powers –light and darkness. Tantra is basically a procedure of progression from darkness (ignorance) to light. The primary difference however between tantra and most other religions lies in the fact that the source in Tantra is the dark, black force of destruction, Kali.

Secrets of tantra are closely guarded and shielded from the outside world. Because of the secerecy, tantric worship and its rituals are performed in darkness. Tantra can only be practiced through a guru (a consummate teacher). Tantra never was and is not for everbody. It is said that unless one is well disposed towards the occult with a sense of spiritual adventure and a deep desire to probe into the unknown, the advice is to better stay away from tantra.

Tantrism comprises of obscure techniques, rituals and beliefs which can be said to be both exotic and erotic. Tantriks nelieve the greatest expression of the deity is feminine in neture. Love and sex form part of the tantric rituals and is identified as the cosmic union of the individual with the infinite. Tantrism aims to realize the potential power of sex-energy, they should be cultivated and properly channeled. Tantriks state that when the sex energy forces leaves the customary seat, it becomes an unparalled source of pure energy. Tantra advocated the methodical use of sexual union as a yogic process to achieve a state of transcendental ecstasy. It signifies that the ecstasy off sexual union undertaken in the same spirit as worship can help awaken the mind to inner bliss and salvation.

Tantra paintings and sculptures depict deities in the full act of sex. The female god is known as “shakti’ or power. Contrary to the tenets of Buddhism, it is, therefore, not unusual to see the buddhas or Bodhisattvas in passionate sexual act with their shaktis. Tantra sanctions the five ‘m’s – namely mansa (meat), matsya (fish),  mudra (coin), madira (alcoholic drinks, wine) and maithun (sex) along with music and dancing as ingredients/ rituals of Tantric rites. Though Tantra consents to sexual union as a means of attaining fulfillment, it may, however, be wrong to jundge Tantra solely on this basis.

Temples in the Kathmandu valley carry wood carving depiciting portrayals of sexual union which have Tantric under meanings. The most prominent site of Tantra in Kathmandu can be said to lie in Swayambhu Hill, to the west of Grand Stupa Khown as shantipur. Only Tantric Siddhas – those who have perfected the knowledge of Tantrism – are capable of entering the shantipur tantric cave, and this they do only on certain occasions when famine or calamities befall upon the people and country. Without Tantrik Siddhi Yog, it is said it is impossible to enter the mysterious and dark shantipur cave.

No one knows for sure what lies inside the shantipur shrine. According to chronicles, the last person to enter the cave was king Pratap Malla. He undertook the audacious journey to bring rain to save the country from drought and famine. It is said, deep inside, a tunnel that is elongated north-south and wide east-west, leads to three-storied cave with 27 secret chambers and the path is obstructed at each step by supernatural forces and spirits. The king is said to have survived the mission and returned with a consecrated manuscript written in serpent’s blood which when exposed to the sky brought in the rains.

History Records that Tantrik Practitioners were mass executed by orders of a heart-broken but enraged King Rana Bahadur Shah after they failed to cure his beloved queen who succumbed to a disease.

There still exist many sites of Tantric worship in Kathmandu, bhaktapur and Patan, the Three cities inside the Kathmandu Valley, especially the Taleju temples and the Siddhi Laxmi Temple (Nyatapola) in Bhaktapur. The Bhairab Bhadrakali Jaatrai (festival), Navadurga Tantrik dance in Bhaktapur or the Gadhimai mela in Bara, famed for the largest animal sacrifice in Nepal and perhaps in asia, are all conducted and worshipped according to Tantric rites.

 

 

What to take home?

