the south - western corner of the square the Kasthamandap,
or House of Wood, is the building which gave Kathmandu its
name. Although its history is uncertain, it was possibly constructed
around the 12th century. A legend relates that the whole building
was made with the wood from a single sal tree. At first it
was a community center where visitors gathered before major
ceremonies, but later it was converted to a temple to Gorakhnath.
A small wooden enclosure in the centre of the building houses
the image of the god. Images of Ganesh can be found at each
corner of the building and there are also shrines to a number
of other gods. Bronze lions guard the entrance, and Hindu
epics are illustrated around the 1st-floor cornices of the
three - storey building.
squat, medieval-looking building is busy in the early-morning
hours when porters sit here waiting for customers.
the northern side of the Kasthamandap, at the top of Maru
Tole (the laneway down to the river), stands the tiny Ashok
Binayak, or Maru Ganesh Shrine. The small size of this shrine
belies its importance, as this is one of the four most important
Ganesh shrines in the valley. Ganesh is a much-loved god and
there is a constant stream of visitors here. A visit to this
shrine is highly recommended by Hindus to ensure safety on
a forthcoming journey. It's uncertain how old the temple is,
although its gilded roof was added in the 19th century.
Shiva Temple near the Kasthamandap and the Ashok Binayak is
used by vegetable sellers, and occasionally by barbers who
can generally be seen squatting on the temple platform, administering
'short back and sides'.
Tole leads down to the Vishnumati River where a footbridge
meets the pathway to Swayambhunath on the other side. This
was a busy street in the days of hippies and flower power,
but today there's little sign of why it should have been called
either Pie or Pig Alley -not only are the pie shops gone but
it's also much cleaner. One thing Maru Tole does have is Maru
Hiti, one of the finest sunken water conduits in the city.
pleasant hour can easily be spent sitting on the platform
steps of the Shiva temple known as the Maju Deval. From here
you can watch the constant activity of fruit and vegetable
hawkers, the comings and goings of taxis and rickshaws, and
the flute and other souvenir sellers importuning tourists.
The nine stage platform of the Maju Deval is probably the
most popular meeting place in the city. The large, triple
roofed temple has erotic carvings on its roof struts and offers
great views over the square and across the roofs of the city.
temple dates from 1690 and was built by the mother of Bhaktapur's
King Bhupatindra Malla. Although the temple has a well known
Shiva Iingam inside, the roof is topped by a pinnacle shaped
like a Buddhist stupa. At the bottom of the temple stairway
is a small temple to Kam Dev, a 'companion' of Shiva. It was
built in the Indian shikhara style, with a tall corncob-like
Mohan Narayan Temple
other temple standing in the open area of the square is the
smaller five tiered, three roofed Trailokya Mohan Narayan.
The temple was built by Prithvibendra Malla in 1680 and is
easily identified as a temple to Narayan or Vishnu by the
fine Garuda kneeling before it. The Garuda figure was a later
addition, erected by the king's widow soon after his death.
Look for the Vaishnavite images on the carved roof struts
and the window screens with their decoratively carved metallions.
the junction of Durbar and Basantapur squares is a white three
storey building with intricately carved windows. The Kumari
Bahal (House of the Living Goddess) faces Durbar Square, its
door guarded by stone lions. The building, in the style of
the courtyarded Buddhist viharas (abodes) of the valley, was
built in 1757 by Jaya Prakash Malla. Inside lives the young
girl (the Kumari) who is selected to be the town's living
goddess, until she reaches puberty and reverts to being a
normal mortal! Inside the building the three storey courtyard,
or Kumari Chowk, is enclosed by magnificently carved wooden
balconies and windows. Photographing the goddess is forbidden,
but you are quite free to photograph the courtyard when she
is not present. Westerners are not allowed to go beyond this
area. The courtyard contains a miniature stupa carrying the
symbols of Saraswati, the goddess of learning.
big gate beside the Kumari Bahal conceals the huge chariot
which takes the Kumari around the city of Kathmandu once a
year, a festival begun during the rule of Jaya Prakash Malla.
eastern side of Durbar Square is closed off by this white
neoclassical building. The Gaddi Baithak with its imported
European style was built as part of the palace during the
Rana period and makes a strange contrast to the traditional
Nepali architecture that dominates the square.
