Nepal is not only known for its natural beauty but also as a cultural melting pot where two of the oldest religions of the world combine – Hinduism and Buddhism. With its history dating back to thousands of years, some of the oldest religious sites in Nepal are revered as the holiest places to find salvation by Hindus and Buddhists. Experience the breathtaking beauty of the snow capped Himalayas, and trek along deep valleys and get an out of this world experience which is both physically and spiritually charging.
A land steeped in legends and mythology, Nepal is home to many Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites. The Himalayas is considered the abode of the gods. As the Hindu scripture Skanda Purana cites, “In a hundred ages of the gods, I could not tell thee of the glories of the Himalaya. As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind by the sights of the Himalaya.”
The country abounds in many temples, monasteries and shrines visited by the devout followers of their respective faiths, which include the places of worship of other religions such as Islam, Christianity, Bon, Kirat, Jain and Sikh. Some of these sites are located in the Kathmandu Valley, the capital city, while others are situated in different parts of the country.
The Hindu pilgrimage sites can be divided into four sections or Char Dhams i.e. the Pashupat Kshetra, Mukti Kshetra, Ruru Kshetra and Baraha Kshetra, spread in different parts of the country, east to west and north to south. Similarly, there are Vaishnav, Shaiva and Shakti shrines, as per the devotees’ division of faith among Vishnu, Shiva and Kali or Bhagabati.
Despite having a predominantly Hindu population, Hinduism and Buddhism have co-existed in Nepal as nowhere else in the world. There are many temples, shrines and monasteries which are equally sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. While there is the Pashupatinath Temple, the holiest of the holy temples for Hindus, in Nepal, Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and one of the most sacred places for Buddhists, is located in the Terai district of Rupandehi.
The temple of Muktinath, situated in the trans-Himalayan district of Mustang and dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Avalokiteshwar, is a site equally venerated by the Hindus and Buddhists alike. There are also several monasteries and caves where Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava, is believed to have meditated.
Similarly, Gosainkunda in Langtang, a holy lake tucked in the serene arid lap of the Himalayas at an altitude of 4,380 m, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are also Bonpo shrines in Lupra, north of Jomsom in Mustang, and Shey Monastery in Dolpo. These pilgrimage sites are visited by a large number of pilgrims during specific festivals and occasions. The temple of Pashupatinath draws large numbers of pilgrims from Nepal and India during the Shivaratri festival.
Besides their overwhelming religious significance, the Pashupatinath Temple, the two great stupas of Swayambhunath and Bauddhanath, and Lumbini are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.