  • Rudrakshya rosary: Rudrakshya is a round bead with a rough beady surface with faces one to 29 and is used for making rosary. It is said that Rudrakshya originated out of the tears of Loard shiva and is thus a holy item. It is an essential ingredient in a puja for Lord shiva. It is available at the precincts of the Pashupatinath Shrine. Rudrakshya with a single face is the rarest of the rare and can fetch a price of one’s asking. Similarly, a Rudrakshya with 29 faces was traded for whopping Rs. 4 million while one with 22 faces fetched Rs. 2.2 million. Common rudrakshyas come with 3,4,5 and 6 faces and are cheap.
  • Shaligram: These are black fossil stones (pebbles) found on the bank of the kali Gandaki River on the way to Mustang. For Hindus, these are sacred stones as Hindus revere them as the stone incarbation of Lord Vishnu. It is said to protect the home where it is reverently stored.
  • Singing Bowls: meditation tools such as the singing Bowl are available at tourist shops and in the Basantapur open market, Kathmandu Durbar Square.
  • CDs/DVDs: Audio-visual CDs on Hindu and Buddhist bhajans are available at all music CD outlets as well as in shops selling tourist items around swayambhu and the Bouddha Stupa.
  • Books: Books on meditation, Yoga are available at all book stores.

 

 

The Last Forbidden Kingdom – MUSTANG

Posted By : caravanahimalaya/ 183 0

The Buddhist society of Upper Mustang is divided into groups comparable to the castes of Hindu culture. The occupational castes,

Dear Guest:

When you enter the restricted area, you enter an ancient land with its own distinct history and tradition. Part of Nepal for two hundred years, Upper Mustang remains one of the few areas in Tibet’s original sphere of influence where Tibetan culture continues to survive.

The numerous monasteries, chortens, mahne walls and caves of Upper Mustang are manifestations of our rich cultural heritage. I hope that efforts to conserve and renovate them will help promote our culture and foster sustainable tourism that ensures our economic wellbeing.

To bring happiness and joy to the lives of the lobas is my greatest wish. The challenge we face today is to improve our living conditions, and at the same time to strengthen and keep alive our unique culture.

ACAP is here for us, an important supporter on that difficult middle path. Please be interested not only in our environment, lifestyle and culture, but also how you can help us to protect them.

Welcome & Tashi Delek !

Mustang Raja Jigmi Palbar Bista

 

Area and Inhabitants:

Tibet dialect (Loke). The area of Bahragaon, meaning ‘Twelve Villages’ in Nepali, extends from south of Ghiling to north of Jomsom and also falls largely inside Upper Mustang. Tibet dialect (Pheke) prevail here, too. However, the people of tangbe, Chhuksang, Tetang, Tsaile and Ghyaker instead speak Seke, a language closely related to Thakali.

The Buddhist society of Upper Mustang is divided into groups comparable to the castes of Hindu culture. The occupational castes, regarded as the lowest, comprise the Ghara, Shemba and Emeta (blacksmiths, butchers and musicians respectively). The highland nomads, called Drokpa take an outsider’s position of slightly higher status. The middle class consists of the Phalwa, who now often prefer to call themselves Gurung. The Kudak, who have adopted the Nepali name Bista for their clan, make up the nobility and royal family of Lo Tsho Dyun.

 

Daily Life:

Before the closure of the border, winter was the time for trade with Tibet. Now a days, the greater part of Upper Mustang’s village trek south after the October harvest and spend the cold months earning livelihood in Pokhara, Kathmandu or India. Still, there is also some barter with the Tibetan neighbours, but heavily regulated by the Chinese. Only few locals profit from the controlled influx of foreign tourists.

Livestock is the most important source of cash income. In the villages, cattle is kept for milk, meat, and fuel. Large herds of goat and sheep are driven south for sale at the end of summer. Dzopa (a crossbreed of Yak and Cow) plough the fields. Horses and mules carry people and loads. On the pasture lands at the rim of the Tibetan plateau, nomad families tend goats, sheep and yaks all year long.

In this dry climate, agriculture is impossible without irrigation. Women, men and children work together on the fields. Barley, buckwheat, peas, and potatoes are the crops that ripen here, and the seasons are marked by festivals. A household usually spans several generations, and children are cared for by everyone. Marriage of the women with two or more brothers, to avoid the splitting of the family’s farmland, is still in practice. A husband may take a second wife if the first one proves infertile. But like all traditional ways, these are changing too, under the influence of outside culture and values.

