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Published June 28th 2018
The eyes that see the world and your soul
The great Boudhanath Stupa is a large Buddhist monument, located seven kilometres from Kathmandu. It was world heritage listed by UNESCO in 1979. Adorned with eyes that survey the valley in four directions, this feature is widely used on tourist brochures and memorabilia.
I have watched the growing changes here over the decades, as I pass through to trek. Around it, monasteries, businesses and craftsmen vie their wares. It is a universal monument of peace which is well respected by global citizens.
A widowed poultry keeper begged her king for the land and her four sons then fundraised and built it, becoming legends in their own right. It is generally believed to have been built in the thirteenth century, then restored in the sixteenth, but there is no documented proof. It was badly damaged in the April 2015 earthquake that devastated Nepal, but it was swiftly restored.
Pilgrims and tourists pour in from crowded buses. Locals visit twice daily to do circuits of this extremely holy object, creating merit for their future lives. The constant clicking their malas [prayer beads] and whirling of their prayer wheels [hand held ones] can be heard as one walks.
Claims are made that by circling this monument, one can be cured of various ailments, one's prayers will be realised and all who do it, will go to a higher rebirth. Offering incense will help one to gain pure moral conduct and the blessings continue. This spectacular Stupa is steeped in history, legends and blessings that are worthy of further reading.
The ardent repeatedly stretch their body in full prayerful prostration on special boards they book within the lower perimeter. Every moment of day and night, this monument attracts activity of so many kinds.
Traders and beggars are hallmarks of Holy sites throughout Asia. They ply their trade with well-rehearsed art whilst assessing their targets with street-wise intelligence. Money-changers charge a nominal fee for smaller currency to pay for offerings or endow the beggars.
Festivals and cameras abound, mantras boom out electronically, while colourful characters, hungry dogs and the occasional cow share the footpath. Light offerings are small oil candles, either in standard brass or temporary cups on large trays.
The massive monument can also be circled on the next level up but above that, it's now roped off to enable formal offerings. A whole team is employed to constantly whitewash; they toss offerings of saffron with wide swings of their arm and climb to hang all the strings of bright prayer flags.
There is a small temple near the front and marquees are regularly erected for various traditional rituals and festivals. There is a large ornate brass bell that is a frequent meeting place. And nearby are monasteries, statues and a serene peace park.
Fancy cafes and restaurants front the main circuit for refreshment at an inflated price. They provide higher views for photographers or those wanting quiet contemplation away from the overwhelming busyness.
The main dome is 30.5 meters in diameter. Ten thousand square meters in width and forty-three meters high, so it's large and can be well spotted from a distance. This is a must visit on every tourist's itinerary.