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Bhaktapur Durbar Square

- Tour & Sightseeing


Bhaktapur, the “Ancient city of Asia” was previously known as “Bhatgaon”. “Bhat” means rice and “gaon” means village. Since the occupation of the natives were agriculture and rice was cultivated in a large percentage the place was so called as Bhatgaon. These days Bhatgaon has been replaced by Bhaktapur which literally means the “city of devotees”. “Bhakta” means devotee and “pur” means place or city. Bhaktapur is shaped like a “conch-shell” and is surrounded all over by Hanumanthe River. It is a small city within an area of 6.88 sq. km which lies 14 km east of Kathmandu. It is the linking city between Kathmandu and Nagarkot and Kathmandu and Changu Narayan. One can enter the city through many places. The main entrance is from the gate located near the parking area of the city. At the entrance, there are ancient water spouts and shelters which were originally designed for the traders in ancient days. On the way to the main city, there is a small temple built in a Fig tree. Fig is a rare tree which is not found in every part of the world. The specialty of this tree is it never dies, but these days they are being less in numbers. So it’s a good thing that one can still see these rare trees in Nepal and inside the Kathmandu Valley Itself.

Bhaktapur was founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Dev Malla and was designed in a form of a courtyard. The city was surrounded with tall walls so it is also called as “Walled city”. The basic purpose of building up walls was to protect the citizens and the city from enemies and intruders. When the city was planned, it was designed in a religious way. Eight Mother Goddesses - Asta Matrika were installed on eight geometrical corners of the city for the divine protection.

Bhaktapur is renowned for its unique traditions, colorful culture, fabulous festivals, stupendous arts and architecture and typical Newari lifestyle. Despite of continual invasions and natural calamity of 1934, Bhaktapur is still rich in arts on account of its majestic temples, monasteries and alluring palaces. The major population inside the city is of Newar community and a very less inhabited by the Bahun, Chettris and Shudra. The typical occupation of the people are Pottery making, weaving and farming which are still practiced in the same old manner passed through the generations since medieval eras.

The major attraction of Bhaktapur is the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It is an incredible and beautiful example of Nepali craftsmanship. The main entrance to the Durbar Square is from the Lion Gate, which was built during the reign of King Bhuptindra Malla. The precincts of the Durbar Square is more spacious and less crowded with temples. Once the precincts of the square were massed with numbers of temples, but the great earthquake of 1934 destroyed most of the temples, monuments and even the 99courtyards of the Royal Palace. Near the Lion Gate, there are marvelous temples of Lord Rameshwor, Lord Badrinath, Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva. The major attractions of the square are the Royal Palace, the Palace with 55 windows and the Golden Gate carved with the images of Goddess Durga. These artifacts are the incredible examples of ancient architecture. Infront of the palace with 55 windows and the Golden gate, there is a statue of King Bhuptindra Malla in the act of worshipping, which is mounted on a stone pillar. This is one of the finest example of arts and sculptures of Nepal. The Golden Gate is the main entrance to the Palace with 55 windows, a three-storied edifice built during the reign of King Bhuptindra Malla with mind-blowing beautiful carved windows. The walls are decorated with terracotta pattern and the top story is surrounded by carved wooden balcony. The building displays the skills in carpentry and wood –carving.

The Royal Palace of Bhaktapur was built approximately 600 years ago by King Yakcha Malla with altogether 99 courtyards. But the disastrous incident of 1934 badly damaged this site. Though the palace was renovated it could not exactly match up with the original design. But still the Palace looks very beautiful embracing its ancient artistic jewels. Now there are only 7 courtyards in the palace premises and the palace has been transformed into a school for the local children.

Other main attractions of the Square are Mul Chowk, Taleju Chowk, Kumari Bahal, Sundari Chowk, Kamal Pokhari – the Royal Bath, Chyasilin Mandap, Siddhi Lakshmi Temple, Fasidega Temple, Pashupati temple – replica of original Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu and is one of the oldest temples of the valley, Taduchen Bahal – oldest monastery which has now been converted into a series a shops, Terracotta temple, Yakchashwore temple, Golden spout, Chardham, Stone temple of Batsala devi, Bell of Barking Dogs.

Chardham is believed to be the great pilgrimage for Hindus. People visit Chardham to preach their sins, but the Chardham was only in India and due to transportation problem it was difficult to go to India to pay a visit to the deities. So the clever King built the Chardham here itself.

