Sacred Monkeys, Buddhist Pilgrims-Kathmandu’s Swayambunath-The Monkey Temple

Swayambunath or The Monkey Temple is one of the most significant temples to Tibetan Bhuddists of Nepal, perhaps only coming second in importance to Boudhanath, the largest stupa in the country.

It is also called the Monkey Temple because holy monkeys live here. Why are they considered holy? It is said that Manjushri the bodhisattva of wisdom and learned raised the hill that Swayambunath sits on. When he let his hair grow long, lice grew eventually transforming into monkeys.

This is a virtual walk in real time up the 365 stairs that lead to the platform of Swayambunath. 

Much of the inspiration of the temple comes from Newar Buddhism. The Newars are the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley. 

The Monkey Temple is an important site for many followers of other Buddhist schools and is also a place of worship for Hindus. It is one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal with evidence suggesting work began on a temple here in the 5th century.

My favorite time to come is at sunrise. It’s also a popular fitness site for locals. The time it takes to reach the top can take anywhere from  5 to 15 minutes depending on your physical fitness level. Some days you will see police or Nepali army training here.

This was the largest group of monkeys I’d ever seen at one time on the stairs in the 5 years I’ve been visiting Swayambunath. They will usually leave you alone as long as you’re not carrying food they can see, as with most monkeys that share habitat with humans.

The Tibetan name for this site means “Sublime Trees” for the various trees found on the hill.

The Monkey Temple can also be accessed from a car road from the south leading to the southwest entrance. “Excerpts from Sacred Monkeys, Buddhist Pilgrims-Kathmandu’s Swayambunath-The Monkey Temple”.

About the Author John Saboe

I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.

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