History of the Great Bouddhanath Stupa
There are many stories and legends concerning the origin and history of the great stupa. According to “Hidden Treasure of the Guru Padmasambhava” a widow named Ma Jhyazima aspired to make a great offering of the Boudha, using her hard earned saving as a poultry keeper, she approached the local king for permission and it was granted , on condition that she used an area of the land measuring the size of a single ox skin. However, Jhyazima cut the skin into thin strips and claimed the land enclosed from the strips lay end to end. This mere woman’s ambition to build such a magnificent monument offering to the Boudha caused much jealousy between the rich and powerful at the time . The jealous lord petitioned the king to stop the construction, but the king who had allowed this happen, replied – “Since permission to build has been given, it shall not be rescinded.” Thus the meaning of the stupa named Jhyarung Khashyor. The remaining work of the construction of Boudha stupa was completed by the four sons (Trisong Deuchen, Shanta Rakshita, Guru Padmasambhava, Bami Thiser), of Jhyazima. This legend is very much popular in Himalayan Buddhist society.
The earliest historical references to the Boudha Stupa are found in the Chronicles of the Newars. Firstly, Boudha is mentioned as one of the four stupas found by the Licchavi king Vrisadeva (ca.AD 400) or Vikramjit. Secondly, the Newars legend of the stupa’s origin attributes it to king Dharmadeva’s son, Manadeva as atonement for his un writing parricide Manadeva was the great Licchavi king, military conqueror and the patron of the arts who reigned ca.AD 464-505. Manadeva is also linked with the Swayambhu Chaitya of Gum Bahal. Thirdly, another great Licchhavi king Shivadeva (AD 590-604) is associated with Boudha by an inscription; he may have restored the Stupa. Finally in the archeological report of the 16th century Tibetan restorer, Sakya zangpo, there is an assertion that he discovered the Lichhavi king Amsuvarma’s relics in the Stupa. There are no Lichhavi stone remains in the vicinity of Boudha, although in the eastern enclave of the Stupa there are several updatable but undoubtedly ancient stones inscribed with mantra, and in the south there are small Chaityas in the Lichhavi style, which could perhaps be dated as early as the 13th century. In conclusion, although there is no epigraphically or reliable archeological or literary evidence of the Stupa’s Lichhavi origins, its early history being based entirely upon legend.
Clues to the Stupa’s origin and history can be derived from the etymology of the Newari name of the Stupas Khas or Khasti Chaitya, “The Dewdrop Stupa”. Some believe the name derives from Kasyapa, the Manusi Buddha of the Dwapara-yuga, whose relics are said to be enshrined within it .According to Newari etymology it is derived from the Newari word for dew, for the chronicles mention that when the Stupa was in process of construction a drought struck and the workmen were forced to lay out white cotton cloth to collect the morning dew, which was then wrung out to facilitate the day’s construction. Some say Khasa was the name of a Tibetan Lama whose relics were interred here, or that the Stupa’s origin was in some way associated with the town Khasa on the present border of Nepal and China.
According to Gopal Raj Chronicles during the reign of the Licchavi king Dharmadeva (ca.AD 4th century), it is said that the king installed “Narayanhiti ” tap but the water did not come. So, the king consulted his astrologers and was told that for water, the sacrifice of the most virtuous man in the kingdom was required. After disappointing results, the king decided that it was only himself and his son who qualified as victims. The old king decided it was to be himself to die, and instructed his son to decapitate with one stroke a shrouded form he would find lying near the palace that night.
The son prince Manadeva obeyed his father’s command and was horrified to see the head of his father fly from the corpse. It landed at the temple of Vajra Yogini in Sankhu and he was told by the goddess that the only way he could undo his sins was to let a cock fly, and wherever the cock landed, build a Stupa for his father’s remains. The cock alighted at Boudha, and king Manadeva built magnificent Stupa there.
