Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square
The Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square is in the heart of Kathmandu city in Basantapur never fails to impress first-time visitors with its intricate wood carvings and rich history. Surrounded by concrete buildings, the complex is an oasis in a fast developing, chaotic modern city. Once the residence of Nepal’s Royal family, all coronation ceremonies were held here. Some floors have been converted to museums dedicated to three generations of Shah kings. Most parts of the palace premises are open to tourists throughout the week. There are many main attractions:
- Kasthamandap: Kasthamandap is “the wooden pavilion,” dating from the 16th century A.D.
- Kumari Ghar: The Kumari Ghar is dwelling place of Kumari, the “living goddess”.
- Hanuman Dhoka Palace. Hanuman Dhoka Palace is the Jagannath Temple at 1660 A.D.
- Taleju Temple at 1564 A.D.
Many kings and rulers dedicated themselves to building up this complex through the centuries, consisting as it does of a huge royal square with unique temples devoted to Hindu deities. All the temples have rich displays in stone and wood, exemplifying architectural styles related socially and culturally to the Hinduism of the locals.
Some important monuments area is as follows:
- The 17th century Kumari Temple (the temple of Living Goddess) is an example of highly developed Nepali craftsmanship.
- Nautalle Durbar (the nine storyed palaces)
- The Kal Bhairav, one of the largest 17th century stone statues in Kathmandu, representing the terrifying aspect of Lord Shiva.
- The Taleju Temple is the tallest of all structures, built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 AD. This temple is open to the public for one day each year during the Dashain festival.
- The Jagannath Temple, built in the 16th century is known for the fascinating erotic figures carved on the wooden struts.
- Kasthamandap, from which Kathmandu derives its name, is said to have been built from the timber of a single tree.
- Swet-Bhairav – the temple is open to the public once in the year during Indra Jatra Festival.
Patan Durbar Square
The Patan Durbar Square is in Lalitpur District and consists of an old royal palace amid many temples. Part of the royal palace was turned into a museum for preserving the history of Nepal and its kings, especially the Shah dynasty. In the main entrance to Patan Durbar Square, there is Chyasing Deval, built in the “Shikhara” style, which appeared in Nepal during the ninth century A.D. The Krishna temple, built in 1637 A.D, is also one of the main attractions for tourists as well as Hindus. Kwa Baha, the “Golden Temple,” is one of the more beautiful temples on the site and is housed in a trilevel monument roofed with gilt copper. Ashoka Stupa, the Shrestha and Rajbhandari houses and Khumbheswor Temple are other attractions in Patan Durbar Square. Patan is also world famous for its metal crafts and stone carvings.
The Patan Durbar Square complex is perhaps the most photographed of the three durbar squares. Located in the heart of Patan city, this was once the palace of the kings of Patan. The square is a display of Newari architecture that had reached its pinnacle during the reign of Malla kings who were great builders and patrons of the arts. The palace has three main courtyards: the central and the oldest is Mul Chowk. To the west of the complex are a dozen free-standing temples of various sizes and built in different styles. A masterpiece in stone, the Krishna Temple, Bhimsen Temple, the Golden Temple of Hiranya Varna Mahavihara and Sundari Chowk mark the artistic brilliance of the Newar craftsmanship of that era. The Sundari Chowk with the sunken bath of Tusha Hiti, showcases exquisite woodcarvings, stone, and metal sculpture. Like the other palaces, Patan Durbar Square also houses a temple dedicated to Taleju Bhawani.
Some important monuments to see in this area are:
- The Taleju Temple.
- The famous Krishna Temple with 21 golden pinnacles.
- The Golden Gate and golden windows of the old palace
- Chyasi Dega
- Manga Hiti
- The bath with many carvings in stone at Sundari Chowk.
- The temple of Bhimsen with a magnificent golden balcony overlooking the square.
