Quest for the destined consort
To visit Bhaktapur is to step back in time, to an age when Nepal was a collection of city states – small kingdoms complete with royal palaces and temple priests, encircled by winding lanes and local villages, and everywhere countless shrines, sacred to the region’s clans. We can picture Yeshe Tsogyal wandering these lanes, a woman of foreign looks and manners and yet a lady of magnificent bearing. Indeed, we are told, her radiance left the locals speechless and in awe. It was here that another foreigner, a young Indian boy named Arya (or Acharya) Sale, strolled up to the Lady – and thus began a relationship that would lead to vast benefit and spiritual accomplishment, at first in Nepal, and later further north in the snowy land of Tibet.
How to get there
Bhaktapur, City of Devotees, lies in the southeastern corner of the valley. It can be reached easily by taxi, and is about a 45-minute drive from Boudhanath.
food and accommodation
Enjoy traditional Newar fare in the area’s many traditional restaurants. You are still technically in Kathmandu, and those staying in other parts of the city will make this a day-trip.
While the exact location of the place where Yeshe Tsogyal met Arya Sale is unknown, Bhaktapur contains several important Buddhist sites where we can recall these events. Other sites related to Yeshé Tsogyal’s time in Nepal can be found at the charnel ground near E Vihara, and at Asura Cave & Yangleshö.
Prashannashil Mahavihara: 27°40'28.7"N 85°26'06.4"E
Prashannashil Mahavihara, north of Dattatraya Square, enshrines the poignant and beautiful statue of Buddha Dipamkara, the Buddha of the previous eon, which some see as Red Tara.
Mangal Dharmadweep Mahavihar – Jhaur Bahi: 27°40'20.9"N 85°25'59.4"E
Jhaur Bahi is a temple enshrining a sacred statue of Buddha Shakyamuni.
Talking Tara: 27°40'20.2"N 85°25'41.7"E
“Talking Tara” is a statue that is believed to have spoken to the king, telling him to invite Milarepa to come. It is located in the King’s Palace, where even non-Hindus may enter.
Lokeshvara Vihara: 27°40'19.4"N 85°25'32.1"E
Lokeshvara Vihara enshrines a sacred statue of Avalokiteshvara, close to Itachhe Tol in Bhaktapur.
Milarepa Cave: 27°41'27.7"N 85°29'28.9"E
Milarepa meditated in a cave at Saraswati Sthan, located in the hills above the ancient town of Bhaktapur. Some believe this to be the place where Manjushri arrived, when he came from his mountain home of Wu Tai Shan in China, in the form of Vajracharya Manjudeva.
Thrangu Rinpoche built a retreat center here, known as Shekhar, just below the Milarepa cave: 27°41'25.2"N 85°29'14.0"E.
Changu Narayan: 27°42'59.1"N 85°25'40.3"E
Changu Narayan – the most important temple in the valley for devotees of Lord Vishnu – is located halfway between Bhaktapur and the village of Sankhu. It is one of the oldest temples of the valley. Its central image is a 7th century stone sculpture of Vishnu riding a Garuda. According to the 4th Khamtrul Rinpoche, this image is naturally self-arisen, and is thus called Khyung Rangjung Gyi Norbu, Jewel of the Naturally Arisen Garuda.
Also according to Khamtrul Rinpoche, the common belief that the image arose from a mala bead belonging to Nagarjuna is incorrect. In fear lest the original be destroyed, he says, it was brought to the King’s palace and a copper replacement put in its place. For Newars, the water in the well here is sacred. Also note that Padampa Sangyé had a hermitage close to Changu Narayan.
Westerners are not allowed into the temple, which was severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake, along with its surrounding buildings.