Sunday, 11 December 2011

Kathmandu Valley's Best Kept Secret: Changu Narayan

If asked to name the seven UNESCO Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley, most travellers will confidently come up with six of them. The seventh that is invariably forgotten is the Hindu temple of Changu Narayan. Located on a hillside just north of Bhaktapur, it is largely shunned by large tour groups, which adds to its quiet mystique and serenity.

A winding road from Bhaktapur that goes past terraced fields eventually ends in a carpark near the top of a hill. On its west is the gateway entrance (above) to the town of Changu Narayan, its single path lined with modest handicraft shops. This leads to a flight of stairs that ascend the cloistered complex of Changu Narayan Temple.

The main temple stands in the middle of a spacious courtyard. It is a square two-storeyed building opulently covered with gilded and wood carvings. Although the temple dates to the 5th century AD (reportedly the oldest in Kathmandu Valley), the present structure was built in the early 1700s. Surrounded by smaller shrines, this temple to Vishnu is a most impressive sight.

The southeast corner of the main temple, with its beautiful carvings.

One of the four temple doors in the cardinal directions.

Only Hindus are allowed to go past these doors.

A legacy of gold and expert craftsmanship.

A window on the upper floor.

The temple bell.

The winged Garuda pays homage to Vishnu.

Some of the other Vishnu shrines within the temple complex.

A quiet corner of Changu Narayan Temple, truly a living museum.

A view of Kathmandu Valley from near the carpark. The top of Changu Narayan Temple is just visible in the extreme left of this panorama. This is certainly Kathmandu Valley's best kept secret.

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