Nepal is one of the oldest nations in Southeast Asia, making it a hub for rich cultural, ethnic, traditional, and religious diversity. In the past, Nepal was a Hindu kingdom due to its predominantly Hindu population, and it remains the only country in the world with the highest proportion of Hindus. This is why many historic Hindu temples with artistic and architectural significance can be found throughout the country, particularly in its capital, Kathmandu, known as the “city of temples.” The city is home to thousands of Hindu temples, some of which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
1. Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple is a revered Hindu temple in Nepal, dedicated to Lord Pashupati, a form of Lord Shiva. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, surrounded by smaller temples, ashrams, sculptures, and crematoriums. Its exact construction date is uncertain, but references to the temple date back to 400 CE.
Over the centuries, various monarchs from Lichhavis, Mallas, and Shahs added to the temple with unique architectural and sculptural elements. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the central temple and worship the main deity. The temple is also the site of major Hindu festivals, such as Maha Shivaratri and Teej, attracting devotees from Southeast Asian countries to celebrate.
2. Muktinath Temple
Muktinath, also known as Mukti Kshetra, is a pagoda-style temple in Nepal and is one of the Char Dhams, where people aim to attain Moksha (liberation). The temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is located in the Mustang region, under Thorong La Pass, at an elevation of 3,800 meters above sea level. The Kali Gandaki River flows near the temple and is famous for Shaligram, a sacred stone symbolizing Lord Vishnu.
Muktinath is one of 108 Divya Desams, temples devoted to Lord Vishnu, and 51 Shakti Peethas. The central temple has a golden statue of the male deity, and there are 108 stone water taps in its outer courtyard where devotees take a bath before worshiping. Near the temple, there is a monastery dedicated to Guru Rinpoche, which houses a continuously burning natural gas fire worshipped as Jwala Devi, the Goddess of fire.
3. Manakamana Temple
Manakamana Temple is a sacred Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Bhagawati (Devi Parvati) in Nepal. The name Manakamana means “fulfilling desires from the heart,” and it is believed that the goddess Bhagwati of this temple grants the wishes of those who visit with a sincere heart. The temple is located in the Manakamana village in the Gorkha district of Nepal, at an altitude of 1,300 meters above sea level. It is 106 km from Kathmandu and can be reached by a 10-minute cable car ride or a 3-hour hike for adventure seekers. The temple was damaged in the 2015 earthquake but was reconstructed in 2018.
4. Pathibhara Temple
Pathibhara Devi Temple is considered a holy site for the Limbu community. People visit this temple located at the hills of Taplejung on pilgrimage, believing that the goddess Pathibhara Devi will grant the wishes of those with pure hearts. The temple is also considered one of the Shakti Peethas, as it is believed that the body parts of Devi Sati fell there.
The temple is accessible on a side route of the Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek and is known for animal sacrifices as part of its rituals. Visitors can also enjoy breathtaking views of Mt. Kanchenjunga and Mt. Kumbakarna, as well as a dense, colorful rhododendron forest and diverse wildlife in the spring.
5. Changunarayan Temple
Changu Narayan temple is situated in the Changu village and is considered the oldest temple in Nepal. Named after Champak, wife of a Bhaktapur prince, the temple is a dedication to Lord Vishnu and is located 12 km from Kathmandu and 3-4 km from Bhaktapur. The two-story temple boasts wooden carvings of deities, Kamasutra positions, garuda, and symbols of Lord Vishnu such as his chakra, sankha, and lotus.
Visitors can get a glimpse of traditional Nepali architecture, with some inscriptions and sculptures dating back to the Lichhavi period. For those interested in learning more about the ancient Bhaktapur culture, tradition, and lifestyle, a visit to Changu and the Ethnographic Museum near the temple is recommended.
6. Rishikesh Temple
Ruru Kshetra, also known as Ridi, is a holy site located at the junction of three districts in Nepal: Gulmi, Palpa, and Syangja. It is situated at the convergence of two rivers, Ridi and Kali Gandaki, in the Palpa district and is recognized as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO. The main deity of the Rishikesh Complex is Lord Rishikesh, and the area is known for hosting a three-day festival called Maghe Sankranti. People believe that taking a bath in the Kali Gandaki river for three days will cleanse their sins and lead to liberation (Moksha). The area also hosts various Vedic rituals and events throughout the year.
7. Dantakali Temple
The temple of Dantakali is a famous and revered shrine located in the Bijayapur village, 3 km from Dharan city in eastern Nepal. It is one of the Shakti Peethas dedicated to Devi Sati, as her teeth are said to have fallen there. Visitors can admire panoramic views of Dharan and its surrounding forests from the temple. It is especially busy during the Dashain festival when devotees come to offer sacrifices and get blessings from the Goddess Durga.
8. Baraha Kshetra Temple
Baraha Chetra is a historic religious site in Nepal located at the confluence of two rivers, Koka and Koshi, in the Sunsari district. It is a 5 km drive from Dharan and is a significant pilgrimage spot for Kirati and Hindu communities. Lord Varaha, the third avatar of Lord Vishnu, is worshipped here and every 12 years, a grand Kumbh Mela festival takes place attracting devotees from all over Nepal.
9. Dakshinkali Temple
The Dakshinkali temple is a significant Devi temple located in the Dakshinkali municipality, near Kathmandu valley and Pharping. Dakshina Kali, one of the kind forms of the goddess Kali, is worshipped there. People offer goats and roosters as sacrifices to the goddess in an attempt to appease her. During the Dashain festival, many devotees from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Kirtipur, and Bhaktapur flock to the temple seeking blessings from Dakshinkali.
10. Janaki Temple
The Janaki Mandir, located in the Janakpur district of Nepal, is dedicated to Devi Sita, the wife of Lord Rama and daughter of King Janaka. This three-story structure is built entirely of rocks and marble and is adorned with Mithila art, sculptures, and glass decorations. It is also known as the Nau Lakha temple, due to its original construction cost of nine lakhs. The best time to visit the temple is during the festivals of Ram Navami, Vivaha Panchami, and Dashain, as the temple and its surroundings are decorated with flowers and lights. Additionally, the Vivaha Mandap, the site of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita’s marriage, is located near the Janaki temple.
11. Guhyeshwari Temple
The Guheswari Temple, also known as Guhyeshwari or Guhjeshwari, is a highly regarded and sacred site located in Kathmandu, Nepal. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Parvati and is believed to be the site where Lord Shiva scattered the remains of Sati after she self-immolated. According to legend, her yoni (the female sexual organ) fell at this Shakti Peeth.
The Guheswari Temple was constructed in the 17th century by Kinng Pratap Malla. “Guhya” means to surrender, and “Ishwari” means goddess. The meaning of the temple’s name is to surrender to the blessings of the goddess. Only Hindus are allowed to enter this temple. It is located near the well-known Pashupatinath temple.
The Hindu temples of Nepal are a rich tapestry of history, mythology, and spirituality, where devotees come to seek blessings and connect with the divine. These sacred spaces, from the ancient temple of Changunarayan to the revered Janaki temple, are not just places of worship, but also cultural landmarks that offer a glimpse into the ancient traditions and beliefs of the Nepali people. Whether you are a devotee or a curious traveler, visiting these temples is a unique opportunity to witness the spiritual essence of Nepal and experience its rich cultural heritage.