Panauti is situated at
the confluence of Rosi and
though there is said to be a
mystical third river that only
mystics can see. This is just a
subtle hint at the religious
importance that presides over
one of the oldest townships in
the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal..
Many claim Panauti
predates many other townships
in the Kathmandu Valley.
It was an independent town
before becoming a part of
Bhaktapur during later rapid
expansion. However Panauti was
granted back its independent
township in 1793 when Nepal was
united by King Prithvi Narayan
Panauti was built during
the reign of Ananda Malla
(1274-1310 CE). However there is
documentation in the form of a
golden scripture dated 1385 in
the towns Indreshwar Temple that
states King Harisingh Dev
founded the town. In either case
Panauti is still regarded as one
of the oldest in the Kathmandu
The Indreshwar Temple,
one of the largest
pagoda style temples in
Nepal, is dated to 1294
CE. It is written that
the widow of a Bhaktapur
crown prince built the
temple of “Indrakuta”.
This makes it the oldest
temples in all Nepal.
be visited in a single day out.
Though spending the night is
recommended if you enjoy Newari
are several transportation
methods to Panauti depending on
your budget and schedule.
run from Ratna bus park every
15 or so minutes and
are the most budget friendly
ways to Panauti costing just 60 rupees but taking 1 hour 45 minutes on average.
Taxi's can be
expensive unless you book a
two-way trip which can cost up to 5,000 rupees with a 5 hour wait.
Mountain biking to Panauti is possible but the road situation in the Kathmandu valley in 2017 means high traffic and pollution. Save the bicycles for Pokhara! You could also rent a motorbike - but a license is needed and you'll need to park it safely (try near the tourist office)
If you are stuck for time or are
looking for a private vehicle
plus guide to show you around
then taking a private tour is a
good option. Do check out this
tour to Bhaktapur and Panauti.
Historical documents show that Panauti was founded by Ananda Malla during the 13th century. However other scribes date the town after this to the reign of King Harisingh Dev. In either case Panauti can lay claim to being one of the oldest towns in Nepal.
The star attraction is the Indreshwar temple which was built over a Shiva Lingam in 1294. Thusly the residents of Panauti lay climb that it's the oldest temple in Nepal.
Until just recently Panauti has largely been ignored. As such the old royal palace which has long since collapsed has never full been studied by archaeologists. This alone could indicate the true age of Panauti.
During the 17th century Panauti became a part of Bhaktapur as the Malla empire grew at its height. When the Malla's reign ended Panauti languished for a while until 1763 when King Prithi Shaw gave Panauti back it's independence as a township.
Today Panauti is renown for being one of the oldest Newari townships in Nepal. Its quite small but well preserved. Recent dangers to Panauti have included private business trying to turn Panauti profitable. So far the size of the town and it's proximity to Kathmandu has meant its survivable from big business.
A slightly more naughty version of Panauti's history
Panauti is historically associated with Lord Shiva who takes part in an interesting story from the towns past. The story tells of a sage who lived with his wife near the conﬂuence. Indra, the king of gods, was attracted to the sages wife and decided to seduce her. To do this Indra disguised himself as the sage and took advantage of her
The sage’s wife became mortified by this event and transformed into a rock which can be seen in the Indreshwar Temple Complex. When the sage discovered this he cast a spell on Indra that covered him with yonis (female genitals).
Indra and his wife had met at Panauti and were none too happy. Shiva took pity on Indra’s wife Indrayani and turned her into a mystical third river, Padmavati, that joins the other two rivers at the conﬂuence. After many years Shiva decided Indra had learned his lesson and appeared as a large lingam. Indra then bathed in the river and the yonis disappeared. Today the lingam is where the Indreshwar Temple stands and the conﬂuence is regarded as a holy bathing area.
There's an old story that Panauti sits on a huge bed of rock and that the town is earthquake proof.
Sadly this is incorrect. Though the town does sit on a bed of rock, it's taken damage over the years from earthquakes.
