Part I Jhochhen
Part II Makhan
The Kal Bhairav is one of most famous of all the Bhairava in Kathmandu. The shrine is usually crowded with devotees. It is believed that lying before Kal Bhairav will make one spit blood and die instantly. Hence, this spot was used by earlier governments to try the accused, a case of trial by ordeal. Perhaps this is why the police station stands just across the road. It is thought that seeking Kal Bhairav’s blessing before starting a lawsuit is auspicious. Kal Bhairav is, therefore, popular among the Hindus as the god of justice.
Inside the temple, there is a golden idol of Vishnu sitting in meditation pose and playing his flute. Sadly, the flute has now been lost.
Taleju, the largest temple of the Durbar Square, was built by Mahendra Malla in the sixteenth century. The shrine of Taleju is the most exquisite of all the temples in the square and for a reason. Taleju Bhawani was the clan goddess of the Malla royalty. In all three ancient kingdoms of the valley –
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, Malla Kings have erected temples to Taleju, their tutelary deity. Since Bhaktapur is the original home of Malla Kings, the Taleju Temple of Bhaktapur is the oldest Taleju of the three.Standing on a 12-stage platform in Trishul chowk, the Taleju temple towers over the ancient Durbar Square. During the Malla era, and later in the Shah era too, it was forbidden to build a house taller in stature than Taleju for this, it was said, would insult the goddess and make her hostile and vengeful.There are twelve miniature temples around the main pagoda, each dedicated to a different Hindu deity. These Lilliputian temples built around a main shrine are called (Kacha Dewal) – branch temples built as a group where other deities are installed. The temple is open to Hindus each year solely on the ninth day of the Dashain festival. The temple in its present state is mainly the work of Pratap Malla, for it is known that Pratap Malla made many renovations to Taleju during his time which significantly contributed to its appearance.
What is remarkable about the allure of Taleju in the ancient Kathmandu valley is that Taleju is in reality an imported goddess. She came to Kathmandu from South India, and by the 14th century had become the royal Malla deity. There are many folklores surrounding how Taleju inspired different Malla kings to adopt her and engage in different events. One such story tells that the temple was constructed in the shape of a Yantra (a form of mandala) on guidance of the goddess Taleju herself. In fact, it is also said that Taleju attended the dedication ceremony of the temple disguised as a bee.
The big drums, along with the nearby big bell, were donated by King Rana Bahadur Shah and his queen Raj Rajeshwari built it in 1797 on behalf of their young prince Girvan Yuddha, for use in the daily worship of Goddess Taleju. On the day of Nepal Sambat New Year, the big drums are beaten 365 times representing the 365 days of the coming year.
In Nepali culture, these kind of big bells are considered divine, and so can be found in all three ancient palaces of the Kathmandu valley. Previously, the ringing of the bell and the drumming together were believed to drive off all ghosts and evil spirits that may have visited the Durbar Square
This small brick temple of goddess Saraswati dates back to 16th or 17th century.
Several carved pillars which depict Saraswati support the upper level. Dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning, the temple is worshiped by people of all castes. Inside, a small image of Saraswati can be found..
Big Bell / Divya Ganta
This big bell is supported by two stone pillars and hangs from a temple shaped tiled roof. King Rana Bahadur Shah and his queen Raj Rajeshwari built it in 1797. The bell along with the Great Drums was donated by the royal couple on behalf of their young prince Girvan Yuddha to be used together in the daily worship of Goddess Taleju. The Big Bell is rung 108 times at 9 am every morning. On the day of Newar New Year, the bell is rung 365 times representing the 365 days of the coming year.
In Nepali culture, these kind of big bells are considered divine, and so can be found in all three ancient palaces of the Kathmandu valley. Previously, the ringing of the bell and the drumming together were believed to drive off all ghosts and evil spirits that may have visited the Durbar Square.
Across the street from the Krishna Temple , you can spot a grand two storeyed temple popularly known as the Jagannath Temple. It stands on a three-tiered platform. At the four corners of the platform are four miniature temples of two stages each also built in the standard pagoda style. This model is called Panchayan where five deities – Surya (the sun), Shiva, Ganesh, Bhagavati and Vishnu are enshrined in five temples – one grand and four petite. Unfortunately, the icons of the miniature temples have been stolen and at present, they stand there empty without the gods they served to protect.
The temple consists of two sets of walls. The inner set normally encloses the deities and is called “Garbha Griha” (or the sanctuary). Temples built in this design are called “Ta Dewal” (bigger temple) such as the Pashupatinath and the Changu Narayan temple. In the Jagannath temple, however, icons of Jagannath with sister Subhadra and brother Balram are placed outside “Garbha Griha”. These icons have been made of a sandalwood body and a clay face. The eastern temple doors open to display these deities every morning during puja when devotees can get “darshan” (pay their respects to the god).
Inside the Garbha Griha, lies a stone image of Chatur Murti Vishnu. Chatur Murti or Chaturvyuha Vishnu is a rare sculpture that combines four figures into one. The Chaturvyuha Vishnu dated c. 1563, and established in the temple by sixteenth century King Mahendra Malla, consists of Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha in the four directions. The wooden icons of Jagannath (Krishna, Subhadra and Valabhadra ) are newer than the Chaturvyuha Vishnu icon.