 

Monasteries and Festivals:

Religion plays a central role in the life Upper Mustang’s people Festivals like Losar (Tibetan New Year, Jan/Feb), Saka Lug Ka (rites of timely rains and a good harvest, Feb/March) or Duk Chu (monk’s dance and prayers for a prosperous next year Nov/Dec) structure the passing seasons. On various occasions, lamas are called to perform rites in individual houses. The costume and mask dances of the famous three day Tenchi Festival take place in front of the raja’s  palace in april/May, and on a more modest scale inside Chhodhe Gompa (Monastery) in May/June. They are ment to bring prosperity to Lo tsho Dyun and the entire world.

Most gompas in Upper Mustang belong to the Ngor subsect of Sakya Buddhism. These living monasteries, some of which are attached to caves, harbor great treasures of religious art. Unfortunately, occasional thefts have occurred in places, and there is a general lack of finance to undertake necessary renovations.

Traditionally, monasteries (Gompa) are maintained by the people of associated villages, whose unmarried sons and daughters are in return accepted into the religious community. But presently, there is only one monastic school in Upper Mustang. The Great Compassion Sakyapa Monastic School, Lo Manthang, was newly founded in 1994. Here, supported by the American Himalayan Foundation through ACAP, about 65 young monks study Buddhist teachings and rites, as well as untraditional subjects like science and English.

Legend and History:

The caves all over Mustang bear testimony of prehistoric settlers. However, little is known about their origin and life.

Tibetan and Ladakhi chronicles have mentioned Lo since the seventh century AD. Its history as an independent kingdom began after 1380, when Ame Pal, a warrior and devout Buddhist from western Tibet, built the fortress of Ketcher Dzong. With his sons, he defeated the local warlords and constructed a walled capital, Lo Manthang. The king, Jigmi Palbar Bista, is believed to be his twenty-first descendant in the direct line.

Ame pal’s son Angun Sangpo provided funding and leadership, while his minister kalun Sangpo organized and oversaw the building of the walled city and the first monasteries. Ngorchen Kunga Sangpo, a renowned teachers of the Sakya sect, was invited from Tibet to bring religious life to the new kingdom. Angun, Kalten Chhewang and Ngorchen Kunga are therefore known as the Three Holies.

Because the passes on its northern border are relatively easy to cross, the small kingdom occupied a strategic position on the trade route between Tibet and India. The lamas of Lo went to Tibet to study, and religious teacher from all directions crossed the land. Economy and culture thrived. Of course, the kingdom’s wealth attracted frequent attacks from Tibet Bandits. The resulting custom of closing the gate of Lo Manthang every night was observed until a few years ago.

At the end of the sixteenth century, Lo Tsho Dyun came under the power of Ladakh, and around 1760, the kingdom of Jumla in western Nepal finally succeeded in making Lo its vassal. At the end of the 1700s, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Gorkha King who founded Nepal, annexed Jumla’s vassal states in the course of his conquests. Under the new powerful rulers in Kathmandu, Lo largely retained autonomy in its internal affairs, but the central government regulate the revenue of the area. The economy of Lo, Bahragaon and Panchgaon suffered since the Thakali’s gained control over the salt trade along the Kali Gandaki in 1862.

The interdiction of a constutional monarchy in Nepal in 1951 resulted in Mustang becoming a district, and took away much of the king’s power. Following the Chinese exaction of full control over Tibet in 1959, the Khampa gerillas based their resistance moments in Lo. The Nepal government declared the Mustang District a restricted area. After the Khampa moment was ended in the mid 1970s, the government started its customary development activities. Lower mustang opened for tourism but upper mustang was left in economic isolation.

When parliamentary democracy was introduced in Nepal after 1990 revolution, the new government decided to reopen Upper Mustang partially for foreigners. The first trekking groups entered Upper Mustang in 1992. In the same year, the Annapurna Conservation Area was extended to include Upper Mustang.

 

Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP):

The project was established as part of the National Trust for National conservation’s (NTNC) Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) in 1992. We try to bring together natural conservation and sustainable community development and key to this is People’s participation at all level of our work: the villagers themselves must identify the need for the project in there community, contribute money or labour to conduct it, and take responsibility for its management.  However, this can be very difficult in an area where the weather makes the work impossible during winter, and people are busy on the fields during most of the summer. Conservation education, tree plantation, monastery restoration, bridge construction, solar energy support, and lodge management and cooking baking training are a few examples of our activities.

