The Golden Temple and Buddhist monastery Hiraṇyavarṇa Mahāvihāra also Kwa Bahahas existed in Kathmandu since 1409. The temple is just off the Patan Durbar Square, to the north. You can find it down a narrow alleyway. It has two entrances, the narrow stone entrance below is guarded by 2 stone lions, the gateway itself was sculpted in 1886.
The Golden Temple is UNESCO listed as part of the Kathmandu Valley and Patan Durbar Square complexes.
We visited the Golden Temple for the first time back in 2000, at that time it was known as a rat temple and scores of rodents swarmed around the temple. Some of these old photos date from bback then and show the rats as they were.
In 2016, when we re-visited with kids and met Prince Harry, there was not a single rat to be seen. This came as a major disappointment to the kids when I finally got them here after our first Everest trek. I’d been telling them about this temple their whole lives. Luckily they were still riding the wave of just-had-a-chat-with-Harry so they were pretty cool.
I’ve heard there are tortoises here, temple guardians, but we have never seen them in our 3 visits.
There was no obvious earthquake damage at the Golden Temple when we visited. Patan Durbar Square has significant damage, but not as bad as elsewhere and it’s still possible and desirable to visit.
Admission Fee for The Golden Temple
Admission is around 50 NRS, under a dollar, and is not included in the main Patan Durbar Square admission price. You can buy a ticket just inside the stone lion gateway and when we visited the ticket guy was lovely, we had a nice chat.
The Guardian Lions of Nepal
Lions are a common guardian of temples in Nepal, you will see many more, the female distinguished by human breasts.
The Temple Rats
The first time we visited Nepal and Kathmandu, over 20 years ago, Patan’s Golden Temple was a very different place. Back then it was known as the rat temple and was full of hundreds of the creatures.
These photos are from the days when the Golden Temple was the rat temple. You can probably tell they were taken on a very old pocket camera, on film. I had these photos developed in Dharamsala, India. Not far from the Dalai Lama’s home in exile. I can’t believe that since then we’ve actually visited his old home, The Potala Palace in Tibet. Photography and travel have come a long way in my lifetime.
Inside The Golden Temple, Kathmandu
It’s a pagoda temple tucked away in an ancient part of Kathmandu and the interior is ornate and intricate with metal work and stone statues.
It’s worth going to check out how beautiful it is, to watch the people come and go and listen to the chanting monks upstairs. Buddhist chanting of the kind that brings on goosebumps.
What made this temple so fascinating for me were the rats. It’s not a true rat temple as you find in some Hindu temples, but they’re here in force. I love a bit of wildlife. Will they return ? Who knows, but this stunningly beautiful piece of Nepal history, still part of living Kathmandu, is well worth a visit.
The Nepalis made offerings of food every day, the rats went well fed. I don’t mind rats at all, but if you’re not big on rodents you really won’t like this. Leather shoes are not allowed so you will probably be barefoot.
Would you go? Could you tippy-toeing among the rodents at the beautiful Golden temple? Or am I a rat-temple-loving-home-educating-Nepal-freak? I really, really love Nepal, the high Himalayas and the cities, we’ll be back soon.