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Swayambhunath Stupa, popularly known as the Monkey Temple, is one of the oldest and most revered Buddhist temples in the Kathmandu Valley. One of the most visited sites in all of Kathmandu, the temple sits on a hill with sweeping views of the city below. Temple construction began around two thousand five hundred years ago, and today it is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To this day, thousands of Buddhists from all over the world make the journey to Swayambhunath to worship at this holy location.
Located in the north-west of the Kathmandu Valley, on a little hillside, is the holy temple of Swaymbhunath. Since the 1970s, it has been commonly referred to as “Monkey Temple” by tourists for whom the actual name proved too difficult to pronounce. Visitors to Swayambhu may get a bird’s-eye perspective of the city as it sits on a hill that views out over the valley below. The stupa, which incorporates Hindu temples and deities, has been a symbol of devotion and peace for millennia. It is from here that the acclaim of the Kathmandu Valley is said to have begun. Located on a small hill three kilometres west of Kathmandu, Swayambhu is widely considered to be one of the holiest Buddhist stupas in all of Nepal. It is believed to have developed naturally over the course of the last few of thousand years when the valley was formed from a prehistoric lake. The grounds of this stupa, which is the oldest of its kind in Nepal, are home to various temples and monasteries.
Swayambhu means “self-existent one” in Sanskrit. It was reportedly constructed by King Manadeva around 460 A.D., and by the 13th century, it had become a major Buddhist centre. It is said that Swayambhu emerged from a lotus flower that grew in the centre of a lake that covered the entire Kathmandu Valley in mythology. Located on a lofty pedestal at the western edge of Swayambhu, close to the Ring Road, is the largest Sakyamuni Buddha image in all of Nepal. A shrine to Manjusri, also known as Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of music and learning, can be found at the base of the hill. The complex of stupas is crammed with chaityas, statues, and shrines dedicated to Buddhist and Hindu deities. There are prayer wheels and gods all around the bottom of the hill. At any given time, a group of devotees can be observed making a full circuit of the stupa.
A significant obstacle is the extremely steep stone steps leading up to the shrine. There is, however, a motorable road that winds its way nearly to the peak, from which the summit is a stroll away. Day and night, Swayambhu attracts a huge number of visitors who practise Buddhism and Hinduism. Among all of Nepal, this temple may be the ideal venue to witness a peaceful coexistence of faiths. Visitors go here in vast numbers every year in May to celebrate Buddha’s birth.