Kathmandu, the largest city of Nepal, is the political as well as cultural capital of the country. Kathmandu is a city where ancient traditions rub shoulders with the latest technological advances. However, it is the grandeur of the past that enchants the visitor whose gaze may linger on an exquisitely carved wooden window frame, an 18th century bronze sculpture or the spiritually uplifting stupas. Like any big city, Kathmandu has seen rapid expansion in the last decade, but despite the hustle and bustle so typical of metropolitan cities, its people remain as refreshingly friendly as ever. Retaining its ancient traditions, Kathmandu is blessed by a Living Goddess and is enriched by endless ceremonial processions and events that take to the streets every now and then with throngs of devotees seeking blessings. These religious festivals are steeped in legend and are quite a spectacle with chariot processions and masked dancers often possessed by the spirits of deities.
Kathmandu Valley comprises the three ancient cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, which were once independent states ruled by the Malla kings from the 12th to the 18th centuries. The three cities house has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Culture). The valley is also the home to hundreds of other exquisite monuments, sculptures, artistic temples and magnificent art – reminders of the golden era in Nepal’s architecture.The history shape Kathmandu as a huge lake surrounded by Verdant Mountain until one fine day, saint Manjushree, the Bodhisatva, raised a mighty sword and in one fell swoop, cut open the side of a mountain at a place now known as Chobar. The water in the lake was then all gone living behind a fertile land which turned into a valley with large urban settlement. The Gopala and Kirati dynasties were the earliest rulers here followed by the Licchavi (300-879 A.D.), under who flourished trade and crafts. But the valley’s remarkable cities with their the superbly crafted pagodas and the monumental stupas are testimony of the artistic genius of the Newar craftsmen who were the original inhabitants of the valley, whose skills were championed by the Malla kings and appreciated even by the Mongol rulers of 18th century China.
KATHMANDU DURBAR SQUARE (UNESCO World Heritage Site):
Situated in the heart of old Kathmandu city at Basantapur, Kathmandu Durbar Square never fails to impress first time visitors with its ensemble of palaces, courtyards and temples built during the Malla period. Kumari Ghar, the residence of the Living Goddess, Kumari; the Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace, the historic seat of the royalty; the magnificent Taleju Temple towering more than 40 meters; Ashok Vinayak, also called Kathmandu Ganesh, a temple without a filial ; and Kal Bhairav, the God of Wrath are the major highlights of Kathmandu Durbar Square. The name “Kathmandu” has emerged from the giant pagoda of Kasthamandap, which is said to have been built out of a single tree. Since the time of the Malla kings, the Durbar Square has been the city’s social, religious and political focal point.
The three-storey temple Believed to have been built in the 12th century, enshrines Akash Bhairav, a ferocious manifestation of Lord Shiva, with tiled roofs, a hanging balcony, gilded and latticed windows and an artistic doorway lies in the main market avenue called Indra Chowk.
The three-roofed building was constructed around the 12th century from the wood of single Sal tree. A center wooden enclosure houses the image of the god, which is noteworthy since Goraknath is usually represented only by a his footprints. In the corners of the building are three images of Ganesh.
Built with wood leftover from the Kasthamandap temple, this squat building was originally called the Silengu Sattal( silengu means ‘left over wood’ and a sattal means pilgrimage hostel) until the addition of the golden-winged singh (lions) that guard each corner of the upper floor.
On the northern side of Kasthamandap, at the top of Maru Tole, stands this tiny golden shrine. Its small size belies its importance, as this is one of the four most important Ganesh shrines in the valley. It’s uncertain how old the temple is, although the gilded roof was added in the 19th century.
This tole leads you away from durbar square down to the Vishnumati River, where a footbridge continues the pathway to Swayambhunath.
A pleasant half-hour can easily be spent soaking the up the atmosphere on the steps of this Shiva temple, especially at dawn and dusk. The temple dates from 1690 and was built by the mother of Bhaktapur’s king Bhuaptindra Malla. The temple has a Shiva lingam inside(phallic stone) inside.
Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple
Te other temple standing in the open area of the square is this small five-roofed temple just to the south. This powerful stone figure was a later addition, erected by King Prithvibendra Malla’s widow soon after his death.
Shiva-Parvati Temple is arranged in the external quadrangle of the Durbar square in Kathmandu, alongside Kasthamandap and Kumari Ghar. This is one of the numerous Hindu sanctuaries in Kathmandu devoted to Shiva and Parvati. Shiva, the divine force of pulverization and revival, is a major Hindu god. Parvati, the second partner of Shiva, is thought to be the preeminent Goddess. At the point when this few is portrayed together they both have generous structures.
