The Eastern steps leading to Swayambunath
Our next hop was on this day of Kathmandu tour and acclimatization was to Swaymbunath stupa. This stupa is situated on a Hill west of Kathmandu and on all the four sides of the stupa we can see eyes of Buddha, as He is watching the city of Kathmandu from a vantage point. Of the stupas in Kathmandu Swayambunath and Boudhanath are most impressive and most visited monuments. Swayambunath is also called temple of monkeys because of the battalion of monkeys on the hill.
A small replica of Swayambunath Stupa
It is believed that Emporer Ashoka visited this monument 2000 years ago. According to the inscriptions King Manadeva ordered construction at this site in 460 AD, by 13th century this was an important pilgrimage place, it was desecrated by Mugals, later in 17th century King Pratap Malla restored the stupa to its present state and also built the eastern stairway. at the beginning of the steps you have Ganesha and Murugan and also on the way you can see stone images of the birth of Buddha. At the final stretch one can see the vehicles of Dhyana Buddha namely Garudan, lions, elephants, horses and peacocks.
The beautiful pond at the base of Swayambunath
The lowest level of the stupa is the plinth, which is a square platform on the top of the plinth is the hemispherical Kumbha which is normally white washed. This dome represents the four elements namely earth, fire , air and water. Immediately on the top of the dome is harmika, a square base usually painted on each side with a pair of eyes which Buddhists believe represent the all-seeing nature of the Buddha. The question mark like 'nose' is actually the Nepali number ek (one) and is a symbol of unity. Between the two eyes you can also see the third eye of Buddha which represent His clairvoyant powers. On top of the harmika is a tapering section of 13 stages concentric rings on the spire which represent the 13 degrees of knowledge and 13 steps one has to attain nirvana . At the top is the gilt parasol which symbolises nirvana.
Golden Parasol representing Nirvana
Dhyana Buddha in the niche
Two Dhyana Buddhas facing east
One can reach the top either by vehicle or by steps in the eastern side . The vehicle route to the stupa is lined with beautiful chortens brilliantly painted and is a treat to ones eyes. Around the dome are the Dhyana Buddhas namely Amogasiddhi facing north his mount is Garuda, Akshobya faces south and his mount is Elephant, Ratnasambhava faces east and his mount is Horse, Amitabha faces west and his vehicle is Peacock. The fifth one Vairocona whose mount is Lion, he is usually installed on the stupa and is difficult to see but in swayumbunath you can see him facing east near to Akshobya.
As in Pasupathinath you can see lot of replicas of the stupa nearby may be many built these after their prayers have been fulfilled. There are also lot of shops which sell jewellery and curios where you can pickup souvenirs. There is also a museum where you see lot of Buddhas in all sorts of poses.
There is a Gompa in which this 6 ft tall gilted image of Avalikiteshvara is installed and the service with trumpeting and chanting everyday service is held at 4 PM every evening.
Buddhists normally circumbulate the stupa clockwise , while doing so they spin the series of prayer wheels. Each prayer wheel carries the sacred mantra " OM MANI PADME HUM " . The prayer flags fluttering from the lines leading to the stupa's spire also carry mantras and each wave in the breeze carries the words away.
Dorje - the thunderbolt
The Giant bell
Pratap Malla who built the eastern stairway also added a pair of Shikaras and the stone lion and Dorje, which one can see immediately upon reaching the top of the stairs. Dorje is the Tibetian word for this thunderbolt symbol in sanskrit it is Vajra. Dorjes are also accompanied by bell, the thunderbolt represents male force and the bell symbolises female wisdom. Around the pedestal supporting the mighty Dorje are the animals of the Tibetian calender. The Dorje is flanked by two white temples in the Indian Shikara style. They are Pratapura shikara and Anantapura shikaras. They are being renovated now. The gold plated beautiful pagoda style temple is dedicated to Hariti (Ajima) , the Goddess of small pox. You can also see the bronze images of Ganges and Yamuna.
Hariti temple ( Front side)
Kani madam lighting lamp at Hariri temple
Hariti temple (Back side)
From Swayambunath you can have a fantastic view of the city of Kathmandu and the valley. It's particularly striking in the early evening when the city is illuminated. It is also very attractive under the soft glow of moonlight.
Our group at Swayambunath
( you can see the beautiful view of Kathmandu in the background)
The holy yatra continues. . . . . . .