If you would like to find more about ACAP and our work, please visit our information centers at Kagebeni and Lo Manthang and Mustang Eco- Museum, Jomsom, or contact ACAP, Pokhara.

 

Regulations for your Journey

·         Foreign nationals who wish to visit Upper Mustang must organize their journey through a registered trekking agency. The agency will take care of trekking permits and other formalities.

·         Before entering Upper Mustang, your group must complete a food items checklist at the ACAP checkpost in Kagbeni. On your return, the list will verify if you carry out all non-biodegradable packaging material (cans, bottles, plastics e.t.c) that you brought with you. Thus, we hope to keep pollution at a minimum.

·         To avoid additional pressure on the area’s scarce fuel resources (bushes and dung), trekking groups must use kerosene or gas for cooking and heating during their entire journey. Bring enough warm clothes.

·         Once inside the restricted area, you are allowed to visit only those places indicated on the trekking permit. Trekkers are also requested to respect the local norms and values.

·         You must registered at ACAP and police checkpost along the route.

·         Filming in Upper Mustang without permission is strictly prohibited. Filming is allowed with prior approval. The permit is issued from Ministry of Information and Communication, Kathmandu.

·         You must not purchase antiques, although you are encouraged to buy non-antique local handicraft products. Non-antiques are defined as modern handicraft products that are less than one hundred years old.

·         Disturbing wildlife, removing animals and plants, or buying wildlife products is also illegal.

·         Upper Mustang lies in Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) which has both protected and restricted area status. Therefore, a special permit is required to get there. Department of Immigration, Kathmandu, issue Special Permits. It costs us$ 500 for 10 days and US$ 50 for each additional day. In addition to that, ACA Entry Permit is also required that costs NRs. 200/- per person to SAARC nationals and NRs. 2000/- per person to other foreign nationals. The ACA Entry permits are available from the ACAP Entry Permit Counters at- NTB Building, Bhrikutimandap in Kathmandu or from Nepal Tourism Board, Tourist Service Center, Pardi, Dam Site, Pokhara. Every individual is required to show their Entry Permit at the Check Post located in Jomsom, Kagbeni and Lomanthang. In special circumstances Entry Permit can be purchased from the Check Post for NRs. 400/- per person to SAARC nationals and NRs. 40000/- per person to other foreign nationals.

 

 

 

Want Numbers?

 

Size of restricted area: 2567 sq.km.

Population: about 6000 people

Households: 1168

Settlements: 31

Foreign Visitors per annum: limited to 1000

Number of Known wildlife species: more than 250 plants, 28 mammals, 2 amphibians,                                                                 63 birds, 2 reptile

Major Monasteries: 13

Major Cave Site: 5

 

 

 

Be a Guest !

The Minimum Impact Code

Awareness and responsibility are the most important things to take with you on your journey. Your behavior has an effect on the locals’ attitude towards their culture and environment. Therefore, please not only keep to the legal rules (see Regulations for your journey), but give the best example you can. Check your agency’s preparations and practices, and comment in time. Remind other guests of their responsibility for the land and people – your hosts.

 

 

 

Stop Pollution:

·         Burn Paper waste. Bury food waste properly, or feed to stock animals. Carry out all other non- biodegradable garbage. Return batteries to your home country for proper disposal.

·         Purify drinking water yourself, instead of buying it bottled.

·         Use only biodegradables soaps. Wash well away from water sources.

·         Use local toilet facilities wherever possible. Carry a toilet tent, and make sure the pit is covered properly when you leave. On the trail, stay at least 50m away from water sources, and bury your waste.

 

 

Respect People & Culture:

·         Adopt local custom: speak Nepali and local languages to the best of your ability. Don’t wear revealing clothes. Save caresses for private moments.

·         Respect Privacy: Ask before photographing people or religious sites. Don’t enter houses uninvited.

