Changu Narayan is one of the most important monuments of the Kathmandu Valley and is full of art works on metal and wood. Situated 18 km east of Kathmandu city and standing 1541 meters above the sea level, this monument is significant from religious, cultural, historical and archaeological viewpoints. The temple itself is dedicated to Vishnu (often called Narayan). The site is termed with different names during ancient period such as Champak Narayan , Dolashikher and Dolaparvat and become famous with the names of Changu Narayan in the medieval period to at present .The lord residing in this place is worshipped by the Hindus as Garuda Narayan Lokeshwor one among this many Lokeshwor is Mahayana Buddhism. This is one of the seven world heritage sites of the Kathmandu Valley listed on the UNESCO world heritage list.
The history of this site dates back to 4th century AD. According to the Gopal Raj Vanshavali a fathomable chronicle believed to be written in the 14th century AD credits king Haridutta Verma as the founder/builder of this shrine, who also built 3 other shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu in three cardinal points of the valley: Bishankhu Narayan in the east, Shikhaar Narayan in the south and Ichangu Narayan in the west.
According to a legend, Lord Vishnu while fighting with the demon king named Changu killed a Brahmin named Sumati. Guru Sukracharya, the teacher of the dead Brahman was angry at Vishnu and cursed him that he will be beheaded by a Brahmin in the future. After this incident, Lord Vishnu lived in champak (Michelia Champaca) forest. A Brahmin named Sudarsan lived in a village, not very far from the forest. The Brahman had a cow and his cowherd brought him the milk in a bucket, the story further says that the Brahmin could notice the lesser amount of milk being brought to his champak village. To solve the mystery, the angry Brahmin cut the Champak tree beheaded lord Vishnu, came out of the tree.
The temple of Changu Narayan reminds a milestone in Nepali temple architecture, it is one of the best examples of multi roofed style architecture of Nepal, with rich embossed works. This two storied roof temple stands in a high plinth of stone and brick. The four entrances to this temple are guarded by life size pairs of animals such as elephants, lions, griffins and sarduls on either side of the entrance. These kinds of mythical creatures like sarduls, a combination of man, bird and breast are also carved on the wooden bracket on the corners supporting the horizontal beams which support the roof. If the temple is approached from the right side, the following places, in its surroundings, are described as below:
One of the proud collections of Changu complex is the pillar with inscription engraved on it, and installation of human faced Garuda, the mythical half-bird, half-man donated by king Manadev in the year 464 AD, a great devotee of Vishnu (Narayan’s mount). The pillar and the statue of Garuda are considered to be the oldest records of religious importance to be discovered not only in the shrine but in the whole valley of Kathmandu; the language of the inscription is Sanskrit but is written in the Lichhavi Script. After Manadev, king Ansuverma, an illustrious ruler of 7th century replaced the worn out golden shield and Garuda.
Statue of Malla king and Queen
Bhupalendra Malla, the king of Kantipur had renovated Kileshwor temple in 1691 AD and arranged the priest for its worship, in 1704 AD the queen Bhuban Laxmi, having performed the yagya, got the Changu Narayan temple built and got the enthroned idols of herself and her late husband, Bhupalendra Malla established at the main gate. The statue of Bhupalendra Malla stolen on 2 Sep, 2001 and reinstall in the same place
The Garuda Narayan in a figure with exceptional qualities and a brilliant imaginative aptitude work of the 9th century, the theme of the image is contribution of the Lichhavi period, not only in the courtyard but in the entire Kathmandu valley, this figure of Narayan has been depicted in the 10 rupees bill issued by the Nepal Rastra Bank.
This image of Sridhara Vishnu was built I the 9th /10th Century AD. The figures comprising of Vishnu, Laxmi and Garuda stands on pedestals of various motifs. This is also an amazing work of the period.
A 16th century sculpture of Mahavishnu has added a great significance to the complex. Mahavishnu seated in the lalitasan position on the six armed Garuda with human hands, and Laxmi seated on the lap of Vishnu in a cosmic pose of the medieval times is very rare.
A temple dedicated to Chhinnasmasta of Shakti cult was constructed during 17th century AD. It is situated in the south east side of the Changu Narayan temple. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvati offered her own head to feel her hungry friends Saheli and Prakriti and became famous as Chhinnamasta. This name literally into English means, the beheaded one.
A beautiful stele of Vishworup theme is placed on well carved stone motive platform. It depicts the scene from the Bhagwat Gita in which Krishna manifests his universal from to an awe-struck Arjun. The principal figure of Vishnu stands firmly in the center of the composition. The state is segmented into three levels, which represent the nether world, the terrestrial world and the heavens. This is a 8th /9th century figure, unparallel in beauty and theme, not a single Lichhavi Sculpture found in the valley can be compared with this sculpture.
Another magnificent work is of a sculpture of Tribikram Vishnu of 8th century AD. This sculpture depicts the scene of a popular Hindu myth of Lord Vishnu and his betower bali. The lower panel of the stele has depicted the poses of bestowment by bali to Vishnu. There are not many figures of Tribikram Vishnu in the valley. All the ones that we have in the valley are of Lichhavi period. Among them the Tribikram image of Vaishnavaite image in Nepal.
This image of Narasimha is an outstanding work of the 10th century; the theme of the image is to abolish sins from the face of the earth, God Vishnu incarnated in the form of a half man, half lion creature to kill the demon king Hiranyakasyapu.
This small, two tiers traditional style temple of Kileshwor Mahadev was constructed in the 17th century AD. The temple is famous for its erotic motif, which are depicted in the lower part of the struts. The four faced Shiva-linga has been placed in the main sanctum.