the capital city of Nepal, is surely one of the world's most amazing
cities, being endowed with a very large number of ancient monuments,
historic temples and other interesting and unusual sights.
Dhoka - Probably the most interesting part of Kathmandu
is the ancient Hanuman Dhoka Palace and temple complex in the middle
of the old city. Built during the Malla period, the area consists
of a number of different monuments, the most outstanding of which
are as follows:
The Image of Hanuman-Standing to the
left of the main entrance to the Hanuman Dhoka Palace is an image
of Hanuman, the Hindu god who is always depicted in the form of a
monkey. The Mallas placed this image of Hanuman at their palace gate
both to protect the palace and to bring them victory in war. The image
is made of stone, but each year is coated with a layer of red pigment
made by mixing oil and vermillion powder. Over the years these repeated
layers of pigment have distorted the face almost beyond recognition.
The idol is always clothed in red, and is further honoured by the
golden umbrella placed over its head. This particular image, and also
the smaller one just beyond it, were erected in 1672 by King Pratap
The Golden Door-To the right of the
image of Hanuman is the golden main door of the Hanurnan Dhoka Palace.
It is guarded by a pair of stone lions., Shiva sits on the lion-,
to the right, while Shakti sits on the lionness to the left. These
custodians undoubtedly date from Malla times; the golden door itself,
however, is of a later period. The inscription above the door states
clearly that it was erected in 181 0 during the reign of King Girbana
Yuddha Bikram Shah. Such an extravagance at that particular period
of Nepal's history must surely have a story to explain it, and indeed
the story is found there in the inscription. Hundreds of outdated
copper plate inscriptions were gathered and sold, the return from
which bought the gold that was then pounded into sheets and moulded
to the posts and panels of the door.
Above the golden door, in a niche formed by a large window opening,
there are three interesting images. The central piece shows Krishna
Bishwarupa, the multiple arms, the skulls and the terror image, are
all indicative of a strong tantric influence. To the left is a group
of three figures. The central figure is clearly of Krishna, and very
likely the other two are meant to represent his two favourite consorts,
Rukmini and Satya Bhama. The group on the right of the Bishwarupa
is comprised of two seated figures. One of these figures, wearing
royal robes and insignia, is playing an instrument. Seated near him
in an attentive attitude is a woman, well dressed, heavily ornamented.
The face of the king resembles very closely the features found on
known images of King Pratap Malla; it can therefore be concluded that
all the images date from Pratap Malla's time (1641-74).
through the Golden Door one enters Nasal Chowk, the largest of ten
courtyards found inside Hanuman Dhoka Palace. Nasal Chowk is frequently
mentioned in the historical literature dealing with the Malla period
as well as in the documents of different Shah kings. Many of the buildings
that surround this courtyard date from the Shah period, but a fair
proportion of them also date from an earlier period. Most of the art
objects and images found in Nasal Chowk date from the Malla period.
On the eastern side of Nasal Chowk there is a small shrine of Nasaleshwar,
from which the courtyard gets its name. During the Malla period, Nasal
Chowk served, among other purposes, as a sort of royal theatre, so
that dances to be performed for the Palace were practised and presented
here. Nasal Chowk was also regularly used for meetings between the
king and his subjects: it is here that the king met all those coming
to him with petitions and in times of distress, received the condolence
and support of his subjects.
During the Shah period, Nasal Chowk took on even greater importance
than it did during Malla times: the Malla practice of conducting the
coronation rites inside Mul Chowk was set aside during the Shah period
and the coronation of the kings of Nepal has subsequently been held
in the much larger and more public Nasal Chowk. This practice has
been continued, even though the kings of Nepal have now lived for
more than ninety years in another part of the city.
The courtyard is rectangular with the main entrance situated at the
northern end. Immediately to the left is the open audience chamber
of the Malla kings, with the old Mafia throne still occupying a position
of prominence. At the far end, rising a full nine storeys is the Basantpur
Palace, built by King Prithvi Narayan Shah soon after the unification
of the country.
the north of Nasal Chowk lies Mohan Chowk, the residence of the Malla
kings of Kathmandu. It was built in 1649 by King Pratap Malla (1641-74)
and later repaired and 'modernised' during the reign of King Rajendra
Bikrarn Shah in 1822.
