Boudhanath is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, Nepal. Boudhanath has been an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists & local Nepalis. It is known as KhÄsti by Newars as Bauddha or Bodh-nÄth by modern speakers of Nepali. Located about 11 km (7 miles) from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu, the stupa's massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. It is also a popular tourist site. In 1979, Boudha became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Great Stupa of Boudhanath is the focal point of the district. There are at least 29 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries & Nunneries) around Boudhanath. The Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath dominates the skyline. The ancient Stupa is one of the largest in the world.
According to legend, Boudhanath Stupa was built during the 5th century AD, by an an old poultry woman who asked the king for land to construct a shrine to the Buddha. The king agreed, and offered her as much land as she could cover with the skin of a water buffalo. The woman proceeded to cut a buffalo hide into thin strips, and placed them end to end to form a huge circumference. The king realized that he had been tricked by the old woman, but he adhered to his word, and the stupa was constructed according to these dimensions.
Bodnath Stupa looks like a giant mandala, or diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. And as in all Tibetan mandalas, four of the Dhyani Buddhas mark the cardinal points, with the fifth, Vairocana, enshrined in the center (in the white hemisphere of the stupa). The five Buddhas also personify the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), which are represented in the stupa's architecture.
There are other symbolic numbers here as well: the nine levels of Boudhanath Stupa represent the mythical Mt. Meru, center of the cosmos; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightenment, or "Bodhi" — hence the stupa's name. As at Swayabunath, Bodnath is topped with a square tower bearing the omnipresent Buddha eyes on all four sides. Instead of a nose is a question-mark-type symbol that is actually the Nepali character for the number 1, symbolizing unity and the one way to reach enlightenment—through the Buddha's teachings. Above this is the third eye, symbolizing the wisdom of the Buddha.
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