In 1998 an earthquake damaged the main Indreshwar temple. In 1934 more damage was caused to it. In 2015 while the Indreshwar temple was undamaged the domed temple opposite is was badly damaged. This temple went under reconstruction by the Department of Archeology in 2016/2017.
The good news for visitors is that Panauti as a whole is very well preserved.
Heritage sites are what Panauti is famous for and for good reason. Panauti can lay claim to the oldest temple in Nepal along with near impeccable preservation. What's more, Panauti can literally be like stepping back in time as very little has changed here in centuries.
The best way to explore Panauti is on foot with a self guided heritage walk.
Heritage walk through Panauti
all heritage trips through Panauti start from
the rather dire looking bus park.
The official entrance to Panauti
is just south of the bus park
through an old red brick gate to the left.
However, I recommend that
you take a more scenic route
through Panauti by starting off
crossing the bridge directly
adjacent to the bus park
straight street out and after
about 10 minutes the buildings
will thin out and over to your
right you'll see the tell tale
signs of tall pagoda
temples. There's a
little trail leading down a slope
leading to some foot bridges to an area known as Tribeni.
Don't cross the bridge yet! The first
stop is the impressive lone
Brahmayani temple on this side
of the river.
first temple you will come across
in Panauti is the lone
three-roofed Brahmayani temple by
the river. Built in 1715 CE it is
dedicated to the Brahmayani goddess.
Every year at the end of monsoon season the mother goddess is taken out of the temple and paraded in a chariot around the town.
Today the clustered stone shrine inside the Brahmayani temple is freely visible if you visit the temple. The temple itself had extensive renovations done in the 1980s and seems to have had some fairly evident restoration work done around its roof struts. New brick and carvings are clear to see.
In front of the Brahmayani temple are the Tribeni Ghats. In
this immediate area there are not so many shrines. However across the river is an area known for many
Shiva shrines. Of note in this
area you'll notice that there are
two Ghats for cremations on either
side of the river. One side is for
Hindus while opposite is for
It's here at the Tribeni Ghats that you'll get the first visual impression of where the streams of the Punyamati and Roshi meet forming a conﬂuence. It is also where the mystical third river of Padmavati is said to ﬂow to the center of town.
All around the ghats there are many shrines and temples. The vast majority are dedicated to Shiva as you might notice by the abundance of lingams around the area. There are however some buildings and temples that have their own merit.
temple (Bansha Gopal Temple):
bridge is a tall three-roofed
Krishna temple which marks the start of the main Tribeni Ghats area just though an open brick gate. The pagoda design
is very unusual for a Krishna temple as the
Hindu gods temple is usually
stone. Interestingly Krishna's presence is quite strong in this area (Tribeni) in Panauti. Krishna at this temple is in the form of his fun-loving ﬂute boy. With one leg bent in front of the other he holds a ﬂute to his outh.
The temple itself is impressively built atop a brick platform. Ten wood carved columns form the outer lower base while a much narrower brick shrine is at the center. Interestingly the second ﬂoor which is also made of brick is based on top of the lower outer wooden columns. A little later you'll come across an old pilgrims house which tells the tale of Krishna and some naked ladies!
Walk around to your right and you'll come around a long
two-story rest house at the top of the
ghats covered with fading
frescoes depicting both Hindu and
Buddhist scenes. You'll often find
Sadhu's here along with priests.
These frescoes include a picture of Ram killing the blue demon King Ravana; Vishnu playing his ﬂute up a tree while naked ladies bathe in the river below. There are many stories about why Krishna is surrounded by naked Gopis (cow milking girls). One says that he once had sexual relations with 16,000 of them. Another tells the tale that he took their clothes while they were bathing to try and enlighten them that clothes are egotistical considering all humans are born naked.
Just around the corner of the rest-house is more sobering fresco of a demon disemboweling someone.
small bridge to the rear of the
ghats is a countryside area. You
should just about be able to make
out a rare small temple compound
dedicated to Santaka. The walled in temple is a relatively recent build however the Sankata shrine beneath it is undated and judging by its worn look is quite old.
Sankata is the goddess of danger and has a unique following for both Hindus where she is taken as an incarnation of Durga and for Buddhists. Little archaeological evidence exists to show how or why this shrine is isolated.
