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PILGRIMAGES

Tibet Tour
NAMOBUDDHA
The hilltop stupa of Namobuddha, an important pilgrimage site is easily reached from Dhulikhel, which is 32 km east of Kathmandu. It is a three-hour hike away or a short drive from this little resort town. Legend has it that a very devout Bodhisattva arrived here a long time ago. While meditating there, he saw a starving tigress and was so moved to compassion that in a desperate attempt to save its life, he fed her his own flesh. It is believed his relics are buried in the stupa. Hence Buddhists arrive here on a pilgrimage. They pray, lay offerings, light up butter lamps and string up prayer flags. There are many prayer wheels, which they spin. Prayer wheels contain prayers and mantras within. Many people visit this shrine during the weekends. During November a very important Buddhist festival is held here. There are teahouses along the way and you will come across pine- woods as the trail goes up and down several hills before you arrive at Namobuddha.

PHARPING
Before the unification of Nepal, Pharping was a tiny independent state. This is a typical Newari town rarely visited by tourists. But it is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site as the revered Guru Rimpoche is said to have once visited there. There is a direct bus to this town and leaves from the old bus park at Ratna Park. It leaves as soon as it is full. The road goes past Kirtipur and climbs up through the light pine forest and then passes Chobar. Pharping is 19km from Kathmandu and lies close to Dakshinkali, the popular Hindu temple of Goddess Kali. The road to Pharping is usually crowded on Saturdays and Tuesdays when large crowds go to Dakshinkali to make sacrifices at the shrine there.

LUMBINI
Since the discovery of Lord Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, it has become an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from the world over. Lumbini lies in the hot terai (plains) region of Nepal and is only a two hours drive away from the city of Bhairahawa, which is also known as Siddhartha Nagar. Today, Buddhists from various countries have built dozens of stupas, temples and monasteries transforming this desolate place into a thriving communal center for Buddhists. Moreover many hotels and ashrams have sprung up around Lumbini to house pilgrims from distant lands. Most of the hotels are in Bhairahawa.

Siddhartha Gautam was born in Lumbini more than 2500 years ago. Mayadevi who was the Queen of the kingdom of Kapilvastu gave birth to Siddhartha on the way to her parental home. The little prince’s father was King Sudodhana. The prince later abandoned his life of luxury and eventually attained enlightenment becoming the Buddha. Around Lumbini
The Maya Devi Temple is said to be over 2,000 years old and is believed to be the spot where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautam. It has a carved stone image of Maya Devi holding on to a branch while giving birth to the Buddha. A little south of this temple lies the pool where the queen is said to have taken a bath after giving birth.

The Ashoka Pillar lies near by and was installed by the great Emperor Ashoka when he arrived there on a pilgrimage. The Emperor was one of the most ardent devotees of the Buddha. The six-metre high pillar dates back to 245 BC and an inscription on it relates to the emperor’s visit. The temple and pillar played a major role in determining the birthplace of the Buddha.

Near the sacred Lumbini garden is the Theravadin Monastery that was constructed by the Nepalese Government. The shrine houses a large bronze statue of the Buddha. Beside this lies the Dharma Swami Maharaj Buddha Vihara, which was built in 1968.

The Monastic Zone houses the Theravadi and Mahayani monks and nearby are the library, research center, museum and auditorium. The northern part of this development project has the lodges, restaurants and other tourist facilities. This is known as the New Lumbini Village.

Around Lumbini many different countries have constructed their respective stupas and pagodas. They represent Myanmar, Thailand, India, China, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, Japan and France.

Bharahawa is the closest airport to Lumbini and is 22 km away. Buses are available for commuting between these two places. The name Siddhartha Nagar is rarely used but is quite often seen in maps. Bhairahawa is 282 km. from Kathmandu and is served by a daily 25-minute flight from the capital. Night buses leave for Bhairahawa every afternoon from Gongabhu Bus Park near the ring road.

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