It was late in the afternoon when we had a quick visit on one of the many religious monuments in Kathmandu valley, the Swayambhunath temple. The place was still packed with people during those late hours of the day, a mix of tourists, vendors, and pilgrims. We entered at the side gate and the first thing that caught my attention where those people encircling the fountain, they call, the World Peace Pond. I observed closely what they are doing and learned that they were throwing coins and aiming it into a small vessel under the golden standing Buddha for the belief that their wishes will be granted. Adjacent to it is a white, small stupa with an ancient bell beside it and smaller stupas scattered around.
Several colorful prayer flags were draping everywhere and as we approached the stairs leading to the main stupa, the monkeys started to reveal themselves. This temple is also called “the Monkey Temple” because a large number of them inhabit the area. They are wild monkeys that could get aggressive so we were reminded not to look at them straight in the eye. As we climbed the 365-step stairway, they were found all around busy doing their own thing.
Ascending towards the top of the hill where the huge Swayambhunath stupa is situated would just take a few minutes and the climb is not tough (compared to those that I have climbed earlier). As I reached the hilltop, the huge white stupa appeared in front of me painted with eyes in its upper four corners. The stupa has many Buddha statues around it and each figure that makes up the monument has a corresponding meaning or symbolism. Surrounding the stupa are giant prayer wheels which must be spun while you walk around the shrine in a clockwise direction to bring good fortune.
Several temples are also found at the hilltop and a bundle of small stone shrines, known as chaitya, assemble in one area. There were painted images of deities and other religious monuments found everywhere.
Perhaps the unexpected reward I had in getting to the top of the temple was the overlooking view of the whole Kathmandu valley.