Swayambhunath Stupa - "The Self Created Stupa"

Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple, is believed to have been self-created on the highest hill inside the Kathmandu Valley.

Swayambhunath Stupa - "The Self Created Stupa"

Ancient structure of Swayambhunath stupa is an epicenter for both Hindu and Buddhist communities in Nepal. In Sanskrit, Swayambhu means self-manifested or self-existing. Since 1979, the stupa has been one of the UNESCO World Heritages sites from Nepal. The stupa is also famous as a monkey temple of Nepal. The stupa is located at the top of the hill on the west of Kathmandu city. It's 4.2 Kilometers from Thamel via Sorakhutte road. From Kalanki, the base of the hill is only 2.7 km away.

The stupa also exemplifies a perfect balance of Hindu and Buddhist cultural fusion. Many Hindu people on different occasions such as Saraswati puja visit here. At the time of pregnancy, women visit Swayambhu to worship Goddess Harati. Whereas Buddhists people often visit the stupa paying homage to Buddhism and its philosophy. The peaceful Swayambhunath area also features numerous parks and large prayer wheels.

Structure and monuments of Swayambhunath stupa

The base of the stupa is made up of a big dome with a prayer wheel all round. Above the dome lies a cubical structure decorated with Buddha's eyes on all four sides. Above each side of the cube, there are pentagonal torans with figurines. There are thirteen tires standing tall above the cube. A Gajur can be seen on a little spot above all of the tiers. Many smaller structures of Stupas, and status surround the main stupa of Swayambhunath. The place also features a giant Bajra sculpture, claimed to be the biggest Bajra in the world.

On the western part of the hill, there is a famous Pagoda style Hindu temple of mother Harati. The temple is associated with protection of pregnant mothers and small children. So, the Goddess has a special place in Hindu beliefs. On another hill, there is a temple where Hindu people worship Goddess Saraswati (goddess of Knowledge). Buddhists also worship lord Manjushree there. The common worship point of both religions make Swayambhunath a place of religious tolerance as well.

Important monuments in Swayambhunath Complex

  • The huge gold plated Vajra ‘thunderbolt’ on the east side of the stupa.
  • Buddha Park with three huge statues of Lord Padmasambhava, Lord Buddha, and Lord Manjushree. It is located on the base of the North West side of the hill.
  • World peace pond on the middle of the way to the stupa.
  • The Dewa Dharma Monastery with a bronze Buddha statue and Tibetan paintings.
  • The famous thatched roofed Harati temple.

Myths / Legends related to Swayambhunath Stupa

Swayambhu which means "Self-Created” was first seen in Lord Manjushree’s dream. When Manjushree visited the valley, the entire valley was filled with water. After he made a path for water to flow out from the valley, the first land to appear is Swayambhu hill. According to the Swayambhu Purana, the stupa formed from a blossom of a lotus flower. Swayambhu is the place from where monkeys first came in Kathmandu. So, the complex is famous as the temple of monkeys.

Things to do in Swayambhunath

Swayambhunath Stupa is one of the most visited places in Kathmandu valley. It's a peaceful place where you can get involved in meditating, and various other activities. The place also has plenty of photogenic architecture as well as landscape. Here is the list of things to do in Swayambhunath stupa.

  • Sightseeing 
  • Climb up to the stupa via Eastern Stairway 
  • Harati Temple and Museum Visits
  • Photograph the surrounding
  • Buy Souvenirs and gifts


Since the Swayambhunath stupa is in the biggest hills of Kathmandu, the cityscape from there is amazing. When you visit the stupa through the Golden Amideva Buddha Park, you get to light the candles, blow the horns and look around the valley while hiking up to the Manjushree temple and to Swayambhunath main stupa.

You can also see around the Stupa and rotate numerous small prayer wheels around the complex. The place is swerling with buddhist monasteries, colorful prayer flags and even relief, stone sculptures and Thanka on display. So, sightseeing around swayambhunath can be a really good experience.

Likewise, the eastern part of Swayambhunath features a mighty Vajra (Thunderbolt) It is the biggest Vajra of the world. The Vajra is one of the main attractions at the entrance of eastern stairways. Just at the southeastern area of the thunderbolt, you get to a viewpoint where you can look at Kathmandu city via binoculars. 

Climb up to the stupa via Eastern Stairway 

If you want to visit Swyambhunath Stupa, you should definitely climb up the hill from the Estern stairways. The place has a huge buddha footprint, and two welcoming buddha statues at the bottom. Around 1000 stairs will take you to the Swayambhunath Vajra and various viewpoints.

Climbing from there, you will reach the main stupa of Swayambhunath. Rather than ending your trip at 1000 stairs, you can end it at the Amideva Buddha Park which has an ample number of restaurants around it.

Harati Temple and Museum Visits

Pregnant women and also mothers worship the Goddess in beautiful Hatrati Temple. People believe that goddess Harati protects all the children from possible danger. This two storied golden temple is a must visit location in Swayambhunath.The temple also remains one of the important architectures in Swayambhunath complex.

The museum of Swayambhunath contains some sculptures dating back to some 400 AD. Not only that, people have also found several sculptures depicting the art forms of malla and Kirat period. The museum also contains various artifacts, sleeping Buddha, and several reliefs on stone structures. Excavation is now prohibited in Swayambhunath Stupa area. The museum features several monumental sculptures and you get to learn about art and artistry of ancient Nepal.

Photograph the surrounding

Swayambhunath is one of the most photogenic places in Kathmandu. The place features various stupas, numerous gardens, three temples on various small hillocks and numerous art shops. Situated in a panoramic location on a hill, it's also a place to capture the valley. 

While at Swayambhunath, you get to see many faces and has been a topic of photography from the early seventies. From the three Buddhas in the Buddha Park to the top of Swayambhunath, you get numerous memorable shots at this location. So, Swayambhu gives you ample photographic opportunities.

Buy Souvenirs and gifts 

From Buddha park to the 1000 stairs, you get to buy various souvenirs along the way. You can buy prayer flags, scented sticks, photo frames to thangka paintings and much more there. 

Most of these artifacts are handmade and also have an aesthetic feel to it. These artifacts sold at Swayambhunath also have a long history. When you give these Souvenirs to your friends and family, you are also giving a culture of an entire religion. So, you should buy some gifts and souvenirs while you visit Swayambhunath stupa.

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