The stupa is an important symbol of Buddhism, for it represents the mind of the Buddha. Originating in India as mounds for marking sacred sites or containing religious relics, stupas come in different sizes and are made of various materials. This sculpture replicates the Great Stupa on top of Svayambhu Hill in Kathmandu Valley, the foremost religious center of the Newar Buddhist community. Legend has it that a long time ago, when the Kathmandu Valley was submerged in a lake, the buddha Vipashvin planted a lotus seed there. The seed grew into a thousand-petal lotus, and the beam of light emerging from it became the self-originated Primordial Buddha. The light beam, which had five colors-the essence of the Five Transcendent Buddhas-later was encased within the Great Stupa.
This votive stupa therefore represents the Primordial Buddha; it also represents the cosmic Mount Meru, the axis of the universe. The guardian kings of the four directions are depicted inside the niches on the square base. The mound of the stupa rests on the thousand-petal lotus, and inscribed on it are the all-seeing eyes of the Primordial Buddha. The mound also contains the shrines and symbols of four of the Five Transcendent Buddhas: Akshobhya (vajra, or thunderbolt) on the east, Ratnasambhava (jewel) on the south, Amitabha (lotus) on the west, and Amoghasiddhi (sword) on the north. The fifth buddha, Vairochana, is not shown, but is understood to occupy the top center position.
This stupa was reconsecrated in 2001, and the interior was filled with prayers, coins, barley, sesame, and various semiprecious stones.