Located at the top of a hill overlooking the city of Kathmandu, Swayambhunath (स्वयम्भूनाथ स्तुप) is among the oldest and most important religious sites in Nepal. The Swayambhunath complex consists of a domed stupa and a variety of shrines and temples that date back to the 5th century. Each temple is extremely ornate and richly decorated with gold. The complex also includes a Tibetan monastery, museum, library, and hostels for religious pilgrims.
Prayer flags flutter in the breeze, while prayer wheels in graduated sizes turn almost silently as pilgrims circle the stupa in prayer.
This sacred pilgrimage site is also known as the Monkey Temple because it is home to HUNDREDS (maybe thousands!) of monkeys. According to legend, Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom, was in the process of raising the temple hill when he let his short hair grow out and he got lice. The lice in his hair transformed into these monkeys.
Although it is primarily an important Buddhist site, Swayambhunath (which means “Self-Created” or “Self-Arisen”) is also considered important to Hindus. To get to the main site of Swaymbhunath, you have to climb a looooong stairway – 365 steps! Pratap Malla, the powerful Hindu king of Kathmandu, was responsible for the construction of this eastern stairway in the 17th century
It is definitely worth the climb, however. Swayambhunath is perhaps the oldest Buddhist monument and well worth the trip!
This post is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument.
7 thoughts on “Swayambhunath: Nepal’s Monkey Temple”
I’m glad you gave an explanation of that. I was initially thinking of the Monkey of Wu Cheng’en. Slight difference…
Yes, that lice story really stuck with me! Actually, in my experience ALL the temples in Nepal have monkeys! But Swayambhunath is the only one I’ve heard called “The Monkey Temple” (in Nepal at least). Thanks for your comment.!
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Cool! Never heard of this and found it very interesting. thanks for sharing.
Glad you liked it, Tina! Thanks for your comment.
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