PILGRIMAGE TOURS IN NEPAL
Boudhanath was built in the 14th century and after the arrival of Tibetans following in the year 1959, this stupa has been the center place of the Tibetan Buddhism. Today it is a place for medication, pilgrimage, and a popular tourist site. From the top, Bouddhanath stupa looks like a giant mandala. In all the Tibetan mandalas, four of the Dhyani Buddhas mark the cardinal points, with the fifth, Vairocana, enshrined in the center (in the white hemisphere of the stupa). The five Buddha represents the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) which are represented in the stupa's architecture.It is believed that the nine levels of Bouddhanath Stupa represent the mythical Mt. Meru, the center of the cosmos. and the 13 rings from the base pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightened or "Bodhi"- the stupa's name. The bottom of the stupa is surrounded with irregular 16-sided walls. Bouddhanath is also closely related to Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Padmapani), whose 108 forms are depicted in sculptures around the base. The mantra of Avalokiteshvara - Om Mani Padme Hum - is carved on the prayer wheels beside the images of Avalokiteshvara around the base of the stupa.
Pashupatinath Hindu Temple
Shiva, the destroyer, is historically the god most worshipped in the country. He may be worshipped as the holy ascetic, depicted with his consort Parvati and holding a trident and a small drum or more often in the form of the linga, an elongated stone representing his generative powers. The most important linga is situating in the holy shrine of Pashupatinath to west of Kathmandu. In front of Shiva temples one usually sees a statue of Nandi, the divine bull that serves as Shiva’s vehicle. Another popular form of Shiva in Nepal is the terrifying Bhirav. Different aspects of Bhairav play major roles in many of the Valley’s festivals. Vishnu, whose primary duty is to assure the preservation of the world and all living forms, is believed to have visited the earth ten times, each times as a different incarnation or avatar. He is often depicted as a boar, a tortoise, a man-lion and a fish-his four animal incarnations. Throughout South Asia he is most often worshipped in two well-known human forms: prince Ram the hero of the epic Ramayana and the pastoral god Krishna. In Nepal he is often worshipped in his omnipotent form of Narayan, and in some of his most lovely images is seen astride the man-bird Garuda his vehicle.
There is a variety of Buddhist practices in Nepal, the Buddhism of the endemic Newar people, perhaps related to the ancient Buddhism that passed out of India one thousand year ago; the Buddhism of the Sherpa, Tamang and Tibetan people and the relatively modern incursion of Theravadin or Southern Buddhism.The central beliefs and practices date back to the time of its founder, Prince Siddhartha Gautam who was born in Lumbini in the southern Terai in about 534 B.C. Until the age of 29, the young prince led a sheltered life in the palace of his father, completely unaware of the problems and suffering of the world outside his palace wall. One day he convinced his charioteer to take him outside the palace, where he was shocked at the sight of an old man, a sick man, a corpse and an ascetic. The realization of the true misery of the world persuaded the prince to abandon his luxurious life and goes into the forests to seek enlightenment to end human suffering. For many years, Gautam practiced asceticism without success. One night beneath a pepal tree in the forest of Bodh Gaya he became enlightened. Henceforth known as Lord Buddha, the ‘enlightened one’ he traveled around northern India and southern Nepal preaching the Middle Path to enlightenment. At the age of eighty he passed into the final enlightenment.
Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam. The Shakya prince and the ultimate Buddha, the Enlightened One, is the pilgrimage destination of the world’s millions of people faithful to all schools of Buddhism. UNESCO lists this nativity site, identified by Indian Emperor Ashoka’s commemorative pillar as a World Heritage Site.The main attraction at Lumbini remains the Sacred Garden, which spread over 8sq km and possessing all the treasures of the historic area. The Mayadevi temple is the main attraction for pilgrims and archaeologists alike. Here we find a bas relief of Mayadevi, Buddha’s mother giving birth to him. Standing west to the Mayadevi shrine is the oldest monument of Nepal, the Ashoka Pillar. Emperor Ashoka erected the pillar in 249 B.C. to commemorate his pilgrimage to the sacred site. To the south of the pillar, we find the sacred pond, Puskarni, where Queen Mayadevi had taken a bath just before giving birth to Lord Buddha.There are other places of interest too nearby. It is accessible by air from Kathmandu to Bhairawa. From Kathmandu it takes about eight hours by bus or car.
It is believed that all miseries / sorrows are relieved once you visit this temple (Mukti=Nirvana, Nath=God). The famous temple of Lord Muktinath lies in the district of Mustang and is situated about 18km northeast of Jomsom at an altitude of about 3,749m. The main shrine is a pagoda shaped temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Set into the wall around it is 108 waterspouts from which pour holy water. The temple is situated on a high mountain range and is visited during fair weather. There are two ways to get to Muktinath from Kathmandu. Either takes a direct flight from Kathmandu via Pokhara to jomsom and hike for a 7-8 hours via Kagbeni or to trek all the way from Pokhara which takes 7-8 days. It is believed that one should visit this temple after competing pilgrimages of four Dhams in India. This temple held sacred by Hindus as well as Buddhists. The Jwala Mai temple nearby contains a spring and an eternal flame fed by natural gas underground. Jomsom is a major center in the Annapurna region. There is a world-class accommodation facility in Jomsom from where one can enjoy remarkable natural beauty.
Gosainkunda Holy Lake
One of the most famous pilgrimage destinations of Nepal is Gosainkunda Lake which is situated at an altitude of about 4,360m. The best approach to Gosainkunda is through Dhunche, 132km to the northeast of Kathmandu. Dhunche is linked with Kathmandu by a motorable road. Surrounded by high mountains on the north and the south, the lake is grand and picturesque. There are other nice nine famous Lakes such as Saraswati, Bhairav, Sourya, Ganesh Kunda etc.
This temple place at an altitude of 3900 ft. offer very good views of the Ganesh, Manaslu and Annapurna group. The surrounding village though is a mixture of 20th century Nepali bar rock and 2nd World War aftermath. Every day hundreds make the journey to worship at Manakamana's Bhagwati Mandir. For Nag Panchami, in late July or early August, celebrants construct an entire shrine out of flowers and foliage. Visiting Manakamana is a very Nepali thing to do, and even if you don't sacrifice a goat you'll feel like you've received an initiation into the society.