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Surrounded by rugged mountains and hills, Kathmandu, the modern capital and economic centre of Nepal, sprawls across the bowl-shaped Kathmandu valley with a million inhabitants, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the country. As an ancient trade hub linking India and Tibet, it boasts more than 2000 years of history. Today, Kathmandu is the banking and business centre of Nepal, a rapidly modernising urban metropolis punctuated with glassy skyscrapers as much as ancient pagodas, palaces, stupas, and sculptures, all inspired by Buddhist and Hindu traditions. As the stage for a vibrant calendar of annual festivals, Kathmandu is a highly energised and visually compelling centre of Nepalese culture.
Home to some fifty temples and palaces, Durbar Square is the spiritual core of Kathmandu and a vital bastion of Nepalese identity. It has been an important public space for the best part of a millennia, beginning with the construction of a palace in 1000AD. Today, the square’s architecture spans four kingdoms and several centuries – seeing all of it requires a full day. Early morning is the ideal time to begin, when the Square is comes to life with men working on the monuments and Hindu women making offerings of incense and flowers to the gods.Read more
Near the banks of the Vishnumati River lies one of the most sacred sites of Buddhist worship in Kathmandu: Swayambhunath. Aside from containing The Stupa that all subsequent Nepalese stupas were modelled after, it is home to numerous shrines and fine examples of decorative religious artwork. The Stupa – which supplies commanding views over the city - stands ten metres tall and has a diameter of twenty metres. On each of its four sides there is a unique shrine dedicated to one of the meditational Buddhas. Swayambhunath is the setting for several major festivals; the Tibetan New Year in February or March and the Buddha’s Birthday in April or May are both celebrated here with much joy and excitement.
A pivotal site of importance to Hindus in Kathmandu is the revered pilgrimage site of Pashupatinath, where thousands travel every year to pay homage to Shiva, the shepherd of beasts. For non-Hindu visitors, the best place to experience the main temple is from the steps above the eastern bank of the Bagmati River. Here, it is possible to see a row of eleven shrines, and to have a clear line of sight to the two-storied pagoda that is the heart of the complex.