Swayambhunath, The Monkey Temple Of Kathmandu

Swayambhu Temple, the oldest shrine complex in the Kathmandu Valley is a symbol of faith and harmony for centuries for both Hindus and Buddhists.

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Pradeep Chamaria
Pradeep Chamaria
I am a photojournalist. Love to travel to unknown and unexplored vistas. Since 1992, I make places desirable for other travelers through experiential Travel Writing.

NEPAL. Kathmandu: Kathmandu has two major Buddhist centers, the Swayambhunath Temple, also known as the monkey temple, and the Boudhanath (Boudha Stupa).

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The first such stop on a tourist circuit is the Swayambhunath Temple, the oldest shrine complex in the Kathmandu Valley. It is believed to date back to 460 A.D. and was built by King Manadeva. The stupa is a symbol of faith and harmony for centuries for both Hindus and Buddhists. You can see various Hindu temples and deities incorporated almost everywhere in this ancient religious Buddhist site. This sacred pilgrimage site is also home to hundreds of monkeys considered holy to Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus.

Swayambhunath Temple, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

Located atop a hillock 3 km west of Kathmandu, it is one of the holiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal. Visiting Swayambhunath Temple is like a workout, wildlife excursion, and spiritual escape all wrapped into one. You feel as if you are on an early morning workout as you climb your way up 365 steep steps along with some furry monkeys.

Climbing up Swayambhunath Temple, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria
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Swayambhu means self-arisen and this temple is said to have evolved spontaneously when the valley was created out of a prehistoric lake more than 2,000 years ago. Swayambhunath complex consists of a magnificent domed stupa, as well as a variety of shrines and temples. Each temple is extremely ornate and richly decorated with gold and vibrant prayer flags.

At Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

The main stupa building, a white-domed structure is filled with numerous statues and artifacts. From the tower, you can see a 13 level golden spire which has an umbrella on top holding a bowl that is full of precious stones.

Swayambhunath Temple, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria
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The architecture is breath-taking, and the massive Vajra (thunderbolt scepter) is stunning. The eyes of the Buddha are painted on all the four sides of the cube shaped stupa as if Lord Buddha keeping a watchful eye on every devotee. Above each pair of eyes, there is another eye, the eye of wisdom. There is Panch Buddha (five Buddhas) on each side of the stupa and also two lion statues guard the entrance.

The staircase is the most recommended route that pilgrims take to enter the stupa, on foot, but for pilgrims with walking problems, there is also a motor road going up almost to the top.  

View from Swayambhunath Temple, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

The view of Kathmandu city is stunning from the top. Since it is a temple area, you should keep your knees and shoulders covered and make sure to dress modestly.  

Important monuments in the area

  • Huge gold plated Vajra ‘thunderbolt’ in the east side of the stupa.
  • Buddha statue on the west side of Swayambhu.
  • The Sleeping Buddha.
  • The Dewa Dharma Monastery noted for a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings.
  • Harati Devi Temple
Lamps at Swayambhunath Temple, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

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