Kathmandu Durbar Square. The place which has witnessed and received one king after the other as they sat and ruled over Nepal a long time ago, where new rulers were crowned while the steady beats of drums and trumpets filled the place. The regal Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of the three durbar squares in the country. Till date, the place remains the most remarkable legacy of Kathmandu's traditional architecture. The magnificent Durbar Square has often been referred to as the heart that houses all the traditions of the old town of Kathmandu and for a good reason. Even though the unfortunate earthquake of 2015 took its toll on the building and around half a dozen places within the premises collapsed, it has still retained its original glory. Three squares which are loosely connected make up the Durbar Square area.
While the southern part of the complex houses the open Basantapur Square area, the main Durbar square area occupies the western portion. For many years, the former used to be a stable which housed royal elephants. Today, it is a site which houses souvenir stalls. In the northeast part of the complex runs the second part of the square. In this area, the entrance to the glorious Hanuman Dhoka Complex is planted, with a beautiful assortment of temples nestled behind it. The place is an active walkway which connects many streets together for the general public. Even though the durbar is no longer used for coronations, it is thronged by people during festivals like Dashain, Indra Jatra, Machhindranath Jatra, and Gaijatra. The entire Durbar Square complex was gazetted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
The Kathmandu Durbar Square used to be a ruling ground for the Malla Kings, who were the first monarchs to rule over Kathmandu after its independence. Later, it was favoured as a royal palace by Prithvi Narayan Shah, who had invaded the valley of Kathmandu as early as 1769. Following this, other subsequent Shah Kings, after succession, continued to rule over the country until 1896. Even though there is no written archival record which states the historical past of the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the construction of this palatial space has been attributed to the famed Sankharadev. It is believed that Ratna Malla, the first king of the independent city, had constructed the three-roofed Taleju Temple in the northern portion of the complex. The other temples within the premises that have been credited to him are the ones devoted to Kotilingeshwara, Jagannath, Mahendreswara, and Mahadev. At present, the Kathmandu Durbar Square still exhibits a wondrous, ancient atmosphere that spreads across five acres of flat land. With ponds encompassed by palaces, quadrangle courtyards, and temples housing antique paintings, the square complex is truly a gem in Nepal's bejewelled crown.
The Kathmandu Durbar square is renowned as a major tourist attraction for several reasons. The sheer beauty of this place is enhanced by the beauteous places of worship and the sprawling courtyards. The place has witnessed many coronation ceremonies and holds a rich historical significance. Out of the several attractions housed within the square complex, a few are noted below.
The holy sanctuary built by King Ratna Malla stands at a soaring height of 36.6 metres and is a shrine devoted to the Goddess Taleju Bhawani. A resplendent statue of the deity with four heads and ten arms adorns the centre of the temple while intricate metal work elevates the charm of the place. Located inside the temple is a sanctum for the Kumari, the living Goddess in Nepal.
Constructed under the rule of the revered Pratap Malla, the octagonal Krishna Temple is solely devoted to Lord Krishna. It is said that this place of worship was built as a tribute to two of his late rulers. Beautiful pictures of Lord Krishna and two goddesses, who are believed to be his spouses, adorn the walls of this temple.
The five-roofed sanctuary within the complex is devoted to Lord Vishnu. With ancient paintings and images of the deity adorning the walls of the temple, the holy sanctum emits a supernatural aura which draws in many devotees.
According to ancient mythology, Kalbhairav is a fearful incarnation of Lord Shiva. Standing in a grand and majestic form within the Durbar Square complex, the deity receives several visitors throughout the year.
What may be considered as the prime attraction of the Kathmandu Durbar Square is the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex which houses a museum within it. Being used as a royal palace until 1886, the complex at present attracts hundreds of locals and tourists alike. This tourist spot offers an insight into the architectural style and the culture that was prevalent in ancient Nepal. The museum is a wonderful repository of the artefacts belonging to the Malla dynasty. In addition to it, this place is also home to the story of the unification of Nepal under the reign of Prithvi Narayan Shah.
Apart from these holy sanctums, the Kathmandu Durbar Square Complex is also home to other major attractions including Kasthamandap, Kumari Bahal, Gaddi Baithak, Kotilingeshwara Mahadev Temple, Maru Ganesh, Shiva Parvati Temple and Bhagwati Temple.
After a devastating earthquake hit Nepal on the 25th of April, 2015, a massive chunk of the southern section of the Durbar Square was torn down, and physical cracks and crevices became prominent in the buildings that remained intact. Previously, the Kathmandu Durbar Square had fallen victim to a massive earthquake in 1934. However, immediate forces were set for renovating the complex, and it was transformed into its magnificent form once again in no time. After the 2015 earthquake, the renovation measures have not been up to the mark as yet. The Kathmandu Durbar Square is not only a historical monument but the pride of the country, and to make sure that it continues to be the centre of admiration and pride for the next generations, the concerned authorities must take necessary steps immediately.
The Kathmandu Durbar Square was and still is the focal point of the rich history of Nepal not only in terms of cultural heritage but also with respect to religion, sovereignty, pride, and economics. Even though natural calamities have affected the appearance of the buildings within the complex, the place remains a major tourist attraction due to its regal ambience.
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