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Svayambunath (Sambunath): great Buddhist temple.

Svayambunath (Sambunath): great Buddhist temple.

Photographer: Bourne and Shepherd

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1870

Shelfmark: Photo 50/2(176)

Item number: 502176

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the stupa of Swayambhunath near Kathmandu, Nepal, taken by Bourne and Shepherd in the 1870s, from the Bellew Collection of Architectural Views. Nepal's most venerated Buddhist shrine, the Swayambhunath stupa sits on the summit of a hill called Singum or Gosringa, overlooking Kathmandu. It is surrounded with an array of minor shrines and votive objects, donated by seekers of merit over hundreds of years. The stupa is an embodiment and source of Nepal's creation myth. Swayambhu or 'Self-manifest', is the primordial Buddha (Adibuddha)who appeared on a lotus flower floating on the lake which once filled the Kathmandu Valley. The Bodhisattva Manjushri, embodiment of wisdom, drew his sword and cutting a gorge, drained the serpent-infested lake so that people could approach and worship Swayambhu, to whom a stupa was raised. The stupa is believed to have been sacred for atleast 1600 years and is historically dated to the reign of the Lichchavi king Vrishadeva in the 4th century AD, but restored and modified frequently in the ensuing centuries. The whitewashed brick hemisphere of the stupa is topped by a gilded cube or harmika and a spire of 13 gilt rings culminating in a parasol, symbol of Buddha as universal monarch. The all-seeing eyes painted on each side of the harmika may be taken to be those of the Adibuddha, or the Lokpalas or Guardians of the Cardinal Points.

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