I visited Bouddha, the largest stupa in Nepal and center of Tibetan culture and one of seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
Built in the 14th century, it's an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and locals, as well as a popular tourist site.
My friend Ashmita told me that planes fly around the stupa so those on board can pray and then continue on their journey.
Apparently, from above, it looks like a giant diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. The five Buddhas personify the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, represented in the architecture.
According to sacreddestinations.com, its nine levels represent the mythical Mt. Meru, center of the cosmos; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightenment, or "Bodhi." The mantra of Avalokiteshvara, who embodies the compassion of all the Buddhas and whose 108 forms are depicted in sculptures, is carved on prayer wheels around the stupa's base.
You'll notice people entering and by hand spinning the prayer wheels, one by one. Yeah I did it, too.
The base has three platforms that symbolize earth. The two circular plinths supporting the hemisphere of the stupa symbolizes water. The Nepali character for No. 1 replaces what would be a nose. This symbolizes unity and the one way to reach enlightenment through the Buddha's teachings. Above is the third eye, which symbolizes the wisdom of Buddha.
Unfortunately, the stupa was damaged in the last earthquakes and is still being repaired, so we couldn't climb, but we did bask in its beauty while drinking mint lemonade and eating momos and sandwiches on the rooftop of The Golden Eyes Restaurant and Cafe.
And then we explored the streets and narrow alleyways lined with colorful homes, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and shops.
The square tower is topped by a pyramid with 13 steps, representing the ladder to enlightenment. The triangular shape represents fire. The gilded canopy at the top is the embodiment of air, which above it is a gilded spire, symbolic of ether. You can see below how they're rebuilding the main entrance to the upper platform of the stupa on the north side.
Did you know Bouddha hosts the largest celebration in Nepal? I wish I were still around in February/March. If you are, catch the festival of Losar (Tibetan New Year).
[ Check the facts at SacredDestinations.com ]