One of the central features of Mohan Chowk is the Sundhara or golden
water spout. Bringing water from Budhanilkantha, eight kilometres
north of the city, to the Palace was a major project in the seventeenth
century Nepal, but nevertheless was accomplished. Pratap Malla celebrated
the event by erecting this fabulous setting for the new spout from
which poured cool and clear water. The Sundhara is about 3.5 metres
below ground level, so one has to descend to it. The spout itself
is a sculptor's dream of birds and beasts, while the wails around
it are lined with thirty-six images of gods and goddesses, all of
them beautiful works of art. In these magnificent surroundings, the
king of Kathmandu performed his morning ritual bathing ceremonies
and then ascended to the large stone throne above the Sundhara to
complete his morning devotions.
On the northern wall of the quadrangle is a lengthy inscription of
King Pratap Malla, setting out the arrangements made to finance the
worship of his many deities. Above this inscription are two rows of
images affixed to the wall. The images in the upper row show the ten
incarnations of Vishnu and various scenes of Krishna at play, all
perfectly in keeping with the religious tone of Mohan Chowk. There
are also some images commemorating one of the earliest contacts between
Kathmandu and the West.
Chowk -At the south-east corner of
the Nasal Chowk is an exit through which one can pass into Basantpur
Chowk. During the time of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Shah kings
moved from the old quarters formerly occupied by the Malla kings into
this section of the Palace. While the woodcarvings in the central
courtyard are an especially outstanding feature, the whole building
is of equal historic value to all Nepalese.
The nine-storeyed Palace of Prithvi Narayan Shah, called the Basantpur
Tower, is on the south-west of the quadrangle. The tower on the south-east
corner is known as the Lalitpur Tower; Bhaktapur Tower is on the north-east
corner while Kirtipur Tower is on the north-west.
Lalitpur Tower rises two storeys above the roofs of the quadrangle.
The view from the windows of this tower is marvellous, and when the
lavish gardens were laid out directly below, as they once were, its
charm must have been even more enhanced. Bhaktapur Tower also rises
two storeys above the general level of the quadrangle.
It too looked out over the gardens, but a more special attraction
lies in its unobstructed view of the great temple of Taleju that lies
directly to the north. The Kirtipur Tower has its own special fascination.
The copper roof of this tower is of most unusual design and complexity
and is unparalleled in Nepalese architecture. Where from the inspiration
for the design was derived is as unknown as the names of the artisans
who contrived it, but it does provide a perfect counterpoint to the
towers that lie beyond it. Matching with the Lalitpur and Kirtipur
Towers in height, the Kirtipur Tower offers a clear view into the
courtyard of Nasal Chowk and also across the roofs to Degutaleju temple
and Jagannath temple in the Hanuman Dhoka area.
Regarding the height and dramatic position, the other towers pale
to insignificance in comparison with the Basantpur Tower, which rises
a full five storeys above the general level of buildings in the whole
Palace. It is a mark of pride today that King Prithvi Narayan Shah
saw fit to build his Kathmandu Palace in the Nepalese style, thus
not only showing his appreciation for the merits of the traditional
architecture of the Valley but also establishing a firm precedent
that was to continue during the coming centuries.
The Basantpur Palace is a work of art in its own right, and even today
there is hardly a spot in Kathmandu that can compare with the upper
terrace of the Basantpur Chowk for observing finely carved roof struts,
excellent windows, and the poetry of roof rising upon roof.
Mandir -Built in 1564 by King Mahendra Malla, this
is the most famous of the three Taleju temples built by the Malla
kings. It is situated in Trishul Chowk, an appendage of Hanuman Dhoka
Palace, but can also be approached by way of the Singha Dhoka or Lion
Gate. The temple stands over 36.6 metres high, resting on a twelve
stage plinth. Its three roofs soar above the rest of the Hanuman Dhoka
complex, and until very recent times, it was considered very inauspicious
to build a house higher than this temple. At the eighth stage of the
plinth, the step broadens out into a spacious platform on which a
wall is mounted, barring further progress.