to the Gaddi Baithak, this triple storey, triple roofed temple
is easily missed since it surmounts the building below it,
which has thangka (religious Tibetan painting in cloth) shops
along its front. The best view of the temple with its golden
roofs is probably from the Maju Deval across the square. The
temple was built by Jagat Jaya Malla and originally had an
image of Narayan. This image was stolen in 1766, so when Prithvi
Narayan Shah conquered the valley two years later he simply
substituted it with an image of the goddess Bhagwati, which
he just happened to be toting around with him. In April each
year the image of the goddess is conveyed to the village of
Nuwakot, 65km to the north, then returned a few days later.
succession of interesting buildings and statues stand to the
northeast of the Bhagwati Temple.
your left as you leave the main square along Makhan Tole is
the Great Bell erected by Rana Bahadur Shah (son of Prithvi
Narayan Shah) in 1797. During the Malla era a novel addition
to one of the valley's Durbar squares would almost immediately
be imitated in another. Curiously, Patan and Bhaktapur got
their bells in 1736, while the Kathmandu version did not follow
until long after the fall of the Mallas. The bell's ring will
drive off evil spirits, but it is only rung during puja (worship)
at the Degutaleju Temple.
to the bell is a small stone Vishnu Temple about which very
little is known. It was badly damaged by the earthquake of
1934 and has only recently been restored.
is the Saraswati Temple which also suffered badly from the
great earthquake. Prior to the quake it was over 14m high,
but now is only half that height. Like the adjoining Vishnu
Temple, little is known about its history.
history of the octagonal Krishna Temple is well documented.
It was built in 1648 by Pratap Malla, perhaps as a reply to
Siddhinarsingh's magnificent Krishna Mandir in Patan. Inside
there are images of Krishna and two goddesses which, according
to a Sanskrit inscription, are modelled on the king and his
two wives! The temple also has a Newari inscription but this
neglects to mention the king's little act of vanity.
beyond the temple are the Great Drums to which a goat and
a buffalo must be sacrificed twice a year. Then there is the
police headquarters building, beyond which is Kot Square.
It was here that Jung Bahadur Rana perpetrated the famous
1846 massacre which led to a hundred years of Rana rule. Kot
means "armoury" or "fort". During the
Durga Puja festival each year, blood again flows in Kot Square
as hundreds of buffaloes and goats are sacrificed. Young soldiers
are supposed to lop each head off with a single blow.
Pratap Malla's Column
from the Krishna Temple is a host of smaller temples and other
structures, all standing on a huge raised platform in front
of the old Royal Palace and the towering Taleju Temple. The
square stone pillar, known as the Pratap Dhvaja, is topped
by a statue of the famous King Pratap Malla, seated with folded
hands and surrounded by his two wives, his four sons and another,
infant, son. He looks towards his private prayer room on the
3rd floor of the Degutaleju Temple. The column was erected
in 1670 by Pratap Malla and preceded the similar columns in
Patan and Bhaktapur.
area and its monuments are usually covered in hundreds if
not thousands of pigeons, and you can buy packets of grain
to feed them.
(White) Bhairab's horrible face is hidden away behind a grille
opposite the Pratap MaIla column. The huge mask dates from
1794 during the reign of Rana Bahadur Shah, the third Shah
dynasty king. Each September during the lndra Jatra festival
the gates are swung back to reveal the mask for a few days.
At that time the face is covered in flowers and rice and at
the start of the festivities beer is poured through the horrific
mouth. Crowds of men fight to get a drink of this blessed
beer! At other times of year you can peek through the lattice
to see the mask, which is used as the symbol of Royal Nepal
noted for the erotic carvings on its roof struts, is the oldest
structure in this part of the square. Pratap Malla claimed
to have constructed the temple during his reign but it may
actually be much older, dating back to 1563 during the rule
of Mahendra Malla. The temple has a three tiered platform
and two storeys. There are three doors on each side of the
temple but only the center door opens.
the Jagannath Temple is the large figure of Kal (Black) Bhairab.
Bhairab is Shiva in his most fearsome aspect and this huge
stone image of the terrifying Kal Bhairab has six arms, wears
a garland of skulls and tramples a corpse, symbolic of mankind's
ignorance. The figure was said to have been brought here by
Pratap Malla, having been found in a field to the north of
the city. The image was originally cut from a single stone
although the upper right-hand side has been repaired with
another stone, and the sun and moon to the left and the lions
at the top are later additions. It is said that telling a
lie while standing before Kal Bhairab will bring instant death
and it was once used as a form of trial by ordeal!