The stone temple of Batsala devi is built on a square base whereas every temple of Durbar Square is built perfectly on rectangular bases. It is a beautiful temple surmounted by the carvings. Infront of the temple, we can see a huge bell called Taleju Bell. This bell was rung to worship the goddess and was even rung in ancient days to announce the curfew. A bell is erected in the plinth of the temple, which is popularly known as the Bell of barking dogs or Khicha Khwon Gawn in Newari language. According to the natives whenever this bell was tolled the local dogs started barking. Nowadays the bell is chained and locked.

The other attractions of Bhaktapur are Pottery Square, Dattatraya Square and Nyatapola Square. As pottery is one of the main occupations of the Bhaktapurians, there is a “Pottery Square” in the city. This courtyard is also famous as “Pottery Courtyard”. One can observe the potters working with clay with the aid of the wheels to make beautiful mud pots. Pot making is an interesting art. In ancient days, the locals used to make pots and visit mountains for trading. Tourism basically developed in Bhaktapur because of trade. Shelters known as Pati according to the local dialect and waterspouts were built for traders since there was no accommodation system as hotels and lodges during those days. People used to leave certain space at the ground floor for lodging purpose so that the locals could promote their trade. The same pattern could be observed at present too but people use these spaces for their own household purposes. The master plan of this courtyard was designed some 800 years ago but one can still see people practicing the same old plan. There are two temples in potter’s square; Vishnu temple and Jeth Ganesh temple.

Bhaktapur city was designed in a religious way. The alleys were designed in a form of a circle and the stone paved road was designed to lead the way to the religious places. Following this way you can reach to different temples of Bhaktapur and can even observe the housing plan of Bhaktapur. Tall houses are built inside the city and small houses upto 2 storied are built outside the city. There are two reasons behind this;

1. the citizens were reorganized according to the caste system on the basis of their jobs by King Jayasthiti Malla. The lower caste people were secluded and were commanded to live outside the town whereas the high caste people were allowed to live inside the town and were even allowed to build tall houses.
2. the other reason was the King wanted sunlight to reach all houses. Therefore, the houses were built in a zigzag way, which let all houses to face the sunlight. The small houses outside the city didn't’t opaque the sunrays. This zigzag system had another significance too. It let every house to observe the festival or activities going in the city that passed making its way through them.

The system can be seen today also which makes you feel that you are still in the medieval era. The major community is of Hindus however, few Muslims and Buddhists also reside in the city revealing unique example of different ethnic group living hand-in-hand though possessing different religion, origin and cultures. Thus, one can find few Masjit or Mosques and statues of Lord Buddha in the vicinity of Bhaktapur.

In accordance with the history, Muslims were actually invited by King Ratna Malla since Muslims used to manufacture glass bangles and beads known as Pote in Nepali language. Bangles and Pote are the auspicious accessories of a married Hindu woman and these are the important accessories used in the wedding ceremony. It is believed that if the wife puts on Sindoor, an auspicious vermilion powder (only used by married women), wears glass bangles and pote, it will keep her husband healthy and live longer.

Bhaktapur has many ancient artifacts and the city system or the lifestyle of the natives is still conventional. Thus, this city will teach you many important aspects of Nepalese history. Temples, monuments, palaces, manmade ponds or reservoirs etc all possessing historical significance.

There are many manmade ponds or the reservoirs in Bhaktapur. These were constructed for water supply purposes especially drinking and drainage purpose so that people did not have to go farther to bring water as there was no water supply to individual houses as on these days. Another reason was as all the houses were made up of woods or woods were massively used while building a house and perhaps they could catch fire very easily, so in order to protect the houses from fire these reservoirs were made. Altogether there are twelve ponds in the city. The city plan was total, complete and perfectly independent though it was made on the remote days. One of the ponds’ name is Nyatapola pokhari or Mirror pond as the image of Nyatapola temple is clearly reflected on the water of the pond. These ponds are still used by the locals though water supply is provided in most of the houses.

Another stupendous product of Bhaktapur city is the ‘Peacock Window’, the most well known wood carving of Nepal. It is placed in the Pujari Math, which was built by King Yakcha Malla. The Peacock Window was presented to our King and Queen as a wedding gift by the Germans in 1973 during the inauguration function of ‘Renovation project of Pujari Math’. The Pujari Math has been now converted into National Museum of wood carving.
The road down the Pujari Math leads towards an old temple of Lord Vishnu named as Adka Narayan temple. ‘Adka’ means trapped. The sculpture of Lord Vishnu is actually placed as if the deity was trapped. This temple bears a historical importance, as it is approximately 600 years old. In the precincts of the temple you can see old ladies making cotton threads out of bulk cotton with the aid of wooden wheels. With these cotton threads they prepare wicks – dhup or batti in Nepali, which is used for worshipping the deities. The Adka Narayan temple lies outside the main town.

