Buddhism and Tibetan culture is a sight that is evident across Nepal. Monks in red, devoted pilgrims, worshippers chanting prayers, and the numerous temples that are elegantly built for the mortal folks to offer their prayers create the country’s religious scene.
And among these temples are the most beautiful monasteries with brilliant architecture, gorgeous designs with symbolism, and interesting legends surrounding them. It’s more jaw-dropping to think that these majestic monasteries were built as far back as the 4th century! For travelers who are looking for a new experience or have a love for all things architecture, history and myths, here are the top 3 monasteries you shouldn’t miss during your time in Kathmandu.
With a splendid view of the Kathmandu valley, fresh air like nowhere else, and beautiful architecture that showcases the divinity of Buddhism, Kopan Monastery sits atop the Kopan Hill on the outskirts of Kathmandu and is a famous monastery in Nepal.
With roots steeped in Tibet, Kopan Monastery was founded in 1969 by Lamas Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche and has now become one of the focal places for teaching Buddhism.
Around the main temples are some great stonework and statues. A row of beautiful eight stupas of enlightenment represents the eight great deeds of Shakyamuni Buddha. Another stunning work of art is the Thousand Buddha Relic Stupa standing in a circular pond with the statue of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, placed infront of it.
But Kopan Monastery is also known for more than its beautiful architecture and its holy art. This monastery also offers courses and retreats where you can live with the monks in Nepal and study their values of Buddhism.
Swayambunath Stupa (Monkey Temple)
The Swayambunath Temple or also known as the Monkey Temple is one of the must-visit temples in Nepal. This temple is one of the oldest and most sacred religious sites in the country of the Himalayas. The name “Swayambhu” means “self-existent” and the temple was believed to be built in 460 AD. The name “self-existent” comes from the legend surrounding the Stupa that says Swayambhu sprang from a lotus in a lake that once ran across the Kathmandu valley.
There are two entrance points to the temple. One, where you can reach the top with a car by road. Or two, a long staircase with 365 steps leading up to the main entrance of the temple. These steps are decorated with beautiful stupa designs on the side and the first sight that greets the eye at the top of the stairway is the Vajra. The white dome of the Stupa stands large behind the Vajra, with eyes of the Budhha painted on the dome to watch over the valley.
A UNESCO Heritage Site, Boudha or Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest in the world. Sitting smack dab in the middle of Kathmandu, this humongous stupa is surrounded by several other monasteries, temples, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Believed to be built as far back as the 4th century, Boudhanath stupa is an important pilgrimage site for worshippers and Tibetan monks. Legend says that this particular stupa houses the relics of Kassapa Buddha or the bones of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.
Worshippers who offer their prayers here believe that the gates of Hell are closed on them and so they will be forever blessed with wealth, health, peace and positivity.
Travelers can climb this stupa up to its three platforms and see the heart of the pilgrimage site from above while listening to the chants of the devotees, monks in their traditional red attire making their way to monasteries below, and the energetic hustle and bustle of fellow travelers that made their way to see this gorgeous building.
Disclaimer: All images in this post are copyrighted to the author of this site and cannot be shared without permission