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7 World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu
Kathmandu World Heritage Sites are Living Places
Kathmandu Hosts 7 World Heritage Sites
Camera and computer in hand, I tagged along with my husband who had a short term assignment in Nepal. Trekking the Himalayas is just beyond my interest, or physical capability, so I focused on "trekking" the streets of Kathmandu and the nearby world heritage sites.
These places are alive and thriving and not at all mausoleums to a dead culture. Entering the temples or stupa grounds or holy sites, you become a welcome part of a carousel of worshippers bringing their offerings and saying their prayers.
Meandering the roads and famous squares of Kathmandu, you are part of the living history of cultural rituals and ceremonies as well as small mom and pop and grandma and grandpa and old aunties and who ever shows up stores open to the street.
Have you been to the Heritage Sites of Kathmandu?
Have you visited Kathmandu?
Kathmandu: A Heritage Tapestry
The whole of Kathmandu is a world heritage site. All around you shrines compete with open storefronts for attention, and tourists are part of the entertainment. Stop walking. Just stand and look and smell and listen and become a part of a tapestry that in many ways has resisted change or at least absorbed forced change.
The Tapestry of Kathmandu
Know a bit more of Kathmandu before your visit
Reading about the place before traveling there is for me one of the best ways to prepare for a trip. This way, I can choose the places I want to visit, prioritize them so I cover the most important first. I hate coming home and sharing with friends and one of them asks if you've been to such and such a place and my face goes blank. Often, we don't go back to the places we have visited so while there, make sure you have covered the ones most interesting to you.
You also gain more from your visit. Your questions are more targeted and you know what to look for when you are in the place. You know those details ordinary tourists often miss.
Walk Around Kathmandu
Kathmandu's 7 World Heritage Sites
Dig and learn more about these interesting heritage places. So, come along with me and let's explore these UNESCO world heritage sites. Just casually, there are lots of book references around if you really want to dig in and learn more. This is just an appetite whetter!
The Durbar Square in Kathmandu
1. The Durbar Square in Kathmandu
The Durbar Square usually refers to a plaza around a royal palace and can be seen not only in Kathmandu but also the other ancient cities of Patan and Bhaktapur.
The Kathmandu Durbar Square is the seat of the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over the city.The square is still the center of important royal events like the coronation of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001.
Towering over the square, you will see the Taleju Temple. This three-roofed temple was built in a typical Newari architectural style and is elevated on platforms that form a pyramid-like structure.
Durbar Square is the heart of town. Wander about there, do your shopping and visit sites.
Have you visited the Durbar Square in Kathmandu?
The Kumaris of Nepal
Kumaris in Nepal are very young girls considered to be the host of the goddess Durga and is worshipped in Nepal. If you're lucky, she might just appear at the window in this picture.
At Durbar Square - Have a Peek at the Kumari
A Visit to Durbar Square in Kathmandu
Will you recommend a visit to Durbar Square in Kathmandu?
Patan and its Bahas
2. Patan - The Center of Ancient Arts and Crafts in the Kathmandu Valley
Best known as the artistic city, Patan is the center of art and crafts in the Kathmandu Valley. So many ancient crafts are still practiced in the city which is home to so many Bahas. Bahas usually consist of a square central hall or courtyard enclosed by small rooms or cells, with the main shrine opposite the main entrance. Inside the main shrine is enthroned a special deity called Kwapa-dyo, an image of the Buddha sitting in Vajrasana and showing the Bhumisparsa, the earth touching gesture.
The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma Chakra, Wheel of Righteousness. This chariot wheel is one of the oldest symbols of Buddhism. To understand DharmaChakra better, visit this site.
More than 1,200 Buddhist monuments of various shapes and sizes can be seen in and around the city. Other art pieces found in stone, metal, terracotta, and ivory all convey the artistic excellence of the craftsmen in this city. In fact, the whole city is an open museum. The best way to enjoy it is to do a walking tour.
Patan is a very interesting site to visit as it is a living heritage. Nepalis come to worship there with all their offering of lamb, candles, fire and flowers. Just watching the line of people doing their worship is in itself an unusual and educational experience.
Get a map to help you identify the different temples and buildings. There is a good map of the Patan Walkabout.
Patan in Kathmandu - Just watch these videos
Is Patan in your list of places to see?
Will you recommend a visit to Patan?
Will you recommend avisit to Patan in Kathmandu?
Bhaktapur: The Seat of the Malla Kingdom
3. Bhaktapur: An Ancient Newar Town
Once the seat of the powerful Malla Kingdom which ruled Nepal until the second half of the 15th century. Also known as Khwopa or Bhadgaon, it was part of the ancient trade route to Tibet, and has been beautifully preserved. Friends still talked of this ancient city and how the Germans helped in preserving it that now, one can enjoy poking around street corners and watch the various rituals and ceremonies performed by worshippers all over the place.
