Syambhunath Stupa: the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu

It’s believed that Kathmandu valley started its journey to glory and prominence right from this point - Syambhunath Stupa, also commonly known as the monkey temple of Kathmandu. That makes the place one of the oldest in the valley and one of the most significant for anyone who wishes to explore the origins of the region.

Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Syambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu

Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Early morning prayers

The stupa is also often referred to as Monkey Temple, as many monkeys have made it their home. The origin of the temple, however, lies in geography, and not religion and I find the mix of two simply fascinating.

History of Syambhunath Stupa

If you translate the word Syambhu, it literally means “created spontaneously on its own”, and if we look back at the history of Kathmandu valley it might just be true. About 2000 years back the valley evolved out of a primordial lake and the hillock where the stupa is located today was created spontaneously during the process.

Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Following the monks

Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Top of the stupa

Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Gods in golden light

Over the last two thousand years Syambhunath has become one of the best places to observe religious harmony that Nepal is often known for. The oldest inscriptions at the site are from the 5th century though it was during the 14th century that it became an important Buddhist pilgrimage site.

Over the last few centuries many additions have been made at the site, and today the complex is adorned with numerous small and big Hindu and Buddhist shrines. Though primarily a Buddhist site, people of all faiths visit here through the day.

My visit to Syambhunath Stupa


Just like I always like to do, I started my day early in the morning - just before dawn. I had already called for a cab and my cabbie was already waiting for me when I stepped out of the hotel. 30 minutes later he dropped me to climb up the rest of the journey.

It was still dark when I reached up, and I chose to simply relax and enjoy the morning rituals. Camera was mostly at rest, except a few times when I felt almost compelled to capture the beauty of the place.

Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Lighting the lamps
Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Dorje - thunderbolt - weapon of the god!

Syambhunath Stupa kathmandu nepal photo
Caught mid-flight...

Similar to many Hindu temples, there were men and women singing bhajans on the loudspeaker in one corner. The music was soulful and not at all jarring to the ear.

The place is also full of monkeys, and that’s the reason it’s also often called the Monkey Stupa. There are many but they don’t attack the tourists or pilgrims. Some people do offer them food and that often causes a bit of fight with the numerous dogs who also live there. Oh, and how can I forget the pigeons who fill up the sky beautifully every few minutes at sunrise.

The place is open to people of all faiths, and is as important to the Hindus of the city as it is to the Buddhists.

Travel video of Syaambhunath Stupa

While I was there, I also made a quick video about the place to give a better perspective of the scale and the space itself. If you like the video, don't forget to subscribe as well :)



Practical details

1. To reach: Book a cab in advance - either from outside or from your hotel itself.

There are actually two different ways to approach the stupa - a tough one and an easy one. The tough one requires you to climb up rather steep steps to reach the top, and it’s very exhausting. The easy route, also the one I took, requires you to drive almost all the way up to a parking lot and then within ten minutes of easy walking you are at the stupa. Pick the one you want based on availability of time and your strength.

2. Entry fee: the entry to the stupa is free and so is photography. A few places don’t allow pictures to be taken and it’s a good practice to respect that.

3. Toilets: there are toilets near the stupa and they are relatively clean. Alternatively, you can visit a cafe and use their toilet once they open (usually around 9am).

4. To stay: well, you can stay in the city, like I did, or also stay next to the stupa. There are a few simple guest houses, and I think it would be absolutely charming to stay here. It might actually be a good idea to just come here with your bags and look for a place to stay.

5. To eat: I didn’t eat anything here so have no personal recommendations. However, I think it would be a great place to eat your breakfast after paying respect at the stupa. There are numerous cafes and simple restaurants in the area.

6. To shop: there are often crafts shop near tourist places, and this stupa was no different. You can buy local crafts, including paintings of Buddhist Mandala by artists who make it right there.

Comments

  1. These are the amazing pictures of Swoyumbhunath Stupa. Always a great feeling to be there. I am from Kathmandu, Nepal, and love to go there everytime I get time.

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  2. most important blog your way is very good thanks

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  3. you are very good thats very amazing thank you

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  4. Thanks for sharing such a great article, i will plan my next trip to Nepal and this article will defiantly helpful for me. great work!

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  5. Personally its a good readable article and the other thing the way you have explore the Swaymbhunath (Also called Monkey Temple) have reach the depth in this article.For video one suggestion I just want to hear the syllables ie. Om Mani Padme Hum.Thank you

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  6. Great blog, your blog looks amazing to read& Thanks for posting

    ReplyDelete

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