Budha Nilkantha, Narayanthan Tourist Attractions
About 6 km (33/4 mi.) north of Kathmandu, in the village of Narayanthan at the foot of the Shivapuri hills, stand the oldest and certainly the most important group of temples in the Kathmandu Valley.
Budha Nilkantha is dedicated to Vishnu in the form of Jalashayana Narayan, usually depicted asleep on a bed of snakes in the primeval ocean. Shrines such as these once marked the four cardinal points and center of an ancient kingdom, the capital of which is thought to have been in the area of Harigaum. The kings of the Kathmandu Valley, it is said, were required to pay their respects to all four images daily. Three of the figures, all dating from the Licchavi period, survive: one in Balaju, one in the palace garden in Kathmandu and one here in Narayanthan.The shrine of Jalashayana Narayan at Budha Nilkantha has special significance at Ekadasi, the eleventh day after the new and full moon. These are holy days for Vishnu's followers, marked by fasting and prayers. At Haribodhini the god's return to the Kathmandu Valley - from which he is absent during the monsoon months - is celebrated.In the four days following Haribodhini Ekadasi, Budha Nilkantha attracts many pilgrims. Sacrificial offerings are made and oil lamps are hung on the walls around the tank. There is much singing, and chanting of Vishnu's name. Afterwards many families settle down to a picnic. For some this will be the first full meal for four months, having partially fasted in the absence of their god.The name Budha Nilkantha represents something of an oddity. It means "Old Blue Neck" and actually refers to Shiva, who drank the poison of the ocean which turned his neck blue. To soothe the burning he threw himself into Lake Gosainkund, from whence, it is said, comes the water in Budha Nilkantha's tank. The shrine itself however is dedicated unambiguously to Vishnu. It was consecrated in 642.The huge, 6 m (191/2 ft) long sculpture is carved from a black stone not found in the Kathmandu Valley. Vishnu reclines on the coils of the snake Ananta whose eleven hoods form a garland around his head. The figure is unusually charismatic, the tranquil pose, legs slightly bent, and serenity of expression having a wonderfully calming effect. The four hands bear the god's attributes: wheel, lotus, conch and club. It was from a seed of the lotus growing from Vishnu's navel that Brahma, creator of the world, came forth.Ritual ablutions take place morning and evening, fascinating ceremonies conducted by Brahmins who alone are permitted to set foot on Vishnu's body. The god is washed with water before having his head and feet anointed with a mixture of melted butter, yogurt, milk, honey and sugar. Afterwards the many floral offerings are laid around his head and, thus adorned, worship is resumed.
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