Far from the hustle and bustle, Changu Narayan Temple is one of the perfect destinations to be added on your Kathmandu Day Tour list. This temple is popular as the oldest Hindu temple of Nepal and is perched on a hilltop over the rice fields of Bhaktapur. Located around 6km north of Bhaktapur, the temple is surrounded by the dense woods of Champak Trees and a small village named Changu. Depicting the historic and artistic achievements of Nepal, Changu Narayan is the must-visit place in Bhaktapur. Further, it is also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.
The double roofed pagoda style Changu Narayan Temple is devoted to Lord Bishnu in his incarnation as Narayan. While visiting the temple, you will adore each of the craftwork of woods, stones, and metals that signifies the centuries-old art and architecture. Besides Lord Bishnu, there are various shrines of Lord Shiva, Ashta Matrika, Kileshwor, Chhinnamasta, and Krishna in the vicinity of Changu Narayan temple. On the clear weather, you can witness the beautiful Himalayan panorama from the Changu Hill.
On the way up to the temple, there are several restaurants, souvenir shops, and museums. The entrance fee to enter Changu Naryan Temple is around Rs 300 and Rs 250 for foreigners and SAARC Countries visitors, respectively.
Things to see in Changu Narayan temple
Full of historical and architectural monuments, sculptures, and the woodcarvings, Changu Narayan Temple has both historical and cultural significance. The beams supporting the two Pagoda roofs of the temples are adorned with the intricate carvings of the 10 incarnations of Lord Bishnu. There, you can also see the carvings of a various multi-armed tantric goddess. Each of the four entrance doors of the Temple is guarded by stone Lions, Griffins, Elephants, and Sarabhas. In Hindu mythology, Sarabhas is a part lion and a part bird beast. On the western face of the temple, you can see the statue of Garuda, which is a half-man and a half-bird. Garuda is the vehicle of Vishnu. Behind the statue, there is an inscription stone which provides valuable information about the Lichhavi dynasty and the history of Kathmandu valley. In front of the main entrance, there is a statue of King Bhupatindra Malla and his Queen Bhuwan Lakshmi.
When you look at the northern direction of the temple, there you can see the statue of Lord Vishnu seated on a Garuda. This sculpture of Vishnu is there since, 9th century. This statue is among the major attraction of the temple. Further, centuries-old sculptures on the courtyard are the true gem of Changu Narayan Temple. Apart from all of these, the statue of Vishnu as Narsingha is another main highlight of this holy site. Narsingha is the half lion and a half-man incarnation of Lord Bishnu. This statue dates back to 464 AD. On the premise of the temple, you can also witness the statue of Vishnu as Vikarantha. Vikaranta is the six-armed dwarf who later transformed into a giant. Everything in the temple has its own significance and beauty, so make sure you have savored the beauty of each and every aspect.
History of Changu Naryan temple
Changu Narayan Temple was built originally in the 4th century, during the Lichhavi Dynasty. After the massive fire destruction, the temple was reconstructed in 1702 AD. The temple was further renovated and reconstructed after the devasting earthquake in 1934 and 2015 AD.
Some beliefs regarding the development of Changu Narayan Temple
There are different stories regarding the history of the Changu Narayan Temple. Among many, one is that once there was a cow herder who used to take his cow to the Changu hill for grazing. The Changu Hill was densely covered by the Champak trees. While grazing, most of the time the cow used to go under the specific tree from which a boy used to come out to drink the cow’s milk. This process went on repetition for multiple days due to which the cow herder was receiving minimal quantities of milk. Noticing this activity of cow, he was very sad, so he decided to tell his problem to the Brahmin named Sudarshan and called him. After witnessing all these with his own eyes, Sudarshan agreed with the cow herder. The next day they decided to check out the day activity of the cow. Hiding behind the trunk of the tree, they observed the cow’s activity. During that observation, they saw a boy coming out of the tree, started drinking the cow’s milk. Watching this all, both the herder and Brahmin thought the boy as the devil. Keeping the thought of the tree as the devil’s home, the Brahmin chopped that tree. When he was chopping the tree, fresh blood came out of the tree. Thinking that they had committed a great crime, the herder and the Brahmin got scared and started crying.
After a while, Lord Bishnu appeared from the tree and told the cow herder and Brahmin not to blame themselves. Lord Bishnu told them the story of how he had committed a dreadful crime by unintentionally murdering Sudarshan’s father while hunting in the forest. As a punishment of this crime, along with the Garuda, he was collapsed on the Changu Hill. Since then, he was feeding on the cow’s stolen milk. When Sudarshan cut down the tree, Bishnu was beheaded, which liberated him from all of his sins. After hearing all these things from Lord Bishnu, the Brahmin and the cow herder decided to worship the place. They even built a small temple in the name of Lord Bishnu. Since then, the place has remained sacred. Even today, we can see the Sudardhan’s descendants as the priest of the temple and the cow herder’s descendants as Ghitiyars(conservators)
Another familiar story is of a mighty warrior Changu who challenged the strongest warrior Pranjal. Around 400 years ago Pranjal was the strongest warrior in the entire nation. However, during the war, Changu defeated Pranjal and won the heart of all the Nepalese people. This temple was a gift to him.
Some people also believe that once a Kashmiri King gave his daughter ‘Champak’ in marriage to the prince of Bhaktapur and the temple was named Changu Narayan Temple after her.