Since Kathmandu has so much to offer, we decided to go on a temple tour through the Nepalese capital. On this trip, we visited the three main temples of Kathmandu: Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath and Swayambhunath. Our guide and driver picked us up from our hotel and we set off for Swayambhunath, also known as the monkey temple. Along the way, we got a glimpse of the life in the residential areas of Kathmandu were surprised by the animals living ‘freely’ in the urban streets.
When we arrived at the monkey temple, our guide explained that when looking at mythological history and day-to-day religious practice, the temple occupies a central position and is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. We discovered why the temple got its name when we walked up the stairs, we were accompanied by numerous monkeys trying to annoy tourists or steal food from the locals. As we reached the top, we were welcomed by the big Vajra (thunderbolt sceptre) before saw many different temples and stupas. What I found most amusing was that there were many Hindu Temples inside the perimeter and both Buddhist and Hindu prayed harmoniously together and respected one other.
After we completed the long stairway back down again, we got in the car and drove to the other side of the city to visit Bouddhanath. When we arrived at the world-famous stupa we couldn’t believe what we saw. An immense, white structure appeared before us with prayer flags, a golden top and lots of prayer wheels to make it even more impressive. Our guide explained that in the Buddhist religion you always walk clockwise around a holy site so we started walking left. Our guide pointed out that the stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest, if not the largest, spherical stupa in Nepal and in the world. However, our guide informed us that the stupa was badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake which resulted in the removal of the whole upper structure. We were amazed by this fact because we could not find a single sign of the damage done to the stupa. After we completed the big round walk we had a lovely lunch in one of the rooftop restaurants that surround the stupa and gave such a picturesque view.
Afterwards, we headed towards our final destination for the day, Pashupatinath. On the way, our guide explained that this was the only Hindu temple of the three and it is used as a religious site to cremate the bodies of deceased people. When we arrived at the temple we were impressed by the size of it, there are so many little buildings, big and small temples, shrines, holy sites and residential areas for holy men that we didn’t know where to look. When we entered the temple complex, our guide explained that in the Hindu religion, cremation is the most common way to send the remains of a body to another place. They burn the bodies just beside the sacred Bagmati river (which leads through India and Bangladesh into the Indian Ocean) and with the process of cremation, part of the body is taken up into the air by the fire. When the cremation is finished, they push the remains in the river so the body (or person) is completely given back to earth (water and air). Our guide explained that the name Pashupati comes from a tutelary deity of the ancient rules of the Kathmandu Valley and that is where the temple complex got its current name. After we got an extensive tour from our guide in which he showed us all the different parts of the complex and their religious importance, we got back into the car and were dropped off at our hotel.
It was an intensive day but we enjoyed every second of it. We were happy to gain such a friendly insight into the culture and religion of Nepal and had a lot to talk about later that night.
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