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Home Asia Nepal Kathmandu: Swayambhunath
Kathmandu: Swayambhunath E-mail
Asia - Nepal
18 July 2010

Nepalese children playing in the mud along the road from Kodari (Tibet border) to Kathmandu

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From Kathmandu we made a day trip by taxi to several locations outside Kathmandu. One of them was the Swayambhunath stupa, an ancient religious complex on top of a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, just west of the city of Kathmandu. It is also known as the Monkey Temple since there are holy monkeys living in parts of the temple in the north-west.

For the Buddhist Newars in whose mythological history and origin myth as well as day-to-day religious practice, Swayambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it second only to Boudhanath.

The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. A Tibetan monastery, museum and library are more recent additions. The stupa has Buddha's eyes and eyebrows painted on. Between them, there is something painted which looks like the nose - but is the Nepali symbol of 'unity', in the main Nepali language dialect.

There are also shops, restaurants and hostels. The site has two access points: a long stairway, claimed to have 365 steps, leading directly to the main platform of the temple, which is from the top of the hill to the east; and a car road around the hill from the south leading to the southwest entrance. The first sight on reaching the top of the stairway is the Vajra. After paying a visit we drove on to the Boudhanath Stupa, located about 11 km (6.8 mi) from the centre and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu.