Changu Narayan Temple is one of the most important temples in Nepal’s Durbar Square in the city of Kathmandu. A Durbar Square is an ancient plaza across a royal palace, and this one in Kathmandu is the most popular among the three ancient Durbar Squares within Kathmandu Valley. Changu Narayan Temple is located on the southern portion of the square, behind a few other structures. The temple is quite hidden. People enter the temple through a narrow arched entrance that is not easily located among the other structures. In other words, Changu Narayan is not easy to reach and often not visited. However, it is popular for its many ancient features and designs.
Narayan Temple is a double-roofed Vishnu temple that is fronted by an enchanting image of a kneeling Garuda perched on a high pillar. Beside the mythical giant bird are the sankha and chakra symbols of the lord Vishnu. The sankha is a shell bracelet or necklace, while the chakra is a wheel-like figure that is supposed to be the force center of the human body according to traditional Indian medicine. There are more Garuda images found around the temple complex. Another curious image that intrigues tourists is a lingam in a yoni, which are images of the male and female genitalia. They are found inside a grill in one side to the front of the Changu Narayan. Below the temple door is the goddess Bajrayogini positioned with her left leg raised high in the air.
In addition to its curious ancient designs, the temple is a significant religious center also because of the pilgrimage that happens here regularly. It is highly respected by devotees since it is the oldest temple in the Durbar Square. An inscription found within Changu Narayan reveals that it’s been in use as early as 1080, but another inscription explaining the installment of the Til Mahadev image dates back to the year 117. This is clearly the oldest of the many temples in Nepal.
There are other important Nepali temples often visited by devotees and tourists. They are Ankuri Mahadev, Bajrayogini, Guhyeshwari, Chandannath Mandir, Dakshinkali, and Swargadwar Temples, just to name a few. Ankuri Mahadev Temple is most notable for its mysterious Shiva Linga image. Legends say that whoever took this image away from its original place will suffer from a string of misfortunes. The image is also believed to return to its place when moved to another location. The temple used to be a crematorium before it was converted into a place of worship.
On the other hand, Bajrayogini Temple is a well known Tantric temple that is also called Bodhisattva Temple, pertaining to the stage of perfect enlightenment for Buddhahood. This temple is dedicated to Bajrayogini, a Buddhist goddess with three eyes and a red face. Nine ancient caves surround the temple, and in one cave there exist two rooms. According to legends, Bajrayogini’s ardent lover used to visit these rooms for penance. Meanwhile, Swargadwari Temple sits on top of a hill that is often visited by pilgrims in honor of the special role of cows in Hinduism. It is believed that this unique temple was constructed by Guru Maharaj, a guru who spent most of his life herding and milking hundreds and hundreds of cows.
There are many other interesting legends surrounding the many temples in Nepal, specifically the ones found in Kathmandu Valley. Clearly, Changu Narayan Temple is one of the most important ones as verified by UNESCO when it designated the temple as a World Heritage Site.