On the platform just outside this wall there are twelve miniature
temples, each with a double roof and all other appurtenances of a
temple built in the Nepalese style. The same theme is repeated inside
the wall, where there are four more such temples, each housing a deity,
and each having a spire, one of the symbols of the attributes of Taleju
goddess. On the south side, where the main door is found, there are
large stone images of men and beasts, each one a powerful protecting
force. At the top, on the final stage of the plinth, is a finely wrought
bell on either side of the main door of the temple, one erected by
Pratap Malla in 1654 and one by Bhaskar Malla in 1714. They are rung
only when worship is offered to goddess Taleju.
Chowk was the scene of almost all the truly important functions of
the Malla period. Religious rites of all descriptions, royal weddings,
the investiture of the crown prince as well as the coronation of the
king himself, all took place here. According to the Bhasha Vamsavali,
the Mul Chowk was built by Mahendra Malla in 1564 while he was building
the great Taleju Temple; Bhaskar Malla then rebuilt it in 1709, giving
it its present appearance.
Mul Chowk is shaped very much like a vihar or Buddhist monastery with
a square courtyard surrounded by a two-storeyed quadrangle of buildings.
The southern wing of the quadrangle is by far the most important,
housing, as it does, a second and smaller, but nontheless beautiful
temple of Taleju. On the ground floor of the three wings of the quadrangle
there are large, open verandas. In the centre of the courtyard there
is a low post set in the ground where animals are sacrificed at Dashain
festival. At this time Taleju is worshipped within the small temple
according to secret rites. The temple is on the south side of the
Mul Chowk, facing north. To the right and left of its golden door,
life-sized images of Ganga and Jamuna stand in poses of graceful service.
Above the door, an impressive torana, carries in it central place
of honour an image of goddess.
Apart from the above mentioned courtyard and temples of the Hanuman
Dhoka complex, there are also a number of other interesting and historic
temples in the vicinity. Some of the more important ones are described
Chowk -Built in 1757 by King Jaya Prakash Malla
(1746-68), Kumari Chowk is the home of the 'Kumari' or living goddess
who is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess Taleju. The
Kumari Chowk is a three-storeyed quadrangle lavishly decorated with
fine woodcarving. It is the third storey of the building that is especially
attractive with its fine bay windows, in which the Kumari appears
from time to time in the company of her guardian priestess to see
and be seen by her admirers.
Trailokya Mohan Temple-Built
in 1680 by Parthibendra Malla (reigned 1680-87), the Trailokya Mohan
Temple is built on a five-stage plinth and has three roofs. The roof
struts are carved with different images, while the temple as a whole
is dedicated to Vishnu. On each of the walls, under the projecting
roofs, there are window screens with medallions attached. Parthibendra
Malla erected the Trailokya Mohan Temple in memory of his elder brother
Nripendra Malla, who had enjoyed a brief reign of only six years (1674-80).
Mandap -Known locally as Maru Sattal, this huge,
open temple has a long history. Popular legend has it that during
King Laxmi Narsingh's time Kalpa Briksha came to see the chariot festival
of Machchhendranath, where he was recognised by one of the priest
of Machchhendranath, The priest seized him and refused to release
him until he promised to give a tree from whose wood a rest house
could be built. Kalpa Briksha made the promise, and so he was released.
Four days later, a huge sal tree was delivered. With the King's permission,
the Kastha Mandap was built from the wood of this single tree; Kathmandu
has derived its name from Kastha Mandap.
A three-storyed building, Kastha Mandap has an open ground floor,
underlining its original purpose as a public building. The decorations
and carvings added over the years have greatly enhanced the original
design, bringing it closer to the appearance of a shrine. The central
image in Kastha Mandap is of Gorakhnath. At each of the four corners
is an image of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god.
temple has perhaps the most interesting history of any temple in the
Hanuman Dhoka area. It is at present dedicated to the goddess Bhagavati
and consequently is also known as the Nuwakot Bhagavati temple. Its
special importance stems from the fact that King Prithvi Narayan Shah
had a great devotion to Nuwakot Bhagavati and is said to have brought
her image with him when he unified Nepal under one flag. After taking
the city, he set up the image in this temple, from which it is taken
in April each year on a visit back to Nuwakot, some fifty-seven kilometres
north of Kathmandu, and returned a few days later.
