Swayambhu literally means 'Self-Existent One.' Swayambhunath is believed to have been established more than 2,500 years ago. An inscription dated 460 A.D. states that the construction was carried out by King Manadeva. By the thirteenth century Swayambhunath had developed into an important Buddhist learning site. The history of Kathmandu Valley is said to have started with the beginning of Swayambhu. The largest image of the Sakyamuni Buddha in Nepal is in a monastery next to the stupa. Behind the hilltop is a temple dedicated to Manjusri of Saraswati - the goddess of learning. Statues and shrines of Buddhist and Hindu deities dot the stupa complex. Large numbers of Buddhists and Hindus alike visit Swayambhunath. Swayambhu is perhaps the best place to observe the religious harmony in Nepal. The stupa is atop a hill, and requires considerable walk. There is also a road that leads almost to the base of the statue.
Swayambhunath Stupa is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in parts of the temple in the north-west, is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal.. Numerous kings, Hindu followers, are known to have paid their homage to the temple, including Pratap Malla, the powerful king of Kathmandu, who is responsible for the construction of the eastern stairway in the 17th century..However, Emperor Ashoka is said to have visited the site in the 3rd century BC and built a temple on the hill, which was later destroyed. Legend has it that the Buddha himself visited Swayambhu and gave teachings there two hundred years earlier.