The spiritual world of Nepal plays a pivotal role in shaping the lives of its people, its architectural splendour and the shining wonder of its exotic arts and crafts— and that’s just the half of it. While Nepal’s status as the world’s only Hindu kingdom, protected by its remote environs in the Eastern Himalayas is a daunting legacy, its Buddhist faith is also a flourishing living culture, dating back centuries.
To explore Nepal’s Buddhist roots more deeply, a peek into the ascetic life of a nunnery leaves you with precious insights into this secluded, mysterious world of prayers and rituals.
The hike starts out from Budanilkantha and the Shivapuri National Park. This scenic trail leads you up a hillside to the tranquil Nagi Gumba Monastery. At the top soak in the air of quiet reflection and unhurried monastic pursuits. You will also love the grandstand views of Kathmandu Valley spread out before you; on a clear day, you may even catch glimpses of the Langtang Himalayas. At the monastery, you will get a unique opportunity to interact with the nuns and learn about the Buddhist faith—and the everyday world around which their lives revolve in this monastic setting. You will enjoy more conversation with them over a specially arranged lunch with them.
The monastery is actually run by the nuns. There are around 200 resident nuns. It is also known as Anu Gumba, because it is a nunnery.
The short hike offers the bonus of enjoying the beauty of the pristine setting of the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park (SNNP located in the northern expanses of the Kathmandu Valley.
Explorations of the Budhanilakantha Temple located at the foot of the Shivapuri Hills, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, reveal a unique feature. Under a brightly coloured canopy is a massive stone statue of a sleeping Lord Vishnu reclining on the twisting coils of the multi-headed cosmic serpent Shesha. It is surrounded by the still waters of a small pond with a wrap-around railing. This is said to be the largest stone-carved statue in Nepal. The venerable temple said to date back to the 14th century, is wreathed in myths and mystery. Strangely enough, the face of Vishnu appears to reflect Buddha-like features, commonly found in Buddhist sculptures. Both the Hindu community and Nepal’s Newar Buddhists venerate the shrine. It also attracts Shiva devotees as it is believed that during the annual Shivratri festivities, a reclining image of Shiva can be spotted under the lake waters. Local legend has it that in the 17th century, Pratap Malla, the ninth king of Kantipur dreamt that any king visiting this shrine would die. The impact of the vision was so strong, it is said that no Nepalese king has visited the shrine ever since.
You might enjoy delving deeper into the world of the nuns and the unique mysteries of the Budhanilakantha Temple. The curious traveller in you is bound to find an opportunity to plan another trip to unravel these mysteries and even spend time exploring the flora and fauna of the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park.