In this article, we will discuss the world heritage site in Nepal. Many of the world heritage sites in Nepal have architectural, historical, religious, and cultural importance.
Hanuman Dhoka Durbar (Kathmandu Durbar Square)
Kathmandu Durbar Square also is known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar in the local language, is one of the major UNESCO world heritage sites in Nepal. It is located nearby downtown.
The Kathmandu Durbar Square is the complex of palaces, courtyards and temples that are furnished the centuries ago by the ancient rulers – the Lichhabis, Mallas to Shah Dynasties. All the buildings and monuments that we can see today on its premises are the outcomes of the collective endeavors of the predecessors. It is the social, religious and urban focal point of the city Taleju Temple, Kal Bhairab (God of Destruction), Nautalle Durbar, Coronation Nasal Chowk, the Gaddi Baithak, the statue of King Pratap Malla, the Big Bell, Big Drum, and the Jagannath Temple are some of the impressive structures to see in this Square.
One of the fascinating pieces here is the 17th-century inscriptions that are set into the wall of the Palace with writings in 15 languages. It is believed that if anybody deciphers this entire inscription, the milk will flow from the spout, which lies just below the inscribed stonewall. Some people say that the legend contains coded directions to a treasure King Pratap Malla has buried beneath Mohan Chowk of Durbar Square. There are several museums in the Palace.
Akash Bhairav Temple
This is a three-story temple situated in the main Market Avenue called Indra Chowk. The image of Akash Bhairav is displayed outside for a week during Indra Jatra, the festival of Indra (the God of Rain). The festival of Indra Jatra falls in July or August.
Kumari Ghar (Temple of Living Goddess)
The Temple or the residence of Living Goddess, Kumari, is situated in the surrounding area of Hanuman Dhoka Palace. The building is full of beautifully carved wooden balconies and window screens. The Kumari – the living goddess acknowledges the greetings from her balcony window. The visitors are not allowed to take photographs of Kumari and the Temple.
King Laxmi Narshingha Malla built the Temple in the sixteenth century. Believed to have been constructed from the wood of a single tree, it is located to the west of Kumari Ghar. The name of the city Kathmandu itself is believed to have derived from this Kasthamandap. Behind Kasthamandap, there is a small but very significant temple of Ashok Vinayak, also known as Kathmandu Ganesh or Maru Ganesh.
Five minutes from Kasthamandap, the Shiva Temple of Jaishi Dewal is famous for its erotic carvings. It is still one of the main tourist routes of the chariot festivals of Indra Jatra, Gai Jatra, and other festivals.
Pashupati Nath Temple
The Temple of Pashupati Nath is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu shrines and one of the subcontinent’s greatest Shiva sites. It includes a sprawling collection of temples, ashrams, images, and inscriptions raised over the centuries along the bank of holy Bagmati River.
The richly ornamented pagoda houses the sacred Linga or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. Chronicles indicate the Temple’s existence prior to 400 AD, but a shrine may have stood here nearly one thousand years before. The legend says that Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unknown in the forest towards the eastern bank of the Bagmati River. The god, grabbed in his horns – broken, was forced to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshiped as a Linga and overtime, and it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsman found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine Linga of Pashupati Nath.
The temple complex has been renovated and improved over the centuries. The entrance to the shrine is only allowed to Hindus. However, one can still get a good view of the sacred Temple from vantage points across the Bagmati river. Across the river, one can also visit the Temple of Guheyeshwori and a classic sixth-century one faced Linga of Shiva.
The most ancient and enigmatic of all the valley’s holy shrines lies in the western side of the Kathmandu valley, across the Vishnumati River (one of the holy rivers of the valley). The golden spire of Swayambhunath stupa crowns a wooded hillock and offers a commanding view of Kathmandu city. On bright days, one can even view a line of Himalayan peaks. The view is splendid at dusk as city lights flicker one by one and even better when a full moon hangs in the sky.
The Swayambhunath Stupa bears a legend about its establishment, which dates back to the foundation of Kathmandu Valley itself. The legend says that when Manjushree drained the waters of the lake to reveal the Kathmandu valley, the lotus of the lake was transformed into the hillock, and the blazing light became the Swayambhunath Stupa, now a world heritage site.
