Boudhanath Stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is the center of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism. The stupa is located in the town of Boudha, on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu.
Boudhanath Stupa Katha
Bodhnath was probably built in the fourteenth century after the Mughal invasion Many interesting legends are told about the reasons for its construction. After the arrival of thousands of Tibetans following the 1959 Chinese invasion, the temple has become one of the most important centers of Tibetan Buddhism.
Today it is an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalese as well as a popular tourist destination.
What to see in the Buddhist stupa
From above, the Boudhanath Stupa resembles a giant mandala or diagram of the Buddhist universe. And like all Tibetan mandalas, the four of the Dhyani Buddha, mark the cardinal points, with the fifth, Vairocana, preserved in the center (in the white hemisphere of the stupa). The five Buddhas also represent the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether), which are depicted in the architecture of the stupa.
There are other symbolic numbers as well: The nine levels of the Buddhist stupa represent the mythological mountain. Meru, the center of the universe and the 13 rings from the base to the summit symbolize the path to enlightenment or “Bodhi”, hence the name of the stupa.
At the bottom, the stupa is surrounded by an irregular 16-sided wall and has frescoes below. Apart from the five Dhyani Buddhas, the Boudhanath Stupa is associated with the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva (Padmapani), whose 108 forms are depicted in sculptures surrounding the base. Avalokiteshwara mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, is engraved on the prayer wheels next to Avalokiteshwara paintings around the base of the stupa.
BOUDHANATH: WORLD HERITAGE
The base of the stupa has three large platforms, which decrease in size. This platform is the symbol of the earth, and here you can see the mountains while praying the hymn, listening to the songs of the devotees while chanting.
Then comes two circular sockets that support the hemisphere of the stupa, a water symbol. As in Swayambhunath, Boudhanath is crowned with a square minaret, which has the ubiquitous eyes of Buddha all around.
Instead of the nose, the type of question mark symbolizes what is actually the Nepali character for number 1, symbolizing unity and sole enlightenment through the teachings of the Buddha. Above this is the third eye, which symbolizes the wisdom of Buddha.
The square tower is crowned by a pyramid with 13 steps, representing a lighting staircase. The triangular form is the abstract form of the fire element. In the upper part of the tower is a golden umbrella, an avatar of the wind, a golden needle, a symbol of ether and a Buddha Buddha. The flags of prayer tied in the stupa are waved in the air, carrying chants and prayers up to the sky.
The main gate of the upper platform of Bodnath Stupa is towards the north. Here the future father presides over Amoghasiddhi. Beneath Amoghasiddhi is Maitreya Buddha, the future Buddha.
There are narrow streets around the Boudhanath Stupa and streets with colorful houses, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and street vendors.
Festivals and Events
During the festival of Losar (Tibetan New Year) in February or March, Boudhanath hosts the largest celebration in Nepal.
When was Boudhanath Stupa built?
The first stupa at Boudnath was built sometime after 600 AD, when the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, converted to Buddhism. In terms of grace and purity of the line, no other stupa in Nepal comes close to Boudhanath. From its white-domed dome to its towering towers, painted with all the seeing eyes of the Buddha, the monument is perfectly proportioned. For the best atmosphere, join Tibetan pilgrims in their morning and evening kora (perimeter).
According to legend, the king built the stupa as an act of penance after involuntarily killing his father. The first stupa was destroyed by the Mughal invaders in the fourteenth century, so the current stupa is a more recent construction.
The highly symbolic construction essentially serves as a three-dimensional reminder of the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. The plinth represents the earth, the Kumbha (dome) is water, the harmonica (square tower) is fire, the needle is air and the umbrella at the top is the void or ether beyond space. The 13 levels of the needle represent the stages that a human being must go through to reach nirvana.
The stupas were originally built to house sacred relics and some claim that Boudhanath contains the relics of the previous Buddha, Kashyapa, while others say it contains a skeleton bone of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. Around the base of the stupa, there are 108 small images of Buddha Dhyani Amitabha (108 is an auspicious number in Tibetan culture) and a ring of prayer wheels, in groups of four or five in 147 niches.
To reach the upper level of the plinth, look for the entrance door at the north end of the stupa, next to a small shrine dedicated to Hariti (Ajima), the goddess of smallpox. The socket is open from 5 a.m. at 6 p.m. (until 7 p.m. in summer), offering a high point of view on the tide of pilgrims that arise around the stupa. Keep in mind that engaged devotees fall down on the floor in the courtyard on the east side of the stupa.
Why was the stupa built?
Stupas, Buddhist monuments are the sacred relics usually associated with Buddha or other saintly persons. The hemispherical form of the stupa derives from pre-Buddhist burial mounds in India. As most of the characters are seen in Sanchi in the Great Stupa (2nd century BCE), the monument has a circular base supporting a large concrete dome (aura, “egg,” or womb, “womb”), which has an umbrella. The entire Great Stupa is surrounded by a railing and four entrances, richly decorated with relief sculptures depicting the Jataka tales, events of the life of Buddha and popular mythological figures.