by Christine Ka’aloa
Swayambhunath Stupa “aka the Monkey Temple“, Kathmandu, Nepal
Located atop a forest hillside overlooking the Kathmandu Valley is one of the most ancient and revered religious sites in Kathmandu- Swayambhunath Stupa. The stupa is claimed to be over 2,000 years old and is a re-known pilgrimage site for many devout Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal. It is also known as The Monkey Temple, as it is home to over a hundred resident monkeys which roam the area. Ever fantasized about having a pet monkey when you were a child? Then this will be a small part of living that dream; however, reality will only burst the bubble when you realize that as close as these cute monkeys wander into your path, you can’t touch any one of them unless you’re willing to risk having to get a rabies shot! But they are adorable.
If you want to experience the pilgrimage, then climbing the 365 stairs to the summit is the way to go. Otherwise, you can sip on a cup of chai and have your car drive you to the top, where you’ll see the golden stupa and be able to meditate upon the chain of 200 prayer wheels surrounding its domed base.
What’s up with those symbolic eyes painted on the stupas (and that you see repeated throughout Nepal)? They are a folk symbol of the Buddha’s all-seeing eyes. The dot between its eyes represent the mystical third eye, while the question mark looking symbol (in the area of the nose) stands for the number one which stands for unity.