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 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. This shrine is dedicated to Lord Visnu and held in especial reverence by the Hindu people. This temple is considered as the oldest temple in Nepal.
History of Changu Narayan Temple
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. in 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 great importance 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 sacred site in the 3rd century A.D. It is the earliest inscription known in Nepal. The temple was restored 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.
Legend about Changu Narayan
In ancient time a Gwala, a cow herder, had brought a cow from a Brahman named Sudarshan. 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 went 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 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 spectate the activities of the 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 drinking the cow milk. Both became very furious 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 heinous crime by killing Sudarshan’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’ eventually descending on the hill at Changu. There he lived in anonymity, surviving on milk stolen from a cow. When Brahmin cut down the tree, lord Vishnu was beheaded which freed Lord Vishnu from his sins. After hearing these words from Vishnu, Brahmin and Gwala started worshipping the place and they established a small temple in the name of Lord Vishnu. Ever since that day, the site has been held sacred. . Even today we can find the descendant of Sudarshan Brahmin as priest of the temple and the descendents of Gwala as ghutiyars (conservators).
Changu Narayan Temple is situated at the top of the hill surrounded by forest of Champ tree. On the main way to temple courtyard, we can find human settlement. People from Newar community live in and around Changu Narayan area. With the development in 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.