Swayambhunath – A Special Place in Kathmandu

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy

Kathmandu is an amazing city.  Colorful and busy.  Yet, somehow spirituality seems to permeate it.  Among the many places that back that impression is the Swayambhunath site – also just known as the monkey site.  I don’t know that it is technically a temple but it is certainly an important Buddhist religious site.  Claims about when it was first established range from the 6th century A.D. to the 3rd B.C.!  Let’s settle on “it’s old.”

Beauty everywhere

The site’s shrines and other structures dot the hillside and are packed at the hilltop.  I wish I had had a guide to make sure I understood the meaning of the different types of structures and figures sculpted in them.  Here is a glimpse of some of the sights on the site.Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung GalaxySwayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung GalaxySwayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy

Prayer wheels

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy

The earthquake changed it

The many shrines and temple-like structures included more than you can see today.  Sadly, the earthquake of April 2015 knocked down one of the two towers, and severely damaged the other one and many other structures.  Yet, it seems many survived OK which is a blessing at such an important site.

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The surviving tower

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The base of the collapsed tower

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Damage from the earthquake

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Serious crack under the large stoupa with prayer wheels around it

Eye gotta stupa for you…

More impressive than anything else on the site is the stupa with the painted eyes on it.  They follow you around…  They are Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows…  It is said it is over 1,500 years old though it has been renovated many times in its long life.

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy

The eyes on the golden tower in the stoupa

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy

See? They are watching you…

Monkeys R Us

But, the way I heard of this place for the first time was because of the monkeys.  The many monkeys that reside on the place.  Big and small, they are everywhere.  Yet, much as they must be used to people, they were not climbing over folks.  They were very well-behaved!

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Baby monkeys – a fertile place!

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Curious monkeys

Getting to view Kathmandu from up high

The site is located on a tall hill that offers great views of Kathmandu.  The main approach is a rather long and steep set of steps on the east side of the hill.  LOOOONG! (365 steps to be more precise) But, unbeknownst to me, our driver was taking us to a point that maybe was 2/3 of the way around the back so our climb was not as severe.  Now, now, don’t be poking fun.  I had just spent 5 days hiking on the Everest Base Camp trail so saving steps was relief of sorts…

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Katmandu, Nepal, monkey, temple, stoupa, Buddhist, travel, Samsung Galaxy

Sweeping view of Kathmandu – and a passing bird!

I must say that though at first visiting a place full of monkeys did not thrill me, the place’s charm and the faith it represents was captivating.   I enjoyed spending time there and would recommend taking the time to connect with this bit of Kathmandu!

 

 

 

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Kathmandu’s Great Boudha Stupa

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One of the most beautiful sites in Kathmandu, Nepal is the Great Boudha Stupa (or Boudhanath Stupa).  First and foremost, it is a beautiful statement of faith, the largest such Buddhist structure in Nepal and the largest outside of any in Tibet.  That the Great Boudha Stupa is pleasing to my eyes is a far second from that but still, for this first time visitor to areas with a strong Buddhist influence, its physical beauty is indeed powerful.  Sadly, I only got to see if after the earthquake of April 2015 so I missed seeing the stupa tower, the lotus, and the umbrella portions of the stupa which came tumbling down with the quake.

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The Great Boudha Stupa

The stupa:  a place for faith

The stupa is very large in diameter.  The faithful, and those of us who respect them, walk around in a clockwise direction turning the prayers wheels with their prayers and stopping at different points for prayer.  The faithful believe one of the earlier Buddhas is buried under the dome of the structure.

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People stopping for prayers along the way

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Marigolds everywhere add color

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The prayer wheels

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Turning the wheel while saying the prayer

There are some monasteries around it but the buildings around it also house shops and workshops where local artists create their pieces.

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The district around the stupa

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Lhakhang Monastery

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Entrance to the Lhakhang Monastery

My favorite visit was to a shop with its associated workshop on the second story.  We got a nice explanation of the “emblematic” paintings we laymen just associate with Tibet and saw a few of the artists at work, painstakingly working on their creation.

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Artist at work

The stupa:  a place of beauty

Halfway around our walk, we got up and a little closer to the dome which still remains unapproachable due to damage for the quake and on-going repairs to the site.  From there, one gets to higher ground to look around and get closer to the items near the dome.  I leave you with some final photos that are evocative of the beauty of the entire site!

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The damage to the dome is evident

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