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Golden Temple Patan Nepal (Rat Temple)

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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 patan Nepal
Inside the Golden Temple in Patan Nepal. This is a recent photo, taken after the Nepal Earthquake.

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 back 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.

Golden Templa Patan Durbar Square Lalitpur

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. 

Two lions guard the entrance to The Golden Temple in Patan Kathmandu.
The female lion guardian has human-like features, they are always painted pink (When we have visited, several times over the last 20+ years)

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. 

Rat Temple in Kathmandu
Some of the rats on the shrine inside the Golden Temple.

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

The Golden Temple (Hiranya Varna Mahavihar)  in the Patan area of Kathmandu is not-just-another-Buddhist-temple in a city full of , arguably, the most incredible temples in the world.

Patan Golden Temple Nepal rats
Patan’s Golden Temple in Nepal was formerly home to hundreds of rats.

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.

elephant statues inside kathmandu's golden temple
Golden elephant statues inside the Golden Temple, Nepal.

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. 

Golden Temple Kathmandu Old Photo
Inside the Golden Temple, 20 years ago.

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.

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Jennifer @ Emulsified Family

Thursday 9th of October 2014

Oh man! I think I'd have to skip it! Rats . . . no thanks! So have you been there before and revisiting, or will this be a new place to visit?


Thursday 9th of October 2014

This will be a much longed for return trip Jennifer. We were there as part of our first RTW back pre-kids. We completed the Annapurna circuit, 3 weeks of total awesomeness, and fell in love with Kathmandu.


Tuesday 7th of October 2014

Sounds great, Alyson, rats and all included. Yes, please do prepare yourself to recognise altitude sickness (it can get you at any height, it nearly killed me (in the Anapurna's) at 2500m ...). And always be ready to go down a few hundred meters. Enjoy the preparing of the trip!

Connie Saunders

Thursday 2nd of October 2014

You are definitely inspiring me to dream big for our family. I have enjoyed following your family adventures for the past 8 or 9 months. I am very curious about how difficult the trip into Nepal is. Many moons ago this was my ultimate dream, but I read so many horror stories about the difficult journey and the impact it has on your body--especially for someone with many health concerns like myself. Just curious, how do you prepare physically for this type of excursion?


Friday 3rd of October 2014

We've gone from Kathmandu to India by bus before Connie, no big deal at all, easy. You may be thinking of the trip from Kathmandu to Tibet, which is very high indeed, I'm nervous about that one, 5,000m + . Highest we've been previously was the Thorong La on the Annapurna circuit, we were fine, but short of Oxygen and it's under 5K.


Thursday 2nd of October 2014

Very exciting - that sounds perfect for you! Coincidently, I just wrote a post (not published yet) about our plans for next year which also include Sri Lanka. I can not wait!

A rat temple would not be for me. I did absolutely love another Golden Temple on your path though - the one in Amritsar. Such a magical place.

lale magar country in nepal

Monday 4th of March 2013

i am buddhism man now in thailand i come back nepal make in buddhism temple becouse i like buddhism life i go thailand read in buddhism book

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