Changu Narayan Temple, the oldest temple in Kathmandu valley came into existence in the 4th century. The temple is adorned by some of the best specimen of stone, wood, and metal craft in the valley. The temple stands as the epitome of culture, religion, history and faith of the Kathmandu valley.
The temple of Changu Narayan was originally built in the 4th century during the Lichhavi Dynasty. It was rebuilt in 1702 after a major fire occurred.
Changu Narayan is considered to be the oldest temple in Nepal. It remains a milestone in Nepali temple architecture with rich embossed works. The two-storey roofed temple stands on a high plinth of stone. According to Professor Madhan Rimal, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tribhuwan University, the temple is neither in Shikhara Style nor the Pagoda style. It has an architectural style which he would like to describe as a traditional Nepali temple. Many similar features are found at Gokarna Mahadev.
The temple is surrounded by sculptures and arts related to Lord Vishnu. Also, we can find the temples of lord Shiva, Ashta Matrika, Chhinnamasta, Kileshwor and Krishna inside the courtyard of the main temple. There are four entrances to the temple and these gates are guarded by life-size pairs of animals such as lions, sarabhas, graffins and elephants 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 is gilded with carvings of Nagas (snakes).
On the main entrance gate (western entrance gate), we can find the Chakra, Sankha, Kamal and Khadga all at the top of a stone pillar. These stone pillars have 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. The following monument is located while visiting the temple from the right side after entering from the main entrance (Eastern gate) to the courtyard.
Changu Narayan Temple Nepal
In ancient times, a Gwala, or cow herder, had brought a cow from a Brahmin named Sudarshan. The cow was known for producing large quantities of milk. The Gwala used to take the cow to Changu for grazing. At that time Changu was a forest of Champak trees. While grazing, the cow always went to the shade of a particular tree. In the evening, when the Gwala took the cow home and started milking her, he got only a very small amount of milk.
This continued several days. He grew very sad, so he called on the Brahmin saying the cow was not giving enough milk. After observing this with his own eyes, Sudarshan agreed with the Gwala they should observe the cow's daytime activity while she was grazing in the forest. Brahmin and Gwala both hid behind the trees and watched the cow. She went into the shade of one particular champak tree. To their surprise, a small black boy came out of the tree and started drinking the cow milk. The two men were furious because they thought the boy must be the devil and tree must be its home. So the Brahmin cut down the champak tree. When he was cutting it down, fresh human blood came out of the tree. Both Brahmin and Gwala got worried, believing they had committed a great crime and began to cry. Lord Vishnu emerged from the tree and told the Brahmin and cowherd it was not their fault. Vishnu told the story of how he had committed a heinous crime by unwittingly killing Sudarshan’s father while hunting in the forest.
After that, cursed for the crime, he wandered the earth on his mouth, as ‘Garuda’ eventually descending on the hill at Change. There he lived in anonymity, surviving on milk stolen from a cow. When Brahmin cut down the tree, Vishnu was beheaded, which freed Lord Vishnu from his sins. After hearing these words from Vishnu, Brahmin and Gwala resolved to worship the place and established a small temple in the name of Lord Vishnu. Ever since the site has been sacred. Even today, we find Sudarshan's descendant as the priest of the temple and the Gwala's descendants as ghutiyars (conservators).
Changu Narayan Temple is situated at the top of the hill surrounded by the forest of Champ tree. On the main way to temple courtyard, we can find the human settlement. People from Newar community live in and around Changu Narayan area. With the development of tourism in this place, we 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 believed to have existed since the time of Lichhavi.