The Buddhist Temple of Swayambhunath, situated on the top of a hill, west of Kathmandu, is one of the most popular, holy, and instantly recognizable symbols of Nepal. The Temple is colloquially known as the ‘monkey temple’ because of the large tribe of roving monkeys who guard the Temple.
Before the 5th century
Three hundred sixty-five steps lead to the Temple that is believed to be ‘Self-Created’ or ‘Self-Existence.’
Wold Heritage Site
Swayambhunath stupa is a golden spire crowning a conical wooded hill. It is the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu valley. It has a lofty white dome and a glittering golden spire that are visible from all sides of the valley. Historical records found on a stone inscription give evidence that the Stupa was already a famous Buddhist pilgrimage destination by the 5th century before Buddhism’s existence in the valley.
The surroundings of Swyambhunath Stupa consist of Chaityas, Temples, painted images of deities, and numerous other religious objects. The Temple is dedicated to the goddess of smallpox and other epidemics. The presence of the Harati Devi temple signifies the intermingling of the pantheons of Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal.
The top of the Swyambhunath hill is the most fascinating. Shantipur; popularly known as the ‘Place of Peace.’ It’s said that inside the secret underground chamber of the Temple lives the 8th-century Tantric master, Shantikar Acharya. The master is believed; he has lived through centuries and has full control over the weather and the King of the Kathamndu.
The architectural beauty of the Swyambhunath temple gives way to the feelings of reverence and adoration. The Stupa consists of a dome at the base and a cubical structure with the eyes of Buddha looking in all the four directions. There are pentagonal Toran present above each of the four sides with statues engraved in them. Behind and above the Torana, there are thirteen tiers. Above all the tiers, there is a small space above which the Gajur is present.
According to Swyambhu Puran, the entire Kathmandu valley was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a mystical lotus. The valley came to be known as Swyambhu, meaning ‘self-created’ or ‘self-existent.’ The Tibetan traveler Manjushri has a vision of the lotus at Swyambhu and traveled there to worship it. In order to make the site more accessible to pilgrimage, Manjushri cut a gorge through the mountains surrounding the valley. The water drained out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The lotus was transformed into a hill, and the flower became the Swyambhnath stupa.
The biggest Stupa in the valley, also known as Khasti, is also enlisted in the World Heritage site. It looms 36 meters high and presents one of the fascinating specimens of stupa design. There are more than 45 Buddhist monasteries in the area. It lies about six kilometers to the east-north of Kathmandu downtown. The Bouddha Area, Preservation and Development committee, runs an information center for the convenience of its visitors.
Bouddhanath Stupa, the biggest Stupa in Nepal. The Bouddhanath stupa, also called by many as Khasti Chitya, is one of the oldest stupas in the country. After 1959, many Tibetans arrived and settled in the Bouddhanath area. The Stupa, a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site, is included in the World Heritage Cultural site list by UNESCO.
7 km east-north of Kathmandu
UNESCO World Heritage Site
UNESCO Listed: 1979
With a diameter of about 100 meters and 40-meter height, Bouddhanath holds its place among the largest Stupa in the world. The Bouddhanath Stupa covers a vast area. It has a round path at the bottom. The Stupa resembles the Swayambhunath stupa to some extent. The most impressive part of the Stupa is the eyes of Buddha which are painted with red, white, and blue colors.
Losar is the most popular festival celebrated at Boudhanath stupa. The Losar festival begins with prayers and worship. Thousands of Tibetans dress in traditional attire and dance after expressing reverence for Buddha. Numbers of Tibetians come to take part in this festival.
There are many monasteries in the Bouddhanath stupa. They are all impressively adorned and colorfully painted. Anyone can visit the monasteries and enjoy the attraction and architecture of the Stupa.
Patan Durbar Square
Situated in the heart of the city, it constitutes the focus of visitor’s attraction. The Square is full of ancient palaces, temples, and shrines noted for their exquisite carvings. The Patan Durbar Square consists of three main chowks and holds in its center a masterpiece of stone architecture, the Royal bath called Tushahity.
Built-in the seventeenth century, the Temple of Lord Krishna holds a commanding position in the palace complex of Patan. It is supposed to be the first specimen Shikhara style architecture in Nepal. It is the only temple in Nepal having 21 spires and is completely made of stone.
