Monasteries in Tibet

Posted Jul 20th, 2009 under Travel Guide,

Drepung Monastery : Built in 1416, Drepung Monastery is the first of the three principle monasteries of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism. Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism is the branch followed by most Tibetans, and the most influential figure in this faith is the Dalai Lama. Drepung Monastery used to be the living quarters of  Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of the Potala Palace by the Fifth Dalai Lama between 1645 and 1694.The monastery lies five kilometers west of Lhasa city at the foot of  Mount Gambo Utse.

Sera Monastery: Sera was the last of the three principal Gelugpa or Yellow Hat Buddhist monasteries to be built in Lhasa. Sera Monastery is located about five kilometers north of the Jokhang in Lhasa. It was completed in 1419, under the supervision of Shaka Yeshe. Sera comprises a great sutra chanting hall, a college and 32 sections.

Ganden Monastery: Ganden Monastery was founded in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, the originator of the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat sect. It is one of the three principle Gelugpa monasteries in the Lhasa district. Ganden Monastery is perched just short of the top of Mount Wanrigu or Wangbur, 30 kilometers east of Lhasa, at an altitude of 4500m. Ganden consists of many temples and other buildings.

Rongbuk Monastery : Rongbuk monastery lies at a distance of 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Everest (North)Base Camp. The monastery was built in 1899, as a Nyingmapa monastery .Sakyamuni and Padmasambhava are enshrined in the small temple. 300 meters (980 feet) south of the monastery is the famous Rongbuk Glacier.

Sakya Monastery : Sakya, meaning “Grey Soil” in Tibetan since the soil surrounding it is gray. The walls of the monastery are  painted in red, white and grey colors to represent Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani respectively. Sakya Monastery belongs to the first Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and occupies an area of  14,700 square km.  The Sakya Sect ruled Tibet for more than 70 years. Thus the monastery has a colossal collection of highly valuable art pieces, including 3,000 pieces of sutras that have thousands of years history.

Tashilhunpo Monastery: Tashilhunpo Monastery is one of the six big monasteries of Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat) Sect in Tibet. Also called the “Heap of Glory”, the monastery is located beneath Drolmari (Tara’s Mountain) in Shigatse. The monastery attracts thousands of Buddhists and tourists every year.

Samye Monastery, founded in 779 AD, is in a green valley among barren mountains surrounded by a village. Built between 763 and 75 AD and modeled on the University of Otantapuri in India, it was planned as a representation of the universe. Located at the foot of Mt. Hepo Ri, on the north bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River of Zharang County, Samye Monastery is about 38 kilometers from Tsedang.

Mindroling Monastery, founded at the end of the 10th century and renovated in 1677, is one of the three major monasteries of the Nyingmapa or Red Hat Sect in Tibet. This monastery laid special stress on the knowledge learning of the Buddhist scriptures, astronomy, Tibetan lunar calendar, calligraphy, rhetoric, Tibetan medicine etc. A distinctive feature of Mindroling monastery is the fact that the monks who reside there can have wives and children. The monastery lies in Zanang County, 43 kilometers east of Lhasa, on the south side of Tsangpo river.

The Tsurpu monastery situated at an altitude of 4300m has a history of 800years. Located high in the tributary of the Tolung Valley, the huge temples and chanting halls of Tsurphu monastery has been rebuilt from the rubble of the Cultural Revolution.Besides its typical Tibetan style, it is three times as large as Potala Palace.

Nepalese Cuisine – In Brief

Posted Jan 21st, 2009 under Food & Accommodation, Travel Guide,

A casual greeting in Nepalese goes “Khana khanu bhayo?” (Have you taken your meal?). This gives us an idea about the important role that food plays in Nepalese daily life. The staple fare in Nepal is dal, bhat and tarkari (rice, lentils and curry). Dal is a soup made with lentils, while bhat is boiled rice and tarkari is vegetable curry. This is accompanied by achar or pickles and sometimes masu or meat curry. Though dishes vary in range and type according to the region, dal-bhat gets the vote for the national dish as every Nepali kitchen prepares it. But the ethnic cuisines are worth trying, and well, if you want to dip into Nepalese culture one needs to be more adventurous with ones taste buds.

