- Sushant Lama
A pilgrimage is a journey to a religious sacred area or shrine of religious importance and faith. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. It is not compulsory for Hindus to undertake pilgrimages during their lifetime, however, most Hindus go on such journeys to numerous sacred sites to seek the peace of mind, solace, and salvation. In Nepal, there are many Hindu pilgrimages which attract thousands of devotees and tourists every year. Some of the pilgrimages that attract tourists are given below.
Pashupati Nath Temple
The Pashupatinath temple is one of the most famous and sacred temples located on the bank of the Bagmati River, 5 km north-east of Kathmandu. It is the most important temple dedicated to Shiva that attracts thousands of pilgrims each year on various occasions especially on the day of Maha Shivratri when more than 1 million devotees of Shiva arrive here. This temple is the most important holy abode of Shiva among 275 holy abodes found around the continent. Shivalinga of Pashupatinath is believed to bestow all the wishes according to Shiva Purana.
The temple is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when Shiva Linga was discovered here. Pashupatinath was included in the World Heritage Site’s list in 1979 by UNESCO.
Halesi Mahadev also known as The Pashupatinath of eastern Nepal is located between holy rivers Dudh Koshi and Sunkoshi in Mahadevasthan, Khotang. It is one of the most ancient and holiest Hindu pilgrims of Nepal. The natural cave is the main attraction of Halesi Mahadev which is believed to be the three eyes of Lord Shiva. It is said that Lord Shiva came here to hide from the Demon Bhasmasur and killed the demon here with the help of Lord Vishnu.
It is not only popular among Hindus, but Buddhists too. Hindus associate this holy pilgrim with Hindu god Shiva and Buddhists consider the caves to be associated with Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava and is the perfect example of religious harmony in the country. The cave hosts various ceremonies on various occasions like Mahashivaratri, Ram Navami, Ganesh Chaturthi, etc.
Gosainkunda, a freshwater lake situated at an altitude of 4,380m in Rasuwa, is one of the most visited pilgrimages in Nepal. The lake is surrounded by mountains and is accompanied by nine other lakes. The lake remains frozen for six months and melts to form the Trishuli River. The lake is said to have been formed from digging the land by Lord Shiva’s Trishul in search of cold water to quench the burning throat after he drank the poison from Samundra Manthan (churning of ocean) which is mentioned in Hindu epics like Ramayana, Bhagavata Puran, Vishnu Puran, and Mahabharat as Samundra Manthan. Thousands of devotees from Nepal and India come here to take a holy bath in the lake during Janai Purnima. There is also the presence of large rock in the middle which is believed to be the remains of the shrine of Lord Shiva.
Changunarayan temple is considered the oldest Hindu temple in Nepal. It is located on a high hilltop called Changu in Changunarayan rural municipality of Bhaktapur, about 12 km east of Kathmandu. This place is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and holds a special place among Hindu pilgrims. Built-in pagoda styles, the main shrine is guarded on all sides by pairs of real and mythical beasts-elephants, lions, winged lions, and ram-horned griffons and its roof struts feature extraordinary carvings of various deities from Lichhavi era. The Manohara River flows beside the hill. It is listed under the Word Heritage site bu UNESCO.
Budhanilkantha is one of the most loved Vishnu temples in Nepal. It is located at the foot of the Shivapuri Hills, 8 km north of Kathmandu. It is carved from a single stone, 5m in length, and is considered the largest and most beautiful stone statue of Lord Vishnu in Nepal reclining on a bed of Nagas or Serpents in the middle of the small pond. In the statue, Vishnu’s four hands hold a chakra (representing mind), a conch-shell (the four elements), a lotus flower (the moving universe) and the club (primeval knowledge) that are symbols of his divine qualities. A huge fair is held at Budhanilkantha on two main Ekadashis: Harishayani and Haribodhini. It is enlisted under the world heritage site by UNESCO.
Shesh Narayan Temple
Shesh Narayan Temple is one of the four Narayana temples 20 km south-west of Kathmandu valley. It is situated near the ancient town of Pharping in Sheshnarayan rural municipality sharing its area with the Rigzin Drubte Ghatsal monastery. The presence of these two sacred sites in the same place shows the religious harmony of Nepal from the start of civilization. There is the presence of the cluster of stalactites resembling a cow’s udder directly above Sheshnarayan temple, from where it is said milk used to flow once. The same cliff had a naturally formed image of a serpent.
Muktinath is the most popular Vishnu temple which is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. It is located at the foothill of the Thorong La Mountain in Muktinath valley of Mustang. It is one of the highest situated temples in the world at an altitude of 3800m. The Hindus believe that Lord Vishnu got salvation from the curse of Brinda (wife of Jalandhar) therefore called Muktinath (literal meaning ‘place of liberation’). The Buddhists call it Chumig Gyatsa, which in Tibetan means ‘Hundred Waters’ and is worshipped because Guru Padmasambhava meditated here for some time. This shrine is one of the 108 Vaishnava shrines and consists of golden statue of Vishnu as Shri Mukti Narayana, images of Bhoodevi (the Earth-goddess form of Lakshmi), the goddesses Saraswati and Janaki (Sita), Garuda (the mount of Vishnu), Lava-Kusa (the sons of Rama and Sita) and the Sapta Rishis (Seven Sages created by Lord Brahma).
Pathibhara temple is one of the most significant temples in Nepal, Located on the hill of Taplejung at an altitude of 3794m. The Goddess at Pathibhara is believed to fulfill the long-cherished dreams of her devotees.
It is considered as one of the ‘Shakti Peeths’ and attracts thousands of devotees from Nepal and India during special occasions with their different wishes. It is also considered the holy place for Limbu people. The devotees sacrifice animals and offer various things to the Pathibhara Devi to make her happy.
From the religious point of view, Pathibhara has an important place in the hearts of the Nepalese because it represents female power (Shakti), i.e, the power of a female goddess.
The Manakamana temple is a very famous temple among Hindus. It is the temple of Manakamana Devi, Goddess that fulfills devotees’ wish who is considered as the reincarnation of Goddess Parvati. People from all around the world come to visit the Manakamana temple to be blessed, protected and to pray that their wish is fulfilled. It is located in the Gorkha district of Nepal at an altitude of 1,302m and overlooks the river valley of Trisuli in the south and Marsyangdi in the west. It has its religious and historical importance among Hindus.
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