Kumari Ghar is a royal residence in the core of the Kathmandu city, beside the Durbar square where a Royal Kumari is chosen from among a few Kumaris. Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the custom of worshiping youthful prepubescent young girls as indications of the divine female power or devi in South Asian nations. In Nepal the choosing process for her is extremely thorough. Kumari is accepted to be the real incarnation of the goddess Taleju (the Nepalese name for Durga) until she menstruates, after which it is accepted that the goddess empties her body. Genuine ailment or a significant loss of blood from a harm are likewise foundations for her to return to normal status. The current Royal Kumari, Matina Shakya, matured four, was introduced in October 2008 by the Maoist government that supplanted the government.
Kumari Chowk was constructed in the year 1757 by the King Jaya Prakash Malla. It was named after Kumari goddess that is recognized as an incarnation of Taleju goddess. The Kumari Chowk is a three-storied quadrangle sumptuously enriched with fine woodcarving. It is the spot where throngs of individuals take the most direct path to get the look of Kumari and get her heavenly endowments.
Jagannath Temple is the oldest established building in this piece of the Durbar Square, in Kathmandu. Jagannath Temple is generally known for the exotic embellishments cut on the top struts. King Pratap Malla is proclaimed to have created this sanctuary amid his rule; however the sanctuary could likewise have been constructed by king Mahendra in 1563. The sanctuary has two stories, a three-layered stage and three entryways, however only one of them opens.
Hanuman Dhoka is an intricate structure with the Royal Palace of the Malla kings and of the Shah tradition in the Durbar Square of focal Kathmandu, Nepal. It is spread in excess of five acres of land. The eastern wing with ten yards is the most ancient part dated to the mid sixteenth century. It was extended by King Pratap Malla in the seventeenth century with numerous sanctuaries. Sundari Chowk and Mohan Chowk in the north piece of the structure are both shut. In 1768, in the southeast piece of the castle, four lookout towers were included by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The regal family existed in this castle till 1886, where after they moved to Narayanhiti Palace. The stone engraving outside is in fifteen dialects and legend expresses that if all the 15 are read, milk would spring from the center of stone tablet.
Degu Taleju Temple
Degu Taleju Temple is an another triple roofed sanctuary created by Shiva Singh Malla that is likewise committed to Taleju. Mul Chowk, committed to Taleju Bhawani, is a yard with two-storied structures all round that are selected spots for religious rituals. Taleju Bhawani is the tutelary goddess of the Malla Dynasty. Taleju Temple with a golden torana (formal entryway) is found to the south side of the patio. Amid the Dasain celebration, the symbol of Taleju is moved to this sanctuary. The passageway to the sanctuary is flanked with pictures of the river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna.
Kakeshwar Temple was created in 1681. On the other hand, after the 1934 earthquake, the sanctuary was adversely affected and had to be repaired. The pitch of this sanctuary is a bizarre blend of structural styles - Newari style for the establishment, Indian shikhara style for the upper floors , kalasa(water vase) like tower on top of the sanctuary. Sadly, after the remaking, the building was mostly changed.
Tana Deval Temple
Tana Deval Temple is arranged before the prevalent Taleju Temple. It is encompassed by a divider that differentiates the Tana Deval Temple from the Durbar Square. In the courtyard, past huge columns of stalls, you can see the consecrated building. It has various entryways and struts on which the Mother Goddesses - Ashta Matrikas – are cut. Likewise, in the court you have the opportunity to buy brilliantly shaded Tibetan thangkas
Asan has been one of the city's main marketplaces since ancient times. The trade route is diagonally aligned, and the section within the city extends from Kathmandu Durbar Square to Asan and to the northeast. At Asan, there are six roads radiating in all directions. The three-storied pagoda style Annapurna Temple of Annapurna, the Goddess of Grains, presides over the ever-lively bazaar. Asan is still an important shopping center and one of the busiest market places with shops selling anything from imported spices to kitchenware, fresh vegetables, Chinese goods, hardware and clothes.
SWAYAMBHUNATH STUPA (UNESCO World Heritage Site):
Stupa of Swayambhunath is a Buddhist stupa on the western edge of Kathmandu. It sits on a site where 2500 years ago the legendary patriarch Manjushri found a lotus on an ancient valley lake. Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple, due to the numerous macaques that roam the temple grounds. Swayambhunath has been an important Buddhist learning centre for centuries. On the four sides of the stupa are the famous painted eyes of the Buddha gazing in the four directions. This stupa is the oldest of its kind in Nepal and has numerous shrines and monasteries on its premises.
PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE (UNESCO World Heritage Site):
The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous 5th century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Pashupati). The temple as it stands today was built in the 19th century, although the image of the bull and the black four-headed image of Pashupati are at least 300 years old. Situated 5 km east of Kathmandu, the temple of Lord Shiva is considered one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world. The two-tiered pagoda with golden roofs and silver doors houses the sacred linga, or phallic symbol, of Lord Shiva. Chronicles indicate the temple existed before 400 A.D. Along with the main temple, there are numerous temples dedicated to different gods and goddesses in and around the Pashupatinath temple area. The temple situated at the banks of consecrated (holy) Bagmati River is the hot spot for Hindus where millions of pilgrims come to pay deep respect to Lord Shiva every year. Near the Pashupatinath Temple on the banks of the Bagmati River lies Guheswari, where, according to mythology, a portion of Sati Devi, Lord Shiva’s consort, fell when a grief-stricken Shiva wandered aimlessly across the earth carrying her dead body on his shoulders following her self-immolation.
BOUDDHANATH STUPA (UNESCO World Heritage Site):
The Boudhanath, is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal, along with Swayambhu. It is a very popular tourist site. The base of the stupa has 108 small depictions of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha. It is surrounded with a brick wall with 147 niches, each with four or five prayer wheels engraved with the mantra, om mani padme hum. Situated 8 km to the east of downtown Kathmandu, Bauddhanath is one of the most imposing landmarks in Kathmandu, visible as soon as you land at the Tribhuvan International Airport. It is the largest stupa in the Kathmandu Valley and is the center of Tibetan Buddhism.
Three kilometers north-west of Kathmandu lies the Balaju Garden, a quiet park ideal for relaxation just below the Nargarjun hill. The park has a line of 22 stone water spouts built in the 18th century, each of which has an ornately carved crocodile head. During an annual festival, people come here to take a ritual bath. It consists of a sprawling garden of stone water spouts, fish ponds, and a replica of the statue of Budhanilkantha specifically for the royal family who were barred from visiting the real one. Above Balaju lies the Nagarjun forest (5 km northwest of Kathmandu). The summit (2,096 m) is a two-hour walk, from where great views of the Kathmandu Valley and a number of Himalayan peaks can be had. There is a Buddhist stupa and a view tower on the summit.
Thamel is the heart of Nepal's tourism. It is the place where tourist get everything they want. It is a colourful and beautiful mixture of craft shops, boutique cafes, trekking gear, and rainbow prayer flags.As the tourist district of Kathmandu, Thamel bustles with activity late into the night. It is a mere10-minute walk from the center of Kathmandu, yet completely different from the rest of the city. Thamel caters entirely to tourists with its scores of hotels, rows of restaurants and bars, book shops, inviting souvenir shops, cyber cafes and travel agencies. All that a tourist needs can be found here, even friends and traveling companions.
The soaring landmark of Kathmandu, the Dharahara tower is 50.5 m high and was built by then Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa in 1832. It is open to anyone who can go up after paying the entrance fee. The 360 degree striking view of the Kathmandu Valley is worth watching from the top.
GARDEN OF DREAMS:
At the entrance of Thamel, the Garden of Dreams within the Kaiser Mahal complex has now been renovated and restored to its former glory. It is a 24-acre garden include neo-classical pavilions, fountains, decorative garden furniture, Chinese Moon Gate and European inspired features such as pergolas, balustrades, urns and birdhouses. Today it is open to the public with a restaurant and bar.
The temple of Budhanilkantha also known as temple of sleeping Vishnu has the largest of Vishnu’s stone statues, Budhanikantha lies at the foothills of the Shivapuri hills, 8 km north of the Kathmandu city center. The large granite figure of Lord Vishnu sleeping on a bed of serpents known as ‘Sesnagas’, seems to float in a pond. This shrine dates back to the 5th century. It is believed that members of the Royal Family never visit the temple.
It is situated on a hill 8 km southwest of Kathmandu. The ancient Newar township - with its brick-paved streets lined with typical red brick houses and tiled roofs, and temple squares - is a natural fortress. The Chilamchu stupa and the temple of Bagh Bhairav are major attractions here. Tribhuvan University, Nepal’s premier seat of education, Tribhuwan University is located at the foothills of Kirtpur.
