Results 1-6of 6 Reviews
January 4, 2003
Two hundred thousand years ago, the valley was underwater and the hill upon which Swayambunath stands was an island in the lake. Legend tells of Mujushree, a saint, who came in search of Swayambhu, manifested in the form of a blue flame in a lotus flower on the island. Unable to cross the water to reach the island, Mujushree took his mighty sword and cleaved a gorge in the hill at Chobar to let the water drain out--this presumably being an easier option than building a boat. Mujushree is thus considered by many to be founder of the Nepali nation as well as the stupa that is an icon of the country.
The stupa is reached by a long flight of stairs, allegedly 365, but I lost count around 12. These stairs are flanked by tacky-looking statues of the Dhyani Buddhas' vehicles, placed there to taunt you about having had to climb up all that way on foot. A Vajra ("thunderbolt") marks the top and is flanked by two Shikkhara added by Pratap Malla during a dispute with Tibet in 1646--they apparently worked as the twin victory bells in front. On the far side of the stupa is a Newari Pagoda dedicated to the goddess of smallpox, and behind that is an old building with a pilgrim’s shelter on the ground floor and a small gompa on the first.
The five-fold Buddhist cosmology as represented by the stupa is echoed by further constructs within the complex. Vasupura, an ornate shrine to the earth goddess; Vayapura, a small shrine to the air god; Agnipura, a painted lump that acts as a curious shrine to the fire god; Nagapura, a snake pit for the water god, and the Shantipura building dedicated to the sky god. Shanti Shri, a fifth-century saint, is apparently patiently waiting here until the valley’s people need him to return, so expect him back soon.
The complex is nicknamed "The Monkey Temple" for its compliment of Rhesus Macaques who apparently delight visitors with their playful antics. I don’t know if it was the usual monkeys’ day off but the ones I ran into were a group of belligerent thugs whose behavior was far from holy. They performed a variety of "playful antics" that even the Anglican church frowns upon--fighting, stealing, and I found one splayed out on a shrine engaging in an activity which I shall euphemistically describe as "stroking the stupa" in what I can only hope was a ritual offering to Shiva.
The site is an easy 2km walk from Kathmandu and is well worth a visit. The stupa is a fine example, the complex contains much of interest, and even if you are bored of stupas there are some fine views over Kathmandu. Entrance costs 50NRs.
From journal Sacred Sites of the Kathmandu Valley
dundee, United Kingdom
November 15, 2002
I was distracted by the monkeys (the temple's other name is the monkey temple) as I headed up and ended up going along a side path to see what I could find and ascended by a separate stairway – in the process of which I avoided the point where you pay a fee to enter the temple and despite descending by the main steps I still didn’t see where you were supposed to pay.
Fare dodging aside, the temple was an excellent place to view the city of Kathmandu as it spreads out on the valley floor, from here you can see the full extent of the city and see it slowly merge into the surrounding countryside. On the southern side you can hire the use of telescopes an binoculars but to be fair its good to be distanced from the frenzy of activity in the city.
In theory you are always meant to walk around a temple in a clockwise direction but this seemed to be ignored by the locals. Within the temple there are numerous souvenir stalls, postcard sellers, etc., but again the pace was fairly relaxed, although it was fairly tacky to have this right inside a place of worship.
Aside from the views and the fairly impressive Stupa and carvings around it it's worth spending a bit of time and heading further west to the rear of the complex (the route is down stairs on the south side) where you will end up in a less developed and fairly well landscaped area - totally free of all salesmen where you can sit under the trees and all the prayer flags and command views out over the Kathmandu valley.
From journal Sights and Sounds of Kathmandu
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
January 2, 2002
A Diary Extract...
Breakfast at the Cosmopolitan was banana and honey pancakes and Tibetan bread. In Basantapur Square traders draped low tables with red and blue cloths. Tibetan singing bowls, beads of amber, turquoise and mountain coral, horns and prayer wheels jockeyed for space among a sea of Buddhist and Hindu statues. Wafting incense completes the picture.
We managed to avoid hovering rickshaw drivers, Tiger Balm vendors and the "10-postcards-for-100 rupee" sellers, when Karen was caught by a saffron-robed saddhu. He blessed her, thumbed a red tika on her forehead and sent her on her way. Just a little blessing to start the day.
Three women in green, pink and red saris threaded marigolds onto cotton and a cow wearing a garland of flowers snuffled through garbage. By a small roadside shrine a child ate cooked peas and potato, following the progress of a Coca-Cola truck beeping its way through the crowd.
We crossed a footbridge over the Bagmati River where ducks navigated through a million plastic bags. School children in white and blue uniforms and wide smiles greeted us,
"Hello, where you from?"
"Ah, Canberra capital city. You have pen, bonbon?"
400 steps loomed at the Monkey Temple. Women offered silver bangles and stories of hungry babies and old mothers. On the steps a child stared, one arm holding a baby, the other outstretched and grubby,
"One rupee for rice." We gave her 10 rupees then wondered who’d feed her tomorrow.
Monkeys chattered in the trees as we reached the top and paid a small entrance fee. Locals don’t pay, fair enough, we are sightseeing and they’re here to pray. Tibetan monks in burgundy and yellow circumnavigate the temple, prayer beads clacking. Women light hundreds of candles at small shrines while yellow dogs sunbake. I lost Karen as we walked around the stupa and had to race around again to find her. You have to keep going clockwise, it’s the rules.
She’d bought a book about Hindu and Buddhist gods and was getting her fortune told by a turbaned Sikh called Punjit who looked like our best friend’s ex-husband. He forsees wealth, a long life and recommends she take up jogging.
At the bottom we followed a narrow road to Balaju to see rather uninspiring water gardens and a Sleeping Vishnu smothered in marigold and tika offerings. In our book it says Vishnu is the Protector of the Universe and all its creatures. Karen suggests he may have been asleep too long; he has already visited the earth ten times to save it from destruction - another visit might be appropriate...
From journal Not Trekking in Nepal
Brighton, United Kingdom
December 20, 2001
Even as you approach Swayambhunath it is cunningly hidden from sight so you still have no idea what to expect. Walking up from Thamel it is buried in a mass of trees with just the tippy top of spires peeking out. At the base of the hill that the temple stands on, you are met by a steep set of stairs, gaudy statues, and mild mannered stallholders. Only as we’d slogged our way to the final few steps, after I called several rest stops in the name of admiring the view, was the condensed temple complex and its accompanying hive of activity revealed.
For me, Buddha’s rainbow eyes staring out over the brilliant white stupa and the constant turning of prayer wheels where quite simply what I came to Nepal for, let alone the maze of smaller temples that surround the stupa. And with all my senses stimulated by the humid heat and the hubbub, bells, incense of daily worship, the unfathomableness that had perturbed me at the outset began to be so part of Nepal.
From journal Kathmandu
by Alan Ingram
July 13, 2001
Gained by a short walk from Durbar Square, followed by a never ending flight of stairs, Swayambunath can also be accessed on its far side by taxi or tourist bus.
An archetypal structure with its hemispherical base, all-seeing eyes of Buddha on the four sides of a rectangular column looking to the four points of the compass and conical spire bedecked with fluttering prayer flags Swayambunath is a major venue for both tourists and the Nepalese.
From journal Sanctuary at the Top of the World
September 21, 2000
From journal the ways of Kathmandu