Tales of Hiranya Varna Mahavihar – The Golden Temple

The golden and its sublime architectural design, the marvelous artefacts and engrossing stories have startled the of visitors and left them pondering for years.

is a captivating city boasting some majestic temples and monasteries poking out from behind modern buildings to those found along the old narrow alleys and streets

There are many shrines dedicated to in Patan and you don’t have to be practicing Buddhism to appreciate the architectural significance of the awe-inspiring monuments where visitors can find solitude and . The Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, “gold-colored Great ”, also known as the ‘The Golden Temple’, a three-storey golden is one of the most revered monasteries in and one of the most famous landmark shrines in the heart of the historic old city of Patan.

Photo : Sambid Bilas Pant

The monastery’s famous gilded golden roof has given this monument the popular name of “the golden temple” or “gold-colored Great Monastery. The monastery is not just an architectural marvel, but also is a place of . The site is dedicated to Gautam and there is a beautiful golden image inside the walls of the pagoda temple. The Buddha’s shrine holds both historical and mythological importance.

The shrine’s architectural design and the spectacular artefacts

The magnificent stone entrance to the monastery is guarded by 2 stone lions, a male lion and a female lion distinguished by human breasts. They are believed to be doorkeepers that keep evil spirts at bay. Once you enter the temple premises you can see a tute dhara or jahru, a drinking fountain placed on the walls of the main entrance.

The drinking fountain has already dried up but it must have been gushing with in medieval Nepal. There are exquisitely carved inside the complex and some are even mounted on the ceiling of the entrance way. The door of passage entryway also has a colourful image of , which can be seen from the inside when the door is shut.

The monastery is a feast to the eyes from every angle. There are distinctive brass statues like the two large guardian elephants with riders on top at the entrance way. The visitors can sit on the falchas (traditional resting places), taking in pleasurable aromas of the scented from burning incense and listening to the powerful that can transport them into another world. A stairway leads to an upper-floor where you can see a prayer room with practicing .

Photo : Sambid Bilas Pant

The beautiful and inside the complex give visitors an insight into the rich and of medieval Nepal. There are antique brass statues of monkeys holding fruits as , along with statues of Lokeshwaras and .

There is a second entrance to the golden temple, from the courtyard of as well. There is an interesting story how the place got its name nag (snake) bahal (courtyard). There is a of a giant snake, representing a naga –a serpent in the eastern side of the courtyard in Nagbahal, Patan. According to local folklore, Nagbahal was home to a serpent god, a protector of the Valley in ancient .

A ’s dream and the Monastery’s

Historically, the temple is believed to have been built by King Bhaskar Varman. There are mythological fables related with the construction as well. One night, King Bhaskar Varman is said to have had a dream of a golden mouse running around a temple chasing a cat.

Photo : Sambid Bilas Pant

Next , he witnessed the miracle of a golden mouse chasing a cat at the same location of his dreams and he built the at the exact location. Every morning a certain amount of rice is kept at all four corners inside the temple to feed the mice which are said to live there. This is an age-old practice related to the legend of the miraculous mouse.

The story of the child priests

The most captivating fact about the golden temple is that main priest of the temple is a young boy under the age of 12 and only he is entitled to perform the most sacred rites. The young priest serves for a month before handing over the duty to another young boy.

Photo : Sambid Bilas Pant

According to a legend, during the war between two great kingdoms of the Kirants and Lichhavis, nobody dared to venture out of their homes. So, the Buddha’s statue at the temple couldn’t be worshipped. A religious Buddhist family from Yala (old name of Patan) decided to send their child, a young boy, to wash the god’s statue believing no one would hurt a child. Sneaking past the warring soldiers, the child arrived at the temple and set the pot of water at the door.

The innocent child thought Gautam Buddha would wash himself like everyone else did. He repeatedly called out the Buddha but the he did not appear. The boy was heartbroken and began to cry. The god took pity on the child and performed his ablutions himself, leading to the tradition of young priests in the temple.

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About Sambid Bilas Pant

Experienced independent writer & photographer with a demonstrated history of working in the media industry.

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