Buddha was born in a place that lies in present-day Lumbini. He grew up to become the enlightened one and thousands of people followed his teaching as he travelled long distances away from his home. After he returned, his family and many others converted into Buddhism. Some of his family and disciples moved to Kathmandu to establish Buddhism there. Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal helped to spread Buddhism in Tibet, hence the reason that Nepali architecture can be found in Tibetan Buddhist sites by sculptors like Araniko and Newari craftsmen.
Buddhism stayed in Nepal for thousands of years but slowly started to vanish. There were only a few Newar Buddhist monks, trying to revive Buddhism. During the Rana regime, these monks were exiled as they were seen as a threat. After the democracy, these Buddhist monks were free to spread their knowledge and helped revive Buddhism with the help of their Tibetan teachers.
There are several schools of faith in Buddhism with Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Tibetan Buddhism being the four most popular ones. Theravada Buddhism is the oldest form and derives its knowledge from the oldest existing scripts - Tripitaka and Pali canon - which are writings about Buddha and his teaching. Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism are revisions of already existing beliefs with new Buddhist teachings. Mahayana Buddhism is based on the idea that there were and will be many Bodhisattvas in different times and worlds and they are considered to be transcendental beings. Vajrayana Buddhism is also known as Tantric Buddhism involving mantras, mudras, mandalas with various tantric deities. Tibetan Buddhism is a blend of both Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism with influences of their preexisting faith.
Buddhist Tour in Nepal takes you to various stupas, monasteries, and temples dedicated to preserve and spread Buddhism. Hindus in Nepal show respect and tolerance towards Buddhism. They even share several religious sites that revered by the people of both religions. Tibetan Buddhism, Newari Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism are practised in Nepal. Tibetan Buddhism is prevalent in the Himalayan region of Nepal and is the most popular one. Its influence can be seen in monasteries, temples, and stupas in Nepal including Boudhanath. Newari Buddhism is a form of Vajrayana Buddhism inspired by Theravada Buddhism. It is a non-monastic system with various rituals and outdoor festivals like Jatras. Jatras are performed by taking a chariot across the city, displaying several images and statues of various deities with vibrant clothing and music.
While travelling in Nepal for your Buddhist Tour, you will see the Eyes of Buddha on the four sides of Stupas representing his omnipresence. You will also see monks and nuns in their robes chanting mantras, rotating prayer wheels, counting prayer beads or lying horizontally on the ground for praying. The highlight is making it to the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini to witness the very place that Lord Buddha was born - Maya Devi Temple.
Boudhanath and Swyambhunath Stupas
Boudhanath Stupa is the most visited and accessible Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, popular among people all over the world and of all religions. It is a huge dome-shaped stupa painted in white and gold, decorated by prayer flags, prayer wheels, and several Buddhist artifacts. Monasteries and other structures throughout the area are full of teachings and art pieces like paintings of tantric deities and bodhisattvas.
Swayambhu, by its name, means “originated on its own”. It is also aptly called Monkey Temple. Three huge bronze statue of Buddha and two Bodhisattvas (Avalokiteshwara and Padmasambhava) lie at the entrance. At the top of the hill lies a stupa amongst other mini stupas and pagodas. This place has an amazing viewpoint of the Kathmandu Valley and several mountains on a clear day. The landscape of Swayambhunath is beautiful with clean air, green trees, several small stupas, and monkeys. It also has a wishing pond dedicated to World Peace with Buddha’s statue in the middle.
White Gumba lies at a serene location on top of Druk Amitabh Mountain in Sitapaila, Kathmandu. This place also provides excellent views of the city and mountains in the tranquillity of its environment. It's a beautifully constructed. Tibetan monastery and monks and nuns live here practicing Buddhism. The area is full of gardens, waterfalls, murals, paintings, and various statues, including a statue of Buddha at the entrance. People also come here to meditate, learn about Buddhism or to view the sunrise or sunset.
Namo Buddha is another sacred Buddhist site lying in Kavre district 40 kilometers away from Kathmandu. It is believed that Buddha, in his previous incarnation, came to this place with his royal family for a retreat. After he saw a tigress dying of hunger, unable to save her cubs, he offered his body to the tigress and saved her. After that, he found himself in the realms of Tushita and saw his family in sorrow and returned to them telling them how death was inevitable after birth. He also told them that generosity is the only way to transcend. After that, his parents are believed to have made a stupa where they buried their son’s remainings. Namo Buddha lies in a serene landscape with distant mountains, green forests and cool air. It is also home to the Thangru Tashi Yangtse Monastery.
Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha which preserves the exact place where he was born. Some holy places in Lumbini are Mayadevi Temple, named after his mother, and Pushkar Pond, where she took a bath before giving birth to Buddha. Ashoka Pillar and Lumbini Museum hold historical importance as Ashoka Pillar was built by King Ashoka marking the birthplace of Buddha and the Lumbini Museum preserves some important artifacts dating back to the 3rd century. Several art pieces, crafts, manuscripts, collection of books and coins of Maurya and Khusana dynasty can be found inside the Museum.
Besides that, Lumbini is a peaceful village filled with the beauty of nature and the Lumbini Garden makes this place even more beautiful. Lumbini is a holy place and an essential pilgrimage destination for Buddhists of various schools of faith. There are about 25 monasteries and temples in the garden, built by Buddhist countries like Japan, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, etc. Each monastery represents the amazing architecture from countries around the world.
Monk and nuns can be seen all the time during your Buddhist Tour in Nepal as they live in monasteries and practice their daily rituals. These monks and nuns dedicate their lives to Buddhism from an early age, giving up their normal life, shaving their heads, wearing robes and starting their education to become fully learned monks and nuns. They mainly study philosophy, debate, and tantric rituals along with many other things. They live a minimalist life without money or luxury products based on the donations, charities, offerings and help that comes to their monasteries. Most of these monks speak Tibetan and Nepali languages and are hesitant but upon request, you can speak to them with your guide’s help and know more about them.
Library, Museums, and Shops
All these Buddhist sites are considered to be symbols of peace and there are many other resources for those who want to learn more and be involved. There are some libraries and museums nearby these sites where you can learn more about Buddhism through books, scriptures, inscriptions, etc. Places nearby these sites also make and trade art pieces representing Buddhism of several schools. Thangka paintings, mandalas, sculptures, prayer wheels, prayer beads, and singing bowls are just a few to name. There are also shops where you can buy a music collection of beautiful chanting of mantras.