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Photographer's Note

Last in a short series of pictures taken around the stupa at Swayambhunath on an early spring holiday to India and Nepal in 2004.

Some information from Wikipedea about the stupa:

The stupa consists of a dome at the base. Above the dome, there is a cubical structure present with eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions. There are pentagonal Toran present above each of the four sides with statues engraved in them. Behind and above the torana there are thirteen tiers. Above all the tiers, there is a small space above which the Gajur is present.

The dome at the base represents the entire world. When a person awakes (represented by eyes of wisdom and compassion) from the bonds of the world, the person reaches the state a bit higher. The thirteen pinnacles on the top of it symbolises that sentient beings have to go through the thirteen stages of enlightenment to reach Buddhahood.

On each of the four sides of the main stupa there are a pair of big eyes which represent Wisdom and Compassion. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye. The saying goes that when Buddha preaches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye which acts as message to heavenly beings, so that those interested can come down to earth to listen to the Buddha. The hellish beings and beings below the human realm cannot come to earth to listen to the Buddha's teaching, however, the cosmic ray relieves their suffering when Buddha preaches.

There are carving of Panch Buddhas (five Buddhas) on each of the four sides of stupa. Apart from this, idols of the Buddhas are at the base of the stupas. Panch Buddhas are Buddha in a metaphorical sense in Tantrayana. They are Vairochana (occupies the centre and is the master of the temple), Akshobhya (faces the east and represents the cosmic element of consciousness), Ratna Sambhava (faces the south and represents the cosmic element of sensation), Amitabha (He represents cosmic element of Sanjna (name) and always faces the West) and Amoghsiddhi (He represents the cosmic element of conformation and faces the north).

Each morning before dawn, hundreds of pilgrims ascend the 365 steps from eastern side that lead up the hill, passing the gilded Vajra (Tibetan: Dorje) and two lions guarding the entrance, and begin a series of clockwise circum-ambulations of the stupa.

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Additional Photos by Stephen Nunney (snunney) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 10627 W: 63 N: 29872] (130967)
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