to the east of horrific Bhairab stands the mysterious Indrapur
Temple. This curious temple may be of great antiquity but
little is known of its history. Even the god to which it is
dedicated is controversial - inside there is a lingam indicating
that it is a Shiva temple. But half-buried on the southern
side of the temple is a Garuda image, indicating that the
temple is to Vishnu. And to compound the puzzle the temple's
name clearly indicates it is dedicated to Indra !. The temple's
simple design and plain roof struts together with the lack
of an identifying torana (the space above temple doors indicating
the deity to which the temple is dedicated) give no further
is known about the adjoining Vishnu Temple either. This triple
roofed temple stands on a four-level base. The roof strut
carvings and the golden image of Vishnu inside show that it
is a Vishnu temple, but it is not known how old it is, although
it was in existence during Pratap Malla's reign.
of the Vishnu Temple, this temple was originally built in
1681 but rebuilt after it was badly damaged in the 1934 earthquake.
It may have been considerably altered at that time as the
temple is a strange combination of styles, starting with a
two level base from which rises a lower floor in typical Nepali
style. Above the 1st floor, however, the temple is in Indian
shikhara style, topped by a spire shaped like a water vase
or kalasa, indicative of a female deity.
outside of the palace wall, opposite the Vishnu Temple is
a stone inscription to the goddess Kalika written in 15 languages,
including French. King Pratap Malla, renowned for his scholastic
abilities, set up this inscription in 1664 and a Nepali legend
relates that milk will flow from the spout in the middle if
somebody is able to read all the languages!
early Malla temple dates from the reign of Mahendra Malla
in the 16th century. The three stage plinth is topped by a
temple in the gumbhaj style, which basically means a square
structure topped by a dome. The bull facing the temple indicates
that it is a Shiva temple.
by Jagat Jaya Malla, this double roofed temple on a four level
plinth was badly damaged in the 1934 earthquake and was not
restored. Only the golden spire on the roof, topped by a golden
umbrella, hints at its prior appearance.
the extreme northern end of the square, this temple dates
from 1561, during Mahendra Malla's reign. The temple was restored
in 1963 and is dedicated to Shiva. A small image of Shiva's
bull Nandi fronts the temple and at the north-eastern corner
there is an image of Kam Dev. The temple has a wide, two level
plinth and a spire topped by a golden umbrella.
square's most magnificent temple stands at its north - eastern
extremity but is not open to the public. Even Nepalese can
only visit the temple during the annual Dasain festival.
Taleju Temple was built in 1564 by Mahendra Malla. Taleju
Bhawani was originally a goddess from the south of India,
but she became the titular deity or royal goddess of the Malla
kings in the 14th century. Taleju temples were erected in
her honour in Patan and Bhaktapur as well as in Kathmandu.
temple stands on a 12 stage plinth and reaches over 35m high,
dominating the Durbar Square area. The eighth stage of the
plinth has a wall around the temple, in front of which are
12 miniature temples; four more miniature temples stand inside
the wall which has four wide and beautifully carved gates.
If entry to the temple were permitted it could be reached
from within the palace or from the Singh Dhoka (Lion Gate)
from the square.
Dhoka (Old Royal Palace)
brave assistance to noble Rama during the exciting events
of the Ramayana has led to the monkey god's appearance guarding
many important entrances. Here, cloaked in red and sheltered
by an umbrella, a Hanuman statue marks the entrance, or dhoka,
to Kathmandu's old Royal Palace and has even given the palace
its name. The statue dates from 1672, but the face has disappeared
under a coating of red paste applied by faithful visitors.
bearing the double-triangle flag of Nepal flank the statue
while on each side of the palace gate are stone lions, one
ridden by Shiva, the other by his wife Parvati. Above the
gate a brightly painted niche is illustrated, with a figure
of a ferocious Tantric version of Krishna in the center. On
one side is the gentler Hindu Krishna in his traditional blue
colour accompanied by two of his comely gopis (milk-maids).
On the other side is King Pratap Malla and his queen.
palace was originally founded during the Licchavi period,
but as it stands today most of it was constructed by King
Pratap Malla in the 17th century. The palace was renovated
many times in later years. The oldest part are the smaller
Sundari Chowk and Mohan Chowk at the northern part of the
palace (both closed). From here construction moved south arid
in all there are 10 courtyards, or chowks, in the palace.
to the palace costs Rs. 250 and it is open daily (except Tuesday)
from 10.30 am to 3 pm (4 pm in summer).
the entrance gate you immediately enter the most famous chowk.
