Svayambhunath and Bodhnath (Buddhist Pilgrimage )
About Svayambhunath and Bodhnath : The name Svayambhunath comes from ‘svayambhu’ which means self-created. It is believed that the entire valley at the pinnacle of which it sits was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew one great lotus. It is also known as the Monkey Temple, and the monkeys that reside in the western parts of the religious complex are believed to be holy, the legend going further to place their origins in the head lice of Manjushree, the bodhisattva who raised the hill on which the Svayambhunath Temple sits, and cut the gorge which became the valley Kathmandu now lies in. He is accredited with transforming the great lotus into the hill which now houses the Svayambhunath Temple.
History of Bodhnath : is one of the grandest stupas in existence, and since 1979, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since the 1950s, the area has seen a huge influx of Tibetan refugees, and as a result, at present there are over 50 monasteries established around Bodhnath. There are several points of view in history which link the origins of Bodhnath to several different sources. Certain sources point to the Nepalese Lichhavi king Sivadeva as the founder of Bodhnath, while different Nepalese sources attribute its existence to the King Manadeva. The Tibetan emperor Trisong Detsan has also been widely linked to the construction of the Bodhnath stupa.
The best time to visit Svayambhunath and Bodhnath would be between September and December, which is the autumn season for Nepal, with a pleasant transition between summer and winter making it the optimal time for touristic exploration. The official language is Nepali, and others include, English, Newari, and Awadhi among others. Svayambhunath and Bodhnath are roughly 15 km away from each other.
Buddhism in Svayambhunath and Bodhnath - It is believed that the emperor Ashoka had visited the site in the third century and built a temple on the hill, but that this was later completely destroyed, though by who remains uncertain. The structure has undergone 15 renovations in its century and a half’s existence, the most recent one taking place in May 2010, funded by the TNMC, California, which saw the dome entirely re-gilded with more than 20 kg of gold. Above the dome is a cubicle structure which features carvings of the Panch Buddhas (five Buddhas) on each side. Each of these five Buddhas is symbolic in the Tantrayana, and include the following: Vairochana (representative of master of the Temple), Akshobhya (representative of the element of consciousness), Ratna Sambhava (representative of the element of sensation), Amitabha (the element of identity), and Amogsiddhi (the element of conformation).
It is said that the first structure that is today the Bodhnath stupa was built by a woman and her four sons after the demise of Kasyapa Buddha, a Buddha that lived much before Shakyamuni Buddha (more popularly known as Lord Gautama Buddha), to enshrine the remains of the great sage. It is said that the construction of the monument was undertaken with the blessing of the King of the time, and the massive scale that it was apparent the structure was aiming at upon completion is said to have left observers speechless at the completion of the groundwork itself.
Places of interest near Svayambhunath and Bodhnath:
Lumbini: this is where the Lord Gautama Buddha was born to Queen Mayadevi, in what is widely but not unanimously believed to be 623 BCE. Lumbini is roughly 294 km away from Svayambhunath and approximately 307 km away from Bodhnath.
Kapilvastu: Kapilvastu lies around 324 km away from Bodhnath and roughly 314 km away from Svayambhunath. This was the site of the centre of the Shakya Kingdom, ruled by the Lord Buddha’s father, and where he spent the first 29 years of his life in princely luxury before setting off into the world in search of enlightenment.
Airways :the distance between the Kathmandu airport and Svayambhunath is 15 km by road, and taxis are available, though it has been noted that they tend to overcharge, so it is a wise choice to settle on a tariff before the journey. Bodhnath is around 6 km away from the Kathmandu airport.
Roadways : Bodhnath lies to the north east of Kathmandu, around 5 km away, and Svayambhunath is roughly 14 km away to the east. Local buses are available but may be a bit too inconvenient for tourist travel. Tourist buses serve as a good alternative to these, and are more comfortable, and hence, more expensive, and fewer in number and routes. Private taxis are available for hire, and tempos are a good choice for shorter distances given one isn’t laden with luggage.