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Once upon a time, the Kathmandu valley was a great lake. According to legend, the Buddhist God Manjushree sliced a small hill with his sword of wisdom, draining the lake and making the area inhabitable. The Newar are the indigenous inhabitants of the valley and the creators of the splendid civilization preserved in its three cities- Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. Their art and architecture are so magical that one will stare in wonder for hours. Consequently, UNESCO has declared the following as world heritage sites: Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square,Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa and Swyambhunath. Religious culture permeates and is based on a unique amalgamation of Hinduism and Buddhism which is fascinating. Multi-roofed temples, exquisite monasteries, stone carvings and wood carvings, and age-old traditions and religious festivals have kept Kathmandu valley culture alive and vivacious til the present day.
The Swayambhu Stupa is a Buddhist site of great antiquity. Built on a hilltop that stood out as an island when the valley was covered by the lake once upon a time, it marks the spot where a flaming lotus sprouted out of a seed cast by a Buddha of a previous aeon. Statues of various Buddhist deities are embedded around its white dome over which rises a gilded spire. There are numerous other shrines and several monasteries on the hilltop, from where a magnificent view of the valley can be had. UNESCO has declared Swayambhu a World Heritage Site.
On the other side of the valley, the Bouddhanath stupa is the largest in Nepal. Its massive white dome looms over concentric ascending terraces and presents an impressive sight. There are 108 images of the Buddha set around the base of the stupa. Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are scattered all around and a large Tibetan community resides in the area. According to legend, builders used dew to mix the mortar which they collected by spreading cloth on the ground as Kathmandu was reeling under a drought during its construction. UNESCO has declared Bouddhanath a World Heritage Site as well.
Pashupatinath is the most important Hindu shrine in Nepal. Built in the 17th century, the artistic temple houses the sacred lingam or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva, the destroyer in the Hindu trinity. Its gilded pagoda roofs and silver doorways are specimens of marvellous workmanship. The temple marks the spot where Lord Shiva romped through the woods in the guise of a deer. The bank of the holy Bagmati River flowing beside it is a pilgrimage spot where devotees take holy dips. UNESCO has declared Pashupatinath a World Heritage Site
KATHMANDU DURBAR SQUARE (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Situated in the heart of old Kathmandu city at Basantapur, Kathmandu Durbar Square never fails to impress first time visitors with its ensemble of palaces, courtyards and temples built during the Malla period. The Durbar Square includes the Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace, the historic seat of the royalty; the magnificent Taleju Temple towering more than 40 meters; Kumari Ghar, the residence of the Living Goddess, Kumari; Ashok Vinayak, also called Kathmandu Ganesh, a temple without a filial ; and Kal Bhairav, the God of Wrath. The capital takes its name from the giant pagoda of Kasthamandap, which is said to have been built out of a single tree. Since the time of the Malla kings, the Durbar Square has been the city’s social, religious and political focal point.