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UNESCO Heritage Sites

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Of the  812 World Heritage Site, four are located in Nepal, namely the Kathmandu Valley, Sagarmatha National Park, Chitwan National Park and Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha. Major monument zones in the Kathmandu Valley are Swoyambhunath, Boudhanath, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Changunarayan, Pashupatinath, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square.

World Heritage Sites (Cultural):

- Kathmandu Valley
- Lumbini

World Heritage Sites (Natural):

- Chitwan National Park
- Sagarmatha National Park

World Heritage Sites (Cultural):

Major monument zones in the Kathmandu Valley:

 

Swoyambhunath Stupa:

Soyambhu Temple

Swoyambhu literally means 'Self-Existent One.' Swoyambhunath is believed to have been established more than 2,500 years ago. According to translations from an inscription dating back to 460 A.D., it was built by King Manadeva and by the 13th century, Swoyambhunath had developed into an important center of Buddhism.

Legend has it that Swoyambhu was born out of a lotus flower that bloomed in the middle of the lake which the Kathmandu valley once was. The largest image of the Sakyamuni Buddha in Nepal was recently built on the western boundary of Swoyambhu. 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 that were recently installed. Devotees can be seen circumambulating the stupa at all times.

Historical records found on a stone inscription prove that the stupa was already an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination by the 5th century AD. Its origin however, dates to a much earlier time, long before the arrival of Buddhism into the valley. A collection of legends about the site, the 15th century Swyambhu Purana, tells of a miraculous lotus planted by a past Buddha, which blossomed from the lake that once covered Kathmandu valley. The lotus mysteriously radiated a brilliant light, and the name of the place came to be Swoyambhu, meaning self-created. Saints, sages and divinities traveled to the lake to venerate this miraculous light
for its power in granting enlightenment.

During this time, the aforementioned Manjushri (One of the Tibetan God of Wisdom often depicted in oil paintings) was meditating at the sacred mountain of Wu Tai shan and had a vision of the dazzling Swoyambhu light. The deity flew across the mountains of Tibet and China upon his blue lion to worship the lotus. Deeply impressed by the power of the radiant light, he felt that if the water were drained out of the lake, Swoyambhu would become more accessible to human pilgrims. With a great sword Manjushri cut a gorge in the mountain surrounding the lake. The water drained away, leaving the valley that is present day Kathmandu.The lotus was then transformed into a hill and the light became the Swoyambhunath stupa.

The stupa sits atop the hill and the exceedingly steep stone steps leading up to the shrine is quite a challenge. However there is also a road going up almost to the top and you can drive up. A large numbers of Buddhists and Hindus alike visit Swoyambhunath through out the day. Swoyambhu is perhaps the best place to observe religious harmony in Nepal.

Some important monuments to see in this area:

  1. The huge gold plated VajraThunderbolt’ set in the east side of the stupa.
  2. Buddha statue on the west side of Swoyambhu.
  3. The sleeping Buddha.
  4. The temple 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.
  5. The Dewa Dharma Monastery, noted for a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings.

Boudhanath Stupa:

Bouddhanath Temple

Boudhanath stupa was built in 4th century AD and till now it is the biggest stupa in Nepal. From a height, Bouddhanath Stupa looks like a giant mandala-a diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. The whole structure has a diameter of about 100 meters and a height of approximate 40 meters.At the base of the stupa are three large platforms, decreasing in size. These platforms symbolize the earth. Next are two circular plinths supporting the hemisphere of the stupa, symbolizing water.

As in swoyambhunath, Bouddhanath is topped with a square tower bearing the omnipresent Buddha eyes on all four sides. The square tower is topped by the 13 steps, representing the ladder to enlightenment. The triangular shape is the abstract form for the element of fire. At the top of the tower is a gilded canopy embodying air and above it is a gilded spire, symbolic of either ad the Buddha Vairocana. Prayer flags tied to the stupa flutter in the wind, carrying mantras and prayers heavenward.

