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    Swayambhunath Temple

    Balaram Thapa
    Balaram ThapaUpdated: Jun 6th 2023  |  Heritage Sites

    When one's mind is at ease, it is impossible to forget the experience of ascending to Swayambhunath to visit the Buddhist temple there. One of the oldest religious sites in Nepal is the Swayambhunath Temple, which can be found on a hilltop about three kilometers west of Kathmandu. This stupa is considered to be the oldest one in all of Nepal. This location was already a popular pilgrimage site in the 5th century, as indicated by some etched historical records, which can be found here.

    Both locals and outsiders should make an effort to check it out when they are in town. This is one of the best places in the world to observe religious peace, as evidenced by the fascinating marriage of Buddhism and Hinduism that can be found here. A large number of Buddhist (Vajrayana) and Hindu pilgrims ascend the steps from the east every morning and evening. As they do so, they walk past the golden Vajra (Tibetan Dorje) and perform a ritual that involves circumambulating the stupa while spinning the prayer wheels that are located at the base of the stupa.

    According to the Gopalrajavamsavali (one of the oldest ever chronicles), King Vrsadeva, who was King Manadev's great-grandfather, established Swayambhunath at the beginning of the fifth century CE. King Manadev was the founder of Swayambhunath. In spite of the fact that this is a Buddhist monument site, several Hindu monarchs have also praised it. Pratap Malla, who was the famous and powerful king of Kathmandu at the time and built the eastern stairs in the 17th century, maybe the most famous in this area.

    The following is how the legend of Swayambhunath goes:

    The area that is now known as Kathmandu was once covered by a vast lake in the distant past. During that time, the great saint Vipaswi Tathagat came to this lake and threw a lotus seed into the water. After thousands of years, the seed grew into a massive bloom with thousands of petals that covered the entire valley in dazzling light. The Bodhisattva of knowledge and study, Manjushree, was one of the many great saints who were fascinated with this mysterious blossom and decided to reach out to the places where the radiant lotus flower glowing.

    Afterward, in order to facilitate easier access to the location for human pilgrims who were interested in viewing the magnificent light emanating from the lotus. Manjushree dug a gorge at Chovar, which resulted in the lake being drained and the valley is left behind. The flower eventually transformed into a hill, and the light shaped the hill into a stupa. The area is currently referred to by the name Swayambhunath, which literally translates to "Self-created." Swayambhu Chaitya developed over the course of time and experienced morphological shifts. The current appearance of Chaitya is the result of maintenance and restoration work that was finished in the year 1984 B.S. It reaches a height of 77 meters from the ground, But the temple is just 101 feet tall.

    Because of the hundreds of monkeys that used to live in the area around the Swayambhunath Temple, it is also referred to as the "Monkey Temple." We have a mythological idea that while Manjushree was erecting the hill for the location of the stupa, he was supposed to keep his hair short, but he couldn't, it grew long and fell head lice and turned into the monkeys. Because of this, these monkeys are revered as holy. According to the legends, the monkeys that live on the hill today evolved from lice.

    The Ideas Regarding Architecture That Came from Swayambhunath Chaitya

    In terms of its design, the Swayambhunath Chaitya can be broken up into the following four sections: The first component is the dome of the stupa, which acts as the structure's base. This is the symbol for the element of water. This is because the white soil has a peculiar composition, which is referred to as sakhwa in the local language. During ritual ceremonies, the sakhwa is thrown over the dome to finish the ceremony.

    The earth element comes in at number two. It is known as Garva, which means womb, due to the fact that it is concealed inside the dome and has the shape of a traditional triangle.

    Hermica is the third part of the structure, and it is a cube-shaped structure that sits atop the dome. Hermica is meant to represent fire. There is a painting of Buddha's eyes and wisdom eyes on each of the structure's four sides. These eyes are looking in every direction. It is said that you are in a meditative state because your eyes are only partially closed and you already know the answers you are looking for. All that is required of you is to gaze intently into the depths of your heart, soul, and inner being. Just 'Look Inside.' Above each set of eyes on the Buddha's face is a third eye, which represents his ability to see everything. Under the pair of eyes of a character in the Nepali alphabet, there is the number "1," which represents the unity of all things. This number takes the place of a nose. Torans that have sculptures carved into them are placed atop the stupa's cube-shaped structure at each of the four corners of the structure. In the Tantrayana school of thought, these sculptures have the symbolic meaning of the Panch Buddhas, which are the five Buddhas. They are as follows:

    • Vairochana is the master of the temple and resides in the center of the building. White is the color of this.
    • The direction east is associated with Akshobhya, which denotes the cosmic essence of consciousness. There is a great number of colors black and blue.
    • Ratnasambhava is the deity that represents the cosmic quality of experience; it is oriented toward the south. Yellow is the color.
    • Amitabha, the Buddha who is seated in the west, is symbolic of the sense of taste (pleasing or bad). The color in question is red.
    • The cosmic element of confirmation is represented by Amonghasiddhi, which is oriented toward the north. The shade in question is green.