- Char-Narayan temple, which is among the finest examples of woodcarvings.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
It is in Bhaktapur District, located 12 km (7.5 miles) west of Kathmandu. The indigenous Newar people, who have retained their original culture, are among the most interesting subjects to be observed in Bhakatapur, like their arts, festivals, agriculture and Newari food & drinks. Juju Dhou is very famous a kind of curd-the “King of Yogurts,” lends Bhakatapur uniqueness. The “Palace of 55 Windows,” which was remodeled late in the 17th century A.D by the Malla dynasty, is one of the main attractions in the square, which also contains many unique temples of historical significance. It is also popular for its traditional clay pottery, clay masks, and wooden crafts.
The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is in the center of Bhaktapur city. Showcasing architecture that dates back to the Malla period, the square is the most charming, with wide open spaces that are off-limits to vehicular traffic. In Bhaktapur, you will see some of the finest medieval arts of Nepal. Of particular interests are: the Golden Gate, Fifty-five Windows and the beautiful statue of King Bhupatindra Malla mounted on a giant stone pillar. The Golden Gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla as the entrance to the main courtyard of the 55 Window Palace. The Palace of Fifty-five Windows was built during the reign of King Yakshya Malla in 1427 A.D.and was re-modeled by King Bhupatindra Malla in the 17th Century. The Art Gallery has a fascinating collection of ancient manuscripts, thangkas, centuries-old stone sculpture, antique paintings that belong to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of various periods.
Pashupatinath was built 300 B.C as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva, “The Destroyer” who, together with Brahma, the Creator, and Vishnu, the Preserver, makes up the Hindu Trinity. Hindu legend claims that Pashupati represents the lord of all animals. There are many remains of Shiva-Lingas in Pashupati, worshiped as an iconic form of Shiva. The Arya Ghat, the most sacred funeral ground in the Valley, is located at the base of the temple on the bank of the holy river Bagmati. There are six major festivals celebrated throughout the year; in particular, the festival of Shivaratri is the biggest festival in Pashupati and occurs during February and March. More than a hundred thousand devotees and pilgrims visit this temple and make ceremonial fires every year during Shivaratri.
The holiest shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. Built in the 5th Century and later renovated by Malla kings, the site itself is said to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when a Shiva lingam was discovered in the forest. The largest temple complex in Nepal, it stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River which is considered holy by Hindus. The main pagoda style temple has a gilded roof, four sides covered in silver, and wood carvings of the finest quality.
Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath. Nearby is the temple of Guheshwori dedicated to Shiva’s consort, Sati Devi. Cremation of Hindus takes place on raised platforms and it is always in use. Only Hindus are allowed inside the gates of the main temple. The inner sanctum has a Shiva lingam and outside sits the largest statue of Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Shiva. There are hundreds of Shiva lingams within the compound. The big Shivaratri festival in spring attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees from within Nepal and from India.
Swayambhunath is one of the most sacred Buddhist shrines in Kathmandu. The Swayambhu stupa was built in the fifth century A.D during the Licchavi period. It situated atop a hill of Kathmandu. In the eastern part of the Swayambhu, near the ring road, there are three large statues, the middle one, 67 feet high, being the Buddha in meditation. The eyes painted on the square pillar of the stupa represent the Buddha’s eyes of wisdom and compassion. Pilgrims and tourists access Swayambhunath holy precincts along a path of 365 steps.
Swayambhu literally means ‘Self-Existent One.’ Swayambhunath is believed to have been established more than 2,500 years ago. According to translations from an inscription dating back to 460 A.D., it was built by King Manadeva and by the 13th century, Swayambhunath had developed into an important center of Buddhism.
Legend has it that Swayambhu was born out of a lotus flower that bloomed in the middle of the lake which the Kathmandu valley once was. The largest image of the Sakyamuni Buddha in Nepal was recently built on the western boundary of Swayambhu. Behind the hilltop is a temple dedicated to Manjusri or Saraswati – the Goddess of learning. Chaityas, statues, and shrines of Buddhist and Hindu deities fill the stupa complex. The base of the hill is almost entirely surrounded by prayer wheels that were recently installed. Devotees can be seen circumambulating the stupa at all times.
