Swayambhunath: Monkey Temple

At around six o’clock I was woken up by some Buddhist chanting from afar. That was the daily morning session in the Swayambhunath, also known as the Monkey Temple, a 1500 year-old religious complex homed by and nick named after mobs of rhesus macaques. Lured by the exotic singings, I decided to go for a visit.

Soon I arrived at the 80-metre-long stairway to Swayambhunath, before all other tourists, but not quite alone—there must have been hundreds of monkeys, some were carrying their littluns under their belly, and some were jumping around harassing each others. I was scared—Nakash told me in Kathmandu, one rabies shot cost $200 , so if the poor local people were bitten by a monkey or a dog—both could  carry rabies, they had to bet their lives on herbs and mojos.

I did not want a rabies attack, and my budget hardly allowed me. Therefore I picked my steps cautiously, bowed my shoulder, humped my back and lowered my head to avoid any eye contacts with those energetic indigenous habitants. All the while I was praying to God that I didn’t look like a walking banana.  After a time that seemed like forever, a guy at the top approached me for an entrance ticket and ended my insular status with the monkeys. I paid him full of gratitude.

A few steps further I was standing below one of the most famous architecture in the whole country.

image: Stupa at Swayambhunath

Stupa at Swayambhunath

It was a giant stupa based on a dome. A golden cubic structure emblazoned by eyes of Buddha looking at all four directions rose in the middle. Above it were thirteen pinnacles which symbolized one’s journey through the thirteen stages of spiritual realizations to enlightenment or Buddha-hood. From near the top several queues of colour banners descended and flew in the air. Pigeons made themselves at home on the dome, adding much life to those wisdom-filled Buddhist eyes.

Around the stupa were temples, more stupa, shrines and Buddha sculptures engraved with great detail. Locals were busy with their daily rituals by putting rice, sun flower petals, fruits and red colour over as many as Buddhist statues as possible. After doing that, they would put some of the red paint on their own forehead as a sign of being blessed. At the meantime,  pigeons were having rice breakfast from the shrines and monkeys were sneaking around for unattended peanuts and fruits. 

At last I walked into a Tibetan temple filled by warm lanterns. The monk working there told me each lantern represented a life, and by adding oil to those lanterns, the soul beyond the lantern would be blessed. What a warm-hearted blessing:

Tibetan monastery


4 thoughts on “Swayambhunath: Monkey Temple

  1. hey chloe,

    fun article! i can’t wait to see nepal as well. if only work would allow me a lil more break. what kind of food did they have there that you liked?

    • I liked almost all kinds of food in Nepal, because most of them involve curry and I love curry! the typical nepalese dish set called Dal Bhat consists of rice and curry(they call it lentil) and it was pretty amazing. Masala is also great. Samosa is my favorite snack and I can never have enough of it!

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