World Heritage (UNESCO) Site in Nepal

Nepal may be a small country and one of the poorest in the world but it certainly is one of the richest in culture and natural resources, which is why Nepal has a significant number of World heritage Sites in and outside the Kathmandu Valley. For the record, as of today, 911 properties worldwide are listed as World heritage Sites because of their outstanding universal value. These include 704 cultural,180 natural and 27 mixed properties. In Nepal the following have been inscribed as World heritage Sites: Kathmandu, Lumbini, Chitwan national Park, Sagarmatha National Park.

Kathmandu Valley was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1979 based on the following seven groups of cultural monuments (also known as Monument Zones): Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Pasupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambunath Stupa and Changu Narayan Temple.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square is also known as Hanuman Dhoka, a name derived from the statue of the monkey god, Hanuma, which stands at the entrance of the main place in the square. The expensive square holds, other palaces of the Malla and Shah Kings which are said to have been built by King Gunakamadev in the 10th century. During King Ratna Malla’s time (1484-1520), they became the royal palaces for the Malla Kings. Among the many temples at the site, the oldest ones, namely Jagannath, Kotillingeswara Mahadev, Mahendreswara and Taleju Temples were built by Kind Mahendra Malla (1560-1574). One of the most famous palaces here is Kumari Bahal, the three storied residence of the Living Goddess Kumari who is worshipped as are incarnation of Goddess Kali. Kasthamandap Temple s another renowned structure here . The name Kathmandu, is said to be derived from this temple, which is built from the wood of one single tree. Maru Ganesh Temple nearby is one of the most visited temples in Kathmandu. Other Temples seen here are the Shiva Parvati Temple, Bhagwati Temple, Saraswoti temple, Krishna Temple and the Kal Bhairav Shrine. After the conquest of the alley by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1769, Kathmandu Durbar Square became the abode of the Shah Kings who ruled from there until 1896 when they moved to the Narayanhiti Palace.

Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square served as the seat of the former Royal family of Patan. It is situated in the center of Patan City, also known as Lalitpur. The palace has three main courtyards, namely Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Keshav Narayan Chowk. While the Mul Chowk is the oldest, the Keshav Narayan Chowk is where the first Malla Palace in Patan was constructed on the foundations of an old Buddhist monastery. Sundari Chowk has a famous sunken watering spot (previously the royal bath) known as Tusha Hiti. Patan Durbar Square has one of the most diverse collections of traditional architectural styles found within a square anywhere. Man single and multi tiered Temples. Represent different architectural styles occupy the western part of the complex. Among the most famous are Krishna Temple, Kumbeswor Temple, Bhimsen Temple and the 12th century Golden Temple of Hiranaga Varna Mahavihar. The 17th century Krishna Temple has been constructed with red stone in the Shikara style and is the most important place of worship during Krishna Asthami. The Kumbheshwor Temple is the five-storied pagoda-style structure dedicated to Lord Shiva while another similarly styled temple is the Jagat Narayan Temple which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Bhaktapur Dubar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, in the typically Newari town of Bhaktapur, is highlighted by a plethora of various monuments and works of art including stone statues of ancient kings and guardian deities. In addition, it is a treasure trove of fine wood carvings that adorn most of the temples and houses in the vicinity. A conglomeration of pagoda and shikara-style temples can be seen in the square as can be seen the Lion gate which was constructed in 1696 and is guarded by two huge lion statues soon either side. The gate is embellished with stone images of Lord Shiva and Ugrachandi represented in their frightening manifestations. Also located in the square is the world renowned Golden Gate, an exquisite monument of gilded metalwork that is surmounted by a figure of Goddess Kali and Garuda (mythical man/bird) attended by two nymphs. Erected by King Ranjit Malla, it is the entrance of the main courtyard of the famous 55-Window Palace which was built during the reign of King Yakshay Malla in 1427 and was later remodeled by King Bhpatindra Malla whose statue on a column facing the palace is considered to be one of the finest statues in the square.

