My second annual visit to Nepal’s capital city was less stressful. I knew what to expect and was familiar enough with the city to find my way around. This time I vowed to see all five remaining UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu that I had missed the previous year, beginning with Swayambhunath Buddhist Stupa. I hopped on the back of a friend’s motorcycle and we wove our way through Kathmandu’s massive traffic jams to the hilltop site.
Swayambunath’s main feature is the Maha Stupa, reputed to be more than 2,000 years old. It’s brilliant white dome, which represents the spotless pure jewel of Nirvana (freedom from the endless cycle of reincarnations), is topped by a 13-tier golden spiral tower. Between the dome and the tower the traditional all-seeing eyes, painted on all four sides of the stupa, gaze out over miles of the city. It’s stylized lotus mandala base is said to be built on the precise spot where the Chinese saint Manjushri saw the flaming lotus floating on the lake that legend says once covered the Kathmandu Valley. Desiring to worship the lotus, Manjushri cut a swath in the hills that surround Kathmandu with his giant sword, draining the lake. Continue reading