Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting into Nirvana Guided with the Monkeys in Swayambhunath Nepal

Monkey jumps. This spectacular photo only courtesy of's depinniped. Swayambhunath is just 6 kilometers west of Kathmandu.

Family affair. This photo only courtesy of

Monkeys! There are monkeys jumping around the steps that ultimately lead to one of the most sacred sites in Nepal. The name is as tongue twisting, but you will grow into it and it gets easy. The place reminds me of Myanmar's Mount Popa which is similarly populated by pesky monkeys entertaining you along its 777 steps to the holy temple.
Swayambhunath - literally means "self arisen" (swayambhu) - is said to have emerged (lke the lotus) from what was once a lake. Several kings are responsible for its completion - King Manadeva of 460 AD, then King Prasat of the 17th century Nepal. Swayam is located west of Kathmandu.
Swayambhunath is actually a 20-30 minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the backpacker ghetto of Thamel in Kathmandu, but why spend your time getting tired when there are so many other places to see? I can tell you now that going through the whole stair is a bit of a climb - a LOT of steps to endure! But here's a tip, to buck the 200 nepali rupees (for foreigners), you can try the south gate (which is legal) - and get your free entry!
To signify Buddha's "insight", you find 3 eyes rising from the stupa. Beneath the stupa are prayer wheels - and I spun them for the possibilities of a better life ahead of me ... "om mani padme om", "ommani padme om"...

There are other temples above, but what I found interesting was the white-washed stupa itself, looking down Kathmandu below. The view is nothing short of spectacular!
For those taking their exams, devotees pray on Saraswati - the Goddess of Knowledge. This place gets filled with hopeful students expecting to pass their exams. Gosh, I am several years too late! LOL
From cold Nepal, this is the Eye in the Sky.

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