Pharping is 18 km south of Kathmandu on the valley ridge. Pharping is perched on a hilltop with a Buddhist monastery. The old village, 17th-century temple which houses a glided image of Goddess Bajra Jogini is the major attraction. Other fascinating sights here include a cave and a hand-imprint of the Buddhist saint Padmasambhav on the rock face over its entrance.
Dakshinkali is 4 kilometers further south of Pharping on the valley ridge. The temple of Dakshinkali is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. On Tuesdays and Saturdays animal sacrifices are offered to the deity and the temple remain crowed.On the way lies Chobhar gorge. The Bodhisatva Manjushree is said to have cut an incision here to drain out the lake which once covered the valley. There is a small but picturesque temple of Adinath on the top of a hill from where one can have a panoramic view of the snow-capped mountains.
The temple of Shesha Narayan is situated between Chobhar and Dakshinkali. The temple of Shesha Narayan represents one of the four Narayans of the Kathmandu Valley. The other three Narayans are Changu Narayan of Bhaktapur, Visankhu Narayan of Patan and Ichanku Narayan of Kathmandu.
Bhaktapur or Bhadgaon, literally the City of Devotees, is a major tourist destination that takes visitors back in time. Bhaktapur lies 12 km to the east of Kathmandu, at an altitude of 1,401 m on the Arniko Highway that leads to the Chinese border. Covering an area of 6.4 sq. km, Bhaktapur is still untouched by rapid urbanisation and has managed to retain its brickpaved roads, charming red brick houses and a way of life that goes back to medieval times. This ancient city is also famous for pottery and woodcarving amply displayed on the squares and windows respectively.
BHAKTAPUR DURBAR SQUARE (UNESCO World Heritage Site):
Among the three durbar squares, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square is by far the most elegant with its large open space facing south.As you walk in you overcome by a feeling of inner harmony. The 15th century Palace of 55 Carved Windows and the palace entrance, the Golden Gate - a masterpiece in repousse art - have added splendour to this palace square which consists of buildings dating from the 13th century to the 18th century. The extraordinary Durbar Square with its extraordinary monuments reflects the glory days of the Malla dynasty when art and architecture thrived in the three cities of the valley. In front of the palace building are innumerable temples and architectural showpieces like the Lion Gate, the statue of King Bhupatindra Malla mounted on a giant stone pillar and the Batsala Temple. The stone temple of Batsala Devi is full of intricate carvings and is a beautiful example of Shikhara-style architecture. There is a bronze bell on the terrace of the temple, which is also known as the Bell of Barking Dogs. Erected by King Ranjit Malla in 1737, its sounding announced the beginning and end of a daily curfew.
Taumadhi Square lies to the east of Durbar Square reached by a narrow brick-paved lane. The towering five-roofed Nyatapol temple presides over the square.The unique temple of Bhaktapur, the Nyatapola literally means ‘five storied’ and rises above the city’s landscape as a remarkable landmark. It also has the distinction of having withstood the devastating earthquake of 1933.
Dedicated to Bhairav, the God of Terror, the three-storied temple of Bhairavnath has only the head of Bhairav in the inner sanctum. Legend has it that the Bhairav’s head was cut off by a tantric expert in order to keep him in Bhaktapur. Built in pagoda style, the temple is noted for its artistic grandeur and stands adjacent to the famous five-storied Nyatapola Temple.
This temple is believed to be built from the trunk of a single tree. It takes its name from the Dattatreya Temple dedicated to a three-headed combination of the Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Near this temple is a monastery with exquisitely carved peacock windows.
Siddha Pokhari, which dates back to the Lichhavi period, is situated at the bus stop. Though situated right at the bus stop, it provides a serene atmosphere with its sashaying fish and the stone images of different Hindu and Buddhist Gods.
Thimi (population 48,000) is a farming town situated 8 km east of Kathmandu on the way to Bhaktapur.It is a Newar town on the way to Bhaktapur. Besides farming, most of the households here are engaged in pottery. It can be called a traditional pottery locality with almost 80% of the population still involved in pottery. Handspun cotton cloth is another Thimi specialty. Balkumari Temple, dedicated to the Mother Goddess, and Karunamaya, the Buddha of Compassion are the major attraction.
The temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesh. Surya Binayak is situated in a thick forest to the south of Bhaktapur. The temple of Surya Binayak is also known as the temple of Rising Su. It is believed that Lord Ganesh shrine in every part of the temple. It is a 20-minute walk from the bus stop. The temple is crowded with devotees especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
CHANGU NARAYAN TEMPLE (World Heritage Monument):
Changu Narayan Temple is the oldest pagoda style temple in Nepal built sometime back in 323 A.D It is situated on Bhaktapur, about 12 km to the east of Kathmandu. Dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it is one of the oldest demonstrations of pagoda architecture in the valley. The temple dating from the Lichhavi period is enriched with the beauty of the magnificent wood and stone carvings.