Pashupatinath Temple

Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, Pashupatinath Temple is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus the world over and Nepal’s most sacred Hindu shrine. The present temple was built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1653 although an inscription found at the site indicates that a previous temple dating back to the 5th century stood here. Adorned with a two tiered gold plated roof, silver doors and beautiful wood carvings, the temple is specially visited by thousands of devotees during religious occasions like Ekadasi, Sankranti, Maha Shivaratri, Teej, Akshaya, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse) and Poornia (full-moon day). Facing the main entrance of the temple is a 300 year-old bronze statue of Nandi (Shiva’s carrier, the bull) while the four faced Lingum (phallic symbol of Shiva) inside the temple dates back to the 14th Century. The cremation ground near the temple has on section, the Arya Ghat, reserved specially for royalty. Nearby is a 7th Century statue of Virupaksha, the ‘three-eyed Shiva’ while south of the cremation grounds is the 6th century Baccareshwari Temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati. Nearby is terracotta figure of Lord Narayan. Other shrines at the complex are the Raj Rajeshwari, Nawa Durga and Pancha Dewal Temples while, across the river, are the Ram Temple, the Rama Jankai temple and the Laxmi Narayan Temple as well as the Gorakhnath Temple dedicated to the age Gorknath, the patron deity of the Shah Kings, The 17th Century Guyeshwari temple is some distance downhill while the Kirateswar Mahadev Mandir and Surya Ghat are to the west of the river.

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa is claimed to be the one of the largest stupas in the world and is the most holy Buddhist site in Nepal. Located about 7 km east of the Kathmandu city center, it is also known as Khasti Chaitya and has a diameter of about 100m and a height of 40m. Among its most distinctive features are the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha which are pained in red, white and blue that gaze out on all sides from the upper tower which is capped as a pyramid. All this stands stop a large dome and a 3-layered base around which are 108 Buddhist deities and rows of brass prayer wheels which devotees spin while going round the shrine in a clockwise direction. Many colorfully adorned monasteries from all four schools of Mahayana Buddhism are situated within the complex. King Mandeva is believed to have first Manadev is believed to have first erected the stupa during the Lichhavi period (2nd to 9th century) and it was later renovated extensively in the 17th Century. Boudhanath Stupa is said to contain the remains of the past Buddha Kashyapa. The most popular festival celebrated here is Lhosar, the Tibetan New Year, when one will find thousands of devotees from near and far congregating at the site.

Swayabhunath Stupa

Located on the top of a conical hill. Swaymabhunath Stupa is one of the most ancient of all holy shrines in Kathmandu Valley. It is easily distinguishable by its lofty white dome and glittering golden spire and the all-seeing-eyes of the Buddha, each pair of eyes having another eye, above them. Swayambhunath is believed to have been an important Buddhist pilgrimage site since as far back as the 5th Century. Occasions like Buddha Jayanti (Buddha’s Birthday), Gunla (a month-long festival and Lhosar (Tibetan New Year) sees thousands of devotees visiting the site. The shrine can be reached in two ways, either by climbing 365 steps up the hill, past a gilded Vajra and two lions guarding the entrance, or by a metal road that winds up the hill on the other side. Many chityas, temples and deity images as well as a Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Harati are located within the complex as is the small but mysterious Shantipur Temple, inside of which, it is believed, lives the 8th century Tantric Shantikar Acharya whose mediation techniques are credited for his remaining alive for many centuries. Many new Buddha idols and many prayer wheels on the hillsides have been made in recent times. A 57-foot Buddha statue is another newer addition. It is situated to the west end within a park.

Changu Narayan Temple

The 4th century Changu Narayan Temple is the oldest temple in Kathmandu Valley. Displaying some of the finest examples of stone, wood, and metal craftsmanship of the Licchavi period (2nd to 9th century), it is situated 22km from Kathmandu city and 4 km from Bhaktapur. The temple is devoted to Lord Narayan, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, whose ten-headed and ten-armed 5th Century stone image is the major attraction here. Rebuilding and renovations in 1702 resulted in the resent pagoda-style temple. The life-size 5th century stone statue of Garuda, the mythical man/bird carrier of Vishnu, who kneels with folded hands at the temple entrance, is another well-known figure. Beside this icons one of the oldest Licchavi stone inscriptions found in the county as well as a statue of a kneeling King Bhupatindra Malla and his queen. Stone lions stand guard on either side of the gilded door which has intricate gilded windows. Four pillars with the symbols of Vishnu: the chakra (disc), conch shell, the lotus, and club (gadda) stand at the four corners of the temple and above the main door is also an image of Vishnu holding his four symbol. Many other shrines can be found here among which are temples dedicated to the gods, Krishna, Narayan, Ganesh, Somalingeshvara, Nateshvara and Shiva and to the goddesses Bhagwati and Lakshmi. Also found here are ancient (8th-10th century) sculptures of Vishnu Vikranta, Vishnu Visharupa, Narasimha Vishnu, Sri Mahadev, Vishnu, Durga Avalokitesvara and Garuda Ganesh.