A little further east from Patan Durbar Square lies this Buddhist temple made of bricks in which thousands of images of Lord Buddha are engraved. The terra-cotta structure is one of the fourteenth-century Nepalese architectural masterpieces.
Hiranya Verna Mahavihar: Located inside Kwabadehal, this three storeys golden pagoda of Lokeshwor (Lord Buddha) was built in the twelfth century by King Bhaskar Verma. Inside the upper storey of the pagoda, are the golden image of Lord Buddha and a large prayer wheel.
The fine tiered Temple of Lord Shiva was built during the reign of King Jayasthiti Malla. A fair is held here on Janai Poornima in August.
The Ashokan Stupas
There are four ancient stupas popularly believed to have been built in 250 BC by Emperor Ashoka at the four corners of Patan. The four stupas are situated in Pulchok, Lagankhel, Ebahi, and Teta, respectively. These stupas give evidence to the city’s ancient religious importance.
It was established towards the beginning of the seventeenth century by one Achheshwor by building a temple to house an idol of Lord Buddha. The Mahavihar has recently been reconstructed. Situated behind the Ashokan Stupa at Pulchok the Mahavihar commands a beautiful view of the Kathmandu Valley.
Temple of Machhindranath and Minnath
The pagoda of Red Machhindranath built in 1408 AD situated in Tabahal. For six months the deity is taken to its other shrine in Bungmati. The Temple of Minnath is situated in Tagal on the way to Tabahal.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
The Golden Gate is the entrance to the main courtyard of the Palace with 55 windows. Built by King Ranjit Malla, the gate is one of the most beautiful and richly carved specimens of its kind in the entire world. This gate is embellished with deities and monsters with marvelous intricacy. The Palace of 55 windows was built in the seventeenth century. Among the brick walls in their gracious setting and sculptural design, is a balcony of 55 windows. This balcony is full of intricate carvings. This temple also sets a beautiful example of Shikhara style architecture in Nepal.
There is a bronze bell on the entrance of the Temple which is also known as the Bell of Barking Dogs. This colossal bell, placed in 1737 AD, was rung to signal curfew during those days is the superior artistry of the Golden Gate at Bhaktapur. The Main Square of the city contains innumerable temples and other architectural showpieces like the Lion Gate, the statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, the Picture Gallery, the Batsala Temple, and many others. A magnificent statue of King Bhupatindra Malla in the act of worship is placed on a column facing the Palace of the many windows.
The National Art Gallery
The gallery contains ancient and medieval paintings belonging to Hindu and Buddhist schools depicting Tantrism of various periodicals and descriptions.
This five storey pagoda was built in 1702 AD by King Bhupatindra Malla. It stands on a five terraced platform. On each of the terraces squat a pair of figures. This is one of the tallest pagodas and is famous for its massive structure and subtle artistry.
This temple was first built as a one storey pagoda but later changed into a three storey temple in the eighteenth century by King Bhupatindra Malla. The Temple is noted for its artistic grandeur. It is dedicated to Lord Bhairav; the god of terror.
The Temple was built in the fifteenth century. This Temple is said to have been constructed from the trunk of a single tree. Near this temple, there is a monastery with an exquisitely carved peacock window.
The Temple of Chagunarayan is one of the oldest temples of Kathmandu valley. The richness of Chagunarayan is surpassed only by the wealth of the greatest Temple of Pashupati. The Temple is sitting on the hillock called Changu – the name derived from the name of the god. Around the Temple, you will see the stone images of Garuda – the half-bird half-man that is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu – another name of Changunarayan. The superb image of Lord Vishnu astride the Garuda to the left of the main temple door is of such importance in Nepal’s art history that is featured on the ten rupee’s note. The most interesting one would be the half-day hike along the hill ridge route from Nagarkot to Changunarrayan.
Changu Narayan Temple, the oldest temple in Kathmandu valley came into existence in the 4th century. The Temple is adorned by some of the best specimens of stone, wood, and metal craft in the valley. The Temple stands as the epitome of culture, religion, history, and faith of the Kathmandu valley.
