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Swayambhunath, the Monkey Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is known for its long legendary history. The city was founded in the 2nd century A.D. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.

One of the most beautiful temples in Kathmandu - the Swayambhunath temple. Swayambhunath is known as the Monkey Temple. So called "Holy monkeys" live on the site of this temple. They are as much of a tourist attraction as are the temple, the large Buddha stupa, the monasteries and other buildings of the Swayambhunath complex. Both the visitors and the temple staff are always glad to feed them: in Buddhism the monkey is a sacred animal that symbolizes wisdom and spirituality.

Monkey temple

The rhesus macaques which we can see in the temple are a species of the Old World monkey. It is very interesting that their number in the Swayambhunath complex remains constant from year to year. At any time, there are from 425 to 450 monkeys here!


Kathmandu was and remains the heart of Nepal's arts, culture and economy. Religious festivals and festive traditions are extremely important for the population, and the ancient legends are passed down from generation to generation. One of the most interesting and, no doubt, curious legends is the myth about Manjushri, a companion of Buddha and the bodhisattva of wisdom.


They say that he dreamt of a holy lotus flower on the lake. He cut down the mountain ridge so that everyone could see and worship the lotus. The water drained out and gave life to the valley that is now home to Kathmandu, and the lotus turned into a hill, on which the Swayambhunath temple complex was built afterwards. By changing the landscape so drastically, Manjushri was supposed to cut his hair regularly. Apparently, he let it grow too long and got lice, and the lice in his hair transformed into monkeys!

Monkey temple

To get to the Swayambhunath stupa, everyone has to climb 365 stairs, one step for each day of the year, and monkeys meet the visitors from the first step of the climb. These animals can be very nice and charming, but, at the same time, moody and feisty.

They rule the whole area and boss around, cheekily cruise around the stupa, and can snatch things from the hands of a careless tourist.

Small boss

Since 1979 Swayambhunath has been enlisted in the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage property. The complex and its four-legged dwellers are worth getting to know closely.

Photos and video by Sergey Semenov and Ivan Roslyakov

December 22, 2023



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