Swayambhunath Stupa

Perched atop a hill on the western edge of the Kathmandu Valley, the ancient Swayambunath Stupa (known to tourists as the Monkey Temple) is Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha eyes that stare out from the top have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal.

When this temple was founded about 2,000 years ago, Kathmandu Valley was filled with a great lake. According to Buddhist legend, a single perfect lotus grew in the centre of the lake. When the bodhisattva Manjusri drained the lake with a slash of his sword, the lotus flower settled on top of the hill and magically transformed into the stupa. Thus it is known as the Self-Created (swayambhu) Stupa.

The earliest written record of the Swayambunath Stupa's existence is a 5th-century stone inscription, but scholars believe there was probably a shrine here as early as the 1st century. Even before that, it is likely that animist rites took place on this hill. Swayambunath is one of Nepal's oldest Buddhist temples and it has an ancient atmosphere, especially when one approaches on foot with the pilgrims.
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Date:
Location:
Kathmandu. Nepal 2009
Photographer:
Stephen Mc Donald