·         Respect local management; Gompas and caves may be closed for outsiders, or accessible for a small fee or donation.

·         Discourage begging and encourage fair dealing.

 

Protect Wildlife & Landscape:

Remember that it is illegal to disturb wildlife, to remove animals or plants, or to buy wildlife products.

Mythical Tantrism KATHMANDU Valley

Posted By : caravanahimalaya/ 176 0

The Kathmandu Valley civilization is around 3000 years old. It has been claimed that the valley was a large lake in the early geological

The Kathmandu Valley civilization is around 3000 years old. It has been claimed that the valley was a large lake in the early geological period and it was only when the lake was drained that the valley was ready for human settlement.  There is also a legend which reinforces the story that a certain Bodhistav called Manjushree came to Kathmandu Valley and cut the gorge in Chobar with his flaming sword and drained the water out of the valley making it ready for human settlement.

History & Culture

The discovery of a life-size statue of King Jaya Verma in 1992 at Maligaon in Kathmandu, with an inscription dated 185, is the earliest recorded evidence about Nepal’s history.

The discovery of a life-size statue of King Jaya Verma in 1992 at Maligaon in Kathmandu, with an inscription dated 185, is the earliest recorded evidence about Nepal’s history. Before the conquest of the Nepal (Kathmandu) valley by Gorkha’s King Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1769, Nepal Mandal, or Kathmandu Valley, was known as ‘Nepal’  to the outside world. According to recorded history, which dates back to early Christian era, Nepal has been ruled by the Lichchhavi, Thakuri, Malla and Shah dynasties. The Lichchhavis ruled the country from the beginning of the 1st to 9th century. The Lichchhavis were followed by the Thakuris, who ruled the country from the 9th to the 14th century. However, the architectural excellence of the Kathmandu Valley reached its zenith during the later Malla Period from the fourteenth century to the eighteenth century. The UNESCO heritage monuments that are scattered throughout the Kathmandu valley are the ingenuity of this period.

It was during the Malla Period that Newari culture and architecture reached their pinnacle, and is known as the era of “renaissance”. Malla rule came to an end when the Kathmandu Valley was conquered by the Gorkha King, Prithvi Narayan Shah, in 1769, and the Shah dynasty was established. But in 1846, taking advantage of a weak King embroiled in intense palace intrigues, Jung Bahadur Rana seized absolute power through the brutal court massacre and started the Rana oligarchy. The Ranas de facto ruled the country as their fiefdom until they were ousted from power by a popular revolt in 1951, and democracy was established in the country.

What we identify as Nepalese culture today germinated and developed in the Kathmandu Valley at the beginning of the 1st century or probably even earlier. But it was only after the country opened to the outside world with the advent of democracy in 1951 that the world was able to see the grandeur and opulence of Nepalese culture. No doubt, the different ruling dynasties patronized it, but in essence, it has been a people’s culture- a culture nurtured by the people through the ages. No cultural event takes place in Nepal without the people’s mass participation. One can see the spectrum of a vibrant cultural rainbow in the multitude of festivals and rituals that are celebrated almost every other day in some part or the other of the country. In the capital city of Kathmandu, the Newars who make up the indigenous inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley and are best known for their artistic creativity and skilled craftsmanship, culture has held a paramount position in their everyday lives.

Cultural tolerance has been the quintessence of Nepalese way of life. Nepal remains one of the most peaceful multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural countries in the world. The ethnic unity and religious harmony maintained by the Nepalese against such diversity are truly remarkable and have been acknowledged internationally. Undeniably, this plurality of culture is what has given Nepalese society its vibrant and lively character.

World Heritage Monuments of Kathmandu Valley:

 

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square lies in the heart of the Kathmandu city. The locals know this area by its old name Hanuman Dhoka – an ancient seat of the Nepalese Royalty. The Royal Palace during medival timese were not merely for Royal Activities but also used as the center of Administration, cultural activities and festivals.