Ngakchang Sakya Zangpo was discover of the revealed legend of the great Stupa who was a Nyingmapa Tantric master. He lived in the last half of the 15th century and first part of 16th. He constructed the stupa, probably in the same form that stands today. In 1818- 19 A.D.Jogchen Shyabkar chokdrual Rangdol kept gold plated copper in the harmika of Stupa. In 1918-19 A.D. Shakya Tokden Shree contributed in restoration of this Stupa. He spent all the money collected in Tibet in the restoration of Boudha Stupa. similarly, in 1919 his sons completed the work of restoration of the Stupa. The modern history of Boudha Stupa is related to the Chiniya Lama tradition. In 1859 A.D. Rana Prime Minister appointed Chiniya Tai Fo Sing as the priest Boudha Stupa. He and his generation contributed in the restoration of Stupa. And different dharma masters had played a vital role for the restoration of this great stupa. Amongst the people who worship and play a vital role in preserving the Stupa, the Tamang community form the nuclear part .However, the Tibetan now form the numerical dominant and most active community of devotees. The Newars and Sherpas are also a part of many ethnic groups that keep this ancient site of worship alive and sacred today as it was centuries ago. The recent restorations are an effort to preserve this monument for the many more generation to come.
The benefit of circumambulation and offering of Boudhanath Stupa
Accounting to the hidden treasure of Guru Rinpoche, this wonderful stupa is one that the Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas of the three times have actually dissolved into and in which they abide; a mental focal point for all of them. It is like a wish granting jewel, which automatically answers any entreaty and prayer that is made to it. So even the Buddha’s of three times could not fully express or enumerate the benefits to be gained when some sentient beings with a pure thought prostates, circumbulates and make offerings to it. This is the supreme mental focal point for all Buddha’s of the three times, a field of offering of all beings including gods. Any entreaties and prayers that are made to it will automatically be realized. It grants all of the supreme and ordinary accomplishments. All births in the lower realms will be halted for any sentient beings who so much as behold this great stupa Jhyrung Khashyor, which is reminiscent of the fabled wish granting jewel. Whoever so much as hears mention of it will, in doing so, have placed the seed of enlightenment upon their mind- stream. All of these who recall it will be saved from fits of madness and paralysis and will gain an especially focused concentration. All of these who fold their hands as a mark of respect to it will come to the correct path. Whoever offers prostration in homage to it will take birth as a Chakra- wielding Monarch of a thousand world systems. All of those who circumambulate it will acquire the seven qualities of the higher existences. Whoever makes entreaties to it will effortlessly accomplish the two purposes.
All of those who make offerings to it will be born in a place that knows no drought. Whoever offers flowers will be sure to obtain an excellent human birth with the entire conditions requisite for the practice of Dharma. All of those who offer incense will be sure to gain pure moral conduct. Whoever offers butter lamps will have the darkness of their ignorance dispelled. All who offer scented water will be released from every form of mental disquiet and suffering. All those who offer Mandalas of the five precious substances will never again suffer from poverty or destitution, but will gain access to a treasury of wealth as limitless as the heavens. All of those who offer lamps will directly behold the countenances of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions. Whoever offers seed- oil lamps can be sure that all of the obscuration of their ignorance will be purified. Those who offer a fabric panoply and whitewash to the Stupa will secure for themselves a physical radiance and splendor as well as a mastery over gods, demons and humans.
All of those who receive blessings from it will receive empowerment from all the Buddhas of the ten directions. A miraculous birth appearing at the centre of a lotus in the northern pure land of Sukhavati, awaits anyone who remembers this Stupa at the time of death. But those who inflict harm upon it will, in that same life, become objects of all sorts of non-virtue. Then in their future existences, they will be born into the Avichi Hell of Ceaseless Torment a state from which there will be no possibility of escape and no means of atonement for the actions that got them there.
In summary, this great Boudha Stupa is reminiscent of the fabled wish granting precious jewel. Invested in it is the power to bring about whatever accomplishment is required, whether it is supreme or ordinary, and the ability to answer any supplication. It is because of this that the Stupa is known as The Stupa that Answers All Prayers.”
Meaning of the Different Parts of Bouddhanath Stupa
- Mandala – Mansion of Buddha
- Dome – Symbol of Universe or Vase of great treasure
- Two Eyes – Symbol of method and wisdom
- Harmika – Symbol of eight noble path
- Nose Like Symbol – Symbol of Nirvana
- Thirteen Steps – The thirteen states of Bodhisattvas’s ground for the complete enlightenment
- Lotus – Symbol of compassion and purity
- Umbrella – Protector of three jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
- Pinnacle – Symbol of Mt. Sumeru (The King of Mountains)