Temples and Shrines :::

TYPES OF TEMPLES

(1) Stupas-
The Buddhist stupas of the Kathmandu Valley – particularly the stupas of Swayambhunath and Bodhnath – are among the most impressive and most visited monuments in Nepal. The earliest stupas in India were merely domed burial mounds, but they have evolved over the centuries to become complex structures that represent the Buddha and Buddhist philosophy.

The lowest level of the stupa is the plinth, which may be simply a square platform, but may also be terraced, as at Bodhnath. On top of the plinth is the hemispherical kumbha (dome; kumbha literally means 'pot'), which is usually whitewashed each year.Atop the dome is a spire,

which always consists of a number of elements. Immediately on top of the dome is a harmika, a square base usually painted on each side with a pair of eyes, which most people believe represents the all-seeing nature of the Buddha. There is a third eye between and above the two normal eyes and the 'nose' is not a nose at all but the Nepali number one, which signifies the unity of all life.
Topping the harmika is a tapering section of 13 stages, which are said to represent the 13 stages of perfection. At the very peak is a gilt parasol, symbolising royalty.

The five elements are represented in the stupa's structure: the base symbolizes earth; the dome water; the spire fire; the umbrella air; and the pinnacle ether.


(2) Newar Pagoda Temples-


The distinctive Newar pagoda temples are a major feature of the Kathmandu Valley skyline. While strictly speaking they are neither wholly Newari nor pagodas, the term has been widely adopted to describe the temples of the valley.
The temples are generally square in design, and may be either Hindu or Buddhist (or both in the case of mother goddesses). On rare occasions temples are rectangular or octagonal. This depends on the god being worshipped; Krishna, for example, can occupy octagonal temples, whereas Ganesh, Shiva and Vishnu can only inhabit square temples.The major features of the temples are the tiered roof, which may have one to five tiers, with two or three
being the most common. In the Kathmandu Valley there are two temples with
four roofs and another two with five (Kumbeshwar at Patan and Nyatapola at Bhaktapur). The sloping roofs are usually covered with distinctive jhingati (baked clay tiles), although richer temples will often have one roof of gilded copper. The gajur (pinnacle of the temple) is usually bell-shaped and made of baked clay or gilded copper.
The temples are usually built on a stepped plinth, which may be as high as, or even higher than, the temple itself. In some cases the number of steps on the plinth corresponds with the number of roofs on the temple.

(3) Shikhara Temples –
The second-most common temples are the shikhara temples, which have a     heavy Indian influence. The temples are so named because their tapering tower resembles a shikhara (in Sanskrit, a mountain peak). Although the style developed in India in the 6th century, it first appeared in Nepal in the late Licchavi period (9th century).
The main feature is the tapering, pyramidal tower, which is often surrounded by four similar but smaller towers, and these may be located on porches over the shrine's entrances. The tower is usually built on a square stepped plinth.
Occasionally the shikhara temple follows the same basic design but is much more elaborate, with porches and small turrets seemingly all over the place. The Krishna Mandir and the octagonal Krishna Temple, both in Patan's Durbar Square, are excellent examples.

SOME OF THE IMPORTANT TEMPLES & SHRINES

(1) Swayambhu Stupa (World Heritage Site):
It watches over the Valley from the top of a hillock to the west. One of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal, its establishment is linked to the creation of the Kathmandu Valley. Sengu is another name for Swayambhu. You can get a very good view of Kathmandu from here.


(2) Boudhanath Stupa (World Heritage Site):
It is also known as Khasti, lies 6 km to the east of downtown. The many monasteries here provide excellent exposure to Tibetan culture. The Bouddha Area Preservation & Development Committee offers information to visitors.
(3) Budhanilkantha or Bhuijasi:
It is situated below Shivapuri hill at the northern end of the Valley, about 9 km from the city center. There is a pond in the middle of which lies an immense stone figure of the Hindu god Bishnu reclining on the coils of a serpent.

(4) Pashupatinath Temple (World Heritage Site):
One of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world, Pashupatinath lies 5 km to the east of the city center. The fabulous pagoda houses the linga (phallic symbol) of Lord Shiva. The complex contains many other temples, and the holy Bagmati River flows beside it.


(5) Changu Narayan Temple (World Heritage Site):
It is situated at the end of a ridge that sticks out into the Valley, about 12 km east of Kathmandu. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Bishnu. One of the oldest specimens of pagoda architecture, the temple is embellished with exquisite wood and stone carvings. Walking north from Bhaktapur, turn left at the road leading to Nagarkot to reach the hill-top shrine of Changu Narayan (4 km). The walk offers panoramic views of the mountains, terraced field and the Manohara River. There is also a small village on the eastern side of the temple.


(6) Mahaboudha:
This Buddhist monument is an excellent example of terra cotta artform which points to the skill of Patan's ancient craftsmen with a variety of building styles. The 14th-century monument's obelisk-like design is also unusual in a city of pagoda roofs.


(7) World Peace Stupa:
A massive Buddhist stupa is situated on top of a hill on the southern shore of Phewa Lake. Besides being an impressive sight in itself, the shrine is a great vantage point which offers superb views of the Annapurna Himal range and Pokhara city.


(8) Sacred Garden:
Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Lumbini is being developed with international support as the supreme Buddhist pilgrimage and a symbol of world peace. The Sacred Garden where the Buddha was born converges on the Ashoka pillar which carries an inscription identifying the spot as the birthplace. To one side of the pillar is the Mayadevi Temple which houses a bas relief depicting the nativity. The Puskarni pond where Queen Mayadevi, the Buddha's mother, had taken a bath before giving birth to him lies nearby.


(9) Manakamana Temple:
Manakamana, a popular pilgrimage destination in Gorkha district, is 125 km west to Kathmandu. It is a temple where Goddess Bhagawati is enshrined. Visitors throng here throughout the year as Goddess Bhagawati is believed to have the power of fulfilling every wish of her devotees. It is a steep 3-hrs hike from Abu Khaireni, which is on the way to Pokhara. However, the operation of cable car from Kurintar (4-hrs drive from Kathmandu) today takes you to the temple within 10 minutes.


(10) Muktinath:
            Perched on an altitude of 3800m in the north-central part of Nepal, Muktinath is a religious hub both for Hindus and Buddhists. The main shrine of Muktinath is a pagoda-shaped temple dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. The Jwala Mai Temple nearby has an eternal flame fueled by natural gas. Muktinath is six hours walk from Jomsom airport.