Located high atop a hill overlooking the vast expanse of Kathmandu, is Swayambhunath. Although I visited this place years ago, Swayambhunath Stupa, aka The Monkey Temple, is so visually engaging that it warranted another visit. I’m not sure if it’s just that tourism here is up (although it’s technically off-season) or if it’s because I visited on a Saturday when perhaps the locals come for their worship, but the place was so incredibly busy that it was a different experience altogether.
Normally, I find over-crowded places to be an annoyance, but there is something incredibly engaging in the sheer volume of faith that people bring with them to these holy sites, that my fascination leaves no room for irritation.
There are so many structures built around the main stupa… mini alters, small temples housing sacred statues, bigger temples with chanting monks, layers and layers of variation… that to outline them all would be impossible. And besides, for me, the pleasure lies in simply observing all the accouterments of worship, which I find so aesthetically pleasing.
I realized later, that for a so-called “monkey temple” I took very few photos of the monkeys themselves… most likely because I have now been to countless “monkey temples” in various places around the world, so the novelty has worn a bit thin. Still, one can’t escape the allure of adorable that is a teeny, tiny baby monkey and it’s mother.
Patan Durbar Square
Patan is the old city within the city of Kathmandu, and “durbar” means royal – so this is the ancient royal square consisting of the palace and the temples, which date back to about the 4th Century.
Dating back to the 5th Century, Boudhanath Stupa is not unlike Swayambunath – similar in its shape and regarded as one of the most important Buddhist temples in the region. And while Swayambunath is stunning for it’s hilltop locale, Boudhanath is smack dab in the middle of the city, and yet the immensity of it’s circular shape and the circumference, which is lined with shops and cafes somehow gives is a very regal yet urban feel, which is a direct contrast to the green hillside setting of Swayambunath.
Sadly, I have nothing to show. Pashupatinath is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the entire world, and I was very much looking forward to visiting, however, in contrast to what I read online, we were told that non-Indians were no longer allowed to visit. Totally discriminatory, yes, since I’m willing to bet that I have a stronger spiritual practice than at least a handful of Indians who visit this place every day, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.