Swayambhunath Stupa – A Monkey Temple

Introduction of Swayambhunath Stupa

The great Swayambhunath Stupa is one of the most prehistoric and mysterious of all the holy stupas in Kathmandu valley. It has a golden pinnacle crowning a conical wooded hill. The sparkling golden pinnacle and the honorable white dome of Swayambhunath Stupa is visible from many miles. It is located beside the ring road of Kathmandu in Swayambhu Area between Kalanki and Newbus park.

swayambhunath stupa monkey temple

Swayambhunath Stupa PC: Nepalfotography

History of Swayambhunath Stupa

The evidence found on the stone inscription give us the proof Swayambhunath Stupa is a chief Buddhist pilgrimage destination from the 5th century. The origin of this stupa is much earlier than the entrance of Buddhism in the Valley. A pool of mythologies about the place, the 15th century Swayambhu Purana, expresses of an incredible lotus, planted by a former Buddha, which bloomed from the lake that once covered Kathmandu valley. The lotus mysteriously radiated a vivid light, and the term of the place came to be Swayambhu, meaning ‘Self-Created or Self-Existent’. Saints, sages, and divinities journeyed to the lake to worship this incredible light for its power in yielding enlightenment. During this time,  Bodhisatva Manjushri was meditating at the sacred mountain of Wu Tai Shan and he had a vision of the incredible Swayambhu light. In order to worship the lotus, Manjushri flew across the mountains of China and Tibet upon his blue lion. Manjushri highly impressed by the incredible light thought that if he could drain the water out of the lake, Swayambhu would be much more easily accessible by the pilgrims. Manjushri cut a gorge in the mountains using his sword. All the water drained away and left the valley which is called Kathmandu nowadays. After then the lotus was changed into a hill and the incredible light became the Swayambhunath

Structure of Stupa

Hindus, Newari Buddhists of central and southern Nepal and Vajrayana Buddhists of Tibet and Nepal visit Swayambhunath to worship. On every morning before dawn, hundreds of pilgrims ascend the 365 steps that take them up the hill, file past the gilded Vajra (called Dorje in Tibet)  and there are two lions statue guarding the entrance. Then there begins a series of clockwise circumambulations of the stupa. There is a pair of eyes on each of the four sides of the Stupa. These eyes are the symbol that God is looking after everyone. The nose looks like a Nepali character one (i.e. १) which signifies that there is an only way to get enlightened through the Buddhist path. Above each pair of eyes, there is a tilaka (In Hinduism, the tilaka is a mark worn usually on the forehead during the worship and in other many activities).  It is believed that Buddha is not interested in hearing prayers in praise of him that is why there is no ear to the stupa.

Swayambhunath Stupa monkey temple


The area that surrounds the stupa is filled with temples, chaityas, painted images of deities and plenty of other religious objects. There are many shrines with idols of Tantric and shamanistic deities, Shiva Lingams, prayers wheels for the Tibetan Buddhists, and a popular Hindu temple dedicated to Harati (the goddess of smallpox) and other epidemics.

Monkey Temple

There are 100s of monkeys living in the forest of the hill who scamper about the stupa at night after the priests and pilgrims have departed. Because of this reason, this Stupa is also called Monkey Temple

Nearby the Swayambhunath hill, there are many other important temples such as Pashupatinath, Boudhanath stupa, Dakshinkali, Buhanilkantha, and Chagu Narayan Temple.

Read About other Buddhist Destinations in Nepal – The Great Boudhanath Stupa Kathmandu

Bonus Images

Swayambhunath Stupa Monkey temple

Swayambhunath Stupa monkey temple

View of Kathmandu Valley From Swayambhunath Stupa

Swayambhunath Stupa Monkey temple

Swayambhunath Stupa Monkey temple Swayambhunath Stupa Monkey temple

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