The city of Patan is believed to have been built in the third century B.C. by the Kirat dynasty. It was expanded by Lichhavis in the 6th century A.D. and again by the Mallas in medieval period. The Malla kings ruled the Kathmandu Valley until the ascension of the Shah dynasty. In 1768, King Prithvi Narayan Shah began his campaign to unify Nepal and Patan became a city in the kingdom of Nepal. Located about 5 km south of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, on the southern side of the Bagmati River, Patan is one of 3 royal cities in the valley. Patan, also known as ‘Lalitpur’ is home to the valley’s finest craftsmen who have preserved such ancient techniques as the repoussé and lost wax process used to produce magnificent sculptures. The city retains much of the old charm with its narrow streets. Patan is filled with wood and stone carvings, metal statues, ornate architecture, including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and over 1200 monuments.
PATAN DURBAR SQUARE (UNESCO World Heritage Site):
Patan Durbar Square is located in the heart of the city and was once the palace of the kings of Patan. Patan Durbar Square is situated at the centre of lalitpur city. One of its attractions is The Ancient Royal Palace where Malla Kings of lalitpur resided. The Durbar Square is a marvel of Newa architecture. The Square floor is tiled with red bricks. There are many temples and idols in the area. The main temples are aligned opposite of the western face of the palace. The entrance of the temples faces east, towards the palace. There is also a bell situated in the alignment beside the main temples. The Square also holds old Newari residential houses. There are various other temples and structures in and around Patan Durbar Square build by the Newa People. One remarkable monument here is a 17th century temple dedicated to the Hindu God Krishna – Krishna Mandir built entirely of stone with rare stone carvings on its walls depicting the epic wars from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Other attractions are the renovated Keshav Narayan Chowk has been converted into a bronze artifact museum, The Sundari Chowk with the sunken bath of Tusha Hiti is a showcase of exquisite woodcarvings, and stone and metal sculptures, the Manga Hiti, and the sunken stone water spout.
MAHABOUDDHA:Mahabouddha, an exceptional Buddhist monument of exquisite terra cotta art form lies at the east of Patan Durbar Square. On this 14th-century architectural masterpiece are engraved thousands of images of Lord Buddha.
Also known as rudra varna mahavihar, it is situated a few steps past Mahabouddha and contains an amazing collection of images and statues in metal, stone and wood. The stone-paved courtyard is enclosed by a two-story building with gilded roofs. The kings in ancient times were believed to have been crowned in this monastery. Many of the treasures offered by devotees can be seen here even today.
Dating from the 12th century, the three-storied shrine, also known as the Golden Temple, houses an image of the Buddha inside the courtyard or Kwa Bahal. The monastery is known for its exceptionally fine wood-carvings and repousse work. It is a five-minute walk west and north from the northern end of Durbar Square. Artistic images are scattered around the courtyard, and devotees can be seen offering worship at the many shrines here.
The only five-storied pagoda in Patan, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the only three surviving five-storey temples in the country. A natural spring within the courtyard of this temple built in 1392 is said to have its source in the glacial lake of Gosainkunda in northern Kathmandu. A large gathering of devotees arrive here for a ritual bath on the day of Janaipurnima, scared thread festival of Hindu in August.
The Jagat Narayan Temple is on the banks of the Bagmati River at Sankhamul and is a tall shikhara-style temple consecrated to Lord Vishnu. Built of red bricks, the temple has many fine images. An attractive metal statue of Garuda mounted on a stone monolith is accompanied by several images of Ganesh and Hanuman.
There are four stupas, supposed to have been built by Emperor Ashoka of India in 250 BC, marking the four corners of Patan. They are situated at Pulchowk, Lagankhel, Ibahi and in Teta (way to Sano Gaon) respectively. At the time they were built, Buddhism was flourishing in the Kathmandu Valley.
TIBETAN REFUGEE CAMP:
The camp on the outskirts of Patan is a tourist attraction with its souvenir shops that sell hand-woven woolen carpets and handicrafts. The camp also houses a stupa and a number of shrines.
- Kathmandu Valley is blessed by a temperate climate.
- The temperature does not exceed 34ºC even during the scorching summer months and does not drop below 3ºC in winter.