Bhaktapur is a showcase of the advanced skills of the Newari artists and craftsmen. You can still observe many of these Newari artisans busy at work here. Take special note of the peacock windows all ornately and expertly carved by these artisans. There are around 40 temples in this area so you can spend a whole day and still have more to see.
Just 13 kms east of Kathmandu city, Bhaktapur is a very popular day trip destination for tourists but once you have visited the place, you always want to go back. You can sit in one of the restaurants and while away your time watching the locals go about their daily routine, rituals and ceremonies. If you are lucky, you can march along with a wedding party.
Watch this video on Bhaktapur
Visit Bhaktapur Recommendation
Will you recommend a visit to Bhaktapur?
Why Bhaktapur is so compelling
Bhaktapur has lots to offer. There are so many things to fire your imagination back into history. You need a guide to understand the interweaving of its history, cultural snippets or stories about the place, and other interesting accounts.
Pashupatinath Temple - The Seat of the National Deity
4. Pashupatinath Temple
Located on the banks of the Bagmati river, Pashupatinath Temple is one of the biggest in the world of the Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath.
Non-Hindu visitors are allowed to have a look at the temple from the other bank of the Bagmati river. Cremations take place here all the time so only Hindus are allowed into the temple premises.
Built around the 5th century, this temple has the unique tradition of allowing only 4 priests to touch the idol and these priests have to come from South India.
Pashupatinath Temple Videos - Kathmandu's world heritage site
A Visit to Pashupatinath Temple
Will you recommend a visit to Pashupatinath Temple?
5. Swayambunath-The Monkey Temple of Kathmandu
Built around the 5th century, this temple is one of the sacred sites in Kathmandu for both Buddhists and Hindus. Often called the Monkey Temple because of the hundreds of monkeys in residence.
When we were there, one of the monkeys grabbed the chip bag from which a child was eating. The deprived kid cried her heart out as the monkey, bigger than she was, enjoyed her chips.
Swayambunath is on top of a hill and offers one of the most panoramic views of Kathmandu. Hundreds of pilgrims ascend the 365 steps of the temple to worship.
On this stupa are a pair of big eyes which symbolize God's all seeing comprehension of the universe. Between these eyes, is inscribed the number one in the Nepali alphabet, signifying that the single way to enlightenment is through the Buddhist path. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, referred to as the third eye, signifying the wisdom of looking within. Inside are the shrines to the Five Buddhas and Four Taras.
Is Swayambunath Temple worth a visit?
Boudanath Stupa - Kathmandu's Tibetan Buddhist Center
6. Boudanath: The Biggest Stupa in Nepal
Boudanath was, at one time, the focus of controversy when vendors were no longer allowed by the management committee to ply their trades on the path where the worshippers do their circumambulations to protect the sacredness of the place.
This stupa was already popular to ancient Tibetan merchants who rested and worshipped here. Said to contain the remains of Kasyapa, the Stupa in 1950 attracted around its vicinity a big number of Tibetan refugees who have taken residence close to their place of worship. You will see many Tibetans selling goods around the stupa.
When we were there, the place though busy has a stillness enveloping it as one listens to the rhythmic in cantations of the mantra, Om Mani Padme Om.
Recommendation to visit Boudanath
Will you recommend a visit to Boudanath?
You will find Tibetan thangkas in Boudanath - Read more on this unique art form
Visit one of the thangka stores and meet the artists. Let them talk about the thangkas they have so lovingly made. Some of these thangkas take years to complete.
Changu Narayan Temple - Hindu Temple Dedicated to Vishnu
A Visit to Changu Narayan - What is your recommendation?
Will you recommend a visit to Changu Narayan?
7. Changu Narayan: The Oldest Hindu Temple in Nepal
This temple, dedicated to Changu Narayan, the god Vishnu, is one of the oldest Hindu temples of the valley, and is believed to have been constructed in the 4th century.
A stone slab discovered in the vicinity of the temple dates to the 5th century, and is the oldest such stone inscription discovered in Nepal.
Situated on top of the hill, on a clear day, one can see the Himalayas and a panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley. On the way, you can see the little villages on the hills.
On the way up the hill, check out the school on thangka painting. In the village is also a museum that shows a typical Newari house.
This Newari Museum is quite interesting as the descendants of the owners are the guides and are very knowledgeable of the way of life of the Newaris.
The features of this Newari house in Changu Narayan are still seen even in modern Newari homes.
Heritage Sites in Kathmandu are Living Spaces
Heritage Sites are Living Places
Everyday, many of these heritage sites are in full use with people flocking to worship at the place. Become part of the place, not just a passing observer. You can see from the pictures here the riot of colors these places have when you luck out and catch a festival or your timing partners prayer time or a wedding or a funeral.
And the crowd makes you feel welcome. So different from some neighbouring countries where you feel intrusive and a bit unwelcome at these events. Still, respect their worship.
What are world heritage sites?
Read on UNESCO's mission
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
© 2010 Mary Norton