The Changu Narayan Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is perched atop a small hill to the east of Kathmandu in Bhaktapur district. It is one of the best known Vishnu – Narayan is another name of Vishnu – temples in Nepal and is visited by a large number of devotees especially during Harishayani Ekadashi in the month of Ashadh and Haribodhini Ekadashi in Kartik, over the four month period when Lord Vishnu is supposed to retire to sleep. At the front of the temple is a beautiful statue of Garuda dating back to 5th century Lichchhavi period. This Garuda is unique in that it resembles a human being except that it has wings unlike other Garuda statues found elsewhere. The Garuda is the baahan (carrier) of Lord Vishnu, and it is interesting to note that all Vishnu temples have the celestial bird seated on its knee with folded palms in front of the temple.
The temple is one of the most elaborate in the Kathmandu valley, rich in wood and stone carvings. It is a two-tiered pagoda structure and was re-constructed in 1702 after the old one was gutted by fire. A stone tablet Shilapatra, discovered in the vicinity of the temple, dates from the 5th century, the oldest such inscription discovered in Nepal. The main courtyard has several temples and idols of gods with intricate carving in stone accomplished between the 5th to 12th centuries, making it the highest concentration of ancient art in Nepal.
The temple has a gilded copper roof with a pinnacle. On each of the four doorways are four toranas, or exquisitely carved crest suspended over the door. In the temple courtyard are pillars on which are positioned the four divine possessions of Lord Vishnu consisting of the sankha (conch), chakra (discus), gadaa (mace) and padma (lotus). The temple complex also contains the idol of Vishnu Vishwarup considered by some to be one of the most beautiful idols ever made in Nepal. There are also smaller shrines dedicated to Goddess Chhinnamasta (goddess devoid of a head), Badeshwar Mahadev, Laxmi Narayan and Kileshwar. In the northeast corner of the courtyard is the beautiful bas-relief of Vishnu mounting on the back of the Garuda which dates from the 12th century. The importance of this image can be ascertained from the fact that it features in the Nepalese 10 rupee banknote. Although Changu Narayan is primarily a site sacred to the Vaishnavites, there are also idols of Shiva and Durga, making it a site equally important to the Shaivas and Shakti upasaks, thus demonstrating a high degree of mutual respect and tolerance between the different sects within Hinduism.
Access: Changu Narayan is situated 12 km to the east of Kathmandu. There are microbuses from Bhaktapur that leave regularly for Changu Narayan. Some visitors also trek from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan and return to Kathmandu via Bhaktapur.