Amongst the oldest religious sites in Nepal is the Swayambhunath Temple, located atop a hill in the northwestern part of Kathmandu. It is also known as Monkey Temple, owing to the large number of monkeys that have inhabited this place since times immemorial. The complex houses a sacred stupa, some ancient shrines and temples, along with the more recently set up monasteries, library and a museum.
Story of the stupa’s origin has been told in the Swayambhu Purana. It speaks of an enormous lake which spanned over the entire valley. A lotus had grown out of this lake. There was an eternal self-existent flame (swayambhu) here which later transformed into the stupa; hence the name of the temple. Once, Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom, had a dream about the lotus and went there to worship it. Seeing that the valley would make for a good settlement, he carved out a gorge to drain out all the water, leaving behind the present-day Kathmandu Valley and the stupa was born out of the lotus.
Up to the temple
To reach this holy site, one has to climb up 350 steps, adorned with ancient carvings and the scent of butter lamps throughout. Upon reaching the top, one will be greeted by the majestic site of the vast round stupa. Its base dome represents the earth and a pair of eyes on all four sides represents the stage of enlightenment.
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