From a copper inscription of 1633 found in the eastern temple door, we understand that the temple itself was built during the time of Lakshmi Narasimha Malla. But, Mahendra Malla emplaced the icon of Chatur Murti Vishnu and later Pratap Malla installed Jagannath and the inscription outside.
The long stone inscription on the eastern platform of the temple is written in fourteen different scripts. In the stone are engraved prayers to goddess Taleju Bhawani, who is the family divinity of the Malla dynasty. If you look closely at these platform stones, you will notice that they were originally water tanks, recycled to build these plinths by Pratap Malla.
The lower level of the temple has three doors on each side but only the middle doors have a wooden frame that allows it to open into the temple. Each central door has a torana. The remaining two doors are closed permanently.
The struts of the temple are remarkable and call for attention. They portray many multi-armed and multi-headed tantric deities each profusely adorned with crowns and jewelry. Unfortunately, most of them have missing arms due to wear and tear over the years. The base of the struts harbor many vivid sexual graphics.
The Jagannath Temple is particularly popular among tourists for these erotic carvings. There are two theories that explain the presence of erotic symbolism in this temple. One theory is that these carvings are often placed in temples as it is thought to prevent lightning from striking the temple during thunderstorms and drive away ghosts, evil spirits and negative energy. Others believe that each image symbolizes tantric knowledge, and when all the figures are read together, they make up a mantra – with which tantric worship is done – understood only by those who can decipher the erotic imagery.
It is no coincidence that these sensual images should exist in the temple of Krishna, who is none other than Vishnu incarnate. Krishna is after all known to be an amorous deity. He had many lovers and wives. Many legends, epics and pictures tell that Krishna had a following of one hundred and eight cowherd girls called gopinis.
Maha Vishnu temple
The Maha Vishnu temple stands on a four-stage platform. The temple is constructed in traditional pagoda style with two roofs. Unlike other temples of the Durbar Square, the Maha Vishnu temple has plain struts and doors with no carving. But, the finial – a golden kalash with a golden umbrella on top – is exquisite.
Presently, a new icon has been installed in the temple. The icon of Maha Vishnu previously installed here is a golden image of Baikuntha with his consort goddess Lakshmi. Mahavishnu is also known as Vaikuntha who is much popular among the Buddhists as well as Hindus. Due to security concerns, the old icon has been moved to Nasal Chowk inside the Hanuman Dhoka Museum area.
From old records and artifacts, historians surmise that the Maha Vishnu temple was built by eighteenth century King Jagajjaya Malla in memory of his dead son Rajendra Malla. The temple was destroyed during the catastrophic earthquake of 1934 and reconstructed thereafter.
Kotilingeshwara Mahadev Temple
The stony facade that is visible on the northern side of Kal Bhairav is the shrine of Kotilingeshwor Mahadev, located next door to the Maha Vishnu temple. According to old records, sixteenth century King Mahendra Malla built this temple. The temple has been constructed in Gumbaz shaili (or in dome style).
The main entrance to Kotilingeshwor is on the south. The entrance is guarded by two pillars and above them is a small dome-shaped structure (also in Gumbaz style).
On the toran above the doors, you will discover carvings of goats, snakes and garudas. On each entrance pillars, figures of Mahakal, Ganesh and other deities have been artfully inscribed. And inside the temple lies Chaturmukhi (or four-faced) Shiva linga. The lingam, made of brass, has faces of Shiva in four directions. The north facing part consists of a half male and half female face. The image represents Shiva and his consort Parvati. The Kotilingeshwor linga is one of the most beautiful shiva lingas in the valley.
Nil Barahi Temple
In an inconspicuous corner near the Kot Square is the temple of Nil Barahi. The eeriness of the nearby tea shop which looks like a hangout for gangsters is only exceeded by the deity enshrined. Nil Barahi is also believed to be the goddess of witches and is said to be piously worshipped by those who practice witchcraft. On the day of Gathe Mangal or Pisach Chaturdasi festival, when locals perform tantric poojas at their homes to ward off evil spirits, witches are said to visit the temple.
A stone inscription on a single large stone is found on the outer palatial walls of Hanuman Dhoka (right across from the Vishnu temple). Pratap Malla had the inscription installed here in 1664 . It is a notable piece, as there are 15 different languages in this engraving is dedicated to Kalika (or little Kali). The inscription includes Tibetan, Arabic, Greek, Roman, Persian, French, Newar and Sanskrit scripts, among others. An interesting myth about the stone inscription is that if you are able to read and understand the entire inscription, milk will flow from the spout in the middle.
To the north of Jagannath temple is Indrapur. The temple stands on a two-step platform and has a small colonnade. At the base of each pillar, lies a stone carved with an image of a lion. The temple has only one door facing south on the lower level and besides this one, it has no other doors or even windows. The temple is notable for the open balcony on its second storey. Built by King Pratap Malla, the temple-pavilion was used by the royal families to view the Indra jatra festival.
The roof struts are plain and unadorned; and there is no identifying torana above the single temple door. Looking at the drawings of the etched lions on the pillar base, it is very surprising that the temple itself sports a very simple and unembellished exterior. It has been speculated that the temple was initially built in a splendid fashion but the later renovations left it in a dull and unattractive state.
