The Tale of the Bouddhanath Stupa

Thirty six meters high and one of the largest stupas in Asia, the Bouddhanath Stupa (or Boudha stupa) was first constructed around the 5th century. For centuries, the stupa has held an important place as a spiritual site for Tibetan and Nepali Buddhists. Moreover, it has been frequented by the merchants as a resting place since it is located on the historical trade route that connects the Nepal and Tibet regions.

Since 1979, it has been accorded the status of a world heritage site by UNESCO as it is one of the oldest scared architectural structures.

Aerial View of Boudhanath Stupa


The Boudha Stupa sits some 11 km outside of the center of Katmandu district, at the traditional trade route between Tibet and Nepal regions. Despite being located on the outskirts, it has established itself as the focal point of the district and dominates the skyline.

The Legend of Bouddhanath

A Contested History

Now there are fascinating and conflicting theories regarding the origins of the Bouddhanath Stupa, one proposed by the Newar (inhabitants of the ancient Katmandu valley) and the other by Tibetans.

The Newar Version

In the Newar language, it is referred to as khasti chaitya. The earliest references to khasti chaitya can be found in the chronicles of Newar, which dates it back to the reign of Licchavi King, Vikramjit (400 A.D).

As the legend goes, Vikramjit ordered a “hiti” (a community water spout) be made in his courtyard but to his dismay, there was no sign of water. He consulted his astrologers, who recommended that he offer a sacrifice of a male with 32 perfections. Only the king himself and the two princes could qualify to these peculiar requirements, so the king decided to sacrifice himself.

He tricked his son into taking his life as he instructed him to sacrifice a man who’d be sleeping with his face covered. His son, consumed by sorrow and remorse after murdering his own father, went to the priests who suggested him to release a “flying hen” off the top of a mountain for salvation. It is the spot where the hen landed, which is said to be the location of the Bouddhanath Stupa.

Bouddhanath Stupa

The Tibetan Version

The Tibetan version that came to limelight later, credits the building of the stupa to an old poultry farmer. According to the legend, the lady farmer requested the king for a tract of land along with the permission to build a monastery for Buddha. The king granted her the permission and agreed to provide the land. But there was a caveat, she could get only as much land as she could cover with the skin of a buffalo. The woman intelligently cut the hide into thin strips and then used it to form a circumference that covered the huge area where the Bouddhanath Stupa stands on today.

The conflicted history shrouds the origins of this world heritage site in mystery and makes it that even more fascinating. See rare old pictures of Bouddhanath Stupa.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Related Posts

Tandin Nye, Thimphu, Bhutan
Buddhist Sites

Tandin Nye, Thimphu, Bhutan

According to the Nyeyig, Guru Rinpoche གུ་རུ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ། in the 8th century is believed to have meditated on the practice of Tandin རྟ་མགྲིན་ (Hayagriva) at this place in order to subdue the evil forces of the region. Centuries later, great masters such as Phajo Drugom during the 13th century and Terton Drukdra Dorji in the 17th century is also supposed to have meditated and practiced at this place.

Read More »
Rare Old Photos of Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
Buddhist Sites

Rare Old Photos of Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

The Boudhanath Stupa, locally known as Khasti (खास्ती) in Nepali language or Boudha Stupa, in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal was built hundreds of years ago and carry with it a long history that is an important part of the story of Nepal and of Buddhism in the Himalaya. In these rare photos collection of the stupa we can witness this great monument as it looked in the past and see the transformation the entire Kathmandu valley went through. Still, even though many years as passed, it seems that the stupa itself stood strong and changed very little over the years.

Read More »
Amravati Stupa
Buddhist Sites

Amravati Stupa in Amravati, India

Located in Andhra Pradesh in India, the Amravati Stupa is an exemplary relic that displays the best work of the Buddhist school of architecture. It is 65 kilometers away from the city of Vijayawada and attracts hundreds of pilgrims, followers, and tourists from India and across the world every year. While the radiant monument doesn’t need any sidelines to enhance the look, the placement of it on the banks of the River Krishna adds a lot to its charm and glory.

Read More »
Jetavanaramaya Stupa
Buddhist Sites

Jetavanaramaya Stupa in Anuradhpura

The Jetavanaramaya is a Buddhist stupa and at 122 meters (400 feet) is ranked as the world’s tallest stupa and the third tallest structure back when it was originally built almost 1700 years ago. It is believed to have been built at the site where the last rights of Hinda Maha Thero were performed. Hinda, a revered figure in Sri Lankan history, is the monk who first brought Buddhism to the island.

Read More »
tibetan stupas in china
Buddhist Sites

Discovering the Unknown Side of Stupas

A stupa is generally known as the most important architectural symbol in Buddhism, but few are aware of the fact that the structure pre-dates Buddhism itself. It has existed through pre-Buddhist times in India in some shape or form. The remains of the dead, mostly of someone important, were stored in a mound to pay homage and reverence to.

Read More »


Buddhist Thangkas from Boudhanath, Nepal