The Sacred Origins
Bipaswi Buddha came from a city named Bandhumati: and took abode on a mountain west of Nag Hrad(Ancient name of the valley when it was a lake). He sowed a lotus-seed in the Hrad on the full moon in the month of Chaitya. In honor of this a Mela is held on the mountain on the full moon on the month. Today its known as Gunla Festival(Newari Festival in Nepal) where it is believed one must visit the chaitya at least once. “Gunla Baja” is played every morning by the various tole’s(communities) around Swayambhu, People ascend the 365 and venerate shrine before returning home.
The legend continues as the same lotus -seed brought forth a lotus-flower and in the center was Swayambhu, who came from Aknisht Bhuban ( Sacred Land) appeared in the form of light. In Treta Yuga, Manjusri came from Mahachin(China) and saw the light of Swayambhu, he then cut a passage through a mountain that drained this ancient lake and thus emerged the valley of Kathmandu.
In today’s modern and skeptical world, one might find it hard to believe these mystical tales of faith and Gods. Kathmandu Valley is a sacred land where you are guided in every turn by a temple or a chaitya, “You are never alone” is a statement that fits right at home in the 3 sister states of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. But Swayabhu is center of all the Newars of the valley and is revered by not just people of faith but by everyone for its sheer beauty, design and architecture. When you look up to the shrine atop of the chaitya as you ascend the steps of a year, you feel a jolt go down your spine and goosebumps in your arms as you get charmed by the inscents, enormity and aura of this wonder.
The Origin of Swayambhu Shrine
At the ending years of Dwapar Yuga, an Acharya named Santikar who is also known as Sant-sri saw that the Kali Yuga was approaching, during which mankind would be utterly sinful. So, he covered the light of Swayambhu with a stone and built a chaitya and temple over it. Entangled with this same legend is another fascinating the legend, it is believed that Sant Shri who built the chaitya also built 5 rooms surrounding the chaitya named after the 4 elements and one the soul called Santipur, where he locked himself and stayed in the state of divine meditation. He thus entered a mystic state, achieving immorality and vowed to stay in the room and emerge when the valley of Kathmandu truly needed him.
In Newar Buddhism it’s called Semgu, meaning "self-sprung” in Tibetan “Sublime Tress” , it is also known to many travelers as the monkey temple. Entering the periphery of the Swayambhu hill you will be greeted first by obviously monkeys allot of monkeys. The lush vegetation, high trees have created a rich habitat for them to live and amuse the locals Just don’t carry any food in your hand or in a bag, they are known to be quite mischievous sometimes stealing foods and drinks from the people and leaving many crying children stealing.
The base of the chaitya is rimmed with prayer wheels and the stupa is surrounded by many other temples and monasteries. The Harati Temple is on the north side of the shrine and there are two shikhara temples erected by Pratap Malla which collapsed during the earthquake of 2015. The Semi-peripheri is littered with souvenir shops and tea shops for the travelers and locals who enjoy there hours looking at the scenic view of the valley with there cup of tea.
As the eyes of Swayambhu, ever omnipresent watch over this city, one can only smile over the everlasting awe of this beautiful hill. One who has seen this beauty can never unseeing it and one can never again imagine the valley without it.