    The fourth and final tier is comprised of thirteen tiers that rise up from behind the torans and have a spherical shape. These tiers represent the air that exists in nature, also known as the atmosphere. These golden-edged levels are stacked with the assistance of Yasin, which is a timber pillar that is 22 meters in length. Yasin is positioned inside the dome in such a way that it does not touch the round tiers that make up the pinnacle. This allows it to be flexible and contributes to the structure's ability to withstand the effects of an earthquake. So far, only three different iterations of Yasin have been seen.

    The lengths of the two that came before this one were 16 and 18 meters, respectively. Yasin is required to be treated as a human being by the priest of Swayambhu. When a Yasin is replaced, the new one is treated like a bride, and all of the rites connected with welcoming a new bride are performed. On the other hand, the rituals associated with death are performed on the previous Yasin. The 13 layers are a representation of the 13 stages that regular people have to go through in order to reach Nirvana. The gajur, also known as the pinnacle, can be found on top of the 13 tiers. That is meant to represent the heavens or space.

    Swayambhunath Chaitya is surrounded by a vast number of shrines and temples.

    Aside from its unusual architecture, Chaitya is surrounded by a number of shrines and temples, some of which date back to the Licchavi period and have influenced the interest of visitors due to their age and architectural significance. All three of these additions—the Tibetan monastery, the museum, and the library—are fairly recent. The following is a list of some of the more famous landmarks that can be found in this area:

    Pratappur and Anantapur were both founded by King Pratap Malla, who also constructed as the left and right hands of Swayambhu Chaitya. One of these chaityas was located in the south, and the other was located in the north. Anantapur Pratappur is the name given to the region in the north, while Anantapur Pratap Malla's Loving Queen is the name given to the region in the south.

    The massive brass-plated Vajra (also known as a thunderbolt or Dorje) can be found near the entrance on the east side of the stupa, at the top of the 312 stone stairs. This mandala is known as the Vajra Dhatu Mandala. This is a symbol used in Tibetan Buddhism that represents the potential for one to achieve enlightenment. Vajra is depicted sitting atop a large metal plate that is known as a Mandala. On the back of the plate are depictions of 12 different animals, one for each month of the Tibetan calendar. Lions have made their homes on either side of the Vajra.

    The Harati Temple is located to the north of the Chaitya and is a two-story structure housing a shrine. The smallpox deity Harati, who is also known as Ajimaya and Sitalamaju, is revered as the protector of children under the age of 12 and the Guardian of Swayambhu Stupa. People worship him because they think that anyone who kills Swayambhunath Mahachaitya will pay for it.

    Gompa is Tibetan for "monastery prayer room." Food offerings for Harati are prepared in the kitchen on the lower level of the gompa that is located on the western side of the compound. From the top of the gompa, visitors will have a view of the stupa and Buddha statue that are located on the west side of Mahachaitya.

    Buddha Dozing

    There is a bronze statue of Buddha and many examples of traditional Tibetan paintings at the Dewa Dharma Monastery.

    Shree Karma Raj Mahavihar is an active Tibetan monastery that can be found in the complex's northeastern corner. Inside, there is a large statue of Buddha, and pilgrims can be seen lighting candles made of yak butter. It was completely destroyed by the earthquake that occurred in 2015. Nevertheless, a significant number of improvements have been made.

    How exactly can one get to the Mahachaitya Swayambhunath?

    The location has two access points: the first is a steep stone staircase that leads directly to the temple's main platform from the top of the hill to the east; the second is a vehicle road that circles the hill to the south and leads to the southwest entrance. Both of these access points are located on the same hill. Visit the Mahachaitya in the springtime or in the fall for the most pleasant weather. Before 9 o'clock in the morning, when there are still more pilgrims than visitors, Swayambhunath is at its most breathtaking.

    At long last, I've found the perfect place to escape the chaos of the Kathmandu valley while also taking in its breathtaking panoramas. The architecture and monuments of Swayambhunath will present a challenge to tourists and history buffs who visit the site. There is a good chance that we will see a monkey wandering around the area, which is yet another significant feature of this destination. It is strongly advised that you do not leave any food out for the monkeys to consume at any time. People who are looking to find mental calm are drawn to the locations because of their peace.

    How can I reach Swayambhunath from the center city?

    There are several convenient methods and ways to get to Swayambhunath Temple in Kathmandu. If you travel the Swayambhu Marg, it is only around 5 km away from the heart of Kathmandu. Additionally, you can use a taxi or cab to get to the Swayambhunath Temple. If you are familiar with the routes, public transport is also an option. The location has excellent access to other locations as well.

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