Swayambhu literally means “self-existent one”. According to translations from an inscription dating back to 460 A.D., it was built by King Manadeva and by the 13th century, Swayambhunath had developed into an important centre of Buddhism. Legend has it that Swayambhu was born out of a lotus flower that bloomed in the middle of a lake that once spread across the Kathmandu Valley once was. The largest image of the Sakyamuni Buddha in Nepal sits on a pedestal on the western boundary of Swayambhu. Behind the hilltop is a temple dedicated to Manjusri or Saraswati – the Goddess of learning. Chaityas, statues and shrines of Buddhist and Hindu deities fill the stupa complex. The base of the hill is almost entirely surrounded by prayer wheels that were recently installed. Devotees can be seen circumambulating the stupa at all times.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. Built in the 5th century and later renovated by Malla kings, the site itself is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when a Shiva lingam was discovered here. The largest temple complex in Nepal, it stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River which is considered holy by Hindus. The main pagoda style temple has a gilded roof, four sides covered in silver, and wood carvings of the finest quality. Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath.
Budhanilkantha, situated at the foot of the Shivpuri Hills in the northern-most part of the Kathmandu Valley, is about 8 km from the city. The shrine with probably the largest stone statue of Lord Vishnu in Nepal is reclining on a bed of Nagas or serpents in the middle of a small pond. The 5-m long granite image carved out of a single rock dates back to the Lichchhavi period. According to folklore, a farmer was working on his field one day when his plough struck a boulder, and to his surprise and alarm, blood started oozing out of the cut in the stone. Upon digging around the huge boulder, he unearthed the magnificent image of the reclining Vishnu that had remained buried in the ground. A big mela (fair) is held at Budhanilkantha on the auspicious two main Ekadashis, Harishayani and Haribodhini, marking the 4-month period when Lord Vishnu is believed to retire to sleep.