Swayambunath, Kathmandu

3 May 2010 - 1:50pm Comments Off

Swayambhunath is an ancient religious complex atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’ for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is among the most sacred of Buddhist pilgrimage sites, second only to Boudhanath.

The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa and a variety of shrines and temples. The famed stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on in all four directions. There are also shops, restaurants and hostels.

The large vajra at the entrance to the Swayambunath Stupa

Much of Swayambhunath’s iconography comes from the Vajrayana tradition. However, the complex is also an important site for Buddhists of many schools, and is also revered by Hindus. Each morning before dawn, hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims ascend the 365 steps from eastern side that lead up the hill, passing the gilded Vajra and two lions guarding the entrance, and begin a series of clockwise circumambulations of the stupa.

Circumambulating the stupa

Close by the stupa is the Temple of Doors – an underground labyrinth and temple which remains closed all the time, except for one day every seven years when it is opened to the public. Through the doors, an underground passage runs throughout the whole of Kathmandu city, and, it is believed, is home to arhats, who will abide there until the time that Maitreya Buddha appears.

The Temple of Doors

And a short walk away is Manjushri’s Teaching Site – a courtyard where the Buddha of Wisdom, Manjushri, is said to give Dharma teachings once a year to celestial beings.

For more information about tours to Swayambunath, please contact discovery@kechara.com or call +603 7803 3546.

Manjushri's Teaching Site

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