What is really interesting about Indrapur is that there is no concord between its name and the deity inside. Although the name Indrapur suggests that it is a shrine of Lord Indra, there is a lingam inside of Lord Shiva.
There is an old story that explains this contradiction. Once when lord Indra was in deep meditation, Lord Shiva was thrilled and appeared before Indra. So that form of Mahadev was called Indreshwar. Historians agree that this shrine is devoted to Indreshwar Mahadev who is another form of Shiva and not to god Indra himself.
During every Indra jatra, a wooden column dedicated to God Indra called the Indra Dhoj is raised not far from this temple.
The Kakeswor Temple is situated to the north of the Vishnu temple. It was built in the seventeenth century by Queen Bhuwan Lakshmi and was also called Bhuwan Lakshmeshwar initially. It was only later that the temple was worshipped as a shrine of Kakeshwar Mahadev.
A fair is held here annually in the month of Shrawan (July/August). Kakeshwor Mahadev is regarded as a representative of all three forms of Mahadev and is worshipped specially during this fair. The temple was badly damaged during the 1934 earthquake and rebuilt later.
The temple is built on a two-tier platform. The lower level has a columned porch and sloping tile roof, and the main temple structure rests on the rooftop. The architecture style of Kakeshwor is referred to as Newar-Nagar by experts.
The lower level is built in Newar style and the upper level, that supports a lime-plastered Shikhara tower, is of Shikhar style. The shrine was renovated once again in recent years with financial support from the American Embassy in Kathmandu.
Vishwambareshwar (Shiva) Mandir
If we analyze the wood carvings of the lower storey of this small temple, it seems to be from the 15th century. The upper part was done in later times, around the 17th century. Inside the temple we can find a four-faced shiva linga.
The north-western corner of the Durbar Square ends in Kot Square. This the place where Junga Bahadur Rana executed the infamous massacre of 1846. The carnage marked the beginning of 104 years of Rana rule in Nepal. The square witnesses a bloodbath again each year during Navami of the Dashain festival when hundreds of buffaloes are sacrificed here as an offering to goddess Durga.
Built in the sixteenth century by King Mahindra Malla, the Mahindreshwor Temple is dedicated to Mahadev in his phallic form. It is the custom to name the linga after the person to whom it has been consecrated.
Mahindra Malla was considered the first poet in Newar. He was a pious king. Like other Malla kings, he would take his meal only after seeing the smoke coming out from each chimney – a sign that all subjects were cooking and so had enough to eat. Chronicles reveal that he visited Pashupatinath temple every day. One day he was not able to go to the Pashupatinath Temple due to a flood in a river. That very night Pashupatinath came in his dreams and ordered him to build another Shiva temple near the palace so that he did not have to go to the main Pashupatinath temple every day. In hopes of worshipping Pashupatinath every day, Mahindra Malla constructed this temple on the extreme north of the Durbar Square. Originally, the temple was built in Newar-Nagar style like the Kakeshwar temple nearby. It was later rebuilt in its present form during the time of Mahendra Shah.
The temple is set on a two-step brick base. A newly added image of Lord Shiva bearing a trident and standing in front of his bull is mounted atop the massive gate. On the first step are a pair of stone lions, while on the second step, there are two metallic lions. The main entrance is to the south.
Inside, there is a four-faced Shiva linga. The roof struts display image of different deities associated with the Shiva community. A golden damaru (hand-held drum), trident and kalash (holy vessel) under a golden umbrella together serve as the finial. Like the original Pashupatinath temple, you will find a stone image of the bull in front of the temple.
On the western corner, two stone kalash are established as a representation of shakti or power as Guhyeshwari. And on the eastern corner, keeping in line with an old tradition, a stone idol of Chhatra Chandeshwar can be found.
Hanuman Dhoka is a complex of structures with the Royal Palace of the Malla kings and also of the Shah dynasty in the Durbar Square of central Kathmandu, Nepal. It is spread over five acres. The Hanuman Dhoka Palace (Hanuman Dhoka Durbar in Nepali) gets its name from the stone image of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, that sits near the main entryway.The “Hanuman Dhoka” proper, or Hanuman Gate, is located on the east side of Durbar Square. It is the entry gate to the palace, where a standing statue of Hanuman (monkey god), dated to 1672, guards the palace.
Hanuman is decked with a red cloth and an umbrella. The face is smeared with a red paste. On the left is a stone sculpture dated to 1673 of Lord Narasimha (the half-man, half-lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu), devouring the demon Hiranyakashipu, which is credited to Pratap Malla period according to an inscription on the pedestal of the image.
Tarini Devi Temple
The temple of the Mother Goddess – Tarini – or Tana Devata – as known in local parlance is situated at the northeast corner of the Durbar Square. From historical records, the temple was known to exist before the rule of the first Malla King, Ratna Mall who reigned in the late fifteenth century. Oral tradition allocates this shrine to the time of eleventh century Licchavi King Shankara Deva.
The temple is excellently preserved even today. It is a long, rectangular structure painted in red with three doorways. The three doors have a beautifully carved framework and torana (tympanum) of which the central door is the main entrance. The entrance is again guarded by two stone lions.
