Great Thunderbolt

Buddhist Monument in Swayambhunath

At the top of the eastern stairway is an enormous, brass-plated dorje (thunderbolt), one of the core symbols of Tibetan Buddhism. Known as a vajra in Sanskrit, the thunderbolt is a Tantric symbol of the power of enlightenment, which destroys ignorance but is itself indestructible. In rituals the dorje is used to indicate male power, while female power is represented by a ceremonial bell.

Around the pedestal supporting the symbol are the animals of the Tibetan calendar. The plinth was formerly flanked by the Anantapura and Pratapura temples, two slender, Indian-style shikhara towers built by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century, but sadly the Anantapura temple collapsed in the 2015 earthquake (it's currently being rebuilt). Nearby is a viewpoint and a raised area with telescopes for hire.