Boudhanath: Bliss amidst the chaos
January 1, 1970
by Pritha Khanal
Writing about Boudhanath Stupa won’t really be my travel diary because the accounts of memories and stories I have in this place is far beyond the travel concept. Honestly, there would be thousands of stories if I start collecting them all from my very childhood to now when I have grown enough to write about it. The place has provided me with so many moments worth recollecting and has witnessed both my best and worst days that when I am here, starting my travel blog and there would be no other place than starting with Boudha.
So you might think why is that one person has so many special stories in one place? What is so special in the place that binds a person to spent most of her time there? Sure, it must be her home place, you’d think. Well yeah it’s nearby but not exactly where I live. However, I might as well call it my second home, because except for my workplace and home, you can usually find me there. With friends or alone, sipping coffee and enjoying the vibes.
And I assure, it is not just me who has millions of stories here. Because there are hundreds of people like me who are obsessed with the peace they feel inside the Stupa. The energy, the vibration of something so peaceful and so scared is totally mesmerizing. And that is why, you should definitely visit the place once and you will be going back again and again.
Where is it?
Lying in the North east of Kathmandu is this magnificent Monastery (Stupa ) called Boudhanath is one of the most important pilgrim site for Buddhists. 16 km from Ratnapark, New road of Kathmandu and only around 3 km from Tribhuwan Airport, you can reach the Stupa passing the narrow road full of branded clothing stores and restaurants at each side. Well, because Boudhanath is one of the major tourist spot in valley, you can find the environment build up for serving the taste of tourist. The roads you pass by are crowded often packed with vehicles, people walking equally much in the sideways, fancy and colorful shops adding more vivacity in the area.
As soon as you reach the gate of boudhanath, pushing through the crowd and paying extra 250NPR if you are Non-Nepali citizen, you can see the magnificent Stupa standing right in front of you filled with such a strong energy to make you feel warm and welcomed.
Inside the stupa:
The majestic white Stupa surrounded by local shops and restaurants is a perfect place to chill or meditate. As soon as you enter inside the circle which is called Kora in local Mongolian tongue, you will find yourself in a vibrant yet peaceful arena. You can find wide variety of traditional, cultural and handmade stuffs. Be it from stones jewelries, to meditation and singing bowls, beads and accessories and Thanka paintings to local attires, you can find varieties of beautiful, typically Mongolian materials.
Whilst on the center lays immensely glorious Stupa with hypnotizing eyes which after earthquake got damaged however is in process of rebuilding. The scene of tall and gigantic Stupa in the center of the whole space gives you the feeling like a father looking after its children and making sure every moment they are alright. The whole Stupa reflects a strong vibration of positivism and faith. No wonder the ambiance inside Stupa is so peaceful and calm.
The history and present of Boudha
History explains that Boudha was the transit for Tibetans who traveled from Sankhu at 1960s. Later the Tibetan refugees’ inhabited the area who blossom the area with monasteries, craftsmanship and trading. The Stupa is said to be built by a widow woman who got the permission on building the Stupa in a land measuring the size of skin of buffalo. She then cut the skin into small strips and told they cover the whole land. Then her initiation of building the Stupa was only successful till making the white dome. Later, her four sons added to their mother’s creation and over the period of time, government kept renovating till its recent stage.
However in 2016, Boudhanath Stupa is on the verge of rebuilding. The massive earthquake in 2015 affected its major shrine and immediately after earthquake renovation started. The renovation committee has said it would take 2 years for completion.
What to do in Boudha?
Now this is something a traveler always thinks of doing before planning a trip. Boudha being itself a beautiful place to roam around and relax; it has yet a range of things a traveler can experience.
Gompa hopping/ exploring
Gompa hopping- well that’s a term I just made up but it sounds real cool, right? Just as you hop from one club to another, do that in Gompas aka Gumbas or monasteries inside Boudha. The real essence of Buddhism is felt only when you feel the vibes inside monasteries. Go inside, explore the mesmerizing interiors, paintings, sculptors, symbols and rituals going on. If you be there on morning time, you might as well join the morning prayers. Stay there, meditate if you wish or just observe the scenario. Trust me, if that’s not a pure bliss, nothing is.
Some of the monasteries worth visiting are the Guru Lhakhang Gompa , Samtenling Gompa , Sakya Tharig Gompa , Pal Dilyak Gompa and Pal Nye Gompa . There are many others so follow the sounds crashing cymbals and booming trumphets to see the open ones.
Kora down and above the dome of stupa
You would see the main white Stupa has three storied layers where visitors can take a round. Long before the earthquake, the Stupa was open for visitors till its third stage while now only the first layer is open for the reason that people spread obscenity when it was opened. So, do the kora i.e. complete the circle, up and down the Stupa. You can as well rest and observe the ambiance from above. And remember, it is considered auspicious to do the Kora in the odd counts meaning 1 or 3 or 5 times and so on. It is also believed that Kora is a wish-fulfilling practice and Tibetans have a function where they circle the Kora for 108th times for fulfilling their wishes.
Sadly, due to undergoing renovation, you won’t be allowed to visit above the dome, however, you’d sure to get chance if you visit after the rebuilding.
Try local Tibetan food or visit posh restaurants and coffee place
You can choose either to feed your tummy at luxurious rooftop restaurants circling the kora, or instead choose to explore the alleys and corners around Stupa for local Tibetan dish. Some of the dish you gotta try are Thenthuk, Thukpa, T Mo:Mo etc. One more dish for spice lovers, you just cannot miss is lhaping, so hot that will blow your ears. Or if you just want to enjoy some good food and enjoy the view, the beautiful restaurants from very high to average range are inside the Stupa. Personally, I love enjoying coffee at the rooftop. Try out.
If you want to know about history of Boudha and ancient myths and stories related to it, then visit Taragaon Museum. Taragaon is actually the old name for Hyatt Regency and the museum is on the ground floor of the hotel. You can see the collection of photos, maps and archaeological plans of Kathmandu valley from the 1970s when first archaeological advisers entered. The building itself is an ancient structure built in 1974 as a hostel for foreign explorers. Another major highlight of the museum is first map of Kathmandu valley by Erwin Schneider. So, give a tour in history of Kathmandu.
Shopping traditional apparels and souvenirs
As I mentioned above in the article, Boudha is full of traditional apparels, accessories and souvenirs. You can buy range of products, jewelries to dresses, books to paintings, postcards, decorative and souvenirs to your dear ones. Shop as much as you can as the prices of materials are very budget friendly. And what more, the shopkeepers are quite friendly and well mannered in compared to other places. Their warmth and smile will definitely please you as a customer.
How to reach?
Take taxi from wherever you are and they will drop you for around 200-500 NPR maximum.
Or, take the bus or micro from Ratnapark which will take you around 45 mins to 1 hour for NPR 20.
Or, drop at the place called Chabahil and get a little walk of 20-30 minutes till Boudha. If the weather supports you, you will love it.
And when you step inside the Stupa, tell me if you don’t feel if it’s truly bliss amidst the chaos. So, be there and be sure to buzz me if you wish, I will be around.