The following text gives you a brief description on ‘what’s cooking’ in different Nepalese kitchens.

Kathmandu: Kathmandu is the home of Newars, a community famous for their elaborate feasts (bhoj). Momocha ( steamed or fried dumplings), choyila (buff cubes fried with spices and greens), palula (spicy buff with ginger sauce) ,kachila (a paté of minced raw buff, mixed with ginger and mustard oil), chatamari (a sort of pancake or pizza made with rice flour),woh or bara(fried lentil-flour patties), kwati (a soup made with several varieties of sprouted beans), musya palu (a dry mix of roasted soya beans and ginger) , bhuti (boiled soya beans with spices and herbs), pancha kol (a curry made with five vegetables) , alu – tamaa ( potato with bamboo shoot), all find a place in the Newari platter. Usually mustard oil is used for cooking and for seasoning, spices such as fenugreek , cumin, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger , bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chili, mustard seeds, etc. are used. Newars prepare some of the dishes only during festivals and certain time of the year. For instance, yomari a sticky rice cake stuffed with a mixture of jaggery and sesame seed is prepared during the Yomari Punhi, a full moon festival celebrated during December.

newari_food

[Newari Dish – popular cuisine in Kathmandu – consisting of Bara, Chewra, Choiyla, & Achar]

yomari

[Yomari ]

Jomsom & Mustang: Along the trekking trails of Jomsom and Mustang one may come across Thakkali tea- houses and lodges with neat and tidy kitchens that serves tasty Thakkali fare. It is believed no one can beat the Thakkalis when it comes to serving the best dal-bhat and tarkari. Like true connoisseurs, the Thakkalis pay close attention to the presentation and visual appeal while serving food. Thakkali cooks give a distinct flavour to their preparation by using unique Himalayan spices like Timur (a sort of pepper with a fiery taste , commonly used in marinades and achars) and Jimbu (Himalayan herb, used fresh or dry),

In the Hills: Among the highland Bhotias the staple is tsampa or ground roasted barley flour. It requires no cooking and is taken with tea and yak cheese. In Khumbu, the Sherpa homeland, they reap a good potato havest. Boiled potatoes are peeled and eaten with salt and pounded chilies and garlic. Rigi kur is a delicious crispy potato pancake served with a lump of yak butter.Thukpa, or noodle and vegetable and meat broth is also quite popular.

Saelroti: Saelroti, a spongy rice doughnut prepared from well-mixed fermented rice batter, is a food item that is uniquely Nepali in character. Important festivals like Dassein and Tihar are incomplete without the preparation of saelroti.

[Photo Credit: Reshma Shrestha]

Chitwan Travel Guide

Posted Dec 20th, 2007 under Travel Guide,

Exploring the Jungle of Chitwan

With its lush forests and exotic fauna which include the rare one horned rhino, the Royal Bengal tiger, crocodiles, elephants, deer and over four-hundred species of birds, the Royal Chitwan National Park offers one of the finest wildlife experiences in Asia. Lying in the Terai belt, and ringed by the Churia Hills, Chitwan is flanked by the rivers Rapti, Reu and Narayani . The Royal Chitwan National Park was established in 1973 and is the oldest National Park in Nepal. The park became a World Heritage Site in 1984. It covers a total area of 932 sq. kms.
During the late 19th century, Chitwan was the private hunting reserve of the Rana Prime Ministers. In 1911, King George V led a hunting party to Chitwan and is said to have shot thirty-seven tigers and eight rhinos. The jungle of Chitwan was a favorite haunt among Nepalese royalty. It is said during 1933-40 the king and his guests killed around four hundred and thirty-three tigers and fifty-three rhinos. By the late 1960s the population of rhinos and tigers in Chitwan had dwindled drastically due to indiscriminate hunting and poaching. The declaration of Chitwan as a national park in1973 and the imposition of strict measures against poaching and unauthorized conversion of forest to farmland have helped in increasing the wildlife population. At present Chitwan National Park is regarded as one of the most developed and most frequently visited of Nepal’s national parks.