The Historical buildings and temples in the area were erected from the time of King Ratna Malla (1484-1520 AD) to Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah (1875-1911 AD) covering the Malla, Shah and Rana period of Nepalese history. The entire palace complex here is named after a monkey god called Hanuman. One can see a huge stone statue of Hanuman painted all red next to the main entrance (the golden gate) of the palace. Hanuman here is regarded as a powerful protector of the entire Durbar Square.

 

Patan Durbar Square

Patan is also known as Lalitpur which means the city of arts. It is located across the river Bagmati which is 5 km south of central Kathmandu. This city founded in 3rd century A.D. by King Veera Dev has a distinction of being the home of the finest crafts and is considered oldest of all three cities of Kathmandu Valley. Most of the monuments in this square date back to the Medieval Malla period from 16th to 18th century and the monuments in the area are mostly created to King Siddhi Narsingha Malla, Shri Niwas Malla and Yog Narendra Malla.

 

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur meaning the city of devotees was founded by King Ananda Dev in 1197 A.D. according to the Gopal Raj Vamsabali even though the existence of the city could be traced back to the Licchavi period (185-750 A.D.). There are many monuments including pagodas, palaces, shikhara style monuments, courtyards and Buddhists shrines and monasteries. The Durbar Square was the seat of the Malla Kings and the present structures were erected from the 12th to the 18th century A.D. Bhaktapur is located at around 12 Km away from Kathmandu city.

 

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath :Situates 5 km east of Kathmandu city center, Pashupati literally means “Lord of Animals” and is considered to be the patron deity of Nepal. Pashupatinath is regarded as one of the holiest sites for Hindus all over the world. Pashupatinath temple is a pagoda style two-tiered golden roof with exquisitely carved four silver doors containing in its sanctum a phallic idol with four faces facing each direction and the other fifth one is looking up toward the zenith. A temple dedicated to shiva was constructed at the present site by Licchavi King Supushpa Verma according to an ancient chronicle. However the present temple is claimed to have been built by King Bhupatendra Malla in 1697 A.D. legend has it that a cow would frequently escape from its herds and offer milk on a jyotilinga (phallic symbol of Shiva) which denotes the point where the temple stands today. It is said that a certain cowherd much to his surprise found the self-generated jyotilinga when he dug the spot where the cow would give milk. The spot immediately became the center of worship that has been continued till today.

 

Swayambhunath Stupa

Located on a lovely hillock, Swayambhunath Stupa lies 4 km west of central Kathmandu. There are 365 steps leading all the way to the top commanding a magnificient view of Kathmandu valley and the breath-taking panorama of the snow-clad Himalayan Range. The tradition in the Stupa follows the Vajrayana for of Buddhism which is a tantric variation of the Mahayana Buddhism (the great vehicle). The stupa seem to have been constructed during the Licchavi Period. Religious and literally sources give numerous accounts of the establishment and the patronage of the Swayambhunath premises. It is also interesting to note that the stupa went a series of renovation during the Malla period in the medieval times with donations made by the merchants, monks, pilgrims and Buddhist followers.

 

Boudanath Stupa

Boudanath is the biggest stupa of Nepal, is located 5km east of central Kathmandu. The stupa stands on a three-tiered platform raised over the crossed rectangles in order to bring out the yantra form.

The claims made in various religious and literary texts regarding the erection of the stupa is varied and conflicting. However, the stupa is believed to have been built in the 5th century A.D. during the reign of the Licchavi kings.

As in other stupa architecture, this stupa also has Vairochana at the center followed by Aksobhya, Ratna Sambhava, Amitabha and Amogha Siddhi in east, south, west and north directions respectively. Similarly, there are one hundred and eight small niches around the stupa accommodating the icons of Buddhas, Bodhisatavas and other female deities along with conjoint figures in erotic poses. Likewise, at the bottom level, it is surrounded with the praying wheels embossed with the famous mantra Om Mani Padme Hum fixed in more than hundred and forty niches.

The stupa along with the monasteries are centers of learning, cultural activities, prayers and meditation.

