The oldest Buddhist stupa in Kathmandu Valley is found in Chabahil, an ancient spot within Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu. To the Western ear, Kathmandu and Nepal are world locations of enchantment, magic, religion, culture and wonderment. All of these are true, and it is places like Chabahil that prove it.
Nepal is a landlocked country that is bordered by India and China. It shares much of its culture, traditions and religions from these big countries. Despite the poverty and political turmoil, Nepal is one of the most beautiful countries in the world tourism-wise; often frequented by European and Asian tourists, especially devout Buddhists from India and Thailand. Nepal offers a number of religious pilgrimage sites as it is the home of hundreds of ancient Buddhist relics, temples, and stupas. The capital city of Kathmandu alone is home to several ancient temples that are unlike any other temples in the Buddhist world. Kathmandu, the largest city, is the tourism hub and center of everything there is about Nepal. For so many years Nepal was shut off from the rest of the world, and in those times, Kathmandu was thought of as the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-la. The country opened its doors to international tourism only in the 50s, and surely Kathmandu did not disappoint.
Today, it is steadily rising as the most urbanized city in Nepal. The second most modern is Patan, Kathmandu’s sister city that is also located within the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley. The oldest Buddhist stupa in Kathmandu, as agreed upon by many historians and religious pilgrims, is the Charumati Vihara stupa in Chabahil. It is a Licchavi stupa, which means it was built during the Licchavi Kingdom that ruled Nepal in the 4th century. Most historians, however, date the origins of the stupa to as early as the 3rd century, although unconfirmed. According to the book, “Dhanavajra Vajracharya, Licchavikalin Abhilekha, Kathmandu: Nepal Asiali Adyayan Sansthan”, Buddhist monks have been visiting this stupa for so many centuries. It became a very important place of pilgrimage since it was built. According to an inscription on the stupa, it was constructed by Charumati, a well known Indian princess, thus it was called Charumati Vihara. Charumati was the daughter of Ashoka, an powerful Indian Emperor. Charumati moved to Kathmandu after marrying a Nepalese prince.
In addition to this historic stupa, the Chandra Binayak temple is found in Chabahil as well; one of the four Binayak temples in Kathmandu Valley. Dedicated to Ganesh, the Hindu god with the head of an elephant, this temple is found on the main market street, which makes it often very crowded. Devotees have been gathering here through the centuries, especially on Tuesdays when the Lord Ganesh is worshipped, as well as on other designated days.
There is much history to Chabahil, and these age-old structures are proof of the town’s ancestry and religious prominence through the years. Today, this little community is fast growing into a major residential and commercial district in the capital city. It is situated along a popular trade route between India through Kathmandu and to Tibet and to Patan.