The Temples of Thamel: discovery through photographs

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ May 3rd, 2017. Updated on May 4th, 2017. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Bikramsila Mahadev - Bhagwan Bahal in North Thamel

Bikramsila Mahadev – Bhagwan Bahal in North Thamel Kathmandu – discover the hidden temples of Thamel!

Discovering the temples of Thamel in Kathmandu

Thamel is more known for its eclectic selection of trekking stores, cafes, pashmina stalls, restaurants, ramshackle guesthouses and emerging boutique hotels than for its temples. However the very name Thamel comes from Thabahi whose true origin center point is the 1000 plus year old Bikramashila Mahabihar (Bhagwan bahal) monastery/temple in north Thamel.

While it’s easy to ignore or not even be fully aware of the many temples and shrines within this bustling center for commercial tourism – they are there waiting to be discovered.

So with this in mind. If you have an interest in Newari, Buddhist or Hindu culture, ancient buildings, shrines or are just looking to pass some time away from the commercial aspect of Thamel, here are the hidden and not so hidden temples of Thamel.

All buildings, shrines and temples listed here are free to enter or view.

Bikramashila Mahabihar (Bhagwan Bahal)

Let’s start with the very first ancient building in Thamel. Commonly known as Bhagwan Bahal it is rumored to be over 1000 years old and the first monastic building in the Buddhist (Newari) area of Kathmandu known as Thabahi.

main courtyard inside Bhagwan Bahal

The main courtyard inside Bhagwan Bahal

Beside it is a temple to Ajima and opposite it are some smaller shrines in another compound now used as a parking lot.

Bhagwati Mandir

Probably one of the most recognizable temples in the center of Thamel in the middle of a junction between Bhagwati marg and Thamel marg.

Bhagwati Mandir

One of the most recognizable temples in Thamel is Bhagwati Mandir

Dedicated to the goddess Bhagwati there are also some Ganesh shrines around it.

Hanuman, Ganesh and Shiva Shrines

Continuing down the street to your left are two small roofed temples. The first is dedicated to Hanuman who looks like Vishnu but the worn face gives it away.

The Hanuman, Ganesh and Shiva shrines in Thamel

The Hanuman, Ganesh and Shiva shrines in central Thamel

Next to it is a roofed Ganesh shrine and in the same compound a small Shiva shrine.

Chhwasal Ajima Sthan

This new(ish) courtyard area on the border of Narshing Chowk is filled with shrines and statues. Renovated in 2015 everything looks quite new.

Chhwasal Ajima Sthan near Narshing Chowk

Chhwasal Ajima Sthan near Narshing Chowk

It’s a good place to go if you are looking to see a vast number of Hindu god statues in one place.

Tri Devi

One of the largest yet probably most ignored and least visited temple squares in Thamel.

Tri Devi temples in Tri Devi Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu

Tri Devi temples in Tri Devi Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu

Located in Tri Devi marg opposite the North Face stores are three temples dedicated to the goddesses Dakshinkali, Manakamana and Jawalamai. Recently renovated there are also erotic carving on the roof struts. Sadly the gates are often locked.

Ganesh Mandir and a Buddhist Stupa

Located in north Thamel just up from Bagwan Bahal is this small temple with a sunken shrine to Ganesh.

Ganesh shrine in North Thamel

Ganesh shrine in North Thamel

The shrine itself is worth a look as the statue is ornate and in very good condition.

Shiva Compound

Right on the boundary of north Thamel and Leknath marg is this immaculate compound filled with statues and shrines.

Main Shiva shrine in north Thamel with a brightly painted Ganesh statue in the courtyard.

Main Shiva shrine in north Thamel with a brightly painted Ganesh statue in the courtyard.

The main shrine is dedicated to Shiva with a large Nandi (Shiva’s mount) kneeling before it. Sadly, this compound is again locked on most days however the fence is large and you can get a good look inside.

Ghairi Dhara

Again in the north of Thamel near Hotel Shakti is this huge hiti (a bricked up water source sunken into the ground).

Ghairi Dhara Hiti North Thamel

Ghairi Dhara Hiti North Thamel

Though damaged in the 2015 earthquake the hiti is still functioning and during the day you can see people washing clothes and collecting water from the spout here.

Ashok Stupa

To the south of Narshing Chowk along a street to the left known as Ashok Gally you’ll come across this newly renovated stupa whose roots go back to the Indian Emperor Ashok.