Head out the of Tribeni area though the archway next to the pilgrims resthouse. Walk straight until you see a sign for the Panauti Museum or Indreshwar temple.
At the center
of Panauti lies the magnificent
Indreshwar temple complex. There's
a 300 rupee entrance fee which
give you access to the complex and
the excellent little museum there.
The three story Indreshwar temple is dedicated to Shiva and holds one of the
largest Shiva Lingams in Nepal. It
is opened at about 6pm in the
Indreshwar temple was built in
1294 CE but had extensive
renovations after the 1988
earthquake and was undamaged in
the 2015 earthquake.
A small Nandi (bull)sits in front of it. Stone lions guard each of the four entrances to the temple while a taleju bell stands to the south. The wooden roof struts have erotic carvings but you might notice that they are rather subdued compared to many others found in the valley.
Some may take them as being more posturing than erotic. Given the history of the temple this is somewhat ironic as the Indreshwar temple contains a large lingam placed here by Shiva himself. This was to aid in Indra ridding himself of yonis after his aﬀair with a sage’s wife. This is also where the mystic river, Padmavati (the sage’s wife), runs to.
Across from the Indreshwar temple is the white domed temple to Narayan. It was damaged in the 2015 earthquake but repairs took place in the subsequent years.
Inside is an impressive black stone statue of Narayan between two columns and an arch. Smatterings of red tikka and some clothing adorn it. There’s an inscription inside that states King Jayasingh made an oﬀering here of gold equal to his body weight in 1383 CE. The small stone pillar outside was where the scales were used on that occasion.
It sits on a large raised platform. that has several statues at its furthest end.
Around to the rear of the Indreshwar Temple is this unusual shrine to Narayan with a brick outer wall and a small archway.
Behind the archway is a black statue of Narayan as the Supreme Vishnu.
The statue itself is formed from black stone but the years of vermilion being rubbed onto it has given it a maroon-like color.
All along this rear area are even more shrines to Narayan worth looking at until you come to the large rectangular temple.
Unmatta Bhairab Temple:
Beside the Narayan shrines and opposite the Indreshwar Temple is the large rectangular Unmatta Bhairab Temple. The temple is easily recognizable by the three figurines staring out of the upper windows in the two-storey building.
Inside the building is the provocative statue of the fearsome Bhairab in his “Unmatta” form or aroused form in which he is a red-bodied demon with an erection. Thankfully there is "usually" a white sheet around his waist. Strangely, many Shiva statues don't have this covering up material.
It's well worth visiting the Panauti museum within the Indreshwar complex. Forget the other drab museum found throughout Nepal, this one is much better. Interestingly the museum is run independently be a team of young Nepali volunteers.
Back in the day it was also a drab museum. Then funding ran out. Then a much of older folk took over but found it all a bit much so they hired young volunteers to run it. They old "directors" then stopped coming so the young team began running it themselves. That 300 rupee ticket price goes to running the entire complex, the museum and their salaries.
The amazing thing is they have done a great job at putting on some exquisite historical show pieces from Panauti's past in the museum. Everything is labeled, lit up and clean. Compared to other museums in Nepal it's head and shoulders above them. Do say hello to Osin Tamrakar who is usually at the front desk along with the other staff.
Durbar Square complex:
remains of Panauti's Durbar square which is where the royal palaces
were. Currently the foundations
for renovations and
reconstructions have been laid. The palace is said to have been around since the 16th century but has long since collapsed from earthquakes and fires. Today extensive archaeology digs in the area have just finished up their work a lot of which you can see in Panauti Museum.
Reconstruction of the square and palace are at the very early stages now with funding and help from the French Embassy. If the door to the walled in section is open you can get a look at the old courtyard. The various squares you see inside are the foundations where the old temples used to stand
However opposite the square is the
helpful little tourism office
(closed Saturdays or whenever the tourism board has no staff to manage it).
