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May 2018
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Boudha Stūpa: a source for Buddhist veneration and faith

- Ven. Shastri Jhampa Losal
© Mani Lama

Origin of Boudha Stūpa dates back to Licchavi period. According to Gopālarajavaṃsāvalī, the Stūpa is said to have been constructed by Licchavi king Mānadeva to expiate the sin of patricide. Some believe the name derived from Kāśyapa, the third Buddha who appeared in this fortunate aeon (Skt:bhadrakalpa; Tib: skal pa bzang po) among the 1000 Buddhas. His relics measured in Pathi are said to have been enshrined within the Stūpa. To the Newaris, the Stupa is named "Khāsti" after the dewdrops which once filled the area. The etymology of the Newari name for the Stūpa, Khāsti or Khasuti gives some clue to the origin and history of the Stūpa. For the chronicle mentions that when the Stūpa was in process of construction, a drought struck and the workmen were forced to lay out cloth to collect the morning dew, which was then squeezed out to facilitate the day's construction. In this way it is also believed that the Stūpa's origin was in some way associated with the Tibetan town of Khasa at the present border of Nepal and China.

mani-lama-boudha-before-sunset© Mani Lama

Another chronicle that has a detail accounts on how Boudhanath Stupa was built is found in Tibetan literature in the form of Treasure Uncovered Text (gter ma), believed to have hidden by Guru Padma Sambhava in eighth century. According to that terma text, once Indra's younger daughter accidentally laid her hands on a spectacularly beautiful heavenly flower, transgressing the celestial rule. She was thereby punished to appear in the human realm. In human realm, she was born as the Great Happy Lady (bde mchog ma) in the area of Maguta, in the land of Newars (the Kathmandu Valley), to father Salva and mother Purna, both of whom were poultry-rearers. Ripening the merits she earned in her previous lives, a virtuous thought sprang up in her mind, that is to build a Stūpa which could become a safe haven for Buddha Kāśyapa's relics. She knew, if it was done, the Stūpa would become a source of enormous Glossary Link merit for the faithful ones who cast their eyes on it let alone visiting, circumambulating, saying prayers and making offerings. She had enough coins and materials to start the venture. These, she was able to earn the four different trades she inherited from her four husbands of different castes and work backgrounds. She married to four persons involved in four different professions: horse trading, hog trading, dog trading; and poultry trading. From her four husbands, she gave birth to four sons. Of course, for the Stūpa, she had to acquire land from the then ruling King.

Therefore she went prostrating before the King and requested him, "Great King: I, a poultry rearing women, through saving up the money that I earned, was single handedly able to raise four sons, sired by different fathers, and them set them up comfortably in their own homes. Through saving what I earned, I have also been able to purchase various possessions of some worth. I would now like to request that I be permitted to construct a Stūpa, which can act as my personal yidam (yid dam), as field for countless sentient beings to accumulate merit, as a focus for the mind of all Buddhas and which can house, at its heart, the relics of a Tathāgata."

Bouddha with lights© Mani Lama

King though not wanting to make rash decision remained immersed in deep thought. He was greatly struck by a thought how this poor poultry-rearing woman had, with the money that she had earned, been able single handedly to raise up four sons and how she was now contemplating the major undertaking of constructing a large Stūpa. Therefore, the king had no alterative than to give his approval, "It is acceptable for you to proceed". After hearing this, the woman's happiness knew no bounds. She and her sons owned an elephant and donkey, which, with the help of a single servant, they loaded with earth and bricks. They laid the foundation for the Stūpa at the allotted spot and began construction.

By the time they reached the third tier of the lower position, there was concern among the people of the lands. They asked themselves what type of Stūpa the king, his ministers, the wealthy and important people of the land might be expected to build if such a humble old poultry-rearing woman were allowed to construct such a great Stūpa. They agreed that this would be an insult to all of them. So they resolved to approach the king about the matter and suggest that it would be better for him to halt the construction. Thereafter, they all gathered for a meeting with the king, and said to him, "Sir, you have made a great error. If such a poor poultry-rearing woman alone be permitted to construct such a great Stūpa, how great is contribution that the populace will be expecting from the influential people of the land, such as you, the king, the ministers, the wealthy and so on. If you allow the construction to continue, it is going to prove detrimental to all of us.

cover-story© Pasang Sherpa

Born to a Tibetan parent, after completion of higher secondary education from Uttarganga Madhyamic Viddhyalay in Burtibang VDC of Baglung district, Ven. Shastri Jhampa Losal la went to Banaras in 1975 to join the Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies affiliated to Sampurna Ananda University, Varanasi. Following completing Shastri (equivalent to BA) on the subjects such as; Hindi, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Buddhist Philosophy and Asian History in the university went to Sakya College in Dehradun for further studies of Buddhist philosophy. Presently serving International Buddhist Academy, Tinchuli and Kathmandu in capacity as Vice Director and, a member of Nepal Buddhist Federation since her inception in 2007.

It would thus be far better to have all of the building materials return to their original locations and to have the work halted. But for the response, the king was to say, 'Listen all of you, it was because, I was so amazed by this one old woman who by saving her earnings was able to rare four sons and who is now proposing to build a Stūpa that this lapse of mine occurred. It was because of this that the word, 'it is acceptable that you proceed' slipped out from my mouth. A king's word is final and can not be reneged upon'. Thus, even though the people attempted to prevent the construction, it went ahead. It was for this reason that Stūpa became known as the Verbal Blunder' (Tibetan: Jarung Khashor, bya rung kha shor). The detailed story is related in pad ma ka thang, a terma text dedicated to Guru Rinpoche or Great Glossary Link Padmasambhava.

The westerners regard the Boudha Stūpa as a vatican of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. After 1959 AD., the Tibetans began to migrate to the Kathmandu valley, specially the Boudha area where they found their home. This is also justified by the fact that over 50 Tibetan Gompas of all four sects of Tibetan Buddhism have already been constructed here within the vicinity of the Stūpa, for the preservation and promotion of Buddha Dharma. In 1979, UNESCO enlisted Boudha Stūpa as the world heritage sight. No doubt, the fascinating and unique specimen of the Stūpa's architecture has successfully attracted incalculable tourists here in Nepal. The Stūpa not only commands great respect of the people in the Kathmandu valley but has become a shrine of devotion for tens of thousands of devotees of Tibetan Buddhism. It would not be exaggeration if somebody would say, at this juncture that, Boudha is synonymous of all the Stūpas in the world. The Boudha Stūpa is the common object of reverence for the Buddhist populace like; Sherpas, Mustanggis, Manangis, Dolpowas, Walungwas, Yolmowas, Tsumbas, Lumiwas, Nupriwas, Mugumbas, Gurungs, Tamangs, Tichu Rungbas, Newars of Nepal, Ladhakhis, Spitis, Kinnaurs, Gashaawas, Gyakar Khampas, Sikkimese of India as well as Bhutanese, Mongolians and Tibetans. It is undenying the fact that with the advent and development of Tibetan Buddhism in the west, hundreds and thousands of pilgrims from abroad visit here and pay their respect to Boudha Stūpa.

Last modified on Thursday, 21 June 2012 12:33


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