Nepal is unique and culturally one of the richest countries in the world. In this country, culture is considered a way of life for an entire society. The saying holds true in the case of Nepal where every aspect of life, food, clothing, and even jobs and professions are culturally affected and guided. The culture of Nepal comprises the codes of manners, language, dress, rituals, norms of behavior, and systems of faith. The monuments, monasteries, Palaces, Temples, Sculptures, art, paintings and everything in Nepal reflects its culture. This is the reason why among the world heritage sites of the world listed by UNESCO, seven of them are in Nepal itself. Amongst all, Kathmandu is the richest of all. Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal and also known as the city of temples and stupas; from temples to monasteries, palaces, Gombas, Sculptures, paintings, art to ethnic settlements, Nepal has it all.
Alpine Eco Trek guides you to a tour around the Kathmandu valley to observe the world heritage sites which is accomplished within a few hours.
At around 7:00 AM you have breakfast in the Hotel. Leave the hotel at around 8:00 AM starting the amazing Kathmandu city day tour. First of all, drive to Swaymbhunath (also known as Monkey Temple) after enjoying the guided tour of this beautiful site drive to Kathmandu Durbar Square, and explore the ancient palaces, temple and Kumari Ghar. After visiting Kathmandu Durbar Square drive to Bouddhanath Stupa and Pashupatinath Temple. You can enjoy your lunch at Bouddhanath Stupa, after visiting these significant sites, at around 4 PM drive back to your hotel and end the tour.
About Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal
The holiest temple of Pashupatinath, situated along the bank of the Bagmati River is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu (established in the 17th century). With a sprawling collection of temples, ashrams, images, and inscriptions raised over the centuries, it is a sacred temple of the deity, Lord Shiva. It is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. Non-Hindu visitors are not allowed to enter the temple premises.
The exact date of Pashupatinath’s construction is unknown. Despite this fact, the Pashupatinath is considered the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu.
The earliest evidence of the temple’s existence dates back to 400 A.D. The current main temple of the Pashupatinath complex was built at the end of the 17th century to replace the previous one, destroyed by termites. Countless smaller temples were constructed around the main temple on both banks of the Bagmati River during the last few centuries.
There are numerous legends, connected with the construction of the temple. The most famous one claims, that the temple was built on the site where Shiva lost one of his antlers, while he was in the guise of a deer. He and his wife arrived at the bank of Bagmati and amazed by the beauty of the site decided to change themselves into deers and walk in the surrounding forests. After a while gods and humans decided to return them to their duties, but Shiva rejected to return and they had to use force. In the fight, Shiva lost one of his antlers, which later became the first lingam worshipped by Hinduists in Pashupatinath. Later this relic was lost, and according to another legend, found again by a herdsman, whose cow showed the location of lingam by irrigating the place it was buried with her milk. Pashupatinath is a place where century-old Hindu rituals are practiced in their astonishing initial form, giving a chance to visitors to feel the unique spirit of Hindu traditions of life, death, and reincarnation.
Tour of Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath is more than just a religious destination. It is a combination of religion, art, and culture. It offers peace and devotion. The temple, spread across 246 hectares of land abounds in temples and monuments. Hundreds of rituals are performed here every day. The temple premises is an open museum. This national treasure was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1979. This temple is an important destination for art historians. It displays a variety of temple designs some of which are Dome style, Pagoda style, Shikhara style and so on. Additionally, there are varieties of statues and sculptures around the complex. There are statues made of stone, metal, and wood. The door and pillars around the temple area are carved in beautiful shapes of God and griffins. Pashupatinath stretches from the main temple of Pashupatinath to Guheshwori. There are many famous temples in this area including the Bhuwaneshwori, the Dakshinamurti, Tamreshwor, Panchdewal, Bishwarupa, and others.
The temple of Kali, located on the banks of River Bagmati has an interesting appearance and is loaded with mythology. The myth is that the statue grows out of its original spot and that the world will come to an end when the half-in-half-out figure is fully exposed. Each temple has its own set of rituals to be performed, and every temple has specific values and customs. On the other side of the river is a small forest Shleshmantak, homes to animals like deer and monkeys. A traditional crematorium stands on the banks of the River Bagmati. Pashupatinath's vast area embraces cultural heritage, forest, and water resources that need to be preserved and managed. Hence the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) was founded in 1996. Since then, the activities at Pashupati are governed by this administrative body.
Opening hours of Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple is open every day from 4 AM to 9 PM but it is closed in the middle of the day between noon and 5 PM. The best time to visit the temple is early in the morning or late in the evening. One should reserve about an hour to 2 hours to visit the site.
Daily Rituals at Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath is also one of the few living cultural heritage sites in the world. Unlike other cultural sites or museums, Pashupatinath is the center of energy with the active participation of people at all times of the day, every day. The daily rituals of Pashupatinath Temple are as follows:
- 4:00 am: West gate opens for visitors.
- 8:30 am: After the arrival of Pujaris, the idols of the Lord are bathed and cleaned, and clothes and jewelry are changed for the day.
- 9:30 am: Baal Bhog or breakfast is offered to the Lord.