The awesome structure of Bouddhanath is indeed inspiring. The 36-meter-high stupa of Bouddhanath is one of the largest stupas in South Asia. With countless monasteries surrounding it, Bouddhanath 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 Licchavi 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 centuries. Boudha even today has a strong Tibetan presence as countless Tibetan refugees found a home around the stupa.  On top is the harmika and on each side are painted the all seeing eyes of the Buddha symbolizing awareness. The canopy has thirteen stages. At ground level there is a brick wall with 147 niches and 108 images of the meditational buddha inset behind copper prayer wheels.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square:

The least busy among the durbar squares is Bhaktapur Durbar Square in the center of Bhaktapur city. Showcasing architecture that dates back to the Malla period, the square is the most charming, with wide open spaces that are off limits to vehicular traffic. In Bhaktapur you will see some of the finest medieval arts of Nepal. Of particular interest are: the Golden Gate, Fifty-five Windows and the beautiful statue of King Bhupatindra Malla mounted on a giant stone pillar. The Golden Gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla as the entrance to the main courtyard of the Fifty-five Window Palace. The Palace of Fifty-five Windows was built during the reign of King Yakshya Malla in 1427 A.D.and was re-modelled by King Bhupatindra Malla in the 17th Century. The Art Gallery has a fascinating collection of ancient manuscripts, thangkas, centuries-old stone sculpture, antique paintings that belong to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of various periods. This gallery is open every day of the week except Tuesday.

Kathmandu durbar Square:

Kathmandu Durbar Square in the heart of old Kathmandu city in Basantapur never fails to impress first time visitors with its intricate wood carvings and rich history. Surrounded by concrete buildings, the complex is an oasis in a fast developing, chaotic modern city. Once the residence of Nepal's Royal family, all coronation ceremonies were held here. The palace is an amalgamation of eastern and western architecture with additions by Rana and Shah Rulers over the centuries. An unbelievable 50 temples lie within the vicinity including the temple of the titular deity, Taleju Bhawani. The Durbar is divided into two courtyards, the outer Kasthamandap, Kumari Ghar, and Shiva-Parvati Temple, and the inner section consisting of Hanuman Dhoka and the main palace. Some floors have been converted to museums dedicated to three generations of Shah Kings. Most parts of the palace premises are open to tourists throughout the week.

Kathmandu Durbar square was where the city’s kings were once crowned and legitimized, and from where they ruled (‘DURBAR’ means palace in Nepali). After the palace was shifted to Narayanhity, which is now a museum, the old palace was cordoned off for official use.

Although most of the square dates from the 17th and 18th centuries (Many of the originals buildings are much older), a great deal of damage was caused by a large earthquake in 1934. Many structures were rebuilt but not always in their original form.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:

The Taleju Temple is the tallest of all structures, built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 AD. This temple is open to the public for one day each year during the Dashain festival.

The Jagannath Temple, built in the 16th century is known for the fascinating erotic figures carved on the wooden struts.

 

The Kal Bhairav, one of the largest 17th century stone statues in Kathmandu, representing the terrifying aspect of Lord Shiva.

Swet-Bhairav
- the temple is open to the public once in year during Indra Jatra Festival.

The 17th century Kumari Temple (the temple of Living Goddess) is an example of highly developed Nepali craftmanship.

Kaandasthamp, from which Kathmandu derives its name, is said to have been built from the timber of a single tree.

Nautalle Durbar (the nine storied palace)

Patan Durbar square:

Patan Durbar Square complex is perhaps the most photographed of the three durbar squares. Located in the heart of Patan city, this was once the palace of the kings of Patan. The square is a display of Newari architecture that had reached its pinnacle during the reign of Malla kings who were great builders and patrons of the arts. The palace has three main courtyards: the central and the oldest is Mul Chowk. To the west of the complex are a dozen free standing temples of various sizes and built in different styles. A masterpiece in stone, the Krishna Temple, Bhimsen Temple, the Golden Temple of Hiranya Varna Mahavira and Sundari Chowk mark the artistic brilliance of the Newar craftsment of that era. The Sundari Chowk with the sunken bath of Tusha Hiti, showcases exquisite woodcarvings, stone and metal sculpture. Like the other palaces, Patan Durbar Square also houses a temple dedicated to Taleju Bhawani.