 

Changu Narayan Temple

Located on a magnificent hill top commanding a fantastic view of Kathmandu Valley, Changu Narayan – a temple of Lord Vishnu – lies 6 km north of Bhaktapur. The temple is full of magnificent art works in metal and wood. In fact, it is one of the finest examples of Nepalese architecture. The first epigraphic evidence of Nepalese history found in the temple premises during the reign of the Licchavi King Mandeva dating back to 464 A.D. shows that change had already been established as a sacred site in the 3rd century A.D. the present structure was probably constructed in the 17th century, though older elements have been incorporated during the restorations. The pagoda style temple has several masterpieces of 5th and 12th century Nepalese art.

 

The living Goddess – KUMARI

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The myths and legends surrounding the Kumari, the living Goddess of Kathmandu, is fascinating. Historical records show that the

The myths and legends surrounding the Kumari, the living Goddess of Kathmandu, is fascinating. Historical records show that the worship of Kumari as a living goddess has been prevalent since at least the 10th century. But popular folklore relating to the kumara as the incarnation of Taleju Bhavani, the patron deity of the royals, and the king conversing and playing dice with her are linked to certain kings who ruled Kathmandu, like Trailokya Malla (16th century) and the last Malla ruler of Kathmandu, Jaya Prakash Malla (18th century). According to the legend, it so happened that one night while playing dice with goddess Taleju, or Kumari, the king was aroused by her celestial beauty and was overcome with lust. The Kumari, a goddess as she was, at once visualized the amorous thoughts in the king’s mind. Showing her utter displeasure, she declared that she would henceforth never come to him and disappeared. The king was filled with profound remorse and begged for forgiveness. The Goddess later relented and said that she would enter the body of a virgin girl, a Kumari, which the king was to worship.

Another version of the legend has it that the king and Kumari used to play dice every night on condition that no mortal would see them doing so. Accordingly, the king had strictly instructed the queen and his daughter not to enter or peek into the certain room while he was inside. But curiosity got the better of the women, and they peeped inside. The angry goddess then disappeared. The king repented and prayed for the Goddess’ forgiveness. Goddess kumara then came in his dream and told the king that she would henceforth not come in person. Instead the king was to worship a Shakya virgin girl who would possess her divine power. Since then, a Shakya virgin girl is worshipped as the Kumari, and once a year during the month of September, the Living Goddess is taken around the old quarters of Kathmandu in her chariot during the Indra Jatra Festival.

Lumbini- The Birth place of Lord Buddha

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As the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world’s greatest religions. It has remained a hallowed

Outside the Kathmandu Valley, Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, has been enlisted in the world Cultural Heritage site. Siddhartha Gautama, who later attained enlightenment as the Buddha, was born in Lumbini in the spring of 623 B.C. An inscription on a stone pillar erected by Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 249 B.C. authenticates that the Buddha was born at this spot. Recent archaeological excavations have discovered the “marker stone” at the basement of the Maya Devi Temple, believed to have been laid there by Emperor Ashoka to denote the exact sacred spot where the Buddha first put his foot on earth. This further enhanced the importance and sanctity of the site. The stupas built during different periods dating from 3rd century B.C. to 15th century A.D., the Maya Devi Temple and Pushkarni Pond where the baby Siddhartha was given his first bath after birth are some ancient edifices of Lumbini.

A Master Plan for the development of Lumbini was initiated in 1978 as per the design of world-renowned architect Professor Tange of Japan. The Master Plan segregates the Lumbini area into four main components: the Sacred Garden which includes the Maya Devi Temple and the Ashokan Pillar; the monastic zone; the cultural center; and the Lumbini village. Since the early 1980s, many countries with significant Buddhist populations have contributed in its infrastructural development. Monasteries reflecting the architecture of the individual countries have been constructed in the monastic zone. But much still remains to be done to give final shape to the Master Plan.

As the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world’s greatest religions. It has remained a hallowed Buddhist pilgrimage spot since very early times. Lumbini has been designated as the “Foundation of World Peace and the Holiest Pilgrimage Centre of Buddhists and peace-loving people of the world”. The site remains a place of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus alike from all over the world.

Besides the existing World Heritage sites in Nepal, there are many other natural and historical monuments and sites in the country which merit inclusion in the World Heritage list.