There is a very famous quote that states, “To travel is better than to arrive”. I am reminded of this quote every time I travel as I immerse myself in the journey to my destination. The journey to get to the destination is always more significant than the destination itself. And when the destination to be arrived at is equally beautiful as the journey, it makes the travel even more blissful.
These words kept recurring in my head when I headed to the exquisite temple of Changu Narayan. This temple is located on a hilltop of Changu village. It is about 20 kilometers outside the city. You have to pass through Bhaktapur and go further north towards Changu village. In just few minutes you leave the hustle and bustle of the city and find yourself on a beautiful uphill countryside road towards this magnificent temple.
November being the rice harvesting season in Nepal, you will see people winnowing the harvested rice throughout your way. It is a common scene all over the valley right now. Also, you will pass through brick mills and spot several old brick mill chimneys. Mostly, people of the Newari community live in this area. On this uphill ride you will also pass through beautiful small Newari houses, which are identified by plain brickwork and fine wood carvings.
As you move upwards, you get a better view of this beautiful valley backed by the snow capped mountain on one side and the crowded city on the other.
Once you reach the top of the hill, you will see a tourist information centre where you can pick up brochures and receive more information about the temple. Since Changu Narayan has gained touristic attention over the years, you will find many restaurants, souvenir shops and guest houses on your way to the temple.
There are also several shops selling Thangka art and a few small Thangka painting schools. Once you walk your way through these you will finally reach the magnificent temple of Changu Narayan.
This two storied pagoda-style temple of Lord Vishnu, is the oldest temple in Nepal. The temple, is believed to be constructed in the 4th century, however it was destroyed in a fire and was rebuilt in 1702. Changu Narayan is also one of Nepal’s most affluent structures historically and artistically. If you observe carefully, every single structure is carved with fine details. It illustrates the best combination of wood, stone and metal art in Kathmandu valley. In 1979, UNESCO declared Changu Narayan as one of the 7 world heritage sites in Kathmandu. Although it is a Vishnu temple, it is surrounded by other small temples of Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna and others. The entry inside the main temple is limited to only Hindus. A private museum is also to be found by the temple. From my observation local school students and tourists visit the museum.
The best way to get to Changu Narayan would be on a motorbike, bicycle or even better, by walking from Bhaktapur. You can take bicycle tours or walking tours to Changu Narayan. Ideally a walking tour would be the best way to enjoy this journey. It would also be very informative and will give you an opportunity to capture the beauty of this place into your lens.
Text and Images: Mithila Jariwala