Things to do & Places to Visit
The greatest thrill while at Chitwan is the traditional elephant ride. Taking an elephant ride to the jungle is an experience of a lifetime. The lodges inside the park have their own elephants. Three or sometimes four people can ride atop an elephant. Elephant safaris usually start in the early morning or late afternoon .There are also jeep tours available inside the park. The best months for this is from mid-February when the elephant grass has been cut, allowing unobstructed views. You can also take a walk inside the park, provided you are accompanied by guides. Canoeing along the Rapti or Narayani rivers is the most restful way of watching the wildlife especially the aquatic birds and crocodiles. Several lodges arrange visits to nearby Tharu villages. Tharus, the original inhabitants of Chitwan, have their own culture, language and customs which is quite different from that of the Nepalese hill people. A visit to the elephant breeding camp and the gharial breeding centre can also be informative.

Local vegetation
The jungle vegetation is dominated by sal forest and open grassland .There are also flowering species of trees like the silk cotton, acacia and flame of the forest. These trees bloom from January to early spring and fill the forest with their colorful blooms. The tall elephant grass dominates the grassland and gives it a savanna like appearance.

Wildlife
The park is home to the great one-horned Indian rhino, the world’s third largest land mammal. They feed on grass, which is also their normal habitat and move alone or in groups. The elephants seen frequently at the park are trained and tamed. The tamed elephants are used for elephant rides as well as to carry heavy loads in Chitwan. The Royal Bengal tiger, at the most  remains elusive from prying eyes, but if one is lucky one may chance upon the royal beast ambling alone or sunning itself. The tigers are by nature reclusive and do not attack unless provoked or hunting for food. There are four different species of deer living in the park – the barking deer, the hog deer, the sambar deer and the spotted deer. Different species of birds have been recorded here. The Indian peafowl, the black headed oriole, and the openbill stork are some. The park’s rivers and marshes are home to various reptiles like the pythons, crocodiles, gharials, which feed on fishes and the marsh mugger. The common leopard, langur and rhesus monkey also make up the park’s wildlife population.

Getting there
Chitwan is accessible by car or bus on the Kathmandu -Mugling-Narayanghat Highway or via the Mahendra Highway from Hetauda. It takes around six hours to drive from Kathmandu to Narayanghat. Air-services from Kathmandu to Meghauli and Bharatpur is also available. The best time to visit the park from is from October to February. Many of the park lodges are closed between May to August, the rainy season.At Chitwan, you can stay inside the park. A variety of lodges are available, from multi-starred to basic but comfortable. Travelers can also stay at Sauraha, which has some high end accommodation.

Nepal Wildlife Safari Tour

Posted Dec 20th, 2007 under Travel Guide,

Nepal is home to a fascinating variety of animals and birds including the endangered species like the Royal Bengal tiger and one horned rhinoceros. Wildlife tours in the National Parks are greatly enjoyed activities in Nepal. Nepal is a tiny country, but enjoys a climatic diversity ranging from hot/humid to alpine/arctic conditions hence harboring an incredible variety of flora and fauna. Nepal is rich in wild life. The tropical jungles of the Terai preserve some of the best wildlife habitat in the subcontinent. Nepal has 16 national parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas, occupying 16 percent of its total geographical area.
Some famous National parks that lie in the plains (Terai) of Nepal are Bardia National Park, Koshi Tapu Wildlife Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve .Bardia National Park in the western Terai provide some of the best wildlife and nature viewing places in Asia. For the more serious bird watcher the Koshi Tapu Wildlife Park, in south-east Nepal, provide a unique venue for watching migratory waterfowl, waders and shore birds that congregate along the Koshi River from December to February every year. We have a choice of Jungle Lodges, Tented Camps and Guest Houses from where you can explore the Himalayan parks and its wildlife. Jungle safaris on elephant back or jeep rides are offered at the Parsa Wildlife Reserve, which is located in terai. Another famous national park, the Makalu-Barun National Park is in mountainous area of the Himalayas in northern Nepal, it includes the rich forested valleys of the Barun and seven other rivers. Wildlife tour in the park unfold unlimited plethora of fun, adventure, excitement and pleasure.

