Nepal // The Central Hills //

The Namobuddha circuit

Although the scenery isn’t spectacular, the Namobuddha circuit is a pleasant day hike or a (much quicker) bike ride from Dhulikhel, with some interesting stop-offs en route. It’s worth trying to combine Namobuddha with a sunrise walk to the Kali shrine.

The route follows the road beyond the Kali shrine, passing through Khavre village, crossing the Sindhuli Highway after 2.5km, and contouring close to the crest of a ridge for another 7km to an intersection at a small saddle. True off-the-beaten-path riding can be found down any of the tracks off to the left in this section, particularly the one at this last junction (see the HMG/FINNIDA map series for details). For Namobuddha, though, bear right.

Resting on a red-earth ledge near the top of a jungly ridge, Namobuddha (or Namura) is one of the three holiest Tibetan pilgrimage sites south of the Himalayas. Similar in spirit to Boudha, it is something of a Tibetan Buddhist boomtown (or boom-village at least), particularly during the February/March pilgrimage season. The stupa celebrates the compassion of a young prince (in some versions, the Buddha himself) who encountered a starving tigress about to devour a small child, and offered his own flesh instead – a sacrifice that ensured his canonization as a Bodhisattva. The Tibetan name of the stupa, Takmo Lujin (Tiger Body Gift), links it explicitly to the well-known legend. According to one Tibetan scribe, the name Namobuddha (“Hail to the Buddha”) came into popular usage in the seventeenth century, when the superstition took hold that the site’s real name should not be uttered.

Among the homes and teahouses surrounding the stupa is a scruffy little Tamang gompa. Since the 1980s, however, the main Buddhist population at Namobuddha has been Tibetan. A steep path leads up to the ridge behind, which is festooned with chaitya, prayer flags and a collection of Tibetan monasteries, retreats and lesser stupas. In a small shelter near the top is a famous stone relief sculpture of the prince feeding his flesh to the tigress. If you want to stay overnight near Namobuddha it’s well worth checking out the couple of smart resorts nearby.

The road descends from Namobuddha to Sangkhu, where a right fork leads to Batase and eventually back to Dhulikhel along various roads or trails. However, it’s about the same distance (9km) to Panauti, and this is a preferable alternative if you have the time to spend the night there. From Panauti you can return to Dhulikhel a number of different ways by foot, bike or bus.

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