- 10:00 am: Then people who want to do Puja are welcome to do so. It is also called Farmayishi Puja, whereby people tell the Pujari to carry out a special Puja for specific reasons. The Puja continues till 1:45 pm in the afternoon.
- 1:50 pm: Lunch is offered to the Lord in the main Pashupati Temple.
- 2:00 pm: Morning prayers end.
- 5:15 pm: The evening Aarati at the main Pashupati Temple begins.
- 6:00 pm onward: In recent times the Bagmati Ganga Aarati that is done by the banks of the Bagmati has been gaining popularity. There are larger crowds attending on Saturdays, Mondays and on special occasions. Ganga Aarati along with Shiva’s Tandava Bhajan, written by Ravana, is carried out during the evening Ganga Aarati.
- 7:00 pm: Doors close.
The entry fees of Pashupatinath Temple
To enter the site of the temple a foreigner needs to pay an entrance fee of 1,000 Nepalese rupees (about $10 USD).
Tour of Bouddhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa (or Bodnath Stupa) is one of the largest stupas in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is the center of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and is rich in Buddhist symbolism. The stupa is located in the town of Boudha, on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. The area is densely inhabited by Tibetans. Situated 8 km to the east of downtown Kathmandu, Boudha, is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and one of the most imposing landmarks in Kathmandu. Visible as soon as you land at the Tribhuvan International Airport, it is the largest stupa in the Kathmandu Valley.
The 36-meter-high stupa of Boudha is massive and dominates the skyline in the area. With countless monasteries around it, Boudha is the center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. Built in the shape of a mandala designed to replicate the Gyangtse of Tibet, the stupa was renovated by Licchhavi rulers in the 8th century. The location of the stupa is interesting as it once lay on the ancient trade route to Tibet and it was here that Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers for many centuries. It is one of the major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists from around the world. On each side are the all-seeing-eyes of the Buddha symbolizing awareness. The canopy has 13 stages. At ground level, there is a brick wall that has 147 niches and 108 images of the meditational Buddha inset behind copper prayer wheels.
Tour of Swaymbhunath (also known as Monkey Temple)
Find peace and prayers on the little hillock of Swaymbhunath in the northwest of Kathmandu Valley. Visitors for whom the name was a tongue twister have called it Monkey Temple from the 1970s. Swayambhu overlooks most parts of the valley giving visitors a panoramic view of the city. The stupa has stood as a hallmark of faith and harmony for centuries with Hindu temples and deities incorporated in this Buddhist site. The glory of Kathmandu Valley is said to have started from this point.
Resting on a hillock 3 km west of Kathmandu, Swayambhu is one of the holiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal. It is said to have evolved spontaneously when the valley was created out of a primordial lake more than 2,000 years ago. This stupa is the oldest of its kind in Nepal and has numerous shrines and monasteries on its premises.
Swayambhu literally means "self-existent one". Believed to date back to 460 A.D., it was built by King Manadeva and by the 13th century, it had become an important center of Buddhism. Legend has it that Swayambhu was born out of a lotus flower that bloomed in the middle of a lake that once spread across the Kathmandu Valley once was. The largest image of the Sakyamuni Buddha in Nepal sits on a high pedestal on the western boundary of Swayambhu beside the Ring Road. Behind the hilltop is a temple dedicated to Manjusri or Saraswati - the Goddess of learning. Chaityas, statues and shrines of Buddhist and Hindu deities fill the stupa complex. The base of the hill is almost entirely surrounded by prayer wheels and deities. Devotees can be seen circumambulating the stupa at all times.
Exceedingly steep stone steps that lead up to the shrine is quite a challenge. However, there is also a motor road going up almost to the top from where it is a short walk. A large number of Buddhists and Hindus alike visit Swayambhu throughout the day. This shrine is perhaps the best place to observe religious harmony in Nepal. The largest crowds of people are seen here on Buddha's birthday which usually falls in May each year.
Some important monuments to see in the Swaymbhunath area
- The huge gold-plated Vajra ‘thunderbolt’ is set on the east side of the stupa.
- Buddha statue on the west side of Swayambhu.
- The Sleeping Buddha.
- The Dewa Dharma Monastery is noted as a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings.
- The temple is dedicated to Harati, the goddess of all children. It is said that she was an ogress before Lord Buddha converted her to be the caretaker of all children.
Tour of Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square is a spectacular example of architecture and Newari artists in Kathmandu valley. Kathmandu Durbar Square is a historic place of royals where the kings in the past were crowned. It is crowded with ancient temples and palaces that reflect the royal history and religious and cultural life of the people.
The tallest temple of Kathmandu valley 'Taleju Bhawani' on the northern side of the palace was built in 1501 by Ratna Malla, the first king of the independent Kathmandu city.
Kasthamandap, an open wood house, Kumari (living goddess) house, Jagannath temple with erotic carvings, and the Hanuman Dhoka (the royal palace) are situated in Kathmandu Durbar Square. Presently, the square is known as Hanuman Dhoka, a name derived from the statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, near the entrance of the palace. It holds the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled Kathmandu city for years.