04-26 Boudhanath

Buddhist monks at the Boudha Stupa

26.04.18, Boudhanath

This morning we visited a school project for (ex-) street kids. 2 or 3 schools and homes have been made for them, but we only saw empty buildings and hardly any children. They must have been having lessons elsewhere. I did not really see the point, having previously visited similar schools in Burma. There we had more contact with the children and they sang for us.

Afterwards we went to see the famous stupa at Boudhanath which looked just the same as it did 20 years ago but the upper part with the big eyes had to be rebuilt after the earthquake. There was time after the sightseeing with the numerous other tourists to search for last souvenirs. I bought a mandala pendant for my wife, a yak for my grandson and a Tibetan horn for myself. It is not as easy to obtain a melodious note from the horn as it is from the singing bowl.

We were kindly invited to the Nepalese guide’s private house for lunch. We had already been at his restaurant for a farewell dinner the previous night, but we said another goodbye to the guides and porters. The trekking agency is all a family affair and they seem to be doing well with it as the house is quite substantial on 3 floors. There was just a brief shower of rain and it started dripping on me as we were sitting on the terrace, roofed over just with corrugated plastic sheeting. We had a very pleasant lunch and there was still some time to kill before going to the airport. Then a last drive in the hair raising Kathmandu traffic and goodbye Nepal.

Boudhanath is the site of a stupa in Kathmandu, located about 11km from the centre in the North-eastern outskirts. The Buddhist stupa of Boudha dominates the skyline and the stupa’s massive mandala makes it is one of the largest stupas in the world. The stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha. The influx of large populations of refugees from Tibet in the 1950s has resulted in the formation of at least 29 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries and Nunneries) around Boudha. As of 1979, Boudha Stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourist sites in the Kathmandu area.

For centuries, Boudhanath has been an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalis. It is located on what was a major trade route between Nepal and Tibet. Many traveling merchants used it as a resting place. The Great Stupa of Boudhanath is the focal point of the district where the culture is very much Himalayan with a strong presence of Tibetans and Sherpas, as can be evidenced by the number of restaurants selling momos, thukpa and other Tibetan culinary favourites. Many maroon clad Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns can be seen walking around Boudha, especially at the stupa. As a daily ritual, many people walk three or more times around the stupa while repeating the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ either quietly or aloud. During the days of and surrounding the full moon, the air is often thick with the smell of incense and the sound of mantras sung by the monks. The number of people visiting the Stupa increases significantly, along with the intensity of their mantras and prayers making Boudha a fascinating and very spiritual area.

The April 2015 earthquake badly damaged the Boudha Stupa, severely cracking the spire. As a result, the whole structure above the dome, and the religious relics it contained had to be removed, which was completed by the end of October 2015. The reconstruction began on 3 November 2015 with the ritual placement of a new central pole or “life tree” for the stupa at the top of the dome. Now it again appears in its original splendour.

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