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Swayambhunath (sometimes Swayambu or Swoyambhu) is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The Tibetan name for the site means 'Sublime Trees' (Wylie: Phags.pa Shing.kun), for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. It is one of the most sacred place for Buddhist. However, Hindus also worship Swayambhunath Temple. Being situated atop a hill, you can see most of the part of Kathmandu Valley from here
Explore the glorious, ancient and religious architecture of Swayambhunath
Just before you reach the top of the steps as the impressive stupa comes into view you'll come across the huge vajra or lightning bolt that's set upon a mandal with animals shown at its base.
It is rumored that in the 14th century Mughal raiders broke the dome in search of gold. Later on British troops found gold in the nearby forests. Since then the stupa has been repaired many times over. It's also here that you will notice the giant eyes that are painted on all four sides of the upper portion of the stupa. While many call these the eyes of Buddha there is little agreement on who or what they mean. One belief is that they are the guardians or Lokpals who are the directional guardians of the universe. The eyes first appeared in the 16th century so they are relatively new. However, for most people, they are simply the eyes of Buddha gazing out over the valley. Surrounding the stupa are brass prayer wheels which can be spun to bring good fortune when om mani padme hum (“hail to the jewel in the lotus”) is recited.
Turn to your left from the 365 steps and there will be a small building that contains one of the five elements placed in cardinal points around Swayambhunath. This one is dedicated to Vasupura (earth). The other symbols (marked on the map) around the stupa include: Vayupura (air), Nagpura (water), Agnipura (fire), and Shantipura (sky). Each symbol also represents a di?erent aspect of Buddhism.
To the rear of the stupa just to the left at the corner is a small red brick building that houses the dimly-lit museum. It was slightly damaged in the earthquake but remains open. Inside there's a small collection of Buddhist statues and items located around the stupa over the years. It's free to enter.
At the rear of the temple is a beautiful two-tiered gilded Newari style temple. Photographs are not allowed to be taken in front of the temple where the shrine is. However you may photograph the temple from the side or rear.The Hariti Temple is one of the most popular in all Kathmandu and there is often a crowd here. Hariti is the goddess of smallpox who brings both the disease and the cure to children. For now it's important to know that smallpox was once the scourge of Kathmandu that showed no mercy from the very poor to royalty.
Walk to the rear of the Hariti/Ajima Temple and take a left past the chaityas to the back of the Swayambhunath compound. There in a red brick alcove standing tall and large is a black stone Buddha. Carved from a single piece of stone sometime during the 7th century there is none other like it in Nepal. The image is said to be that of Siddhartha Guatam.
The primary approach to the temple is from the eastern side, where 365 ancient steps lead up the steep forested hillside. The base is about a 20-minute walk from the center of Kathmandu. This staircase is the only route pilgrims would consider and is the most memorable way for any visitor to experience the stupa. However, an alternative is to drive or take a taxi to the west side, where there are only a few steps to climb to the top.
The famous Buddha eyes gazing out sleepily from each side of the tower (oriented to the four cardinal directions) are those of the all-seeing Primordial Buddha. Between each of the pairs of eyes is a symbol that looks like a question mark - this is the Nepali number '1' and represents the unity of all things. Gold plaques rising above the eyes like a crown depict the Five Dhyani Buddhas, celestial buddhas who are associated with the five senses, the four cardinal directions plus the center, and many other symbolic groups of five.
Northwest of the main stupa is another important shrine, associated with a fascinating legend. Shantipur is a small, plain, box-shaped temple said to contain a great treasure - a living holy man who has been meditating in there for 1500 years. Legend has it that Shanti Shri, who lived in the 5th century, locked himself in a vault beneath the temple, vowing to remain there until the Kathmandu Valley needed him. Entering a mystic state, he has achieved immortality and remains there to help the local people when needed.The outer sanctum of the rather ominous temple can be visited. It is decorated with faded frescoes from the Swayambhu Purana, a 17th-century scripture that recounts the creation myths of the Kathmandu Valley. Shantipur is also called Akashpur (Sky Place) and it represents the fifth element.
The two bullet-shape temples (shikra) on each side of the stupa, known as Pratappur and Anantapur, were given by King Pratap Malla to help him earn a victory over Tibet in the 17th century. The story of his success is inscribed on the twin bells in front.
At the northeast corner of the complex is the Shree Karma Raj Mahavihar, an active Tibetan monastery with a big Buddha statue and yak butter candles lit by pilgrims. The resident monks chant around 3 or 4pm daily. The northwest corner is home to Agnipur, a neglected shrine to the ancient Hindu fire god Agni, who relays burnt offerings to heaven. Between these two, north of the main stupa, is Nagpur, a small tank with a snake idol at the bottom. This helps appease the valley's notorious snake spirits.
Filling the platform around the main stupa are numerous other shrines and votive structures, most of which have been donated by kings and lamas in the last four centuries. Five of them are associated with the five elements: earth, air, fire, water and sky.
How to Get Tickets?
The current Swayambhunath tickets and passes for foreigners are 200rps. The ticket office is at the top of the steps with another ticket office by the main parking area (normally where tours drop people off). It is free for Nepalese and children below 10 years old. The Swayambhunath Tour can be done all days of the week from 12:00 AM - 12:00 AM.
How To Get Around?
One of the things you can do at Swayambhunath is sightseeing. Sightseeing in Swayambhunath Temple is very popular among the foreigners especially Buddhist people as it is one of the holy places of Buddhist. From the center of Kathmandu valley, you can reach there by private vehicle as well as public vehicle within 20 – 30 minutes.
What Should I Wear?
There is no fixed dress code to have Swayambhunath Tour. However, it is important to remember that the country is a very conservative and deeply religious. Off shoulder and knees will be seen as disrespectful and will make it nearly impossible to visit ancient ruins, temples, or UNESCO World Heritage sites. So better to wear modest and conservative clothes.
Best Time to Visit
The weather is most pleasant in Kathmandu in spring and fall. Swayambhunath is most atmospheric in the morning (before 9 a.m.), when it hosts more pilgrims than tourists. If possible, visit on a Saturday, the only day Nepalis have off from work. This is the primary day of activity around the Harati and other shrinesThe two main festivals celebrated at Swayambhunath are Buddha Jayanti(in April or May) and Losar (in February or March). During these times, many pilgrims visit the temple and the monks create a lotus pattern on the stupa with saffron-colored paint. Also important is the month-long Gunla celebration (August or September) marking the end of the rainy season..
Will I Need a Guide?
Swayambunath Tour can be easily done independently (by yourself). It is very easy to reach and go around the area. If you want some information related to the place, you can search from the internet.
How To Get There?
By walking: The temple is about 60min-90min walk from Thamel in Kathmandu. If not too hot it's a pleasant walk with a few small side streets and stores along the way. There's another Buddhist monument nearby (Buddha Park - beside ring road), along with a very small museum of natural history so you could turn this into a full day out. By taxi: It's about 10-15 minutes from Thamel in non-rush hour. Taxi's will try to overcharge, set the price before getting in with a friendly bargain. Average price is about 150 rupees.
Beware of the monkeys - they steal food, shiny objects and will take things from your hand or bag. Likewise beware of souvenir store prices around Swayambhunath - a 200rps singing bowl might set you back 2,000rps here.