Kathmandu, Nepal: Swayambhunath
From my travel journal on September 14, 2009:
…After we stopped in a restaurant and had a snack of momo, or spicy dumplings, we got into a tuk-tuk for a ride up to Swayambhunath, a 2000 year old stupa. Swayambhunath is the holiest place for Newari Buddhists.
The stupa is also important for Tibetan Buddhists though it comes in second to Boudhanath which we saw a bit later in our trip.
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Swayambhunath is also known as Monkey Temple due to the holy monkeys that reside in the forests of the “Sublime Trees” as the name of the area is known in Tibetan.
We walked up 365 steps while monkeys clamored all around the path and statues leading up to the stupa. They chattered and seemingly played tag. The white dome of the stupa represents the creative womb and the 13 discs represent the steps to Nirvana.
Swayambhunath is one of the oldest religious sites in the country.
According to an inscription on a stone found there, Swayambhunath was founded at the beginning of the 5th century CE. Eyes of the Buddha are painted on the stupa looking in all four directions representing wisdom and compassion and above each pair of eyes is the third eye. It is said that when the Buddha preaches, rays emanate from the third eye sending messages to the heavenly beings and relieving the stresses of those suffering.
If you’re heading to Kathmandu, there are some truly amazing places to stay. Check out Kantipur Temple House an eco-boutique hotel set in a historic building allowing guests to be immersed in Nepalese culture and comfort. The Dwarika’s Resort offers amazing views from this zen inspired retreat and allows guests to see the sites while also giving them the perfect place to unwind. Last but not least, Hotel Yak & Yeti is a five star hotel that will make you feel as though you’re staying on palace grounds. Where would you want to stay?
Heading back down, we passed an impromptu street performance. The performance was in Nepali so I couldn’t understand the jokes but I could clearly tell it was a comedy of sorts with members of the crowd jumping in at different times to play off of each other while the audience chuckled all along. After watching for awhile and then haggling with a taxi driver, we got a ride to Patan’s Durbar Square…
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