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Changu Narayan
About Changu Narayan

The ancient temple of Changu Narayan is located on a high hilltop that is also known as Changu or Dolagiri. The temple is surrounded by forest with champak tree and a small village, known as Changu Village. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and held in especial amazement by the Hindu people. This temple is considered as the oldest temple in Nepal. The temple is located in Changunarayan VDC of Bhaktapur District, Nepal. This hill is about 8 miles east of Kathmandu and a few miles north of Bhaktapur. The Manahara River flows beside the hill.

Changu Narayan Temple is enlisted on the list of world heritage sites. The valuable stone sculpture and the ancient inscriptions have archeological, historical and cultural significance.

Location of Changu Narayan Temple

Changu Narayan Temple is situated at the top of the hill surrounded by forest of Champ tree. On the main way to temple courtyard, find human settlement can be seen. People from Newar community live in and around Changu Narayan area. With the development of tourism in this place, one can find many medium and small sized hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, etc. An ancient stone tap is located on the way to changunaran which is considered to have existed since the time of Lichhavi.

Legend about Changu Narayan

In ancient time a Gwala, a cow herder, had brought a cow from a Brahman named Sudashan. The cow was known for producing large quantity of milk. The Gwala used to take the cow to Changu for grazing. At that time Changu was a forest of Champak tree. While grazing the cow it always goes to the shade of a particular tree. In the evening when the Gwala took the cow home and started milking the cow he got only very few amount of milk. This continued for several days. He became very sad so he called the Brahmin and told him that the cow is not giving enough milk. Brahmin after observing the fact from his own eyes then planned with the Gwala to inspect the activities of cow during the day while she was grazing in the forest. Both Brahmin and Gwala hide themselves behind the trees and speculate the activities of cow. The cow went into the shade of a particular champak tree. To their surprise a small black boy came out from the tree and started liking the cow milk. Both became very angry and they thought that the boy must be the devil and tree must be its home. So Brahmin cut down the champak tree.

When the Brahmin was cutting down the tree a fresh human blood came out from the tree. Both Brahmin and Gwala became worried and they thought that they have committed the great crime and they started crying. From the tree lord Vishnu emerged out and he told the Brahmin that it was not their fault. Lord Vishnu told them the story that he had committed a horrible crime by killing Shudarshan’s father unknowingly while hunting in the forest. After that he was cursed for the crime. He then wandered on earth on his mouth, the ‘Garuda’ finally descending on the hill at Changu. There he lived in privacy, surviving on milk stolen from a cow. When Brahmin cut down the tree, lord Vishnu was executed which freed Lord Vishnu from his sins. After hearing these words from Vishnu, Brahmin and Gwala started worshiping the place and they established a small time in the name of Lord Vishnu. Ever since that day, the site has been held holy. Even today we can find the descendant of Sudarshan Brahimin as priest of the temple and the descendents of Gwala as ghutiyars (conservators).

History of Changu Narayan

The pagoda style temple has several masterpieces of 5th and 12th century Nepalese art. According to legends Changu Narayan temple existed as early as 325 A.D. at the time of King Licchavi King Hari Datta Verma and it is one of Nepal's richest structures historically as well as artistically. In the grounds there is a stone pillar inscription of huge significance recording the military exploits of King Man Deva who reigned from 496 A.D. to 524 A.D. The first epigraphic evidence of Nepalese history found in the temple premises during the reign of the Licchavi King Mandeva dating back to 464 A.D. shows that Changu had already been established as a holy site in the 3rd century A.D. It is the earliest inscription known in Nepal. The temple was modernized during the lifetime of Ganga Rani, consort of Siva Simha Malla who reigned from 1585 to 1614. There are records of the temple burning in the year of 822 Nepal Samvat (1702 A.D.), after which reconstruction was carried out. More inscriptions in gilt-copper plates were added by Bhaskara Malla in 1708 A.D.

Art and Architectures of Changu Narayan Temple

Changu Narayan is considered as the oldest temple of Nepal. It remains a milestone in Nepali temple architecture with rich decorated works. The two storied roof temple is standing in a high base of stone. The temple has a unique architecture which was described as traditional Nepali style temple. The temple is all enclosed by arts and sculptures related to Lord Vishnu. Also the temples of lord Shiva, Chhinnamasta, Kileshwor Ashta Matrika, and Krishna can be seen inside the courtyard of main temple. There are four entrances to the temple and these four entrance gates are safeguarded by life size pairs of animals such as elephants, lions, sarabhas, and graffins on each side of the entrances. The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu and the other idols are carved in the struts, which support the roof. The entrance door looks like gold plated with carving of Nagas (snakes). On the main entrance gate (i.e. western entrance gate), Sankha, Chakra, Khadga and Kamal are found at the top of a stone pillar. These stone pillars has inscription in Sanskrit. This inscription is considered to be the oldest inscription of Nepal and the stone inscription pillar was erected by Lichhavi King Manadeva in 464 AD.

Museum Inside Changu Narayan Temple

A private museum is also located in the Changu Narayan on the way to temple. It is the first private museum of Nepal and it has the collection of ancient tools, arts, coins and architectures. There is an excellent collection of historical, ancient, religious, artistic, archaeological, cultural and other rare objects. The museum has a good collection of ancient tools used by Newar family during the medieval period. It was established on the occasion of millennium year 2000 AD with the consent of Changu Narayan VDC.

Fairs and Festivals

Since the ancient period, many fairs and festivals have been organized on various occasions. One of the main festivals of Changu is called Changu Narayan Jatra. The festival ‘Mahashanan’ held here as an important festival. On the day of ‘Haribodhini Ekadashi’ and ‘Jugadi Nawami’ special puja is conducted in Changu. Daily aarti and puja is conducted in temple and on the occasion of family rituals, such as marriage, birthday, etc locals conduct special puja in the temple.


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