The stupa sits atop the hill and the exceedingly steep stone steps leading up to the shrine is quite a challenge. However, there is also a road going up almost to the top and you can drive up. A large number of Buddhists and Hindus alike visit Swayambhunath throughout the day. Swayambhu is perhaps the best place to observe religious harmony in Nepal.
Some important monuments to see in this area:
- The sleeping Buddha.
- The huge gold plated Vajra ‘thunderbolt’ set in the east side of the stupa.
- The Dewa Dharma Monastery noted for a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings
- Buddha statue on the west side of Swayambhu.
- The temple dedicated to Harati, the goddess of all children. It is said that she was an ogress before Lord Buddha converted her to be the caretaker of all children.
Changu Narayan is one of the four Narayan’s (incarnations) of the Lord Vishnu, and the temple of Changu Narayan is one of the oldest temples in the Valley and situated on a hillock 12km (7.5 miles) east of Kathmandu. The first form of the temple was built in the fourth century A.D. It holds magnificent artworks in metal and wood. The green views and the views of snow-topped mountains are another treats for visitors to Changu Narayan. A sacred Hindu religious shrine, it celebrates six different festivals throughout the year.
The Changu Narayan temple stands majestically above the rice fields of Bhaktapur. Dedicated to Vishnu, the Preserver the temple’s origins go back to the 4th century. A fifth century stone inscription in the temple proclaims it as one of the oldest shrines of the Kathmandu Valley. The temple is a showcase for the brilliant art and architecture of the early century. The stone, wood, and metal craft found here are exemplary.
Changu Narayan Temple is ten incarnations of Narayan and a 6th Century stone statue shows the cosmic form of Vishnu. Garuda, half man, and the half bird is the vehicle of Vishnu, and his life-size statue kneels before the temple.
Some important sculptures of Vishnu seen as Vishwaroop: This highly valued sculpture represents Vishnu in his most universal form. It dates back to 8th-century A.D.Vishnu Vikranta – This stone image, dating back to the 8th century A.D., is one of the most powerful forms of Vishnu. This is when he measured space with his feet. Vishnu riding on the Garuda (the mythical bird) – this figure of Vishnu mounting Garuda dates back to the 10th Century. Narasimha Vishnu – this form of Vishnu is seen in his half man and half lion form. The stone inscription (dated 464 A.D.) placed in front of the Changu Narayan temple describes in detail the story of Dharmadeva, a Nepali King who died suddenly, with his young son succeeding him to the throne. It is said that later the son after a series of victories in war inscribed the victory on a stone pillar and placed it in front of the Changu Narayan temple. It is written in verse and in an academic Sanskrit which is akin to an encyclopedia about the society of the time, its tradition and culture. It starts with an invocation to the Vishnu of Doladri proving that Changu Narayan or the Doladri Narayan is much older than the date on the inscription of 464 A.D.
Bouddhanath is one of the largest and most magnificent Buddhist monuments in Nepal. At 36m height (118 feet), it is said to contain relics of the mortal Buddha. Buddhist pilgrims, Tibetans for the most part, visit it to sound their religious beliefs and perspectives. The stupa is similar to that of Swayambhu, having three Mandala-style platforms. A Tibetan festival called Bya-La is celebrated in Bauddhanath every twelve years on the first full moon of the Year of the Bird.
The awesome structure of Bouddhanath is indeed inspiring. The 36-meter-high stupa of Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in South Asia. With countless monasteries surrounding it, Bouddhanath is the center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. Built in the shape of a mandala designed to replicate the Gyangtse of Tibet, the stupa was renovated by Licchhavi rulers in the 8th Century. The location of the stupa is interesting as it once lay on the ancient trade route to Tibet and it was here that Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers for centuries. Boudha even today has a strong Tibetan presence as countless Tibetan refugees found a home around the stupa. On top is the Harmika and on each side are painted the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha symbolizing awareness. The canopy has thirteen stages. At ground level, there is a brick wall with 147 inches and 108 images of the meditational Buddha inset behind copper prayer wheels.