Hinduism, being one of the prominent religion in India and Nepal, there are quite a lot of temples of worship for Hindus in every village and city. Well, unlike other religious groups, Hindus worship several deities in their several forms, otherwise known as avatars. It’s a known fact that Nepal is diverse when it comes to ethnic groups, religions, culture, and races but despite this, the people have found a way to live in harmony. You cannot easily spot a Buddhist and a Hindu temple in the same area elsewhere. A Muslim and Christian sharing moments and smile is a common thing here.
When you go visit your Hindu friend, you must have come across a small room or a corner in their home dedicated to worship. Hindus usually have these ‘puja rooms’ and it’s not always mandatory for them to go visit a temple as they can perform puja in their own homes. However, you can always expect a huge crowd around temple sites during auspicious occasions.
When you visit a temple, don’t get surprised when you witness ceremonies such as marriages or even funerals. Often, the temples are a meeting ground for religious events like ‘bhajan-kirtan’ as what the Hindus call devotional chants and songs.
The architecture style of these temples is extraordinary. The smallest of details are carved with significance. The basic architecture includes the main chamber, also known as womb-chamber where the primary statute (murti) or image of the deity is placed. It is often noticed that the womb-chamber is surrounded by other structures and buildings devoted to other deities. The chamber is crowned in the exterior by Shikhara which is a tower-shaped structure completed by a Kalasa at the top like the cherry topping on ice cream.
Usually, the main shrine also consists of a mandapa congregation hall and porch in the middle of womb-chamber and mandapa. The main shrine could very well be surrounded by other buildings (possibly temples) in the compound or other mandapas.
The idea of worshipping idols in a temple didn’t exist back in the Vedic Period. A holy fire was lit in the open on a platform that represented God to which oblations were offered. Very few remains of Hindu temples before the Gupta Dynasty can be found today which suggests that there were structures for worship in earlier times. However, it isn’t exactly clear when the first temples were built and used as a place of worship by the Indo-Aryans. The 7th century had already seen the core architecture of Hindu temples coming to shape.
Popular Hindu Temples in Nepal
The Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most famous and religiously important temples of Lord Shiva. Devotees from around the world visit this World Heritage Site. Talking about the area, it is the largest temple complex in the nation. Stretching on both sides of the Bagmati River, the temple was built during the 5th century. Numerous other temples and buildings have been built over the years around the Pagoda style Pashupatinath temple.
Krishna Mandir is more than a place of worship. It is an example of an exemplary stone monument in the Kathmandu Valley. Built in 1637 in the Shikhara style, the temple consists of 21 pinnacles and represents the fine collection of art and architecture of Patan. The interior of the temple is decorated with Ramayana scenes that are narrated in Newari.
The Nyatapola, 5-storied roofed temple, was built in 1702 AD in Bhaktapur, Nepal. The then Malla King, Bhupatindra Malla, was said to have erected this Pagoda Style temple. The temple lies in one of the best world heritage sites, Bhaktapur Durbar Square. The carvings on the roofs and pillars of the temple signify the richness and culture of Nepalese crafts.
Located high on a hilltop, Changunarayan Temple is the oldest temple of Nepal. Dedicated to Lord Bishnu, this temple was surrounded by the village of Changu and Champak tree forest. Legend has it that the temple is named after the daughter, Champak, of the Kashmiri King who was married to the prince of Bhaktapur. You can reach the temple by traveling 12km east of Kathmandu and a few kilometers north of Bhaktapur.
The temple, dedicated to Goddess Sita, is a masterpiece located in Janakpur district. The Janaki temple is a beautiful blend of Moghul and Koiri style architecture in Nepal. The temple is built in an area of 4,860 sq. feet in bright white. The 3 storied structure of the temple has 60 rooms decorated with engravings, glass, paintings and Nepalese flags. The richness of Nepalese arts can be seen clearly in this temple made of stone and marble. The temple remains busy as a pilgrimage site during the festival that marks the marriage of Lord Ram and Sita, Bibaha Panchami.
How can one resist visiting this beautiful temple situated on a small island of Fewa lake? Dedicated to Lord Durga, this temple is a 2 story pagoda style temple. The only way to visit this popular Hindu temple is by rowing or paddling your boat.
The temple that makes wishes come true, or at least that is what the devotees believe. Situated in Gorkha, the Manakamana temple is one of the most popular temples in Nepal. Reachable by a long hike or a cable car ride of 2.8 km, this temple provides an exciting panoramic view of the Annapurna, Himchuli and Manaslu ranges. The temple is dedicated to goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati.
‘Budanilkantha’ translates as ‘Old blue throat’. This temple is an open-air temple (no shrine or building around the main idol) dedicated to Lord Bishnu. The idol of Lord Bishnu is considered to be the biggest stone carving in Nepal on a single Rock Basalt. This temple is a ground of cultural and religious harmony as it is also famous among Buddhists. The temple is located at the northern end of Kathmandu valley below the Shivapuri Hill.
Talking about historical magnificence and artistic skills, the Dattatreya temple, located in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, was supposedly built from the stem of a single tree. Constructed in 1427 AD, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu holy trinity; Lord Shiva, Bishnu, and Brahma. The carvings on woods and the detailing signify the beauty of the temple and its glorifying history.
Located outside Kathmandu Valley near the village of Pharping, the Dakshinkali Temple can get extremely crowded by devotees during Dashain, a major Hindu festival. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, the temple has seen many sacrifices of cockerels and goats. It is said to satisfy the blood-lust of the goddess.
Muktinath Temple signifies the religious harmony between the Hindus and Buddhists. The temple is one of the popular Bishnu Temples in Nepal and is situated at an altitude of 3,710m. This temple is considered by the devotees as ‘the place of liberation’.
Kalinchowk Bhagwati Shrine
Located at an altitude of 3842m in Dolkha district, the shrine is 150km away from Kathmandu. It is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the country and is ideal for people who want to experience snowfall, sightseeing, and adventure in the winter.
Gorkha Kalika Temple
Built by King Ram Shah in the 17th century, the Gorkha Kalika temple lies on the southwest side of Gorkha Palace. The temple exhibits rich and unique artistry in the woods with crafts of demons, serpents, and peacocks. Non-Hindus are only allowed to observe the temple from a distance as the rules are highly strict in the temple.
Doleshwor Mahadeva Temple
You can reach this temple, situated in Bhaktapur district, shortly after a 30 minutes’ drive from the Capital city. According to Shiva devotees, without visiting Pashupatinath and Doleshwor Mahadev temple, the trip to Kedarnath is incomplete. This temple is believed to be the head of Kedarnath, one of the famous Char Dham Yatra.
Significance of the Temples
To understand the significance of these temples, one must seek the answer to the question ‘Why do people visit temples and worship idols despite having puja-rooms in their home?’
The temples are a place of worship and pilgrimage. The architecture of these temples represent the ideals of belief, religion and the values that are cherished under Hinduism. The detailing of the art signifies the history and stories of the cosmic entities. The temples are a spiritual pathway that is believed to connect the mortals (man) and the immortals (the divine). People go to temples to help them understand their true self, find peace and wish for their good health.
The aura of Hindu pilgrimage sites is quite spiritual. Pilgrims travel a long way for tirtha (pilgrimage) just to get closer to the divine and liberate themselves. A Hindu temple is a place of worship, a place of liberation and a sanctum for devotion.