From the figure carved on the center of the main torana we can guess that the goddess inside is most likely Vaishnavi, a member of the Ashta Matrikas (the eight mother goddesses).
A number of joined and single windows of varying sizes characterize the upper part of the temple. A wooden cornice with human skulls and animal heads separates the door and window level. Brilliantly carved roof struts display the Mother Goddesses and other small deities in different colors. Five spires make up the finial.
The temple is connected with the adjoining Taleju temple in terms of worship and festival. The shrine is worshipped every fourteenth day of the lunar calendar, and is open to visitors on Mha Puja or Govardhan puja during the Tihar festival. According to popular belief, the goddess is older than Taleju, and she had to be appeased before Mahendra Malla could complete the construction of the towering Taleju Temple without trouble.
Part III Maru
This large grey image of a Garud kneeling outside the main entrance. The Garud statue was a joint gift from Queen Mother Riddhi Laxmi Devi (the widow of Parthivendra Malla), boy king Bhupatindra Malla and chief minister Lakshmi Narayan Joshi. Rumors had it that Regent Queen Riddhi Lakshmi and her chief minister Lakshmi Narayan Joshi were having an affair. Joshi allegedly poisoned King Parthivendra Malla to gain absolute power. To secure his position, he had the last surviving son of Pratap Malla – Mahipatindra Malla- murdered. In the end, as fate would have it, Lakshmi Narayan Joshi was stabbed outside the Hanuman Dhoka palace.
The stone sculpture of the Garud has been fashioned to resemble a kneeling human in felicitation pose. It is decorated with carved amulets on the ears, arms and wrist. For a necklace, the Garud is shown wearing a snake around its neck. From its broad shoulders extend open wings with carved feathers. This is a rare image made from a single rock in the Malla period, though most big sculptures during this age was done in segments and pieced together. These kind of huge sculptures were more abundant during the Licchavi period.
Ashok Vinayak or Maru Ganesh
Behind the Kasthamandap temple on the eastern corner, you will observe an unusual little temple. Its entire surface is gilded and the traditional structure of the finial is missing. This temple is the shrine of Maru Ganesh or Ashok Vinayak and is often considered a part of the Maru Sattal. A folklore tells us that the consecration ceremony of the finial and the Maru Sattal is yet to be carried out and so the Ashok Binayak temple is without a finial. The story further prophesies that the consecration will take place when the price of salt and oil is equal. According to a different legend, the reason for not having a finial is that the temple was originally under an Ashoka tree.
The Ashok Binayak temple is comparatively small in size but it has tremendous religious and cultural significance. It is a part of Hindu tradition to start any religious ceremony with the pooja of the nearest Ganesh. Although there are many icons of Ganesh in and near the Hanuman Dhoka area, it is the Maru Ganesh pooja that signified the start of all religious and cultural royal ceremonies. Even the coronation ceremonies of the Malla and Shah Kings started only after the pooja of Maru Ganesh was performed. It is commonly believed that worship of Ashok Binayak before undertaking a new venture will bring perfection and fulfillment.
The Maru Ganesh has his own abode called the Dyo Chen. This is the place where robes, jewelries, silver mask and an additional icon of Ashok Binayak used during festivals are kept. Also, the annual festival of this temple is celebrated on Bijaya Dashami – the tenth day of Dashain, the most important Hindu festival of Nepal.
Gaan kuti Mahadev
Gan Kuti Mahadev is a Shikhara temple in Maru tole from the 15th century. The temple features a
columned porch and a main structure of brick with stucco. A tympanum depicting Shiva can be found on the entrance. It is said that during sunrise on the day of Equinox, the sun rays align directly on the shiva linga inside through the window. There used to be an icon of the sun god in the middle level, which has been stolen. Gan Kuti is also the name of the platform in front.
Gan Kuti holds an interesting legend related to Kasthamandap. After the tantric priest trapped Kalpavriksha, the tree with which Kasthamandap was built, he invoked all the deities for the consecration ceremony of Kasthamandap. But, before the ceremony could take place, the tantric left suddenly, promising to come back and finish the ceremony when the price of salt and oil would be the same. So the temple and surrounding area is called Gan Kuti, the place where the deities were invoked. Gan means gods and Kuti means place in Newar.
The temple was renovated in 1934 and is presently also under renovation.
Silyan Sattal/ Singha sattal
This old-fashioned house is located to the south of Kasthamandap near the Maru Tole entrance of the Durbar Square. According to legend, this house was built with wood left over from the re-construction of Kasthamandap in the first half of the seventeenth century and therefore, is also called Silyan Sattal in Newar. Built in three storeys, Singha Sattal houses a small temple of Hari Krishna which is used primarily for singing bhajans (hymns).
On the outside, you will see sculptures of four lions on the four corners of the second and third floor. This is where the name of this building comes from – Singha meaning lion and Sattal meaning shelter. Like its larger counterpart the Kasthamandap building located directly across the square, Singha Sattal was also traditionally used as a public rest house.
In the uppermost level of the building, there lies a stone icon of Narayan playing a flute and riding his vehicle or bahan, the Garud. This is the spot where bhajans took place on a daily basis. However, due to threat of imminent collapse of the uppermost storey, the bhajans have been suspended for now.
