Swayambhunath of Kathmandu, the oldest Buddhist stupa of Nepal

Clearly visible on top of a 100-metre hill in the west of Kathmandu stands the great stupa of Swayambhunath (so complicated spelling) which I visited yesterday. The place is more than 2500 years old. Destroyed in 1346 by Sultan Shamsuddin Ilyas it was rebuilt in the 17th century by the King Pratap Malla .
Legend says that once upon a time there was a lotus blossoming from the lake that covered the Kathmandu valley. The lotus radiated a brilliant light that gave name to the place – Swayambhu which means “self-created”. Bodhisatva Manjushri discovered the lotus, made a gorge in the mountains and the water drained away. The lotus was then transformed into the hill and the light became the Swayambhunath Stupa. He had his hair cut and each hair became a tree and the lice sprang up as monkeys (and there are so many monkeys at this place).

At the base of the hill there are 3 enormous stone Buddhas sitting in meditation and 300 steps lead to the top, the last steps are very steep. Interesting that I got more tired getting down than up.

The stupa is shaped like a lotus flower. Buddha’s all-seeing eyes watch you from all four sides of the monument. The “nose” which looks like a giant question mark is actually the Nepali number one – a symbol of unity. As I found out the white hemisphere represents the four elements – earth, fire, air and water.

The 13 tiers at the top of the shrine symbolize the degrees of knowledge on the path to nirvana, represented by the umbrella at the top. There are multicoloured flags everywhere whose every flutter releases holy prayers. Around the stupa there are 211 prayer wheels that are kept in motion by believers.

Before the stupa on the pedestal there is vajra – thunderbolt, said to be so powerful that it can destroy anything. For the Buddhist it is a symbol of absolute.

There are images of goddesses Ganga and Jamuna by the stupa. On the surrounding terrace are many small stupas, and two temples.

Buddhist monastery faces the stupa.
There were many people, some taking photos, some worshipping, some enjoying the spectacular scenery of the Kathmandu valley, some just having a rest.


  1. thanks for the info i even didn't knew all the meaning. Its good to see Nepal.

  2. Nice to see the pictures of Swyambhu. Seems like you've recently been there thoroughly.