Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



This paper is a discussion of the complex relationship between the Great Boudhanath Stupa in the Kathmandu Valley, and the diverse Buddhist community that surrounds it. I argue that liberative sense experience and movement-encoded cultural knowledge make the community of practitioners a part of the stupa—and thus necessary to any examination of it. My argument is contextualized by a background on stupas and etymology of several Sanskrit and Tibetan terms, and I utilize a framework of religious studies concepts of sacred space and pilgrimage as well as on-site anthropological fieldwork focusing on practitioners’ daily lives. I investigate how the stupa impacts the community (and vice versa), how movement plays a role in religiosity, how the iconography of the stupa engages the senses, and how practitioners understand these sensory interactions with the structure. In particular, I place the Boudhanath Stupa in conversation with Joanna Tokarska-Bakir’s essay on Tibetan liberation through the senses. This paper examines how the stupa interacts with the people who create it; not as a static structure or public monument, but an alive, richly symbolic, and quite literal center of religious community life.

Level of Honors

magna cum laude


Religious Studies


Constance Kassor


*This honors project was awarded the 2023 Richard A. Harrison Award.