Swayambhunath is one of the famous religious sites in the hills of Kathmandu. It is called ‘Fags Pa Shing Kun’ in the Tibetan language, which refers to the different species of trees found on the Swayambhu hill. Swayambhu is the second holiest place for Tibetan Buddhists after Bouddhanath. Some of the stupas, monasteries, and temples in the Swayambhunath complex were built during the Lakshmi period. Swayambhunath’s stupa has a picture of Buddha’s eyes. The number 1 is emblazoned with the symbol of the nose between the eyes. Swayambhu was discovered by King Mandev’s great-grandfather. The fact that Mandev repaired the stupa on a stone, including an old inscription found in Swayambhu, confirms this.
Pandit Odianath of Kapilvastu attained Ashta Siddhi Yoga by visiting the Swayambhu Chaitya. The idols and temples of Panchatatva called Santipur, Vayupuri, Agnipur, Nagpur around the Swayambhu Mahachaitya have added to the beauty.
On the Buddha’s birthday i.e., Buddha Jayanti, a huge crowd can be observed in this stupa. Most of Swayambhu’s paintings are associated with Newar Buddhism. The area is also a destination for other Buddhists and Hindus. There are also various shops in the stupa premises. Buddhist songs and music, pictures, sculptures, and other materials are available in these shops. The stupa was completely renovated in 2010. However, the earthquake of Baisakh 12 and subsequent aftershocks caused damage in the Swayambhu region. The main stupa has not been severely damaged, but other small temples have been demolished. Maintenance and construction work is going on here now.
Important Monuments around Swayambhunath
Some of must-visit monuments in Swayambhu are:
- On the east side of stupa, there is a huge Vajra (Thunderbolt), which is made by plating the gold and is attractive.
- On the west side of this stupa, you can see the big statue of Buddha, which will definitely make all the Buddha’s pilgrims happy.
- If you ever land on this holy place, then you shouldn’t miss your visit to the sleeping Buddha as it will give the aura of calmness and happiness.
- Dewa Dharma Monastery is another religious monument in this stupa where there is a bronze plated statue of Buddha, which indicates the significance of traditional Tibetan paintings.
- Harati Temple, who is known as Goddess of the children, is also a must-visit place around this stupa. She was converted into a caretaker of the children from an ogress by Lord Buddha.
History of Swayambhunath Stupa
Swayambhu means self-origin. Infinity has its own burning flame in Swayambhu. There is a story that the name of Swayambhu is derived from the name of this flame.
According to religious narrations, when the valley was flooded, Bipasvi Buddha came here, walked around the surrounding hills three times, and performed penance at the top of Nagarjuna. Then, on the full moon day of Baishakh, the lotus seeds were planted in Daham by chanting mantras back to the south. On the full moon day of Baishakh next year, the lotus flower blossomed, which is believed to be the origin of Swayambhu Mahachaitya along with Pancharashmi.
Later, Manjushri saw the divine vision of the lotus in Swayambhu and visited it to worship. Seeing the possibility of saving a good settlement in this valley and to make this Bista accessible to as many human pilgrims as possible, he cut down the Chobhar hill. Then the water of that huge lake drained from the valley where Kathmandu is today. Then the lotus plant turned into a mountain and the flower turned into a stupa.
The base of the stupa is domed with a dome-shaped structure with the eyes of the Buddha looking in all directions. Above it is a pentagonal pylon in all four directions in which idols are also carved. There are also thirteen rows at the back and top of the pylon. Above all these rows, there is a small space and above it is a passage. There are many weapons inside this gate.
Swayambhunath is also called the Monkey Temple because the holy monkeys live on the north-west side of this temple. The three monkeys are sacred because Bodhisattva Manjushri, the master of knowledge, was building the mountain on which the stupa stands today. He lengthened his hair from being short and allowed it to grow longer, and lice began to grow inside his hair. And it is said that later the same lice turned into monkeys.
Swayambhu, which is located 3km away from west of Kathmandu, can be reached in two ways. 360 steps have been constructed to reach Swayambhu Mahachaitya on a small hill west of Kathmandu Valley. At the beginning of the steps of the staircase are three untouched statues of Buddha. It can be reached on foot from the west, while the road from the south has reached very close to the Chaitya so that devotees can easily reach stupa to observe the natural and cultural beauty.
Thus, Swayambhu is one of the oldest holy places in Kathmandu. It has played a great role in preserving the history and culture of Kathmandu. Its existence will inspire future generations to learn the culture and customs of their ancestors
-By: Kusum Kharel for Land Nepal