Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kathmandu Valley’s UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Upon arrival at Kathamandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, I immediately noticed those posters highlighting Nepal’s richness in culture and biodiversity.  It prides itself for having four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which includes the six monuments in Kathmandu Valley that we visited: three historical palaces (Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares), Hindu temple (Pashupatinath) and two Buddhist stupas (Swayambunath and Boudhanath).

Kathmandu Durbar Square

During our stay in Kathmandu we’d walk to the Durbar Square from our hotel and watch people go about with their daily lives.  It is a public place where tourists, touts, locals and expats perched on temple steps idle away the day; where the vibrant colors of marigolds, peppers and oranges spread out for sale on the pavements stand out against muted tones of the temples; and where cars and power lines look incongruous amid the square’s medieval look.  


When I first saw a photo of Swayambunath and read that it “has been a place of pilgrimage and prayer for at least 2000 years and is now a totemic symbol of Nepal” that “throbs with activity as peasants from the nearby rice fields, pilgrims who have ventured from far afield, yellow-robed monks spinning copper prayer wheels, and camera-clad tourists snapping photos explore the many buildings and statues around the stupa,” I knew I had to go there.

The golden shrine of Swayambunath, which sits on a solitary hill in the western edge of Kathmandu, afforded us a spectacular view of Kathmandu Valley:

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

We almost did not enter the site for fear that it would be no different from Kathmandu Durbar Square, but I’m happy that we did. According to the leaflet given to us at the gate, “the cultural capital of Nepal, Bhaktapur’s history goes back to the early 8th century.”  To be in a place that old is simply overwhelming.  

Patan Durbar Square

Worn out from gazing at historic buildings that all looked the same after several days, we had to pass up on Patan Durbar Square.  After taking a few photos of the palace square, we proceeded to explore the surrounding area, instead.  Walking without any direction, we ended up in the local market where I was able to buy spices that are priced four times less than those sold in Thamel.  Exploring the market gave us an authentic view of today’s Patan, not something frozen in time.

We went to Pashupatinath to witness a cremation, and what I saw left me awed and humbled:


The great stupa of Boudhanath is the largest stupa in Nepal and dates back to the 14th century.  They say that “in the past, when the trade routes to central and western Tibet were fully open, traders, pilgrims and travelers sought blessing at the stupa for safe passage over the mountain passes and gave thanksgiving to it upon arrival in the Kathmandu Valley.” While turning the prayer wheels, I realized that we were doing the same thing.

This is my 1000th post.


Anonymous said...

booyah! waiting for the next 1000 posts.

Angeli said...

you can count on that. :)

Kayni said...

beautiful :)...i love the photo of the houses.

Krishna/കൃഷ്ണ said...

well narrated...

and beautiful photos...

i liked the far view of valley

congrats for 1000th post


Arti said...

Beautiful captures from Nepal! Is really a very beautiful place it seems. Congrats on the 1000th post, that is a huge achievement!

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