Pashupatinath temple (Shikhara):
Opposite Durbar Square is the tall red brick Shikhara building known as the Pashupatinath temple. This tall red brick temple contains Mughal architecture from the 15th century and once has multiple shikharas (pinnacles).
Shikhara means “Mountain Peak” in Sanskrit. This style of temple is said to have spread from north India. It is dedicated to Pashupatinath (Shiva). Today it’s a key building in this square as it’s indicative to what the palace across the road may once have looked like.
From here a visit to Panauti now turns into one of the most enjoyable. Walking through the old Newari streets. Much hasn't changed here in hundred of years which is part of it's charm.
Take a Heritage Walk in
Throughout this guide to Panauti you will have seen a lot. However to get the most out of a visit to Panauti it's best to do a heritage walk by yourself. It's a small township and there's really no need to hire a guide.
Each heritage walk has been meticulously worked out so you can discover it all. More so than anywhere else. This website was the first to publish such an in depth guide to Panauti and these guidebooks are the first and only ones to cover heritage walks throughout all of the Kathmandu Valley!
Prince Mahasatwo's Birthplace:
first left after Panauti Durbar
Square will lead you into the old
city.Here on the first left, again, you will come across
Prince Mahasatwo's birthplace which is marked by a stupa.
The Prince who
was later made a saint. Mahasatwo
gained acclaim while hunting in
the nearby Namobuddha jungle.
came across a tigress and her
newborn cubs that were dying from
hunger. Cutting himself, he fed
the tiger and her cubs with his
own flesh. Continue on straight!
Noted for being the center of town Sorhakutte square contains several unique and revered buildings dating back to both the 17th and 16th centuries.
The first of these is the Buddhist stupa on the left. Panauti is like many Newari towns where both Buddhism and Hinduism are equally respected.
At the center of the courtyard is the unique Pati or Pavilion. It was restored in the 1990s by the Kavre Integrated Project. It’s one of the few buildings with no walls in Panauti. As is typical for Panauti there is a Shiva lingam at the center.
.At the rear of the courtyard is a second Brahmayani Temple similar in name to the very first temple you would have found on this guide. This is the temple where the village goddess, Brahmayani, resides throughout the year. A chariot procession brings her here from the Brahmayani temple by the Tribeni Ghats.
Just in front of the pati to the right is a typical but beautiful tall Newari building whose woodcarvings and delicate balcony rounds oﬀ this square.
From that last building in Sorhakutte square you can duck down some streets and side streets to find the Badrakali temple (this is where a guidebook like mine really comes in handy).
The Bhadrakali Temple looks surprisingly like the Brahmayani Temple from just a few streets away but this one houses the goddess Bhadrakali who is the fierce form of Devi.
She is shown with three eyes and four, twelve or eighteen hands. She carries a number of weapons with ﬂames ﬂowing from her head. She usually has a small tusk protruding from her mouth. Sadly the doors to the shrine are usually closed. Sometimes on a Saturday they are opened.
More of Panauti's shrines, lingams, resthouse and old streets:
Ir your really want to explore Panauti, you'll need my guidebook. If you head off by yourself you'll encounter lovely old streets which at many corners will have old trading resthouses.
Here the traders would sleep at night and trade during the day. Traders came through Panauti from Tibet and across into India carrying spices, clothing and other textiles.
Wandering around this area is like taking a step back in time. If it’s harvest season you’ll see people thrashing rice or drying it out on the little brick streets. You’ll also soon come across the road running along the rather ill-kept Rosi stream. All along this road heading east you’ll come across a bevy of rest-houses and shrines along with local people going about traditional style work.
Panauti is a Newari township so it observes all Nepali national holidays and local Newari festivals. As there are cremation Ghats there are near on monthly pujas or "blessings" at the ghats.
There is however one dedicate festival which is known as Panauti Jatra. It takes place annually over several days between May and June. On day one the two goddesses you would have discovered earlier in this guide, Brahmayani and Bhadrakali, are brought out. In day two Brahmayani is taken to her temple across the river. On day three there is a parade in celebration of Ganesh (Shiva's son). Day four is the actual festival itself when chariots come out with people singing and dancing.
