Nepal is not just known for her natural beauty but also as a melting pot of two of the world's oldest religions - Buddhism and Hinduism. With a history that dates back to several thousand years, some of the most ancient religious sites exist here. Buddhists and Hindu pilgrims come to find salvation in these holy sites. Some of these sacred sites are set amongst breathtaking views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks which involves trekking along deep valleys. It can be an out of this world experience that is both physically and spiritually rewarding. Nepal is a land steeped in mythology and legends. It is home to numerous Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage sites. The Himalayas have always been considered the abode of gods. The Hindu scripture Skanda Purana cites, " In a hundred ages of the gods, I cannot explain the glories of the Himalaya to thee." It is also said that the sight of the Himalayas cleanses the sins of humankind while the morning dew is being dried up by the morning sun.
The Hindu pilgrimage sites have been divided into four sections known as Char Dham ( Four Abodes) namely, Pashupati Chettra, Mukti Chettra, Ruru Chettra, and Baraha Chettra. These abodes are spread in different parts of the country in all four directions; East, West, North, and South. Similarly the devotees of Vishnu, Shiva and Kali or Bhagawati are known as Vaishnava, Shaiva, and Shakti go to the respective shrines to worship.
The Hindus and Buddhists have lived side by side in harmony for a few thousand years. Numerous temples, shrines, and monasteries are equally sacred to both the Buddhists and Hindus.
Pashupatinath Temple is considered the holiest for the Hindus, in Nepal. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha is located in the Terai region South West of Kathmandu. It is considered one of the most sacred places for Buddhists.
The Temple of Muktinath is situated in the trans-Himalayan district of Mustang. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Avalokiteshwar; this site is revered equally by Buddhists and Hindus alike. There are several monasteries and caves where Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated before introducing Tantric Buddhism to Tibet.
Gosainkunda Lake is tucked away in a serene location in the Langtang region at 4380 m and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are Bonpo monasteries in Mustang, Dolpo districts of Nepal. Bonpo predates Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a practice of animism and shamanism.
The temples, monasteries, shrines and some lakes are flocked by a large number of pilgrims on specific religious festivals and occasions. The Temple of Pashupatinath draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over Nepal and India during the Shivaratri Festival.
The Pashupatinath temple along with two Buddhist stupas namely Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and Lumbini are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
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