The enormous Swayambhunath Stupa is perched atop a green hillside on the western outskirts of Kathmandu (opening timings: daily 6 am-sunset). A location that dates back more than 2,500 years marks the spot where the illustrious progenitor Manjushri (a bodhisattva associated with knowledge) found the blossom of the old valley lake. The painted eyes of the Buddha have been gazing out from this magnificent structure’s four sides for millennia, serving as a significant center of Buddhist study.
The Stupa of Swayambhunath is a pioneer of its era, built following precise guidelines, each with a historical significance. Its gleaming white cone-shaped mound, which symbolizes beginnings, is surrounded on all sides by sculptures of meditating Buddhas, each of whom stands for one of the four components: earth, fire, air, or water. The tent at the peak represents the route to nirvana, and the 13 gilt rings on the spire represent the 13 levels of wisdom needed to travel up it. The entire thing is draped with colorful devotional banners, and requests are sent to heaven with each flutter. The devout walk around the monument in a clockwise direction, spinning the banks of prayer wheels as they go and occasionally bowing completely to the ground in adoration.
In order to reach the monastery, travelers must take up a high flight of 300 stone stairs through a forested park lined with statues of creatures and birds, which are considered the deities’ chariots. Vehicles can drive halfway up the hill’s backside and halt next to a Tibetan monastery. According to legend, Manjushri had his hair cut at Swayambhunath, where each hair turned into a tree and the lice into monkeys; it is best to avoid getting too close to the rhesus macaques that live nearby the monastery because they are very demanding. The base of the hill is flanked by banks of brand-new stupas and meditation wheels.
Just at four compass directions of the stupa, statues of the Buddha are resting in elaborate niches. The perpetual burner is protected in a padded cell behind the stupa by sculptures of the goddesses Ganga and Jamuna, both of which are marvels of Newari bronze sculpture. There are numerous chaityas, little stupas, two shikhara-style temples, and a sizable vajra surrounding the terrace (symbolic thunderbolt). In the dim light of smoldering butter lamps, a nearby gompa (Buddhist monastery) holds daily services under the watchful gaze of its enormous Stone. The numerous monument places are consistently maintained by workers and custodians appointed by the indigenous governments.
Flip round but rather gaze out across the breathtaking nature of the hillside if you start to feel a little overpowered by all the religious intensity. The best site to observe Kathmandu’s vastness, which is constantly expanding, is from here. Around the monastery, there are a lot of inexpensive eateries and numerous stands offering gifts and food donations.
The National Museum in Chhauni houses cultural antiquities, including historic stone statues and paintings, and is located about 15 minutes walk south of Swayambhunath, sculpting, as well as woodwork. Images of Buddhist gods can be found in ancient artifacts.