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City of Kathmandu

City of Kathmandu
Nepal Travel Destination

Kathmandu Durbar Square, Nepal

The Kathmandu Durbar Square lies in the heart of the Kathmandu city which should not to be confused with the title Kathmandu Valley which consists of three main cities; Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. The square and its surrounding areas, built in the Malla period (13th-18th century), are home to some of the finest temples, sculptures and monuments in the valley. This area did not originate for places of worship, but was built for the Kings. The medieval palace was the home of Nepal’s ruling kings as for the temples and other buildings in the City of Kathmandu, the kings had them built for themselves and the other people in the kingdom.

Hanuman Dhoka
An ancient palace complex in the middle of the old city, Hanuman Dhoka was once the home to King’s in the Malla Dynasty as well as their conquerer from the Shah Dynasty.

Image of Hanuman
To the left of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace entrance, is the stone figure of the Hindu God and he is in form of a monkey. This image (and a smaller version of it right near the large one) was built in 1672 by King Pratap Malla to bring the town victory from war. Nowadays, the image is worshiped and blessed with a red pigment made of oil and vermilion powder and the idol is always clothed in red “protected” by a golden umbrella over his head. The constant blessing with this red pigment has caused some deterioration in the face of the image – almost beyond recognition – but this does not stop the devotees and tourists from wanting to view this ancient piece of art.

The Golden Door
This colorful doorway is guarded by two decorated icons on either side of the door – one with Lord Shiva on its back, the other carrying Shakti. Above the door are vibrantly colored little figurines in their own little window nooks. One of the nooks has Krishna Vishwarupa and his (supposedly) his two favorite consorts – Rukmini and Satyabhama. The middle nook is holding the multi-armed Krishna and the third nook housing some figures that look like the King Pratap Malla and his wife. The golden door however has its own story of how it was attained. Hundreds of outdated copper plate inscriptions were collected and sold and the profit from this was used to buy the gold. The gold was then poured into a mold for the posts and panels of the door. The inscription above the entrance also says that the golden part was built in 1810 by King Girvana Yuddha Bikram Shah.

Nasal Chowk
After passing through the Golden Door you walk into the largest of the ten courtyards found within the Hanuman Dhoka Palace. This courtyard has many historic references from as far back as Malla times (13th-18th centuries). This is the courtyard that the gatherings of the King and his people would discuss petitions and in times of distress anyone could come and receive condolences or show their support of the King. It also served as a practice and performing ground for dances and other theater style productions. The courtyard gets its name from a the little shrine of Nasaleshwar.

Mohan Chowk
The residence of the Malla King’s built in 1649 is located north of Nasal Chowk. It was later remodeled and modernized in 1822 (if you consider that time period modern). Now in the 17th century, a fresh water spigot at your home was a rarity, but it was the wish of the King to have one at his home. So he financed a project to bring water from Budhanilkantha (which is 8 kilometers away from the city) to the palace and had it put in Mohan Chowk. Nevertheless it was accomplished and upon this small victory, he celebrated by financing a golden spout that would pour the cool and clean water. The actual spout is a magnificent site: it has birds and beasts while the surrounding walls are lined with over 30 images of Gods and Goddesses. Within the Mohan Chowk there are also some inscriptions with displays of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, scenes of Krishna at play and even some images of some of the earliest contacts between Nepal and the West.

Basantapur Chowk
There is yet another doorway to walk through to get into Bassantapur Chowk; the door is found at the southeast corner of Nasal Chowk. In the time of King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s reign, he moved from the old quarters (previously used by the Malla King’s) and into the central courtyard palace where the woodcarvings are especially interesting while the whole building is considered by the country an important asset to the Nepali history. This nine-story palace was called the Basantapur Tower is on the southwest corner of the square. The other three corners have the Bhaktapur Tower (northeast), the Kirtipur Tower (northwest), and the Lalitpur Tower (southeast, Lalitpur is now called Patan). Each of these towers has something different to offer the onlooker and the ones looking form the tower itself. There are great views form the towers and the looks of the towers all differ yet all covered in art. But with its finely designed tiered roof, unique design and obvious distinguished height, the Basantapur Tower is by far the most appreciated.

Taleju Mandir
Located in Trishul Chowk, the Taleju temple reaches over 35 meters high and was built in 1564 by King Mahendra Malla. It is the taller than the rest of the Hanuman Dhoka area and used to be considered unlucky to build your house taller than this temple. A temple built for the Goddess Taleju would not be complete without statues of powerful and protection men and beasts. There are two wrought iron bells one on each of the temple door, and they are only rung when there is a ceremony to worship the Goddess. (The Living Goddess Kumari) is said to be the vessel for Taleju.)

Kastha Mandap
Known locally as Maru Sattal, Kastha Mandap is a huge temple with an even bigger legend. The myth goes something like this: Kalpa Briksha came to the Machchhendranath festival, where one of the priests recognized him and seized him. They would not let him go until he promised to gift a tree that was large enough to build a rest house. A few days later a giant sal tree was delivered and with the kings permission, Kastha Mandap, was built. The three-storied building has been decoratively added to over the years that makes it appear to be a shrine complete with four images of Ganesh on each corner. (Kastha Mandap is actually where Kathmandu gets its name.)

Please visit our Kathmandu Valley page  for more information about the history of Kathmandu and its Durbar Square.

To view pre-designed Nepal travel packages, see our programs page or the encyclopedia for more Nepal Travel items.