The temple itself was built long before he took over Kathmandu. Apparently
King Jagajjaya Malla (1722-36) built it and named it Mahipatindreshwar
in memory of his grandfather Mahipatindra Malla. The image of Mahipatindra
Narayan was subsequently stolen (1766), and the shrine was empty when
King Prithvi Narayan Shah entered the city in 1768. Since Prithvi
Narayan had with him the image of Bhagavati, it was quite normal for
him to place it in this empty sanctuary close to the Palace.
When one steps back some distance from the temple to study it, the
Bhagavati temple is uncommonly attractive; this beauty is further
enhanced by the golden roofs on the upper two storeys.
The Great Bell-Without
the great bell erected by King Rana Bahadur Shah in 1787, the Palace
area would have seem incomplete. The bells in the Patan Durbar Square
and the Bhaktapur Durbar Square date from 1736. For some reason Kathmandu
did not imitate this achievement immediately though it was in the
same year that Jaya Prakash Malla came to power. Sixty years later,
King Rana Bahadur Shah filled the deficiency by providing this bell
to drive off the evil spirits. The bell is rung only when worship
is being offered in Degutaleju.
Great Drums -Located close to the great bell, two
huge drums were made during the reign of Girbana Yuddha Bikram Shah
(1799-1816) and are played only during the worship of Degutaleju.
An inscription on copper plate, in the keeping of the one who plays
the drums, specifies that a buffalo and a goat must be sacrificed
for them twice a year.
Image of Kala Bhairab -This huge stone image of
Bhairab represents Shiva in his destructive manifestation, hence its
terrifying expression and the symbols of death and destruction. It
is undated, but was set in its present location by Pratap Malla after
it was found in a field north of the city. The image is a single stone,
though the portion on the upper right hand side was damaged and repaired
by adding another stone. The sun and moon to the left and right, and
the heads of lions in the upper portion also seem to have been later
additions. Such large images made of a single block of stone are very
rare in Nepal.
Apart from the Hanuman Dhoka Palace and temple complex and other monuments
in the surrounding vicinity, some other places worthy of mention are:
Temple-This pagoda of considerable artistic beauty is situated
in lndra Chowk on the way to Asan when coming from Hanuman Dhoka.
The temple is set in a courtyard full of stupas and statuary and has
a two-tiered bronze roof. The temple is surrounded by residential
homes and busy shops.
Akash Bhairab Temple-This
is a three-storeyed temple located in the same area as the above temple.
The image of Akash Bhairab is displayed outside this temple for a
week during lndra Jatra, the festival of lndra, the god of rain.
is the huge greenfield that flanks one entire side of the old city.
It is used for parades, national celebrations, and numerous colourful
festivals, and also for sports and general exercise. At its one end
is a popular garden known as Ratna Park, and at the other are army
barracks. There are also many splendid statues at Tundikhel that are
worth looking at.
Singha Durbar-Singha Durbar is a grand
imposing palace built in the neoclassical style. It was once the private
residence of Rana Prime Ministers and is now the official seat of
government. It used to be a huge building with many courtyards; however,
most of it was destroyed by fire and is now being rebuilt.
known as Bhimsen Stambha (Tower), Dharahara is a 50.5 metre tower
built by Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa in 1832. Situated near by the
General Post Office, the tower is one of Kathrnandu's best known monuments.
From the top of the tower, one has a panoramic view of the whole Kathmandu
Valley. But it is not open for the public.
Library-Located near the Narayanhity Royal Palace, Kesher
Library has got a huge and rare collection of books and manuscripts
collected during the last century. It also offers an opportunity
to have a glimpse of the inside of Nepal's numerous palaces. It
is open for the public during normal office hours.
Narayanhity Royal Palace-This is
the present Royal Palace. At the south there is the famous historic
water spout of Narayanhity from which the Palace derives its name.
Special permission has to be obtained to go inside the Royal Palace
Martyr's Memorial-Located on the
way to Singha Durbar the memorial's arch contains effigies of the
martyrs, and the statue of the Late King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah.
It was he who led the revolution of 1950-51, and laid the foundation
for today's democratic system.