"In Satya Yuga, Bipaswi Buddha came from a city known by the name of Bandhumati; and having taken up his abode on the mountain to the west of Nag Hrad(Kathmandu Valley) sowed a lotus-seed in the tank, on the day of the full moon in the month of Chait. The lotus seed that had been sown brought forth a lotus flower, in the middle of which Swayambhu (who had come from Aknisht Bhuban) appeared in the form of light, on the day of the full moon in Aswin." Wright 1877: 77-78 Most of the historic chronicles have the lotus seed that brought light be marked as the beginning of the history of the Kathmandu Valley. The light of Swayambhu was inaccessible till the age of Treta Yuga, when Bodhistva Manjushri came from Mahachin(China) and drained the lake from the pass at Kotwal(The place where Bagmati passes out of the Valley) with other passes drawn at Chobar. With the valley drained, Bodhistva Manjuri made the valley inhabitable and the light of Swayambhu accessible to its worshippers. The shrine of Swayambhu, the dome stupa with eyes of the enlightenment and the pinnacle was built only in the Kali Yuga. Before which it is believed that at the summit of Padma (Padma- Giri Hill; the mountain upon which Swayambhu stands) the place where the shrine is today was a great beam of light that penetrated heaven and even the depths of hell. "The Kali Yuga, in which mankind would be utterly sinful, was approaching. He (Sant-sri) therefore covered the Swayambhu light with a stone, and built a chaitya and temple over it. He then built five rooms named Basupur, Agnipur, Bayupur, Nagpur and Santipur in the last which he lived, absorbed in devout meditation." Wright 1877:84 It is believed in local legends that even till this date Sant-sri, is in devout meditation in Santipur and shall emerge to protect the valley in times of grave danger. I remember the first time I climbed the steps to the top of Padma-Giri, as I took the last step with deep breaths. The shrine of Swayambhu was a sight to behold, view it form any perspective you wish. Architecturally it is a phenomena, the dome base atop which a cubical structure painted with the eyes of Shakya-Muni (Lord Buddha) in all four direction shielded by the pentagonal Torana with symbolic engravings. Above the Toranas are thirteen tiers crowned by a Gajur, now imagine a time lapse of its creation? Symbolically the base dome represents the world; the eyes of Shakya-Muni represent the status of enlightenment free from all bonds of the world. The thirteen tiers of the pinnacle symbolize thirteen stages of spiritual realizations to the enlightenment. Spiritually as a native Newar it is the center of all our devotion and from the perspective of a sociologist, a beautiful lineage of history which has become the epicenter of Newar culture. Today, the shrine of Swayambhu is known as Swayambhu-Nath or The Monkey Temple and is a major tourist attraction of Kathmandu Valley. Riddled with numerous shrines of Bodhistva's, Lichavi chaitya and stupas, mists of incents and chants of prayer. The Padma-Giri is a hill of spiritual awakening, the light of Swayambhu ever since history began has been a beacon of enlightenment attracting its seekers to the valley, even till this date many take great journeys to find sanctum in its light. During the 2015 earthquake, the principal stupa didn’t suffer major damage but the surrounded chaityas, shikharas and temples along with living residents of the priests suffered major damage. The most notable difference was not seeing the two Shikharas built by Late King Pratap Malla in 1668 AD. Flanking the principal stupa, Late King Pratap Malla had built the two Shikharas with Agam Devtas within them along with which he placed a Bajra( Thunderbolt) in the Dharmadhatu mandala in front of Akshobhya Buddha. Having them being fully restored with other shrines and chaityas repaired, the area of Swayambhu was one of the very first UNESCO sites to reach a full restoration state. For it may withstand many quakes to come, shall the eyes of enlightenment forever bring peace to its beholders. For may it always be a sanctum for its seekers and the light of Swayambhu always shine.
By: Shreyashka Vikram Raj Maharjan