Balaju Tourist Attractions
Formerly a small village to the north of Kathmandu, Balaju is now an industrial suburb of the Nepalese capital. Balaju's Mahendra Park is popular with the townspeople, being a delightful place to picnic and play.
The park, laid out in the mid 17th c. by Pratapa Malla for the queen, has a wildlife preserve with red deer and a rich variety of birds. It also boasts one of the only two swimming pools in the Kathmandu Valley. The Water Gardens take their name from the Baais Dhara Balaju, a spring-fed tank into which water pours from twenty-two makara-shaped gargoyles (makara 5 crocodile). As well as being used for washing clothes and daily ablutions, the spring serves various ritual purposes. Pilgrims make their way here in large numbers, particularly for the festival of Balaju Jatra at the time of the full moon in April, on which day the water is said to come from the Trisuli.The most notable feature of the Water Gardens is the figure of the Sleeping Vishnu, Bala Nilkantha. A second, smaller figure, also of Budha Nilkantha, was long thought to be a 17th c. replica. Historians are now agreed that it too dates from the 7th c.In front of the Sleeping Vishnu stands a two-storied pagoda, built in the 19th c. and dedicated to Sitala, Goddess of Leaves. In addition to the multi-limbed figure of Sitala (14th c.), numerous other Hindu and Buddhist deities can be seen. They include an interesting 16th c. sculpture of Harihara combining the attributes of two gods: Vishnu's wheel and Shiva's trident.
Nagarjun, the mountain rising beyond Balaju park, is named after the Buddhist saint Nagarjuna, an Indian sage said to have meditated and died here in a cave. Devotees worship an image of the saint in a shrine set up in the cave on the east side of the upper section of the mountain. According to tradition Buddha left his wisdom to be guarded by the Naga until such time as humanity was ready to receive it. Centuries later the Naga passed the teachings on to Nagarjuna. The Prajnaparamita ("Perfection of Wisdom"), sixteen volumes of texts printed in gold script on lapis lazuli paper, is now in the Tham Bahal in Kathmandu.The Newaris call the peak Jamacho, a reference to the long jamma skirts traditionally worn by Nepalese dancers (the mountain's forested ridges are thought to resemble a jamma's pleats). The forest, once a favorite hunting preserve of the Ranas, is now the Rani Ban ("Forest of the Kings") Reserve. Peacocks, deer, wild pigs and some leopards inhabit the rhododendron, bamboo, oak and pine-covered slopes. The ridge and summit of Jamacho afford spectacular views of the High Himalayas from Annapurna to Sikkim.
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