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Kathmandu for History and Culture

Posted: 9th July 2015 08:41

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, rests a massive 4,600 feet above sea level between four ancient mountains in the Kathmandu Valley.  Its elevated geography is often claimed to be a reflection of its enlightening Buddhist philosophy, and it is filled with ancient traditions for backpackers to immerse themselves in.  Here, 2,000 year old inscriptions ornament stone walls and speak of its ancient heritage, austere stone, terracotta and wooden sculptures line the street corners and serene temples, and streets are brought to life by colourful monasteries.  At one such monastery – Kopan Monastery, aTibetan Buddhist monastery founded by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa, located just outside of the city – tourists can seek enlightenment on a ten day meditation course based around traditional Mahayana culture.

The city’s oldest spiritual emblem is the Kasthamandap, or wooden house; an ancient monument constructed on the site of an 11th century palace.  This pagoda styled square is a place of tranquillity, as devotees prepare spiritual offerings and cultural oddities flicker in mystic candlelight.  The heart of Kathmandu, however, lays in its bustling backstreets; explosions of colour and exotic fragrances as locals prepare Dal Bhat (traditional rice and lentil soup) and merchants tout.  Religious festivals are common in Kathmandu and highlights include the Tihar (Festival of Lights) a five day celebration with elaborate lanterns, aromatic candles, and explosive fireworks.

Garden of Dreams

The Swapna Bagaicha (Garden of Dreams) is a neoclassical garden in the heart of Kathmandu and a place of delicate tranquillity.  Pristine gardens, soothing fountains and vibrant flowers surround a miniature ivory coloured palace and are idyllic places to read and relax.  A hidden garden to the south is a floral enclave where tourists can find peace and appreciate the fortifying effects of silence, and the Kaiser Café beacons with its tasty delicious refreshments.

Swayambhunath Temple

This ancient Buddhist temple stands on a hilltop, casting the omnipotent gaze of the Buddha over Kathmandu.  At its centre is a grand white stupa which is a frequent site of worship to local Buddhists.  Known colloquially as the Monkey Temple, the shrine is iconic for its clusters of boisterous monkeys, whose favourite pastimes include rummaging through neglected backpacks and swiping unguarded sunglasses.

Kathmandu Street Art

Perhaps the most strikingly modern feature of Kathmandu is the street art and graffiti that adorns the ancient city.  The striking murals and impressive pictures are a perfect example of modern Nepalese culture, and a side of the country that most travellers are completely unprepared for.  The art often takes its inspiration from the cornerstones of Nepalese life, with a characterful blend of images from Buddhist and Hindu influences interwoven with modern Nepalese icons.