Some important monuments to see in this area are:

  1. The  Golden Gate and golden windows of the old palace
  2. The famous Krishna Temple with 21 golden pinnacles.
  3. The bath with many carvings in stone at Sundari Chowk.
  4. The Taleju Temple.
  5. The temple of Bhimsen with a magnificient golden balcony overlooking the square.
  6. Char-Narayan temple, which is among the finest examples of woodcarvings.
  7. Chyasi Dega
  8. Manga Hiti
  9. Mul-Chowk

Pashupatinath Temple:

The holiest shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. Built in the 5th Century and later renovated by Malla kings, the site itself is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when a Shiva lingam was discovered in the forest. The largest temple complex in Nepal, it stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River which is considered holy by Hindus.  The main pagoda style temple has a gilded roof, four sides covered in silver and wood carvings of the finest quality. Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath. Nearby is the temple of Guheshwori dedicated to Shiva's consort Sati Devi. Cremation of Hindus takes place on raised platforms and it is always in use. Only Hindus are allowed inside the gates of the main temple. The inner sanctum has a Shiva lingam and outside sits the largest statue of Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Shiva. There are hundreds of shiva lingams within the compound. The big Shivaratri festival in spring attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees from within Nepal and from India.

Changunarayan Temple:

Perched on a hill and visible from miles around, the Changu Narayan temple stands majestically above the rice fields of Bhaktapur. Dedicated to Vishnu, the Preserver the temple's origins go back to the 4th century. A fifth century stone inscription in the temple proclaims it as one of the oldest shrines of the Kathmandu Valley. The temple is a showcase for Newari art and architecture of the early century. The stone, wood, and metal craft found here are exemplary.

On the struts of the two-tiered Changu Narayan Temple, are ten incarnations of Narayan. And a 6th Century stone statue shows the cosmic form of Vishnu. Garuda, half man and half bird, is the vehicle of Vishnu, and his life-size statue kneels before the temple.

Some important sculptures of Vishnu seen here are:

Vishwaroop: This highly valued sculpture represents Vishnu in his most universal form. It dates back to 8th century A.D.

Vishnu Vikranta: - This stone image, dating back to the 8th century A.D., is one of the most powerful forms of Vishnu. This is when he measured space with his feet.

Vishnu riding on the Garuda (the mythical bird) - this figure of Vishnu mounting Garuda dates back to the 10th Century A.D.

Narsimha Vishnu - this form of Vishnu is seen in his half man and half lion form.

The stone inscription (dated 464 A.D.) placed in front of the Changu Narayan temple describes in detail the story of Dharmadeva, a Nepalese King who died suddenly, with his young son succeeding him to the throne. It is said that later the son after a series of victories in war inscribed the victory on a stone pillar and placed it in front of the Changu Narayan temple. It is written in verse and in an academic Sanskrit which is akin to an encyclopedia about the society of the time, its tradition and culture. It starts with an invocation to the Vishnu of Doladri proving that Changu Narayan or the Doladri Narayan is much older than the date on the inscription of 464 A.D.

Lumbini (World cultural heritage side):

Lumbini associated with the birth of Lord Buddha is of immense archeological and religious importance and also a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. It is said that Prince Siddhartha Gautam, who later became Buddha the ‘Enlightened One’, was born in the gardens of Nepal's Lumbini in 623 B.C. The main shrines of Lumbini are the newly restored Mayadevi Temple, the Ashokan Pillar behind the temple and the Lake Shakya Puskarini where Mayadevi is said to have bathed before delivering the little Buddha into the world.

Several other places near Lumbini are linked with stories connected to Buddha and Buddhism. Lumbini is about 300 kilometers south-west of Kathmandu. Buses and flights to Bhairawa which is about 22 kilometers from Lumbini, are available from major cities. From Bhairawa transport services to Lumbini are easily available. There are sufficient hotels and restaurants in Lumbini and Bhairawa.

