Stupas at Swayambhunath
The most ancient and enigmatic of Kathmandu’s sacred sites, Swayambhunath plays a central role in the myth surrounding the creation of the city. Legends tell us that Kathmandu Valley was once a large lake, home only to a magical lotus that emitted a dazzling light which enlightened all who glimpsed it. This lotus, named Swayambhu as it was self-created, appeared in a vision to the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who promptly flew in to pay a visit. Impressed by what he saw, Manjushri decided to use his Vajra to cut open a gorge in the surrounding mountains to drain the lake and make Swaymbhu more accessible to human pilgrims. The lotus came to rest as a forested hill at the edge of the newly formed valley, its source of light becoming a stupa, which Manjushri topped with a thirteen tiered gold pinnacle, one for each stage of self-realisation on the path to Nirvana, and his own, all-seeing eyes. Over time, the settlements of the valley grew to become Kathmandu, and Swayambhunath its most embellished and important shrine.