Swayambhunath is a temple located to the West of Kathmandu upon a hill. If the sky is clear, you will have a perfect view of Kathmandu Valley from Swayambhunath temple.
You will meet lots of pilgrims and monkeys within this temple complex. Swayambhunath is a part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Legend has it that Kathmandu Valley was a huge lake. Sadhus then noticed a divine lotus flower in the water.
For centuries lots of pilgrims came to the lake and worshipped the lotus flower. One day a glowing flame raised from the lotus flower and Swayambhunath appeared. And this is exactly what the name of the temple means, God created from the self.
The temple holds a great significance for the Buddhist people in Nepal. It is from where Kathmandu Valley originated.
I spoke with some young Nepali boys on the hill. This is not exactly the tourist season in Nepal, but they were pretty welcoming and smiled at me warmly. They told me that the main Stupa is around 2500 years of age.
When you get off a taxi or a microbus at Swayambhunath (microbus conductors always shout out “Swaymbhu”) you need to take a walk. Alongside touristic shops selling souvenirs, I walked through the wood to climb up to the Stupa. Once you reach the main entrance, there are exactly 365 steps that lead you to the top of the hill. The main Stupa is surrounded with a museum, a monastery and other small temples.
Once I reached the top, I had to rest and catch my breath. There were many prayer wheels here too as I had seen in the sacred Buddhist spots of the Kathmandu city.
There apparently are more than 6000 prayer wheels in Swayambhunath. A lot of people of different age groups were quietly walking around the Stupa, treading softly and at the same time managing to rotate all of the prayer wheels that surrounded the dome.
If you looked around, you would also see many Buddhist people chanting mantras. Apart from the Stupa, the monkeys and view of Kathmandu, there isn’t much at the top of the hill in Swayambhunath temple.
However, if you pause to observe, you can catch a very powerful sense of serenity. So when you do decide to come all the way up here to view the city, also try to receive this sense of calmness and serenity.
While you are in the Swayambhu vicinity, you can also walk up to the Saraswati Temple (Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of words), which is right at the side of Swayambhunath temple. Here you will walk past a lot of shops selling souvenirs. When you visit this place, hopefully, your eyes will be taking in everything it has to offer!
Story & Photography: Christian Wilk
(Christian Wilk is a German citizen, currently working as a photography intern, under the guidance of professional photographer Mr. Kumar Ale at NepalSutra™).