animals in nepal animals in nepal

animals in nepal

Royal Bardia National Park

The Royal Bardia National Park is the largest and least-disturbed wilderness area in the Terai. It was established in 1988. One can savor the forest and its unique sanctuary on a quite nature walk with a local guide. It covers an area of 968 square kilometer.). The area of belonging to the park was declared a buffer zone in 1997. It is located in the mid-far western Terai, to the east of the Karnali River. Royal Bardia National Park has immense amount of accumulated plants, animals and ecosystem.

Wildlife:
Royal Bardia National Park, the largest park in the lowland Terai houses more than 30 different mammals, varieties of species of snakes, lizards and fish, endangered animals such as the Bengal tiger, blue bulls, wild elephants, greater one horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, wild boars, langur and rhesus monkeys, civets, hyenas, rhesus macaque, jackal wild dogs, sloth bears, otters, tiger, black buck, gharial crocodile, marsh mugger and gigantic dolphin, threatened birds such as Bengal Florican, Lesser Florican and Sarus Crane. Adding charm to the Park, several migratory birds visit the park. The park is marked as bird watcher’s paradise, consisting of beautiful and colorful bird. During your pleasurable visit to the park, you get ample opportunity to enjoy elephant safari, bird watching, rafting along Karnali River, village tour, cultural program and crocodile breeding center tour.

Flora:
The park is the largest and most undisturbed wilderness area in the Terai. About 70% of this vibrant park is embodied with Sal trees adjusted with a mixture of riverine forest, grassland and Savannah. The approximately 1500 people who lived in this valley have been resettled elsewhere. Since farming has ceased in the Babai Valley, natural vegetation is regenerating, making it an area of prime habitat for wildlife.

Entry Fee Per Person Per Day:
For the Foreign Nationals, the entry fee per person per day in this Royal Bardia National Park is around Rs500/-. (Note: Entrance fee not required for children under 10 years).

animals in nepal animals in nepal

animals in nepal

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve:

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was established in 1976, and covers an area of 175 square kilometers. The reserve is named after the biggest river of Nepal, the Koshi. It is located on the flood plain of the Koshi River in the eastern Terai of Nepal. It is a major residing, staging and wintering site for waterfowls and waders in the subcontinent.

Wildlife:
With the opening of Koshi Tappu Reserve, bird watching is gaining grounds in Nepal. This reserve is a home to around 441 species of birds, 30 shore birds, 114 water birds, 20 ducks and 2 ibises The Koshi Barrage is an extremely important resting-place for migratory birds numbering to 87 winter visitors. Bird watching is a very pleasant experience during late autumn and early spring when the migration occurs. The Koshi River which forms the major landmark of the reserve is home to 80 fish species. The endangered Gharial crocodile and Gangetic dolphin have been recorded in the river. The last surviving population of wild buffalo or arna in Nepal is found here. Its number at present is estimated to be 150. The reserve is a habitat of 20 other animal species such as hog deer, spotted deer, wild boar, blue bull and rock python.

Flora:
The vegetation mainly includes tall khar-pater grasslands with a few patches of khair-sissoo scrub forest and deciduous mixed riverine forest. The reserve also assists the local economy by providing fishing permits and allowing the collection of edible fruits and ferns in season.

