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Boudhanath: a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal

By Devik Balami at
Boudhanath Stupa a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal

Boudhanath is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Kathmandu, Nepal. When viewed from the Ariel, Boudhanath makes an impressive, massive mandala. It is believed that the Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in the world and enshrines the remains of Kasyapa Buddha. This historical site was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Legends regarding construction of Boudhanath Stupa

It was believed that a poor old woman by the name of Jadzima had a relics of Kasyapa Buddha and she wished to build a stupa dedicated to him. To make her dream into reality, she went to King and asked for the land and permission to build the stupa. In response, King gave her the permission to build the stupa along with the land. It was believed that the response just slipped out of his mouth. Therefore, the stupa is more popular with the name of Jya Rung Khashor Chorten Chenpo among Tibetans. It means Jya Rung: "it can be done"; Khashor: "slipped out of the mouth"; Chorten Chenpo: "stupa".

When the structure was completed up to the vase, dome-like structure, the woman died and later her four sons completed the rest of the stupa. As they have completed the stupa, they all gather in front of the stupa and made a prayer. It was believed that their wishes were granted. Therefore, the name of the stupa is also known as "All-Encompassing".

Myths related to the Boudhanath stupa

Among the several myths associated with Boudhanath Stupa, one of the most popular ones is about the rude and irreligious man. He never did any pious thing in his life and due to his behavior and personality, he was disliked by almost everyone. When he died, he fell straight to hell. At the moment when he was about to get the sentenced for his sins, the Buddha appeared. He nullified that man's sentence explaining that he circled around the Boudhanath while chasing a dog. Even though he has done lots of sin in his life, this very one event helped him to get one chance to change himself. Therefore it is believed that if a person can circle around the stupa in his lifetime then he would get a chance to change himself.


There are different versions of the construction of Boudhanath according to various written documents. Gopalarajavamsavali mentions that Boudhanath was founded by Nepalese Licchavi King Siva deva. Other Nepalese documents mention it was built during the reign of King Man deva. Tibetan documents say that the stupa was excavated in the late 15th or early 16th century and during the excavation, the bones of King Amshuvarma were discovered. Other Tibetan documents claim that the stupa was built by Tibetan emperor Trisong Detsen.

Features of Boudhanath

The main stupa

The stupa is almost identical with Swayambhunath stupa, the only difference is the base on which the stupa is located. The Boudhanath stupa is constructed above the 9 levels of a base which have its own symbolical representation. The 9 levels of base represent Mt. Meru, the center of the cosmos.

The Boudhanath stupa also bears omnipresent Buddha eyes of all four sides along with a nose presented with a question-mark-type symbol. This symbol represents unity and the way to reach enlightenment through the teachings of Buddha. Above the eye, there is the third eye of the Buddha generally represents the wisdom of the Buddha.

Five Dhyani Buddhas and Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Along the cardinal points of the stupa, there is situated four Dhyani Buddhas and the fifth one in the center of the stupa. In addition with the Dhyani Buddhas, the stupa is also associated with Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Therefore, the mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum is carved on the prayer wheels beside the images of Avalokiteshvara around the base of the stupa.

Maitreya Buddha

On the north side of the entrance to the upper platform of Boudhanath Stupa, there is the statue of Maitreya Buddha. The devotee highly respects the Buddha as he is regarded as the future Buddha.

Temple of Yogini, Harati

The temple of Harati is situated on the northeast side of the stupa. She is believed to be the protector of the children. Hence the devotees pray her to for their children's wellbeing. The temple is built in pagoda style of architecture.


In the northwestern side of the stupa, there are Buddhist monasteries. The monasteries also house Buddha statues in their ordination hall. The lamas do the rituals daily. They normally recite the mantras.