Swayambhunath: Nepal’s Monkey Temple

Swayambhunath Temple
The stupa at Swayambhunath seemed aglow on the rainy afternoon that I visited in September 2012.

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.

Looking down on Kathmandu, Nepla

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

  1. Pingback: Of Monumental Mysteries | Tish Farrell

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale – The Human Rights Warrior

Everyone has the right to an opinion and I'd love to hear yours! While comments are very welcome, they will be moderated. My kids read this blog, too!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s