22 km east from Kathmandu
The oldest Temple in Kathmandu valley
4th century A.D.
Hindu Lord Shiva
Vishnu image with ten heads and ten arms
The beautiful and historic Temple of Changu Narayanstands on a hilltop at the eastern end of the valley, about 6km north of Bhaktapur and 22km from Kathmandu. It dates from 1702 when it was rebuilt after a fire; however, its origins go back to the 4th century and many of the stone sculptures dating from the Licchavi period (4th to 9th centuries). The Temple is a Unesco World Heritage site.
Despite the Temple’s beauty, its easy access from Bhaktapur, and the proximity of some fine walks nearby, it attracts relatively few visitors.
The one street of Changu Village leads up from the car park past a central way, water tank, and Ganesh shrine, before ascending past Thangka and wooden mask shops to the temple entrance.
The double-roofed Temple is dedicated to Vishnu in his incarnation as Narayan and is exceptionally beautiful, with quite amazingly intricate roof struts depicting multi-armed Tantric deities. It is fronted on the west side by a kneeling figure of Garuda said to date from the 5th century. The man-bird mount of Vishnu has a snake around his neck and kneels with hands in the Namaste position facing the Temple. Stone lions guard the wonderfully gilded door, which is flanked by equally detailed gilded windows. Two pillars at the front corners carry a conch and disc, the traditional symbols of Vishnu. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple itself, which is normally shut anyway.
The Temple’s real gems are the incredible, much older sculptures dotted around the courtyard. In the southwest corner are several notable images, including one of Vishnu as Narasimha, his man-lion incarnation, disemboweling a demon? Another, to the left, shows him as Vikrantha/Vamana, the six-armed dwarf who transformed into a giant capable of crossing the universe in three steps during his defeat of King Bali. He is in a characteristic ‘action poses,’ with his leg raised high. To the side of these images is a small black slab showing a 10-headed and 10-armed Vishnu, with Ananta reclining on a serpent below. The scenes are divided into three sections – the underworld, the world of man, and the heavens. The beautifully carved image is around 1500 years old.
In the northwestern corner, there is a 7th-century image of Vishnu astride the Garuda, which is illustrated on the Rs 10 banknote. In front of the Garuda figure that faces the front of the Temple is the oldest stone inscription in the valley, dating from 464 AD. The inscription is in Sanskrit and tells how the King persuaded his mother not to commit Sati (ritual suicide) after his father’s death.
Also interesting are the statues of King Bhupatindra Malla and his queen, kneeling in a gilded cage in front of the Temple. In the center of the courtyard, triangular bricks are used, while out towards the edge there are older, rounded-corner bricks.
Just outside the temple complex is the Bhimsen Pati, with its stone guardians; the remains of the Balamphu royal residence on the north side; and a small open-air collection of sculptures to the south, behind the Changhu Peaceful Cottage.
Back in Changu is the Changu Museum(admission Rs 140; 7 am-6 pm), which gives a funky introduction to traditional valley life, exhibited in a 160-year-old house. Look for the rhino-skin shield, the 2nd-century leather coins, Tantric astrology books, and 225-year-old rice! It’s worth a visit, though the recent 300% ticket hike is a bit cheeky.
Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. It is located in the plains south of the first foothill of the Churia range. Lumbini is a sacred place for Buddhists from all over the world, standing on an equal footing with holy places sacred to other world religions. A veteran Asian traveler and author of several books write, ‘As millions of Christians look to Jerusalem for inspiration, as millions of Muslims turn to Mecca, so do three hundred million Buddhists see in the sacred Kingdom of Nepal, a pillar left by the great Emperor Ashoka to mark the site where Buddha was born.
The Ashoka Pillar discovered in 1895 by a German archaeologist, white wandering the foothills of the Churia range, a massive stone pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC to pay homage to the birthplace of the Buddha. It is said that the Indian emperor visited Lumbini Garden in the twentieth year of his coronation.
King Piyadasi, beloved of the gods, having been anointed twenty years, came himself and worshipped saying: “Here Buddha Sakyamuni was born. He caused a stone pillar to be erected because the worshipful one was born here. The village of Lumbini has been made free of taxes and a recipient of wealth.”
