The Mysterious Swayambhunath Temple in Nepal
If you enjoy looking to the mystical, magical and religious facets of other cultures, a trip to the Swayambhunath Temple in Nepal is an absolute must. This majestic temple is the oldest of all holy shrines in Kathmandu Valley and it is surrounded by an array of other sacred places of worship. Swayambhunath is also sometimes called the ‘monkey temple’ since numerous monkeys often swarm the area after nightfall when worshipers have departed from the temple. The Swayambhunath Temple is visited by Hindus, Vajrayana Buddhists from Nepal and Tibet and Newari Buddhists from Nepal, as well as a small number of tourists who come seeking spiritual enlightenment or the opportunity to explore the Nepalese culture and religion further.
According to legend it all started near the dawning of time when a Buddha planted a miraculous lotus in the lake which once covered the Kathmandu valley. It was said that the lotus emitted a brilliant light – the light of enlightenment – and saints, sages and divinities traveled here to venerate it. After having a vision while meditating at Wu Tai Shan, Bodhisatva Manjushri flew to the lotus upon his blue lion. Upon arriving he felt that the power of the light should be more accessible to human pilgrims so he drained the valley of water whereupon the lotus transformed into a hill and the light became the Swayabhunath Stupa. Historical evidence gives proof that the Temple was already a place of Buddhist pilgrimage by the 5th century so the temple is obviously very old. It is easily recognizable in Kathmandu valley as it features a golden spire atop a massive white dome which is situated at the top of a conical wooded hill. There are 365 steps which lead up the hill to the four sided stupa. Each side of the stupa has a pair of big eyes which are symbolic of god’s all-seeing perspective, while a third, much smaller eye signifies the wisdom of looking within. A number of worshipers visit the temple on a daily basis to make their way around the stupa in a clockwise direction.
The surrounding area is filled with Chaityas, temples and icons. Small shrines filled with deities and prayer wheels can also be found. There is an ever-present sense of contemplation and worship and even if you do not intend to become a Hindu or Buddhist follower, the people and colors that can be found here make for stunning photography. Care should be taken not to offend locals, however, as this is their most sacred place of worship. Always be respectful and ask permission before entering buildings or taking photographs.