Although the exact date of construction of Singha Sattal remains a mystery, we know that it was last renovated in 1934 along with Kabindra Pur.
Once a beautiful rest house, Singha Sattal has today fallen into decrepitude. The rooftops are crumbling; the wooden railing is falling apart, and the white lime plaster is wearing off revealing the brick skeleton in different parts. The appalling sight that meets the eyes of onlookers pleads for restoration.
Despite its dreadful condition, Singha Sattal is still a lively building. It houses more than a dozen shops on the ground floor and is a place of constant activity. The busy shops sell everything from oil, oil lamps, pooja materials, plastic wares, jute products and daily use cosmetics to grains and fresh produce.
Laxmi Narayan Sattal
Towards the eastern side of Maru Sattal, immediately after the Maru Ganesh temple, lies an old three storeyed building. This house, from the sixteenth century, is popularly known as the Laxmi Narayan Temple. However, initially the building was not meant to be a temple and was used as a public shelter just as Kasthamandap and Singha Sattal. Take a brief look at the construction style of the building and this fact becomes evident.
The name of the building comes from the temple of Laxmi Narayan that was installed much later on the northern side. Due to its use originally as a public place, the building itself has no finial. But, the temple part has a golden pinnacle on its roof. The temple has an icon of Laxmi Narayan on the ground floor while the main building houses a stone icon of Lord Vishnu on the third floor. A small chamber on the ground level also houses the shrine of Shristikanta Lokeshwor.
On the outside, you can also see sculptures of Hanuman, Mahakal and several other immortals. Like the Singha Sattal, several shops rent the ground floor. You can find traditional money exchangers – called Sarafis – on the porch area. Sarafis are mementos of the Malla age when Kathmandu was a popular hub for merchants. Traders of all kinds travelling between India and Tibet used Kathmandu as a layover point. And the sarafis assisted these businessmen by exchanging different currencies used in Tibet, India and Nepal. The minting of coins in Nepal started during the period of Licchavi King Manadeva (fifth century) and so the first copper coin is called Mananka. The minting of gold and silver coins was started by King Shiva Dev of the eleventh century.
The Malla period is known as the Golden Age when trade and commerce flourished immensely in Kathmandu; making the valley kingdoms greatly affluent. Malla kings were as religious and as they were materialistic and they spent much of this prosperity in building magnificent temples and lavish palaces. Take a walk around the building, and in its antiquated shops and makeup, you can get a glimpse of sixteenth century Kathmandu.
The Laxmi Narayan temple has been depicted in old pictures as an exceptionally pretty building. However, as it stands today, the temple building is neither attractive nor is it respected as a Sattal or even a temple. The ground floor houses a number of shops and storerooms. And the second and third floors have turned into permanent residence for many families who live here without legal rights.
Bisheshowor / Kashi Bishwanatha
Establishing of Bishwanath temples was in fashion in the valley around the 17th century. Before this, the temple of Bishwanath in the holy city of Kashi (also called Varanasi) in India was demolished by forces of Muslim emperor Aurangzeb (1658 – 1701) and a mosque was built in its place.
One inscription of Bishwanath in Patan temple describes this event saying that Kashi is no more pure, and that the Bishwanath temple has been defiled by muslim invasion. Thus, God Bishwanath left the city of Kashi and came to reside in Patan. So the inscription claims that real Kashi is Patan. And since then, building Bisheshwar temples became popular in the valley.
Until the 1970s and 80s, the temple platform was a popular hub for barbers of Indian origin. And so the temple is also referred to in local parlance as “Hajam” (Barber) Dega.
Also called Dhansa, this three-roofed temple was built by illustrious king Pratap Malla in the seventeenth century to start a masked dance of Narsimha, an incarnation of Vishnu. Literally speaking, Dhansa means a treasure room where travelers could deposit their cash and valuables. The lowermost story served as sheds for merchants to keep their horses or other animals.
This temple enshrines an icon of Nasal Devata (also called Nasadyo or Natyeshwor) on the ground floor along with other Hindu deities like Narasimha, Nandi, Mahakal, Bhagwati, Bhringi, Machhindranath, Jagannath, Narasimhi, Prahalad and Sharabheswari. In the chronicles, Pratap Malla outlines his reasons for building Kabindrapur. He narrates a very unusual occurrence of his life.
The story describes an incident when the art-loving King Pratap Malla himself took to the stage dressed like a Narsimha (a half human half lion deity). A small shrine (bedika) had been made to worship Narsimha in the stadium. After the dance, a very strange sound issued from the shrine; the source of which could not be located. Pratap Malla realized that Narsimha had become furious for some reason and needed to be placated. And so the religious king built Kabindrapur and emplaced an icon of Narsimha along with Nasadyo and other deities.
Large latticed screens encase the ground floor of Dhansa. If you glimpse through the screened door, you can observe rows of deities on the left and right and a small recessed room in the center with more icons. The pillars, windows and the balconies are all attractively carved in wood. The upper two storeys are built in mandap-like fashion and were probably used as an inn.
Natyeshwor (the dancing Shiva) is related to the learning of music and dancing. A pooja of Nasal Devata is often performed before starting music or dance lessons. A stage built across the square from Kabindrapur suggests the relationship of Nasal Devata to the performing arts. From the screened balconies of Kabindrapur, royals of Malla era must have observed the Narsimha dance and other performances on this stage.