Some important monuments to see in this area:

The Lumbini Garden - This is the site marked by a stone pillar (Ashoka Pillar) erected by the Indian Emperpr Ashoka at about 245B.C. The most important discovery in this place is a stone marked to suggest the exact birthplace of Buddha.

Mayadevi Temple - This temple dedicated to the mother of Lord Buddha, Maya Devi, was excavated a few years ago. Many sculptures and carving in which the figures and designs are only slightly projecting from their background are seen here.

Lumbini has many new monasteries and stupas built by Buddhist communities from around the world. Besides the Nepal Buddha Temple and the Dharmaswami Buddhist monastery, many other countries like Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam,  France, Germany and Burma etc have built their own temples and monasteries.

Lumbini also has a museum and a research center for Buddhism.

 

World Heritage Sites (Natural):

Unique among natural heritage sites world-wide is the Sagarmatha National Park, which includes Mt. Everest (8,848 m) and other high peaks such as Lhotse Shar, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Pumori, Kangtega, Gyachung Kang, Thamserku and Kwangde. Located North-east of Kathmandu, Sagarmatha National Park is 1,148 sq km. in area and consists of the upper catchment areas of the Dudh Koshi, Bhote Koshi and the Imja Khola rivers. Much of the park lies above 3,000m. Sagarmatha is rugged, with deep gorges, glaciers and unnegotiable ice and rock faces. Locally known as the 'Khumbu', it is the home of the famous Sherpa people. The Sherpas make a living by farming barley and potatoes and graze their yaks in high altitude pastures. Young Sherpas have also made their name in mountaineering and the trekking industry has of late become the community's economic mainstay. In 1979 the park was declared a World Heritage Site.

Trees such as rhododendron, birch, blue pine, juniper and silver fir are found up to an altitude of 4,000 meters above which they give way to scrub and alpine plants. In late spring and summer, the hillsides around the villages of Namche Bazaar, Khumjung, Thyangboche and Thame are a riot of colours with several species of rhododendon in bloom. Wildlife most likely to be seen in Sagarmatha are the Himalaya tahr, ghoral, musk deer, pikka (mouse hare) weasel and occasionally jackal. Other rarely seen animals are Himalayan black bear, wolf, lynx and snow leopard. Birds commonly seen are Impeyan pheasant, blood pheasant, snow cock, snow pigeon, red billed and yellow billed chough, Himalayan griffin vulture and lammergeier.

Chitwan National Park:

Nepal's first and most famous national park is situated in the Chitwan Doon or the lowlands of the Inner Terai. Covering an area of 932 sq km. the park includes hilly areas of the Siwalik Range covered by deciduous sal forest. One fifth of the park is made up of the floodplains of the Narayani, Rapti, and the Reu Rivers and is covered by dense tall elephant grass interspersed with riverine forests of silk cotton (kapok), acacia and sisam trees. This ecologically diverse area is the last remaining home in Nepal for more than 300 of the endangered Asian one-horned rhinoceros and harbours one of the largest populations of the elusive and rare Bengal tiger. Besides rhino and tiger, Chitwan also supports a great variety of flora and fauna. There are four species of deer, including the spotted chittal, leopard, sloth bear, wild boar, rhesus monkey, grey langur monkey, wild dog, small wild cats, the white stockinged gaur (the world's largest wild cattle) and many other smaller animals. The swampy areas and numerous oxbow lakes of Chitwan provide a home for marsh crocodiles. In a stretch of the Narayani river is found one of the few remaining populations of the rare and endangered fish-only eating gharial, or Gangetic crocodile.

Here also is found one of the world's four species of freshwater dolphins. For the ornithologist and the amateur bird-watcher the park offers excellent possibilities with more than 450 species recorded. Some of the resident specialities are several species of woodpeckers, hornbills, Bengal florican, and red-headed trogons. Winter birds such as waterfowl, Brahminy duck, pintails and bareheaded geese, amongst many other cold weather visitors are drawn by the sanctuary of the park's rivers. In the summer the forest is alive with nesting migrants such as the fabulous paradise flycatcher, the Indian pitta and parakeets.

 




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