I recently had the opportunity to visit Kathmandu’s famous “Monkey Temple”. The real name for this ancient hilltop religious complex is Swayambhunath, the Tibetan name meaning “Sublime Trees”. Sublime they were, shading the whole hill from the harsh summer sun, strung here and there with row upon row of Tibetan prayer flags, and full of the chatter of birds and the famed monkeys lounging lazily in the shade.
We chose the easy way up the hill – by car. The road takes you most of the way up from the south side stopping just short of the southwest entrance. There is also an entrance on the North side – this is the difficult way. A long, and very steep staircase jutting straight up the hill, 365 steps leading directly to the main platform of the temple. The easy way still had it’s share of stairs, but they were much easier to handle, gently meandering the rest of the way up the hill.
The complex is strewn with various temples and shrines. It houses a Tibetan monastery, library and museum, as well as many shops, restaurants, and even a small hostel. The main feature of the complex is the Buddhist Stupa. Perched at the highest point on the hill, this large perfectly white dome is topped with a square structure painted with the “Eyes of Buddha” looking in the four cardinal directions with the Nepali symbol for “Unity” shown as well. It is surrounded by smaller shrines and statues and many tourists and pilgrims circumambulating the stupa turning the many prayer wheels as they go.
You can see the whole of Kathmandu valley from this vantage point, stretching far and wide stopping just at the edge of the mountains which cradle this city in their protective embrace.
This is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in all of Nepal and I feel very privileged to have experienced this magnificent place and to be able to share it with all of you.
Thanks for reading!