Kabindrapur is not only a shrine for the gods but also a local base for the masked ritual dance called Srikali from Khokana village in the outskirts of Kathmandu valley each year. Pratap Malla is said to have performed during the first dance held in Dhansa.
Kasthamandap was probably built around the 12th century as a public building for merchants and travellers of the trans Himalayan route between India and Tibet to rest and spend their nights. Locally known as Maru Sattal (Sattal meaning a public shelter), travelers sometimes lived for weeks and months in this building to save themselves from malaria epidemics in Tarai during summer or snowfall in the mountains during winter.
Legend goes, the entire Kasthamandap was rebuilt from the trunk of a single sal tree gifted by Kalpavriksha.
Part IV Pyaphal
This small white temple constructed in “shikhar” style or in the shape of a mountain. The temple itself has no icons but attached to the back-wall is a stone sculpture to Chhatra Chandeshwor – a sage and a proponent of Shaivism. The locals worship him as Kamdev, the god of human love.
This Narayan temple is fashioned in three stories and supported by a wooden colonnade. It is located in Maru Square near Maju Dega. The roof struts are wonderfully carved and depict different incarnations of Vishnu or Narayan.
The temple is preserved by a private guthi of Joshis. The guthi is an ancient communal system set up for undertaking religious or cultural activities, and is usually associated with a temple or other architectural object. The temple is under renovation since the beginning of 2013.
The Kandel Chowk Bhagwati is one of the important temples from the Shah rule. Prithvi Narayan Shah is said to have brought goddess Bhagwati from Nuwakot and enshrined her in this temple.
The temple, built on the second level, lies above rows of thanka and souvenir shops. It is double storeyed and forms a part of the living quarters of the ancient palace. Like the Malla Kings before him, Prithvi Narayan Shah must have placed his principal deity – Bhagwati – in his palace so that he could offer prayers and receive her blessings everyday. The Bhagwati icon is displayed during the Indra Jatra festival.
On the full moon of Chaitra every year, Bhagwati visits her old town of Nuwakot. The journey takes nine days and on her return, Bhagwati briefly visits the Ajima temple in Balaju.
Shiva Parvati Temple
The Shiva Parvati temple is an uncommon shrine built on a four-step brick platform. It stands out particularly due to its three golden pinnacles. The temple was built by Regent Bahadur Shah towards the end of the eighteenth century during the rule of his nephew Rana Bahadur Shah.
Bahadur Shah (the youngest son of Prithvi Narayan Shah) was a great promoter of Nepali art and craft. It was his idea to construct a hybrid temple that incorporated Newar and Rajput style on top of the pavilion built by King Laxmi Narasimha Malla who ruled in the seventeenth century.
Out of the four brick steps, the first step is considerably wider and is often used as a stage. There are five full size doors on front side, but only the central one is functional. When open, the door reveals images of the Nava Yogini – Mangata, Pingala, Dhanya, Bhramari, Bhadrika, Ulka, Siddha, Sankata and Bikata – and Tarkeshwor Shiva lingam preserved on the ground floor. The Nava Yogini are mothers of the Nava Graha (“the male personifications of the nine planets”) and are believed to be responsible for good or ill fortune. If one is going through a rough time in terms of finances, love or health, a shanti pooja of the Nava Yogini (an apotropaic ritual) is in order to turn the baneful period into a favorable one. On most days, one is likely to witness these rituals when this door to the temple is open.
A great assortment of decorative windows line the balcony giving this abode of Shiva Parvati an exotic appeal. From the open central window of the second floor, we can see the two wooden images of Shiva and Parvati gazing out at their worshippers and admiring the scenery.
The golden pinnacle of this temple is quite artistic and one of the best in the Durbar Square. It consists of three tapering spires alternating with four floral stalks on a small platform. It is unique because it departs from the traditional Newar appearance and adopts the Rajput/Mughal style.
In front of the Gaddi Baithak and to the west of Trailokya Mohan, stands the majestic three-storeyed temple of Maju Dega. It has a nine-step brick base which gives it an impressive height that almost dominates the Kathmandu Durbar Square skyline. After the temple of Taleju and Degu Taleju, Maju Dega is the tallest and the largest temple in the Durbar Square area.
This temple was built in 1692 by Queen Mother Riddhi Laxmi (mother of infant King Bhupatendra Malla) and hence its name Maju Dega or Temple of Queen Mother. Of all the temples constructed in the storeyed style, Maju Deval remains so far the most remarkable one. The wooden doorway, columns, windows and struts are all beautifully carved. Inside the temple, there is an enormous shiva linga, the emblem of Lord Shiva.
The lower level has the appearance of a columned porch much like the Trailokya Mohan temple. The main entrance is on the eastern side. If you climb the steps to reach the temple base, you would have been greeted with an extraordinary view of the Kathmandu city before the tall modern buildings were built. This is a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike to sit and observe the activity in the square.
In front of the temple and on the ground, there is a small white temple constructed in “shikhar” style or in the shape of a mountain. The temple itself has no icons but attached to the back-wall is a stone sculpture to Chhatra Chandeshwor – a sage and a proponent of Shaivism. The locals worship him as Kamdev, the god of human love.