The next visible monument in Lumbini is the Temple of Maya Devi containing a stone relief depicting the birth scene of Lord Buddha. The bas-relief shows Maya Devi supporting herself by holding on to a branch of a Sal tree, and the newborn infant Buddha standing upright on a lotus pedestal. Two celestial figures are engaged in the act of pouring water and lotuses from heaven, indicated in the sculpture by a delineation of clouds. The Maya Devi shrine has been worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists since the beginning of the Christian era and is believed to have been built over the foundation of at least one earlier Temple or Stupa.
To the south of the Maya Devi temple is the famous sacred pool of ‘Puskarani,’ believed to be the same sacred pool in which queen Maya Devi bathed just before giving birth to Buddha. It is also believed to be the same sacred pool in which queen Maya Devi bathed just before giving birth to Buddha. It is also believed to be the pool where the infant Buddha was given his first purification bath. The structure consists of three projecting terraces in descending order and is riveted with the brick masonry.
Lumbini is the place where the Buddha, known as the Tathagata, was born. It is the place which should be visited and seen by a person of devotion and which should cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence.’ Tathagata – One who has found the Truth.
The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is the Mecca of every Buddhist, being one of the four holy places of Buddhism. It is said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse, and death. All of these events happened outside in nature under trees. While there is not any particular significance in this, other than it perhaps explains why Buddhists have always respected the environment and natural law.
Lumbini is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas in modern Nepal. In the Buddha’s time, Lumbini was a beautiful garden full of green and shady Sal trees (Shorea). The garden and its tranquil environs were owned by both the Shakyas and Kolias clans. King Suddhodana, the father of Gautama Buddha, was of the Shakya dynasty belonging to the Kshatriya or the warrior caste. Maya Devi, his mother, gave birth to the child on her way to her parent’s home in Devadaha while taking rest in Lumbini under a sal tree in the month of May in the year 642 B.C. The beauty of Lumbini is described in Pali and Sanskrit literature. Maya Devi, it is said was spellbound to see the natural grandeur of Lumbini. While she was standing, she felt labor pains and catching hold of a drooping branch of a Sal tree, the baby, the future Buddha, was born.
The bas relief above depicts Maya Devi with her right hand holding on to a branch of a sal tree with a newborn child standing upright on a lotus petal, shedding an oval halo, around his head, while two celestial figures pour water and lotuses from vessels of heaven as indicated by the delineation of clouds. This nativity scene was installed by Malla Kings of the Naga dynasty from about the 11th to 15th Centuries in the Karnali zone of Nepal.
In 249 BC, when Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini, it was a flourishing village. Ashoka constructed four stupas and a stone pillar with a figure of a horse on top. The stone pillar bears an inscription which, in English translation, runs as follows: “King Piyadasi (Ashoka), beloved of devas, in the 20 years of the coronation, himself made a royal visit, Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here, a stone railing was built and a stone pillar erected to the Bhagavan having been born here, Lumbini village was taxed reduced and entitled to the eight-part (only)”.
Maya Devi Temple
Lumbini remained neglected for centuries. In 1895, Fuehrer, a famous German archaeologist, discovered the great pillar while wandering about the foothills of the Churia range. Further exploration and excavation of the surrounding area revealed the existence of a brick temple and a sandstone sculpture within the Temple itself, which depicts the scenes of the Buddha’s birth.
It is pointed out by scholars that the Temple of Maya Devi was constructed over the foundations of more than one earlier Temple or Stupa, and that this Temple was probably built on an Ashokan stupa itself. On the south of the Maya Devi temple, there is the famous sacred bathing pool known as Puskarni. It is believed that Maya Devi took a bath in this pool before the delivery. By the side of the Ashoka pillar, there is a river which flows southeast and is locally called the ‘Ol’ river. In 1996, an archaeological dig unearthed a “flawless stone” placed there by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 249 BC to mark the precise location of the Buddha’s birth more than 2,600 years ago, if authenticated, the find will put Lumbini even more prominently on the map for millions of religious pilgrims.
Recently, several beautiful shrines have been built by devotees from Buddhist countries. A visit to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, is not only for spiritual enlightenment but also for solace and satisfaction that one gets in such a calm and peaceful place.