As a home of tens of religion, the array of a place of worship in Nepal is immense. Apart from being multi-religion, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nation, the Hindu scriptures referring to the places of Nepal visited by Gods and Goddesses is one of the reasons for an astounding number of shrines in Nepal.
Not to forget, being the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, Buddhism is the second most followed religion in Nepal after Hinduism. And the number of Buddhist holy sides shows that there is no room lacking on how much Buddhism prevails in Nepal . Since the ancient time of starting from Kiranti to Lichhavi and Newar, the rulers of Nepal embraced the teaching of Buddhism. Today, there are shrines, which are revered as a common house of worship for Hindus and Buddhists.
Popularly known as Monkey Temple, Swayambhunath is the Buddhist shrine in Kathmandu Valley and one of the most visited tourist site in Nepal. The riveting legend which Monkey Temple, Nepal shares with the formation of Kathmandu Valley, entices most of the visitors to see it live. Without any regard to its religious significance, Monkey Temple, Nepal is a charming place to be.
Swayambunath/Monkey Temple, Nepal
Located atop a hill on the west of Kathmandu city, Swayambhunath is one of the highly venerated Buddhist temples in Nepal. While in Tibetan Buddhism, it comes second after Boudhanath Temple.
The meaning of the name of temple translates to “self-existant one.” However, the Tibetan name for the temple means “sublime trees.”
As per the legends, the evolution of the temple took place over 2,000 years old; however, the establishment of the temple is believed to be in 460 AD. It was founded by the great-grandfather of King Mahadeva, King Vrsadeva at the beginning of 5th century CE. It was confirmed by a damaged stone inscription found at the site, which indicates that King Vrsadeva ordered work done in 640 CE.
With its hilltop location, you can see during Swayambhunath tour, that it overlooks most part of the valley providing a beautiful panorama of city and mountains beyond.
Swayambunath is one of the oldest religious site surrounded by numerous shrines, temple, and monasteries on its premises. The serene location amid several shrines draped in religious ambiance, Swayambhunath tour is the perfect spend of day in the Valley.
How actually Swayambhunath Temple evolved?
Turning the pages Swayambhu Puran (Buddhist Scripture), Kathmandu Valey was once a gigantic lake out of which grew a lotus, and the valley came to be known as Swayambhu meaning “self-created.”
Then, Manjusri, a Bodhisattva received a vision of the very lotus, and so he embarked to worship it. And, when he finally arrived, seeing the valley could be a suitable settlement, he cut the gorge at Chovar. All the water drained out, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu lies today and as of the lotus, it transformed into a hill, and the flower became the stupa.
Quite fascinating, but it is the belief we are adhering to, for centuries.
Why is Swayambhunath Temple called Monkey Temple, Nepal?
Rather known as Monkey Temple, the reason behind it is very interesting.
As you scale-up the 365 steps of Swayambhunath stairs, you can see monkeys all around; they are considered holy. It is believed they are actually lice who got transformed into monkeys when Manjushri made his hair grow long, and head lice grew.
Also, as the name “Swayambhunath,” is not quite an easy pronunciation for foreigners, the easy and relatable name of Monkey Temple became quite catchy and known.
Swayabhunath and its complex are bustling with visitors throughout the day nowadays. Before, the whole complex was a serene site draped in a peaceful atmosphere. With Kathmanadu’s Joche Street in Basantapur as Freak Street, Swayambhunath was a popular place to visit for hippies in those day surrounded in serenity amid the funny sights of monkeys playing around. It can be guessed that probably it was during those days when the name “Monkey Temple” was coined by the hippies of Freak Street.
Swayambhunath After Earthquake of 2015
When Nepal was hit by the devastating earthquake in 2015, thousands of lives were lost, and millions worth of monuments were destroyed. And Swayambhunath wasn’t spared either.
The complex of Swayambhunath suffered a major loss with Anatapur and Pratapur temple on either side of the stupa heavily damaged.
Now that it has been about five years of that catastrophe, Swayambhunath is all good to go. The damages are still under construction, but the place has sustained its charm, and you can pay the visit while in Nepal.
Interesting Things around Swayambhunath to see
Vajra in Swayambhunath is quite obvious in sight. Located at the top of the eastern stairway, it is an enormous, brass-plated thunderbolt regarded as one of the core symbols of Tibetan Buddhism.
Vajra is a Sanskrit reference, a Tantric symbol of the power of enlightenment, which destroys ignorance but is itself indestructible. On many rituals, Vajra is used to indicate male power, and female power is represented by the ceremonial bell.
Five Dhyani Buddhas
Five Dhyani Buddha or Great Buddhas of Wisdom are the central features of Vajrakanya Buddhism; Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnsambhava, Amitabha, and Amogasiddhi. Often painted in Tibetan mandalas and thangkas, the Five Dhyani Buddhas are the embodiment of five cosmic elements; ether, water, earth, fire, and air.
You can find the shrines of the five Buddhas at the base of Monkey Temple, Nepal. Vairochana is between Ashobhya and Ratnasamhava and their female counters and placed between them.
Harati Devi Temple
Harati Devi Temple lies alongside the main stupa of Monkey Temple, Nepal. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of smallpox and other epidemics and is referred as protectress of children.
It is a small brick pagoda revered by Hindus as well Buddhists, mainly by the mothers seeking blessing for their children.
Eyes of Buddha
The large pair of eyes on every four sides of the main stupa of Monkey Temple, Nepal, is visible from all sides of the Valley. Those eyes represent Wisdom and Compassion, and above each pair is another eye, a third eye.
As per the belief when Buddha perches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye, which sends a message to heavenly beings so that those interested can come down to earth to listen to Buddha.
Other hellish beings and beings below cannot listen to Buddha’s teaching; however the rays will relieve their suffering when Buddha perches.
Between the two wisdom eyes, is a curly symbol acting as the nose, that looks somewhat like a question mark, which is a Nepali sign of number figure one.
It is one of the interesting park of Monkey Temple, Nepal that represents the unity of all the things in the world, and the only path to enlightenment is through the teachings of Buddha.
As one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal, Monkey Temple, Nepal celebrates several festivals throughout the year, when the crowd gets extra-large with the foreign audience and devotees.
Of all the celebration in Monkey Temple, Nepal, Budhha Jayanti, and Losar are the main ones. Buddha Jayanti usually falls in April or May, while Losar in February or March. During these festivals, monks of the temple create a lotus pattern on stupa with saffron-colored paint.
Another important celebration of the temple is, Gunla that marks the end of the rainy season, which goes for about the month and falls in August or September.
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