Famous Festival in Kathmandu Durbar Square
Fagu Punhi (Holi)
Fagu Purnima or Holi Punih which is celebrated on Faguna Purnima (full moon of the month of Fagun) at the end of winter’s last lunar month is one of the most colorful and playful festivals of Nepal.
Holi in Nepal starts one week before the main day of Holi, the full moon day. There is a tradition of erecting a long bamboo pole (lingo) covered with pieces of different colored cloths (known as Chir) in Kathmandu Durbar Square. This is a formal announcement to all about the initiation of the festival. In the eve of Holi Punih the lingo is taken down and the Chir is burnt. The event is called Chir Haran or Holika Dahan. Holi then official ends for that year.
Holi is celebrated with colors, water, sweets and music. People put color and vermilion on each other as a token of love. People go to houses of relatives and friends in groups to dance and play music. People in the Terai celebrate Holi the next day from Kathmandu Valley and other hilly reason of Nepal.
Dashain or Mwohni is the most auspicious festival among the Hindu people of Nepal, which is celebrated for fifteen days. Fulpati or Saptami falls on the seventh day of Dashain. ”Ful” is flower and “pat”i is leaves and plants. Hence, Fulpatii literally means flowers, leaves and plants.
The nine ingredients mix of fulpati is called “Navapatriva”. Navapatriva consists of banana stalks, pomegranate, rice stalks, turmeric plant, manabriksha, kachuki, wood apple tree plant (belpatra), ashok plant, and jayanti. Traditionally, on this day, the Navapatriva tied with red cloth is brought by Brahmins from Gorkha, a three-day walk, about 169 kilometres (105 mi) away from the Kathmandu Valley. Hundreds of government officials gather together in the Tundikhel parade grounds in formal dress to witness the event. The king used to observe the ceremony in Tudikhel while the fulpati parade was headed towards the Hanumandhoka Royal Palace.Then there is a majestic display of the Nepalese Army along with a celebratory firing of weapons that continues for ten to fifteen minutes honoring Fulpati. The Fulpati is taken to the Hanumandhoka Royal Palace by the time the occasion ends in Tudikhel, where a parade is held.
Since 2008, when the monarchy was overthrown, the two-and-half century old tradition has changed so that the holy offering of Fulpati goes to the residence of the President. The President has taken over the king’s social and religious roles after the fall of the royal government.
An ancient festival celebrated by the indigenous Newa people of Kathmandu valley even before Buddhist and Hindu influence arrived here, Gathamuga is celebrated on the fourth day of the waning moon of the month of Shrawan (mid-August), in street intersections in the core cities, including in several places around Kathmandu Durbar Square. This festival heralds the end of the busy paddy plantation season, and on this day farmers of Kathmandu officially bid farewell to the friendly demon Gathamuga whose physical strength had been invoked at the beginning of the monsoon with tantric methods to help the farmers in the physically rigorous plantation work. A jovial and sometimes even rowdy parade takes places in the streets in the late afternoon where an effigy of Gathamuga is dragged to the nearest riverbank.
Here is an interesting story with more details on Gathamuga:
Gathamuga: Farewell to the Helpful Ghost
Indrajatra — Yen Yaa
Yen Yaa (Indra Jatra) is literally the Kathmandu Festival, a weeklong extragavanza that consumes every Kathmanduite from the inside out. Lord of heaven Indra came to Kathmandu to get the Parijaat flower, which would help cure his ailing mother. Kathmanduites caught him stealing the flower, and imprisoned him. His faithful elephant Pulu Kisi, and eventually his mother, descended to earth looking for the erring Indra — that is when Kathmandu folks got to know the real identify of Indra. The festival is celebrated to glorify Lord Indra’s visit to earth and the little incident of him being captured for theft by mortals, and hence the name Indra Jatra. This year, Yen Yaa has a special significance — it helps the earthquake affected people forget their wounds with all the merry making, at least for a while. This is perhaps the most colorful festival of Kathmandu, and many of the festival activities take place in various locations in Kathmandu Durbar Square from early afternoon onwards till late night.
Yenyaa is celebrated for eight days from Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi. Indra is the Hindu God of rain and king of heaven; and “Jatra” means procession. History also tells that the festival was to honor “Bhairav”, a manifestation of Shiva, who is believed to destroy evil.
The festival begins with the carnival-like erection of The Linga (Yasingh), a ceremonial pole, accompanied by the rare display of the deity Akash Bhairab, represented by a massive mask spouting thwon: and ailaa: (Nepali local liquors). Households throughout Kathmandu (especially Newars) display images and sculptures of Indra and Bhairab at this time of year. This thirty-six feet long wooden pole (The Yasingh) is chosen with great care from the Nala forest in Kavre district east of Kathmandu.
The main attraction of the festival is the procession of chariots and masked dancers representing deities and demons which consists of:
Living Goddess Kumari (Chariot)
Living God Ganesh (Chariot)
Living God Kumar (Chariot)
Janabahaa Dyo (Seto Machhindranath) Rath Jatra
A crowd of more than thousand people, dancing euphorically to the tune of classical music, some singing religious hymns, some praying fervently and others looking around in awe; and amidst this crowd is the towering monumental moving temple – a ‘Ratha‘ or a chariot. This mesmerizing scenario is the procession of Seto Machhindranath in Kathmandu valley. These processions along the routes of the medieval towns were meant to
foster the culture of community living besides paying homage to the revered god. A source of religious entertainment for the mortals of Kathmandu valley, these chariot festivals started since the early days of the Malla period.
