The Boudhanath stupa is incredibly beautiful and massive. Its white dome, like a cloud, stands out under a blue sky. Its golden spire shimmers like the sun on a wave. And its blue eyes are piercing. There is no question as to why this is the most visited UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kathmandu. (Other famous sites include the Monkey Temple, or Swayambhunath, and the Patan Durbar Square.)
You can walk around the base of the stupa spinning the several hundred prayer wheels or walk on top of the base to have a bird’s eye view of the monasteries and surrounding shops.
The Boudhanath stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal. Its base is about 85,000 square feet and its volume is about 3.5 million cubic feet. This is impressive especially considering when it was built and who built it (more on that later). Please enjoy reading the rest of this blog post. It is filled with a lot more fascinating information and pictures. If you have a Pinterest please pin all the pictures you like.
Boudhanath Newar mythology
The Newars believe that a king durning the Licchavi period (400-750 AD) wanted to build a water tap (Dhunge Dhara) in his palace court yard. Unfortunately, there was a drought and the royal water diviners, dowsers, and hydrologists could not find water. The king was frustrated and turned to an astrologer. The astrologer said he needed a perfect human sacrifice to find the water.
There were only 3 perfect people living at that time, the king, and his two sons. The king decided he would be sacrificed for the water tap.
Side note: he must have really wanted that water tap! Its too bad he didn’t see the irony in that he wouldn’t be around to enjoy it.
The king’s son cut off the king’s head then threw a chicken into the air, which flew 8 miles west. The king’s son then built Boudhanath stupa were the chicken landed.
Side note: the myth does not mention if water was ever found, but I deduced it wasn’t.
Boudhanath Tibetan mythology
There was a Buddha named Kasyapa who lived for 4 thousand years. An old woman who had given birth to 4 of his sons was grief stricken when she learned about his passing. The woman petitioned a king (name unknown) for permission to build the stupa and place Kasyapa’s ashes in it.
The king gave the woman and her 4 sons permission to build the stupa, which she put kasyapa’s remains in.
There are conflicting opinions on the actual date of construction. The stupa has been dated to the Licchavi period (590-604 AD), and to the Manadeva period (464-505 AD). In Addition, Trisong Detsen, a tibetan emporer, is also associated with the construction of the stupa (755-797 AD).
Historically the area stupa was built on, was a major trade route from Tibet to India. This gives a little more credibility to the Tibetan side with the stupa being commissioned by Trisong Detsen for the construction of the stupa sometime within 755 to 797 AD.
Earthquake damage and repairs
Boudhanath stupa’s spire was cracked during the major earthquake in 2015. The golden spire was removed 6 months later in October and replaced with a new spire in November.
I checked the stupa in April 2018 and it was back to normal.
How to find Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath stupa is 4 miles east of Thamel. If you travel by private car, it shouldn’t take more than 1 hour to get there from Thamel. You can take a private car or taxi. You can also hire a guide and transportation from Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure.
The entrance fee is $4. However, there is a side entrance that doesn’t charge for admission. You can also enter after hours, when the ticket booth is closed.
If you are staying in one of the hotels around Boudhanath stupa, you must pay the entrance fee once then there is no charge.
Length of stay
Boudhanath can be walked in 30 minutes. If you want to spend more time exploring the different monasteries, hotels, restaurants and shops, I would allow for 1 to 2 hours.