Boudha isn’t just a stupa, it’s a world in itself.
There is nowhere quite like Boudha. This tiny place is a door into the past, blooming on the road of modernization while still planted very much in its ancient roots, a home for Tibetan refugees and an alive city pulsating with the vibrancy of Tibetan Buddhist Culture. Boudha is a mystical place where thousands of people from all walks of life come every day yet never quite leave the same way. In the repeated gongs of bells, the chants of a thousand voices raised in prayer and the unending clamour, you’ll somehow find peace. There is something incomprehensively tranquil in the way hundreds of prayer flags flutter in the wind, while the all seeing eyes of Buddha looks over the jarring city of Kathmandu.
A day stroll around the Boudhanath Stupa might leave you transfixed on your spot – while you are mulling over where to start and what to do first. Boudha does that to you – it makes you momentarily forget about the outside world because Boudha isn’t just a stupa, it’s a world in itself.
Here’s a list of things that we suggest you try at Boudha to get the best experience of this mystical place:
1. Take a Kora around the Stupa
In the hushed stillness of the morning, devotees in scarlet robes chant prayers and take as many as 108 Kora or ritual circumambulation around the Stupa. Boudhanath Stupa is believed to contain the remains of Kashyapa Buddha, making it extremely holy and revered place for devotees while others also take it as a ‘Wish granting jewel’. Taking a circumambulation is believed to be an effective act of penance for their sins and your detour around Boudha might just be incomplete without taking a Kora along with the throngs of devotees.
2. Light a butter lamp at twilight
Boudha is ethereal and surreal in the evenings when the tiny butter lamps or Choime casts flickering shadows in around the open spaces. Many devotees light the butter lamps around the Stupa as a form of prayer for the peaceful resting of the deceased members of their family or loved ones. Other times lighting the Choime, is simply an act of pure devotion. Devotion never looks prettier than this time in Boudha – the low glimmers of the tiny lamp while the Stupa is lit up in a crescendo of brilliant lights. This experience is surely not to be missed.
Photo Credit: Aakrish Lama
3. Try out the local eateries
Boudha is a melting pot of eateries. There is nothing you can’t find in its interconnected alleys, however to get the very best of Boudha try out the local food. As Boudha is inhabited by Tibetan people, you’ll have a lot of exploring to do with your taste buds. Tiny lhaphing (Cold noodles) stores are dotted across the alleys, which are delicious as well as cheap. But if you’re looking for something more fulfilling, explore the Kalimpong street where you’ll find a lot of Tibetan eateries – serving Thenthuk, Tingmo, Thukpa and Sha Balep. For something close to your comfort level, try Kori’s which serves hygienic and delicious Korean food.
4. Enjoy the view from the rooftop
The evening view from the rooftops is not worth missing out on. Even though winter evenings can get quite chilly, a warm cup of coffee can make things better and warmer. Boudha Stupa lights up like Christmas mornings on every full moon day (thrice a month) and an introvert in me rejoices at the thought of appreciating the aestheticism of this heritage as well as spending some ‘me’ time. There are plenty of decent rooftop restaurants, that might necessarily not be luxurious but will serve some warm drink and a stunning view.
5. Experience the local culture
Boudha is a centre for a thriving Tibetan Buddhist Culture. The lanes of Boudha are crammed with monasteries, and workshops producing singing bowls, Tibetan drums, prayer flags and other essential accessories for Tibetan Buddhist life. To get a whirlwind of the local culture, don’t miss out the yearly local festivals which are nothing but grand and ostentatious. During the time of the Nepali month Magh (Jan/Feb) the chariot of the patron goddess of Boudha stupa, Mamo Pukasi is carried around the stupa and its surroundings. Other festivals like Losar, Temal Jatra or Buddha Jayanti oversees a colourful display of local culture around the Stupa