Entry Fee Per Person Per Day:
For the Foreign Nationals, the entry fee per person per day in this Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is around Rs500/-. (Note: Entrance fee not required for children under 10 years).

animals in nepal Wildlife safari in Nepal

animals in nepal

Parsa Wildlife Reserve:

Parsa Wildlife Reserve is located in the south-central lowland Terai of Nepal. The 499 square kilometer of pristine sub-tropical jungle makes Parsa Nepal’s largest wildlife reserve. It was established in 1984. Parsa Wildlife Reserve occupies parts of Chitwan, Makawanpur, Parsa and Bara districts in central Nepal.

Wildlife:
The reserve supports good population of various endangered species wild Asian elephant, tiger, Royal Bengal tiger, Sloth bear, and Leopard. Blue bull, Sambar, Chital, Hog deer, Barding deer, Langur, Rhesus macaques, striped hyena, Jungle cat, and Palm civet are also found in the reserve.
There are nearly 300 species of birds in the reserve. White breasted kingfisher, Paradise flycatcher, large racquet-tailed drongo, Golden backed woodpecker, etc are some of the common sights. Giant hornbill, one of the endangered bird species is found in some forest patches. The reserve is also famous for reptiles and different kinds of snakes include common cobra, common and banded karit, python and king cobra having hot tropical climate.

Flora:
The dominant landscape of the reserve is the Churiya hills ranging from 750 meter to 950 meter and running east-west through the reserve. The reserve has sub-tropical forest types with sal constituting 90% of the vegetation. In the Churiya hills and along the streams, chir pine grows. Khair, sissoo and the silk cotton tree also occur. Sabai grass, a commercially important species, grows well along southern face of the Churiya hills.

Entry Fee Per Person Per Day:
For the Foreign Nationals, the entry fee per person per day in this Parsa Wildlife Reserve is around Rs5, 00/-. (Note: Entrance fee not required for children under 10 years).

animals in nepal animals in nepal

Wildlife safari in Nepal

Makalu-Barun National Park

The park and conservation area are situated in the Sankhuwasabha and Solukhumbu Districts. The park was established in 1992. It is bordered by Sagarmatha National Park, the Arun River and the Tibetan border; it includes the rich forested valleys of the Barun and seven other rivers. The 2,330 square kilometer region is located only 10 km southeast of Mount Everest which takes its name from the fifth highest peak in the world, Makalu, and the Barun Valley. In a country known for dramatic scenery, Makalu-Barun is a place of particularly spectacular scenery, a rugged landscape of towering Himalayan peaks and deep river gorges. This is the only protected area in Nepal with a strict nature reserve. The park has some of the richest and most unique pockets of plants and animals of Nepal.

Wildlife:
Over 400 species of birds have been sighted in the Makalu-Barun area, including two species never before seen in Nepal the spotted wren babbler and the olive ground warbler. Wildlife includes the endangered red panda, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard and possibly snow leopard, in addition to more substantial populations of ghoral, thar, wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan marmot and weasel, common langur monkey and the serow. The Arun river system contains 84 varieties of fish.

Flora:
Stepping up the slopes are a series of vegetation zones starting with tropical Schima-Castanopsis forest (1000-2000m), rhododendron forests in the sub-alpine (3000-4000 m); and herbs, grasses and rhododendron/juniper shrubs in the alpine pastures (4000-5000 m). Recognized for its tremendous diversity of plants, animals and people, the area contains 25 species of rhododendron, 47 types of orchids, 67 species of economically valuable medicinal and aromatic plants, 19 species of bamboo, 15 oaks including Arkhoulo, 86 species of fodder trees and 48 species of primrose.

Entry Fee Per Person Per Day:
For the Foreign Nationals, the entry fee per person per day in this Makalu Barun National Park is around Rs 1, 000/-. (Note: Entrance fee not required for children under 10 years).

