The Indian subcontinent is filled with sculptural marvels and one such example is the Budanilkantha temple in Kathmandu. Situated ten kilometers away from the capital city at the base of Shivapuri Hill, it has the largest, and the most beautiful, idol of Lord Vishnu.
Carved out of a single block of black basalt rock, the imposing idol of Lord Vishnu is five feet tall and lies reclining in a pond which is thirteen meters wide. Lord Vishnu is shown reclining on the twisted coils of the cosmic serpent, Shesh Naga with its eleven heads cradling Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu’s hands are shown holding four objects symbolizing His divine qualities: a chakra representing the mind, a conch-shell representing the four elements of air, water, fire and earth, a lotus representing the moving universe and a club representing primeval knowledge.
Budanilkantha means “the blue throat”, a title given to Lord Shiva after He drank the poison which was churned out during the ‘Sagar manthan‘ between the Gods and the rakshasas. As a result, Lord Shiva’s throat turned blue and started to burn. The God, then flew up north of Kathmandu towards the mountain ranges and struck his trishul alongside a mountain to create a lake. The lake, called Gosainkunda, quenched his thirst and soothed his burning throat.
It is believed that the water in the pond of Budanilkantha temple came from Gosainkunda and there is a mirror-like idol of Lord Shiva under the idol of Lord Vishnu in the temple. The locals also believe that during the Shiva festival held in August at Gosainkunda lake, a reclining image of Lord Shiva can be seen under the waters of the lake.
The statue was sculpted and brought to its present location during the reign of king Vishnugupta who ruled between 540 to 550 AD.
Even though, the temple is purely majestic and mesmerizing, no Hindu king of Nepal has ever visited it. Legend has it that king Pratap Malla had a prophetic vision which resulted in a belief that if the king of Nepal visits the temple, death will be imminent upon his departure. To the day monarchy ended in Nepal, no Hindu king ever visited the Budanilkantha temple.
The temple, with its rich history and imposing idol, is a must-visit for pilgrims. Every year, on the eleventh day of the Hindu month of Kartika, a festival is held at Budanilkantha temple symbolizing the waking up of Lord Vishnu after months of slumber.