Swayambhunath, the

During our whirlwind exploration of Kathmandu in one day, we (myself and travel partner Aimee and new friend Nikki, both Americans), walked as far west as Swayambhunath, also known as the “Monkey Temple”, for the holy monkeys that live in the temple complex. The temple itself sits atop a very tall hill, and it took 365 steep steps to reach the top (quite a workout). Once we arrived, we had a breathtaking 365 degree view of the city and valley below, and the complex itself had a central stupa (temple) with the eyes of Buddha looking down at you, surrounded my many shops, temples, shrines, a Tibetan monestary, and a whole load of monkeys!

*This site is one of the most scared for Buddhist pilgrims, and visiting worshippers include Hindus, Vajrayana Buddhists of northern Nepal and Tibet, and the Newari Buddhists of central and southern Nepal. Each morning before dawn, hundreds of pilgrims will ascend the 365 steps that lead up the hill, file past the gilded Vajra (Tibetan: Dorje) and two lions guarding the entrance, and begin a series of clockwise circumambulations of the stupa (Newari Buddhists circle in the opposite, counterclockwise direction). On each of the four sides of the main stupa there are a pair of big eyes. These eyes are symbolic of God’s all-seeing perspective. There is no nose between the eyes but rather a representation of the number one in the Nepali alphabet, signifying that the single way to enlightenment is through the Buddhist path. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye, signifying the wisdom of looking within. No ears are shown because it is said the Buddha is not interested in hearing prayers in praise of him.

(* Information taken from Sacred Site’s website)