Swayambhunath complex located atop a hill in the Kathmandu valley located west of Kathmandu – consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. Swayambhunath occupies a central position, probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. A Tibetan monastery, museum and library are more recent additions. The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on it. Between them, the number one (in Davanagari script) is painted in the fashion of a nose. The site has two access points, a long stairway with 365 steps leading directly to the main platform of the temple and car road around the hill from the south leading to the southwest entrance. Much of Swayambhunath’s iconography comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. However, the complex is also an important site for Buddhist of many schools and is also revered by Hindus. In local Nepalese Language the name of the complex is Singgu which means ‘self-sprung”.
The first sight, on reaching the top of the stairway is the Vajra or the thunderbolt sceptre. The Vajra is essentially a type of club with a ribbed spherical head. The ribs may meet in a ball shaped top or they may be separate and end in sharp points with which to stab. It is a weapon which is used as a ritual object to symbolize both properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and thunderbolt (irresistible force). The Vajra is used symbolically by the dharma traditions of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism often to represent firmness of spirt and spiritual power. The use of the Vajra as a symbolic and ritual tool, spread from India along with Indian religion and culture to other parts of Asia.
According to Swayambhu Purana, the entire valley was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus. The valley came to be known as swayambhu meaning “self-created”. The name comes from an eternal self-existent flame over which a stupa was later built. Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living around the temple. They are holy because Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhunath temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and had lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.
Manjusri had a vision of the lotus at Swayambhu and travelled there to worship it. Seeing that the valley can be good settlement and to make the site more accessible to human pilgrims, he cut a gorge which drained the water out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The lotus was transformed into a hill and the flower became the Swayambhunath Stupa.