Budhanilkantha – 1400 Years Old Sculpture of Sleeping Vishnu

The sacred texts or the epics in Hindu dharma are full of numerous miracles of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Bramha and many more. Among all those stories is the story of Lord Shiva drinking the deadly poison named Halahala that came out from Samudra Manthan or churning of the ocean. Shiva was then on named as Nilkantheshwar or blue-throat god because his throat turned blue when goddess Parvati controlled the poison in his throat and stopped it from spreading it all over the body.

This was the story of Nilkantheshwar, however here in Nepal, in Kathmandu Valley lies a sacred place named Budhanilkantha meaning ‘Old-Blue-Throat’ which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

A holy temple, Budhanilkantha is one of the key tourist destinations of Nepal and holds popularity not only in Nepal but in whole South Asia among the devotees of Lord Vishnu. An open-air temple containing the statue of sleeping Vishnu floating in a small pond resembling the cosmic ocean surrounded by twisting coils of 12 snakes (Sheshnaag) is located in the community of Narayanthan (the place named as a home of Lord Narayana i.e. Vishnu).

Magnificently carved out of a single rock, the shrine of Lord Vishnu is 5-m long which is believed to be engraved in the Lichchhavi period, more than 1400 years ago. The iconic idol surprisingly floats in the water and is one of the largest and most beautiful stone-carved idols of the country. Aside from Hindu’s the temple is also worshipped by Buddhist followers as they believe that the sculpture of Budhanilkantha resembles Lord Buddha, thus, worship Budhanilkantha as Nilkantha Lokeshvara. It is also a matter of fact that Lord Buddha is said to be the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Budhanilkantha and Nilkantheshwor

There is no such tales that relate Budhanilkantha and Lord Shiva, however, the water in which the shrine of Lord Vishnu or Budhanilkantha floats is supposed to be originated from Lake Gosaikunda and mythology says that the holy lake of Gosaikunda was created by Lord Shiva. When Lord Shiva became Nilkantheshwor after consuming the poison, he flew up to the mountains of Nepal with his burning throat to quench his thirst. He then struck the mountainside with his Trisul (Trident) and created a lake Gosaikunda, which was able to satisfy his thirstiness. Local also says that their lies a mirror-like statue of Lord Shiva beneath the statue of Lord Vishnu in Budhanilkantha Temple.

Budhanilkantha’s Sculpture

The most attractive holy statue of Lord Vishnu is carved from a single block of basalt stone. The 5 m long statue is situated in the middle of a 13-meter-long pond. The idol portraits the god in a reclining position or in a sleeping position in the curved coil of the serpent/snakes called Shesh Naga. The feet of Lord Vishnu are crossed and the 11 heads of Shesha Naga bassinets his head. Four hands of Vishnu hold the objects that symbolize his divine qualities: a chakra that represents the mind, a conch shell called sankha in Nepali representing the four elements, a lotus flower representing the moving universe and the club or kaumodaki representing primeval knowledge.

History of Temple

There’s an interesting story related to the formation of this temple. Some say that the holy shrine was sculpted somewhere outside the Kathmandu Valley and was laboriously brought to its current location by the lesser-known king of Gupta Dynasty Vishnugupta who went to Kathmandu valley during the reign of Lichchhavi Dynasty King Bhimarjuna Dev.

Another story says that long ago there lived a farmer and his wife who occupied the unspecified farmland. Once when they were plowing their land, they surprisingly struck a figure which immediately started soaking blood into the grounds, on digging forward they found the gigantic idol of Lord Vishnu. Believing that the sculpture was the statue of Lord Vishnu, it was recovered and placed in its current location.

Forbidden Temple for Hindu Kings of Nepal

There is a legend about the curse to the Kings for visiting the temple. Despite the fact that Kings are believed to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Monarchs ruling over Nepal were forbidden to visit the sacred temple Budhanilkantha. It is said that King Pratap Malla had a vision or a dream, as a result, he developed a strong belief and fear that any King visiting the temple would certainly die. Then afterward, none of the King rulings over Nepal ever visited this temple.

Important Festival at the Temple

A big crowd of thousands of pilgrims can be seen at the temple on the two great/auspicious Ekadashis i.e. Harishayani and Harobidhini, that marks the four months period when the Lord Vishnu is believed to retire to sleep. Harishayani Ekadashi marks the commencement of Chaturmas, the period of four-month from the month of Ashar to Kartik in the Hindu calendar when Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on the cosmic ocean of milk on Sesh Naag until Haribodhini Ekadashi. Haribodhini Ekadashi takes place during the 11th day of the Hindu month of Kartik and is celebrated in order to awaken the sleeping Lord Vishnu.

Location of Temple

This beautiful and holy temple is situated at the foot of Shivapuri hills in the community of Narayanthan Village. Located at the northern rim of the Kathmandu Valley, the temple is about 10 km away from the city. Likewise, the temple is 7 km away from the Ratnapark and is 9 km from Thamel street.

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