Boudhanath or Boddnath is among the largest stupas in South Asia, and it has become the focal point of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. Colored white, it rises thirty-six meters overhead. The stupa is located on the ancient trade route to Tibet, and generations of Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers here over many centuries. When refugees entered Nepal from Tibet in the 1950s, many of them decided to live around Boudhanath. They established many gompas, and the “Little Tibet” of Nepal was born. This “Little Tibet” is still the best place in the Valley to observe Tibetan lifestyle. Monks walk about in saffron robes, Tibetans walk with prayer wheels in their hands, and the rituals of prostration are presented to the Buddha as worshippers circumambulate the stupa in a clockwise fashion on their hands and knees, bowing down to their lord. The stupa stands on a three platforms, one on top of the other. Each platform is known as Vimsatikona, the platform of twenty angles. These platforms form a mandala structure with the stupa as the center. The huge, white dome of the Buddha is known as the anda, the egg, or garbha, womb, which represents the creation of the Earth. Each stupa, even the small ones skirting a larger stupa, is said to contain the ashes of a saint or to commemorate them. Boudha stupa is said to entomb the remains of the sage Kasyap who is venerable both to Buddhists and Hindus. There’re eighty small recesses at the base of the dome with a Buddha sculpture in each.
Above the dome is the four sided harmika, and each face has a painted pair of eyes looking in one of the four directions. The fashion of painting eyes on the harmika was started only in the fifteenth century. Some say that the set of eyes are that of Buddha’s below which lies the whole world while others say they represent the sun and the moon. Above these eyes is a small eye which may be interpreted as the third eye, signifying the power of the god. Between the eyes is a symbol like a question mark, which some interpret as a nose, but it is actually the Nepali number “one.” Buddhists use this symbol to indicate that there is only way out of the earthly suffering, the path led by Buddha, and others simply think of it as unity. Rising above harmika is the central spire constituted of a thirteen tiered finial, which are plated with copper. The peculiarity about the finial of Boudha to that of other stupas around the Kathmandu Valley is that the finial has four sided plates forming a pyramid instead of circular disks. The finial serves to remind people that there are thirteen obstacles to enlightenment. Only after transcending these barriers can one reach the top to the parasol, or nirvana. The pinnacle of the Boudhanath Stupa is also known as bodhi which means perfect knowledge. The whole area is rich of Tibetan culture and displays some of the finest forms of Tibetan art that can be seen in the Kathmandu Valley. Colorful thangkas, Tibetan jewelry, hand-woven carpets, masks, and khukuri knives are sold there in stalls. Smaller stupas are located at the base. Gompa monasteries, curios shops, and restaurants surround Bouddhanath, Nepal’s largest Buddhist stupa. As of 1979, Boddnath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.