WILDLIFE SAFARI TOURS IN NEPAL

Kathmandu – The Legends and Myths that Surround the Valley

Posted Dec 20th, 2007 under Travel Guide,

The Kathmandu valley is made up of three historic cities: Kathmandu, Patan (Lalitpur) and Bhaktapur. Kathmandu, a city filled with medieval temples, palaces and modern high rise structures, is a fusion of the old and the new. With a rich past and a history that speaks of gods and goddesses mingling with mere mortals, one can find a story behind every temple, monument, locality or festival. The valley of Kathmandu abounds in tales and legends, stories that have been handed down from generation to generation. Though an outsider may find these tales far fetched, yet it is the belief and faith of the people that has kept the cultural heritage of this ancient valley alive and breathing. Here are some of the popular myths and legends that surround the three medieval cities.

When Kathmandu was a lake………..
According to a popular legend the valley of Kathmandu was once a lake. There were lotuses floating around this big lake. Once, the Boddhisattva Manjushri saw a bright flame coming out of a lotus that seemed to be planted in a hill. He wanted to have a closer look, so with a strike from his sword of wisdom he cut a gorge near Chobar hill. The water from the lake drained out of this gorge and the valley of Kathmandu came into being. Chobar with its famous gorge is situated 9kms South-west of Kathmandu.

The bright flame and the lotus turned into the Swayambhunath stupa. The shrine is holy to both Hindus and Buddhists. This is the one of the UNESCO cultural heritage site.

It lies 3-kms west of Kathmandu City and is situated on a hillock about 77meters above the valley. It is believed that the followers of Manjushri established a city near the Swayambhunath known as Manjupatan.
According to another legend, it was Lord Krishna who slashed through the gorge with a powerful thunderbolt to drain the waters that submerged the valley of Kathmandu.

The story of Kasthamandap, the wooden building, Kathmandu is named after……
Once, the celestial tree Kalpavriksha came in human form to the city to witness a festival. A learned tantric saw through his disguise and bound him with a spell which he was prepared to break if Kalpavriksha provided wood from the celestial tree to build a large building. Kalpavriksha accepted and the wood was provided. A huge three tier wooden building was built from the wood. The wooden structure stands to this day with an image of Gorakhnath at the centre of the ground floor. Named Kasthamandap, the building is said to be constructed out of a single tree. The city of Kathmandu is named after this wooden building. Kasthamandap stands in the Kathmandu Durbar Square, located at the centre of the city.

The House of the Living goddess (Kumari Bahal)……..
Legend has it that the Goddess Taleju used to visit the king in human form at night to advice him and to play dice. One night the king, Jaya Prakash Malla, looked at the goddess lustfully. Enraged the goddess announced that she would never come to him again. She predicted that both the end of his reign and the fall of his dynasty were at hand. When the king begged for forgiveness, the goddess at last made a concession. The king was to select a virgin child from a Newari caste, proclaim her the living goddess Kumari and worship her, for in this child she herself would manifest.
The Kumari is selected from the Newari caste of Sakya goldsmiths who are Buddhists. She must have the thirty-two virtues, among which is an unblemished body, the voice of a bird, and the neck of a duck. She must never cry or show fear. To test her courage the child is shut in a room where severed heads of sacrificed animals are placed. The one that emerges without a trace of fear is the chosen one. Her horoscope must match that of the king in every detail. She must also not bleed. As soon as she bleeds during puberty or due to an injury the goddess is believed to leave her body and the child is relieved of her duties as a living goddess and the search for another goddess begins.

The Living goddess is housed in a building overlooking the Hanumandhoka palace and the Taleju temple, at the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The entrance to the building is guarded by large stone lions. If one is lucky, one can get the darshan of the Kumari as she looks out from the window of the second floor. During the Kumari Jatra, which coincides with the Indra Jatra celebrations, the king comes to receive tika from the Kumari. The king offers a gold coin and touches the feet of Kumari while seeking her blessings.

Where the Divine couple Dwell…………
While taking a walk across Kathmandu Durbar Square you will come across the statue of a couple looking out from the first floor window of an ancient house. The couple is none other than the divine couple Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. In the days of yore, it is said that Lord Shiva visited Kathmandu to see the divine dances performed during the festivals. Later on he was accompanied by Goddess Parvati in his daily jaunts. It was King Rana Bahadur Shah who decided to have a house built for the divine couple. The house, which is elaborately decorated, lies on a raised plinth which has a grandstand view of the old palace square. The images of Shiva and Parvati rest on a window rail looking out over the passing scene.