The festival is said to have been started by King Pratap Malla. But judging by the available inscriptions in the courtyard of Janabahal, it is clearly older than this time. The deity was perhaps originally from the Hamhal monastery in Ranipokhari and later shifted to Kel Tol. A myth also supports this hypothesis saying that initially Jamal was a different country called “Jamadesh” and Yakshya Malla was the then ruling King. The Kantipuri was such a divine place, where every morning, people used to bathe in the holy river and visit Swayambhu; such works of virtue led them to heaven after their death. Once the god of death ‘Yamaraj‘, saw that none of the dead from the Kantipuri went to hell and on looking further he understood that the divine power of Swayambhu was the cause. So with his fellow men he set himself on visiting Kantipuri and paid homage to the sacred god. While he was returning, King Yakshya Malla, along with his Tantric guru, captured them and asked for immortality. Yamraj himself being a mortal could not give such a blessing and said so, but the King would not let go of him unless he bestowed such power on them. The frightened god then prayed to Arya Awalokiteshwor and requested to free him. The Lord hearing such a prayer appeared instantly before them from the water. With a white colored body and eyes half closed looking downwards, the lord said that wherever the Kalmati and Bagmati meets, a temple needs to be established and whoever pays him a visit shall always be prosperous and live long. He told the King to organize
a Ratha Yatra every year for three days starting from ‘Chaitra Sukla Astami‘ so that he could travel to the houses of those people who cannot move, are disabled or stay longer at their houses and bless them with happiness and long life. The Ratha Yatra was to start from a place from where the god originated which happens to be the present Ranipokhari area.
The very first day of this divine procession covers the Jamal, Ratnapark, Bhotahity and Ason area. On the second day, the procession starts from Ason to Balkumari, Kel Tol, Indra Chowk, Makhan and rests in the Hanuman Dhoka. Here the living goddess Kumari also comes out to pay her visit. On the final day, the Ratha moves through Hanuman Dhoka, Maru, Chikan Mangal, Jaisidewal, Jya Baha and finally reaches Lagan Tol. After circumambulating a special tree for three times the procession completes. On the fourth day, after a special
puja, the image of the god is carried back to the temple and restored there.
The whole procession with its starting, finishing and stopping points enroute, interestingly shows the hierarchy of open spaces and the path-space configurations, giving a new socio-cultural meaning to existing religious sites, squares and streets.
Krishnastami, also known as Krishna Janmashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sri Jayanti or sometimes simply as Janmashtami, is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. The festival is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Bhadra (August–September) in the Hindu calendar.
Krishnastami is celebrated all around the world by all Hindus. There is a tradition to observe a fasting till midnight. No grains are consumed during Janmashtami fasting until the fast is broken the next day after sunrise. Devotees chant Slokas (hymns) from the “Bhagwat Gita” and sing religious songs (Bhajans).
Chyasin Dega, the temple of Lord Krishna located in the Kathmandu Durbart square is decorated and bhajans are sung on this day. A beautiful crib holding a small idol of the “Balgopal” (baby Krishna) is installed outside the Chyasin Dega.
Sa Paru (Gai Jatra)
Gai Jatra festival, the procession of cows, generally falls in the month of Bhadra, which correspond to the English calendar months of August/September. “Gai” (Saa in Newar) means” cow” and “Jatra” means procession. The festival commemorates the death of people during the past year. The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal. It is said people in ancient time started worshiping Yamaraj,”the god of death” on this day.
However, the modern form of celebration of Gai Jatra came into existence in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of Malla kings. According to the historical evidence, when 17th century king Pratap Malla lost his son, his wife, the queen, remained grief-stricken. The king was very sad to see the condition of his beloved queen. The king, in spite of several efforts, could not lessen the grief of his wife. He desperately wanted to see a little smile on the lips of his sweetheart, and so he announced that anyone who made the queen laugh would be rewarded adequately. During the festival of Gaijatra, the cow procession was brought before the grief-stricken queen. Then the participants began ridiculing and be-fooling the important people of the society. Finally, when the social injustices and other evils were highlighted and attacked mercilessly, the queen could not help but smile. The queen laughed and the king instituted a tradition of including jokes, satire, mockery and lampoon into the Gai Jatra celebration.
The present form of Gai Jatra with humorous acts, parody and comedy and was started by then king of Kathmandu Pratap Malla. He made Rani Pokhari (Queen’s Pond) in the heart of Kathmandu and build a temple in the middle of the same pond.
Traditionally every family who had a death in the family during the preceding year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu, leading a cow.
The procession is nowadays not that of joke, satire or mockery but has become a serious but enjoyable event that will help their beloved ones to rest in peace. The procession goes around the city to different parts of the suburbs and the inner urban areas to present the devotion to their loved ones. The people involved in this procession get small packets with fruits, sweets, oats and other food items to help them in their tour around the city, offered by many people watching the festival and by their loved ones.