Another popular festival in Panauti is the Yomari festival that takes place in December. This is an event surrounding a momo like dessert made from steamed flour with a filling of sugar, nuts and ghee. Panauti lies claim to creating the Yomari so this is when the cook and eat it.
It's worth noting that for tourist things tend to either be too crazy and crowded or outright boring when it comes to festivals in Panauti. Certainly if you are in the area it's worth checking out. But making a dedicated trip there should really only be reserved if you have the time!
Do read more about festivals in Nepal to discover other events that happen in Panauti throughout the year.
There are several things to do around Panauti, most involve walks or treks.
There is an art gallery in the building next to the tourist office but it's rarely open these days, you might get lucky.
There's a lookout point overlooking Panauti. Continue on down the main road you initially entered Tribeni from. Eventually you'll get to a set of concrete steps heading up. It takes only about 20 minutes to climb but on a clear day the views are great.
The Namo Buddha circuit stats in Panauti. It should be noted that his trek though the Kathmandu Valley changes every year due to the monsoon seasons. Avid hill walkers or trekkers should be fine. However if you've never been to Nepal before or never gone trekking in Nepal before then it's better to take a guide.
Panauti is a very small town. There's currently a "private" tour company pushing community tours around the town. These are quite overpriced and don't cover everywhere. If you really like heritage, enjoy the peace and quite of making your way around on a self guided heritage walk.
How long is a heritage walk around Panauti?
You can literally walk quickly around all of Panauti's old town in an hour. However, you'll miss out on a lot.
Here's a sample travel itinerary for visiting Panauti: Take a bus to Panauti from Kathmandu and arriving mid morning. Enjoy the Ghats and the Indreshwar temple. Then have lunch. After lunch take a heritage walk around the old city.
You can literally loop around the city in 15 minutes by walking so there's no rush. Then take a bus back to Kathmandu. It really makes a nice laid back day trip. You could also arrive in the afternoon, do half a walk, stay the night then finish the walk the next morning.
are few and far between in
Panauti. Many close
up in the winter and don't open
early in the morning. In fact
many don't open during regular
hours at all. Don't despair
though as there are a few
Guesthouse (right outside the Indreshwar complex) offer home cooked
meals which are probably the
best in Panauti. The menu is
quite good and many of the
vegetables come straight from
their garden outside (you can
literally watch them pick them).
Lampati (on the main street after taking a right form the tourism office)
offers a whole range of items
with momo's being a favorite.
However their opening hours seem
to offer no hope these days.
from some local place Hotel
Panauti has a small restaurant
attached to it offering good
value but basic food if you get
is limited accommodation
available in Panauti.
The largest hotel to the center is named Hotel Panauti (+977-11-440055) which offers plenty of reasonably
house (+977-1-6211924) is along term favorite
offering three shared bathroom rooms.
The restaurant here is excellent
though sometimes they are closed
during the winter season.
GT Restro and Lodge - located in the main bus park. An option with good food but very so so accommodation. Useful if everything else is booked out ... Kathmandu is only 1.45 hours away! The good is quite good though.
Finally, in its surge to promote business
Panauti has developed some "Community Homestay" options. Strangely some of these Community Homestays (+977-11-441015) seem more organized and commercial than most hotels - with prices to match. You might find a lot of "positive" reviews for community homestays in Panauti online because in 2017 many people were given free stays in exchange for promoting them online. Commercialism has arrived in Nepal, luckily there are still some nearby hotels.
Alternatively the Tourism office ( +977-11-440094)
offers home stay
visits which include three meals
and a free tour. The rooms are
quite basic though some offer
better quality rooms at much
higher rates than any nearby hotel! It's also hard to get hold of anyone at the tourist office if it is closed.
Do be careful
when booking online for
accommodation in Panauti as many
are overcharging. Rooms are rarely
booked out so contact the owners
directly. Full contact details and reviews are in
my guidebook below.
Both Hotel Panauti and Ananda Guesthouae remain the best options for accommodation in Panauti.
everything you need to know with
detailed easy to follow maps, walking
photos) of every temple, recommendations plus personally
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