Lumbini

Situated in the Terai of southern Nepal in Kapilvastu of Rupandehi District, Lumbini is the birthplace is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam who went on to be known as the Buddha, the propagator of Buddhism. He is said to have lived here till the age of 29, roughly between 563 and 483 BCE. The Mayadev Temple, which has a stone image of Queen Mayadevi giving birth to the Buddha, is the main attraction here. Pushkarni Pond where she took the ritual dip before giving birth, and where Buddha himself had his first bath, is nearby. The site also has a sacred Bodhi tree (the kind under which Buddha received enlightenment) and the Ashoka Pillar at the exact site where Buddha was born. Along with Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya and Sarnath, Lumbini is one of the four essential pilgrimage sites for Buddhists the world over. The area was developed by the Lumbini Development trust (established in 1976) and its master plan was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange in 1978. The Trust area is divided into three zones: the Scared Garden Zone, the Monastic Zone and the Educational and Culture Zone which includes a research area. The Monastic Zone is segregated in to the East Zone where monasteries have been built by followers of Thera vat Buddhism (Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indai, etc.) and the West Zone where monasteries have been similarly constructed by followers of Mahanyan branch of Buddhism (Vietnam, Kampuchea, Bhutan, Japan, etc.) as well as by followers of Tibetan Buddhism (like Drigyul and Kagyul sects). Lumbini was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1997.

Sagarmatha National Park

Located at 3000 level above sea level, the Sagarmath national Park is the highest national park in the world. It is situated in Solukhumbu District of Sagarmath Zone and was established on July 19, 1976. In 1979, it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its ‘superlative natural beauty and great aesthetic importance’. The park comprise the upper catchment areas of Dudh Kosi and Bote Koshi Rivers and encompasses an area of 1,148 sq km with most parts of the landscape being rugged terrain and gorges of the high Himalayas. The park is located amidst many of the world’s tallest peaks including Mount eve rest. Other well know peaks in the region are Lhotse, Thamerku Pumori, Ama Dahblm, Cho Oyu, Kwangde, Kangtaiga and Gyachyung Kang. The best time to visit the exotic park are the months between October and February when one may sight endangered animals like wild yaks, musk deer, red pandas, snow leopards and Himalayan black bears. Beside these, the park is home to more than 118 species of birds, including the nation bird, the Impeyan pheasant (Dhanphe) and 26 species of butterflies. The flora includes pine and hemlock forest on the lower elevation and above 3500 m, trees such as birch, rhododendron, silver fir and juniper along with rhododendron shrubs.

Chitwan National Park

Nepal’s first national park, the Chitwan National Park, is located in Chitwan District, one of the seventy-five districts of Nepal. It lies in the western part of Narayani Zone and is at a distance of 120 km form Kathmandu. The park covers an area of approximately 932 sq km and the nearest airport is the Bharatpur, the district headquarters. Chitwan has a rich flora and fauna having more than 43 species of mammals, over 450 species of birds, and reptiles in the park. Some of the rare wildlife found here are the Royal Bengal tiger, the one horned rhino and the gharial besides other animals like leopards, mugger crocodiles, Indian rock pythons and several species of deer and monkeys as well as wild elephants, striped hyenas, the fur horned antelope, pangolins, etc. Among birds, the endangered species include the Bengal Florida, the lesser Florian, the giant hornbill and black storks and white storks. Other common birds include peafowls and red jungle fowls as well as various species of egrets, herons, kingfishers, flycatcher and woodpeckers. While the best time to visit the park is between October and February. March and December are the best moths for bird watching. The park was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1984.