In another hilltop stands a most ancient temple of Kathmandu, Changu Narayan, majestic in its almost derelict splendor; hundreds of delicately-carved erotic depictions are adorned in its struts and surroundings. It was built around the 4th century AD and represents the best architecture and art in Nepal. Nonetheless, finding a more stunning example of what the Kathmandu Valley is all about is difficult. Woodwork, metalwork and stonework come together in dazzling harmony nowhere to greater effect than in the sculptures of Bhupatendra, the seventeenth century Malla king and his queen. There’s also a human-sized figure of Garuda, with a coiled snake around his neck, close to the country’s oldest stone inscription which records the military feats of king Mana Deva who ruled from AD 464 to 491. Although fire and earthquake have often damaged Changu Narayan and its environs over the centuries, this link with the ancient past is still evident in the image of a lion-faced Vishnu ripping the entrails out of his enemy.
Daily rhythms here in the cobblestone square are unchanged, too, with its pilgrim’s platforms and lodges, surrounding the square and the central temple. Cows, chicken, pye-dogs and runny-nosed urchins wander around while women hang their saris out to dry in the warm evening sunlight, which like some pastoral idyll of old, bathes the red brick in glowing orange.