The Golden doorway to the Hanuman Dhoka Palace…..
In the middle of Kathmandu Durbar Square is the imposing Hanuman Dhoka palace. Once the royal quarters of the Malla kings and the Shah rulers, the palace now houses a museum. A kneeling figure of Hanuman guards the palace’s golden gate. The idol was built during the time of King Pratap Malla in 1672. A scarlet cloth covers his head and eyes to prevent him from seeing the erotic carvings on the nearby Jagganath temple. The golden doorway to the palace is guarded by the figures of Shiva and Shakti astride two lions.

Taleju Bhawani, the Temple dedicated to the royal goddess………..
The most majestic temple at the Durbar Square in Kathmandu is the one dedicated to the patron goddess of the royal house, Taleju Bhawani. When it was built, the Malla king ordered that no other building in Kathmandu should rise higher than its gilded roofs. It was raised on several receding brick plinths, to attain its imposing height. Only royalty is allowed to worship at the temple, except during the festival of Dassain when its doors are thrown open for the public to pay respects to the goddess and offer sacrifices.

The Holiest of shrine, Pashupatinath…………
At the present place where the temple of Pashupati rests, there used to be a mound. A cow frequented this mound and offered her milk there. A cowherd noticed this strange occurrence and out of curiosity, dug at this spot. As he began digging a great light poured out. The light had come out from a linga with faces of Shiva carved on four sides. The people built a shrine to shelter this linga. This shrine came to be known as Pashupatinath, dedicated to Lord Shiva in his incarnation as Pashupatinath, the protector of animals. Thus no animal is sacrificed within the temple. Situated 5-kms east of Kathmandu,  and lying on the banks of the holy river Bagmati, the two tiered pagoda temple with heavily gilded roofs includes many small temples, dharamshalas, bathing and burning ghats (where the last rites for the dead are performed). The ornate silver doors of the temple are closed to non-Hindus. But one can clearly see the temple and rituals being performed from the eastern bank of the Bagmati River. The temple is listed in the UNESCO world Heritage Monument list. The temple comes alive during Maha Shivratri, the night of Lord Shiva, which falls in the month February/March. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the temple to celebrate the night dedicated to Lord Shiva. Another festival that is celebrated at Pashupatinath is Teej. This festival is celebrated in the month of Bhadra (August/September). On this day women observe a fast and pray to Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands. From dawn, a long line of women dressed colorfully in red saris and green pote (glass beads), carrying an offering to Lord Shiva can be seen. Many of them dance and sing in groups while waiting for their turn to worship at the shrine.

Boudhanath, the Stupa of a Million Dewdrops………
Once, a king who ruled over Kathmandu constructed a pool near his palace with three stone fountains. But no water gushed out of the fountains. He consulted his oracles who advised him that a man possessing the thirty-two virtues should be sacrificed at the spot. The king summoned his son and told him to go to the spring at dawn and severe the head of a shrouded person he would find sleeping there. The prince did as he was told and water gushed out from the fountains. But to his dismay he found that the shrouded person he had killed was his own father. Driven by his grief he left the palace and led the life of an ascetic. A terrible drought plagued the kingdom. The prince had a visitation from goddess Bajra Yogini who ordered him to build a shrine to Buddha. She told him to release a white bird and at the place where the bird lands to build the shrine. He began the construction work but since there was no water to mix the clay and sand, large sheets were spread upon the ground each night to be saturated with dew. When wrung out, the sheets provided the necessary water. This was carried on for twelve long years, when at last the stupa of a million dewdrops stood completed at last. The huge white dome of the Boudhanath rests upon three enormous tiers. The Stupa of Bouddhnath lies 8-kms east of Kathmandu. This is the one of the UNESCO cultural heritage sites of Nepal.