The road down the Pujari Math leads towards an old temple of Lord Vishnu named as Adka Narayan temple. ‘Adka’ means trapped. The sculpture of Lord Vishnu is actually placed as if the deity was trapped. This temple bears a historical importance, as it is approximately 600 years old. In the precincts of the temple you can see old ladies making cotton threads out of bulk cotton with the aid of wooden wheels. With these cotton threads they prepare wicks – dhup or batti in Nepali, which is used for worshipping the deities. The Adka Narayan temple lies outside the main town.

Following the road ahead of Adka Narayan, you can march to Dattatraya Square, which lies in Tachupal tole. The square is named after Dattatraya temple. It is a 600 years old temple designed in pagoda style. The pillars and struts of the temple are made up of wood and bear beautiful carvings. At the main entrance of the temple there are two identical statues of wrestlers who are called as temple guardians. In front of the temple, a figure of Garuda is mounted on a column in the act of worshipping the god. You can see the statue of Dattatraya viewing outside from the temple’s first floor’s window. It is said that Dattatraya is a tantrik – black magician and he is the son of Lord Vishnu and Shiva. In the periphery of Dattatraya Square, there are other monasteries, replica of peacock window, Bhimsen temple and a platform. All the temples are built on perfectly rectangular bases, however, the Bhimsen temple does not have a rectangular base. It is said that Bhimsen is not a god rather a human being, therefore, his statue is placed in the first floor of the temple whereas the other statues of other gods are installed in the ground floor itself.

The right side of the Bhimsen temple leads to the main street or the highway of the city. On the way to the main city, there is a temple known as Nhasa Dya meaning “God of Music”. As music does not possess any shape and size, as it is intangible, the temple does not bear any statue representing the god rather it has three holes resembling the gods, as music also comes from hollow objects. Bhaktapur is famous for its traditional dances and typical Newari music – the precious Nepalese culture and wonders for the tourists.

Following the street negotiating through the Nhasa Dya temple, you can reach the Bhairav temple located in the Taumadhi tole. This is a three storied, pagoda styled, 400 years old temple, yet another fine example of Nepali architecture and artistic grandeur, which was rebuilt after the destruction caused by the 1934’s earthquake. It has carved golden windows that make the temple even more beautiful.

The other tremendous creation of the Nepalese craftsmen and ancient architects in this area is the Nyatapola temple. ‘Nyata’ means five in Newari, so this literally means that the temple is five-storied pagoda styled edifice built on a tall platform. This is the tallest temple of Kathmandu Valley that stands 30m from its plinth. The pillars and the struts of the temples are constructed from the carved woods. Along the sides of the stairway, there are identical stone statues of men holding their weapons, elephants, lions and griffins. These are the temple guardians. It is said that each temple guardian is ten times stronger than the preceding ones and the goddess inside the temple is 100 times stronger than them. This temple is dedicated to goddess Laxmi – Goddess of Wealth. Small bells are affixed at the edges of the roofs, which tinkle when moved by the soft wind. Nyatapola is the only temple, which withstood the damages caused by the earthquake of 1934. It faced only minor damages whereas many monasteries, temples, monuments and palaces were completely destroyed. Nyatapola temple is very famous for its incredible workmanship.

Bhaktapur consists museums too. There are three museums in Bhaktapur viz; the National Bronze Museum that lies within the premises of Durbar Square, the National Art Gallery that is located in the Palace with 55 windows and the National Wood Carving Museum that is located in Pujari Math within the precincts of the Dattatraya Square

The temples, monuments, monasteries, spouts are so well maintained in Bhaktapur that it will make you feel that you are in the medieval times itself. The sculptures, arts and the architecture bear the artistic philosophy and are the great embellishment of the sumptuous workmanship and craftsmanship. The locales still following the traditions and cultures passed through generations. You can even notice that most of the people still wear the typical Newari dress; women wear Haku patasi (Black saree with red border, typical Newari attire) and men wear Daura suruwal, which reflects the charm of Newari tradition, costumes and culture. Bhaktapur, a world heritage site is as an atavistic city, which is a living example of the superior art and crafts, subtle workmanship, fine architecture and beautiful history and culture.

Namobhudda, which lies between Banepa and Panauti, southeast of Kathmandu, is a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site as wall as favorite stopover for trekkers. It is a three hours trekking from Dhulikhel through number of small villages. Rows of Buddhist Stupa adorned with fluttering prayer flags are there to soothe both devotes and trekkers. There is as imaging story concerned with the Buddha, which is commemorated by an ancient stone slab and a Stupa with all seeing eyes. The carved image on the slab portrays a popular legend that Lord Buddha in his previous incarnation allowed himself to be devoured by a starving tigers to save her and her cubs from starving to death.




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