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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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!