The Swambhunath Stupa has been one of the most unique stories that you’ll ever here’s about. The first origins of the Kathmandu city were actually as a lake before a Buddhist leader, Manjushri came here and supposedly sliced a deep gorge along the hillside at Chovar thereby allowing the water to drain. The Swambhunath actually is believed to have originated on its own from a lotus before a succession of kings built themselves even greater monuments. The temple has two entrances: the first one has 365 steps which lead directly to the Stupa and the second route for vehicles. The Eastern steps end at a giant Vajra right before the immense Stupa. I’ll be describing the Stupa later in my post.
One of the essential things that you must know about this Vajrayana section of Newar Buddhism is that its tolerance towards other religions. This is the reason behind the vast Lakshmi temple that had been built on the premises. There is a tranquil serenity in the air as you take in the light hints of incense against the mountain air. Not only that, there are a plethora of Buddhist prayer flags which flutter in the breeze. The walls of the complex have murals and paintings donated by artists from all over the world and are beautifully adorned by a few of the 33 million Hindu gods and goddesses. But one of the most endearing things that you will note is the plethora of monkeys sitting on the steps going along with their daily chores. This lends the name Monkey Temple to this gargantuan edifice.
We trooped over to the Buddhist part of the complex now where a large pagoda styled Stupa holds centre stage. As the setting sun bounces off the bright yellow gold inlay done on the upper parts of the Swambhunath Stupa, I take a moment to twirl the prayer drums as I walk my way around the Stupa. Although I may not be a believer, but there is a sudden wave of calmness that goes over me. I sit down to observe the scenic yet bustling city of Kathmandu in the valley below as I pause for a breath. The Stupa consists of a white coloured dome at the base which is topped on my a cubical structure which has the eyes of Buddha pointing out in all four directions. It is topped off by pentagonal Torana above each of the sides which have statues engraved on it.
The thirteen tiers above it represent the steps that a person has to go through to obtain enlightenment and gives the Stupa a sense of magnanimity. There are a plethora of carving Panch Buddhas along with other Buddhas. Early in the morning, Hindu and Buddhist devotees climb the steps, cross the Vajra and lions guarding the Stupa and then take clockwise turns around it.
Image Credits: Salt And Sandals