Newly renovated Ashok stupa in Thamel

Newly renovated Ashok stupa in Thamel

Damaged in the 2015 earthquake it’s been privately renovated in 2016/2017. Sadly the gates seem to be completely locked up, a new wall risen high so one can barely glimpse the stupa unless of course you are the house owner or cafe that funded its renovation.

Kumari shrine

Back in the center of Thamel on Chaksibari marg (near up-to-date trekking and Pilgrims bookstore) is a small red fence. Within the fence are tiny stone shrines. This shrine is dedicated to the Kumari.

Kumari shrine in central Thamel

Kumari shrine in central Thamel

This in itself is unusual as the Living Goddess is the embodiment of Durga in human form, so a shrine to the Kumari is a rarity in Thamel. It’s faded away, so the story is more than just the place at this stage.

Ganesh Shrine and Buddhist Stupa

Heading down the southern end of Thamel marg past JP road to the left is a small Buddhist stupa.

The small Buddhist stupa with a fenced in Ganesh shrine to the rear in Thamel

The small Buddhist stupa with a fenced in Ganesh shrine to the rear

Behind it in an open faced building is a small shrine to Ganesh.

Maitripur Mahabihar Bahal

Right across from the Ganesh shrine is a small alley leading to Maitripur Mahabihar Bahal.

Maitripur Mahabihar Bahal in South Thamel

Maitripur Mahabihar Bahal in South Thamel

Though the outside might look worn, step inside this old well-preserved Bahal. There’s an unusually white object which looks very similar to a Shva Lingam, unusual for a Buddhist monastery! Behind the gates is a statue of Buddha.

Bhagwati Shrine

At the furthest part of Thamel marg just before Thahiti Chowk is a hidden shrine between various local stores.

Bhagwati Temple in Southern Thamel

Bhagwati Temple in Southern Thamel

The shrine is dedicated to the goddess Bhagwati. If the shrine is closed do walk up close as you still get a close look at the colorful statue of Bhagwati behind it.

More shrines and temples around Thamel

Are there more shrines or temples around Thamel? Yes, there’s a tiny Ganesh shrine built into the steps of a shop just up from Bhagwan Bahal before the Ganesh mandir. A Shiva shrine just before Maitripur Mahabihar Bahal to the right, A Bhimsen shrine right on the corner to Thaihity chowk and a Nandi near Chhetrapati. But to list every tiny shrine would be a feat in of itself. That said, the majority are listed here.

Colorful statue to Bhagwati

Colorful statue to Bhagwati found in the shrine in southern Thamel

I’ve stopped before Thahiti Chowk and not included Paknajol road which has quite a few more as they are technically not Thamel. I’ve also not included private shrines that many hotels or private homes may have in their gardens or courtyards.

If you’d like to know more about each building and place along with a map then please see my free travel guide to temples around Thamel heritage walk.

Did I leave something out? Let me know

If you know of another “public” shrine or temple or would like to add a local name to any of the ones list here feel free to send me an email.

(for the Nepali scholarly types out there, take note that the term “temple” is being used here as a generic term for ancient building of cultural note and includes monasteries, bahals, shrines etc – try to not take offense!)


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23 Great responses to The Temples of Thamel: discovery through photographs

  1. Nadia says:

    I never knew there were so many temples in Thamel!!! Looking forward to finding them all.

  2. Samantha Kenner says:

    Thank you so much for putting this together. We tried to follow a local map but it was so full of hotels we couldn’t see the heritage!

  3. Patricia Jensen says:

    Great list of temples. Surprised the tourism board has not made a map considering how old Thamel really is. I never knew there were so many.

  4. Tim says:

    Nice work. How long does it take to visit them all?

  5. Kristina says:

    So happy you did this. Rarely in Thamel these days because of the traffic but will use this next time.

  6. Eric Tan says:

    I only ever remember one temple in Thamel. I think it was a golden one. Never knew there were so many. All I could see were trekking shops and awful cars.

  7. Amy Fleckman says:

    Just awesome to see this list!

  8. Donna says:

    This list of temples and shrines in Thamel is so helpful for anyone not interested in the party life!

  9. Andrea Kirkby says:

    I remember in Vrindavan being told by a bookstore owner that the city had tens of thousands of shrines, if you included those in back yards, in restaurants and offices and homes.

    He also warned me that “a god is for life, not just for birthday – you have to look after it, just like cat or dog or grandpa.” In other words, regular puja, offerings, and respect. It looks as if the inhabitants of Thamel keep their gods very well looked after.

  10. Andre T says:

    We were looking for something like this but could never find it. All the guides in Thamel were useless.

  11. Ken says:

    Again, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I went with a major tour company and they told us nothing about these places in Thamel.