Kathmandu, the Valley of the Gods - even today the region’s numerous temples, sanctuaries and shrines reflect the deeply held religious belief of the Nepalese people. For many centuries Kathmandu Valley, a fertile plain situated between Tibet and India, was an important junction for various trading and pilgrimage routes. For almost six hundred years the Malla Dynasty influenced the history of Nepal prior to the time when the Gorkha prince, Prithvis Narayan Shah, successfully conquered Kathmandu in 1768 followed by the additional royal cities of Bhaktapur and Patan. According to legend the foundation stone of Patan, formerly Lalitpur, was laid in 233 B.C. by the North Indian king, Ashoka, and his daughter, Carumati. Situated west of Kathmandu, Swayambhunath is one of the country’s most important Buddhist sanctuaries. It is believed that sacred rituals were carried out there in prehistoric times. The oldest inscription discovered dates back to the 5th century and it refers to the founding of a monastery. A few kilometres east of Kathmandu is Pashupatinath the most important and most visited Hindu sanctuary in Nepal that also attracts pilgrims from India. Pashupatinath was first mentioned in 365 A.D. and according to legend King Haridattavarmas had the first Hindu sanctuary built there. It is now a popular pilgrimage destination. On the shores of the Bagmati River are a number of traditional cremation sites known as ‘Ghats’. In the Hindu religion the soul of the deceased can only be released if the corpse is cremated. Cows are also revered as holy thus they are permitted to roam around freely within the temple district of Pashupatinath. A little further upstream and the faithful use the waters of the Bagmati for ritual cleansing. The river therefore functions both as a final resting place for the dead as well as being a place of ritual for the living. Hinduism is the result of a long process of development that continues to the present day. Numerous fascinating temples, sanctuaries and shrines testify to the deep significance of the sincerely-felt religious belief of the people of Nepal in the legendary “Valley Of The Gods”.
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