Akash Bhairav, the temple of the Kirat King slain during the epic battle of Mahabharata………….
The Kirats are the first documented rulers of the Kathmandu Valley. The remains of their palace are said to be in Patan near Hiranyavarna Mahavihara (called “Patukodon”).

The first and best remembered king was Yalambar. Legend has it that when Yalamber heard about the great battle that was fought in the distant plains of Kurukshetra, he too wanted to participate in this battle. So donning a fierce and silver mask of Bhairab, the Lord of Terror, he went with his army. At the battle field he was met by Lord Krishna who asked him whose side he was on. He replied that he would take the side of the   losing army. Lord Krishna fearing that the fearsome warrior would join the Kauravas, decapitated his head with such force that it flew past the Himalayas to Kathmandu and rested at the place where the Akash Bhairab temple now stands. The temple, a three storey structure now stands in the busy square of Indra Chowk. The mask of Bhairab is taken

The Temple Forbidden to Nepali royalty …….
A farmer while tilling his field struck his plough under a rock. He tried to chip at the rock to free his plough, but to his horror blood began to ooze from the rock. As he cleared the soil away, he uncovered the great stone image reclining amidst coiled serpents. Water began to rise from the earth until it seemed the huge image floated on the surface of the pond. People flocked to worship this strange god that had risen from the ground. In the 17th century King Pratap Malla, the ruler of Kantipur (present day Kathmandu) dreamed that if he or any of his descendants gazed upon the face of the reclining Vishnu, they would die. Thus to this day no royal monarch is allowed to visit this place. This temple lies about 8-kms north of Kathmandu, at the bottom of Shivapuri hill and is known as Bouddhanilkantha.

The temple of Changu Narayan, the most ancient in the valley…………
A brahmin used to frequent a shrine located on top of a hill. He discovered that someone stole the milk that he offered at the shrine. In order to catch the thief, one morning he hid behind a tree. After some time a young man came out of the camphor tree that grew near the shrine, and drank the milk. The angry Brahmin came out of his hiding place and struck a blow on the young man’s head. There was a deep gash on the man’s head, from where emerged the four-headed figure of Lord Vishnu. He thanked the Brahmin for freeing him from a powerful spell. From then on, the place is known as Changu Narayan. The temple of Changu Narayan is said to be the most ancient temple in the Kathmandu Valley. Although it was rebuilt in 1702, its origin goes back to the 4th Century. Located on the top of a hill that rises in the eastern part of the valley, it is 22 kilometers from Kathmandu. The temple is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Monument List.

Indra Jatra, festival in honour of Lord Indra, the King of the heavens……….
Once Lord Indra came down from devlok(heaven) to Kathmandu disguised as a poor peasant, to gather parijat flowers for his mother. He was plucking the flowers from a garden when he was caught. People took him for a thief and had him bound. Meanwhile his white elephant wandered the streets of Kathmandu searching for him. His mother also got anxious when he did not return. So she too came down to Kathmandu to look for him. She discovered him at the city square where people had bound him up. When the people discovered that the person they had bound up was actually Indra, the Lord of Heaven they were very embarrassed. They sought his pardon and later on celebrated his visit to Kathmandu with feasts, processions, singing and dancing. To this day people of Kathmandu celebrate this occasion with a festival known as Indra Jatra during August/September. The festival lasts for eight days with singing, mask dancing and rejoicing. The chariot of Kumari – the Living Goddess is taken through the main streets of Kathmandu with much fanfare. On the first day, the King of Nepal also pays homage to Goddess Kumari. The crowd of excited people from performers to spectators engulfs the streets of Kathmandu during this festival. People get to enjoy various religious dances like the Devinach, Majipat Lakhe, Bhairav and Bhakku and Mahakali Nach. During the festival the chariots of Ganesh, Bhairav and Living Goddess Kumari are dragged on the streets of Kathmandu.

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Our trek guide (Maule Tamang) was very informative and knowledgeable of the area and rather amusing company. The services in lodges during the trek were better than expected

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