Nasal means 'dancing one', and the courtyard takes its name
from a small figure of the Dancing Shiva inside the whitewashed
chamber on the eastern side of the square. Although the courtyard
was constructed in the Malla period many of the buildings
around the square were Rana constructions. During that time
the Nasal Chowk became the square used for coronations, a
practice which continues to this day. King Birendra was crowned
in the 1975 ceremony on the platform in the center of the
courtyard. The nine storey Basantapur Tower looms over the
southern end of the courtyard.
rectangular courtyard is aligned north - south and the entrance
is at the north-western corner. Near the entrance there is
a surprisingly small but beautifully carved doorway which
once led to the Malla kings' private quarters. The panels
have images of four gods.
the door is a large statue of Narsingha, Vishnu in his man-lion
incarnation in the act of killing a demon. The stone image
was erected by Pratap Malla in 1673 and the inscription on
the pedestal explains that he placed it here in fear that
he had offended Vishnu by dancing in a Narsingha costume.
The Kabindrapur Temple in Durbar Square was built for the
there is the Audience Chamber of the Malla kings. The open
veranda houses the Malla throne and portraits of the Shah
kings. A golden image of Mahavishnu is set into an open veranda
on the eastern wall. This image was originally in the Mahavishnu
Temple in the square, but was moved here after the 1934 earthquake.
Mukhi Hanuman Temple
the north - eastern corner of the Nasal Chowk stands the Panch
Mukhi Hanuman with its five circular roofs. Each of the valley
towns has a five storey temple, although it is the great Nyatapola
Temple of Bhaktapur which is by far the best known. Hanuman
is worshipped in the temple in Kathmandu but only the priests
of the temple may enter it.
Prithvi Narayan Shah was involved in the construction of the
four red-coloured towers around the Lohan Chowk. The towers
represent the four ancient cities of the valley: the Kathmandu
or Basantapur Tower, the Kirtipur Tower, the Bhaktapur Tower
or Lakshmi Bilas and the Patan or Lalitpur Tower.
dominant nine storey Basantapur Tower was extensively restored
prior to King Birendra's coronation. A series of steep stairways
climbs to the top from where there are superb views over the
palace and the city. The struts along the facade of the Basantapur
Tower, particularly those facing out to Basantapur Square,
are decorated with erotic carvings.
courtyard was completely dedicated to religious functions
within the palace and is configured like a vihara (a dwelling
place for Buddhist monks), with a two storey building surrounding
the courtyard. Mul Chowk is dedicated to Taleju Bhawani, the
royal goddess of the Mallas, and sacrifices are made to her
in the center of the courtyard during the Dasain festival.
A smaller Taleju temple stands in the southern wing of the
square and the image of the goddess is moved here from the
main Taleju Temple during the Dasain festival. Images of the
river goddesses Ganga and Jamuna guard the golden temple doorway
which is topped by a golden torana. Unfortunately, from the
Bhaktapur Tower, where visitors normally observe the courtyard,
the view is less than inspiring and the temple itself cannot
be seen at all.
is another manifestation of the Mallas personal goddess Taleju
and this temple was built by Shiva Singh Malla and is integrated
into the palace structure itself. The triple roofed temple
actually starts from above the common buildings it surmounts.
of the Nasal Chowk is the residential courtyard of the Malla
kings. It dates from 1649 and at one time a Malla king had
to be born here to be eligible to wear the crown. The last
Malla king, Jaya Prakash Malla, had great difficulties during
his reign, even though he was the legitimate heir, because
he was born elsewhere. The golden waterspout, known as Sun
Dhara, in the center of the courtyard delivers water from
Budhanilkantha in the north of the valley. The richly sculptured
spout is actually several meters below the courtyard level.
The Malla kings would ritually bathe here each morning.
courtyard is surrounded by towers at its four corners and
north of the Mohan Chowk is the small Sundari Chowk.
Additions & Tribhuvan Museum
part of the palace west of Nasal Chowk, overlooking the main
Durbar Square area, was principally constructed by the Ranas
in the mid to late part of the 19th century. Ironically, it
is now home to an interesting museum that celebrates King
Tribhuvan's successful revolt against their regime. If you
are interested in Nepal's modern history a visit is a must.
There are some fascinating re-creations of the king's bedroom
and study with genuine personal effects that give quite an
eerie insight into his life. There are also lots of photos
and newspaper clippings that catch the drama of his escape
and triumphant return. And there are several magnificent thrones,
some superb stone carvings and, oddly, a coin collection.
is from Nasal Chowk, and cameras have to be deposited in lockers
at the door.