Kathmandu Durbar Square is the main center for temples and palaces in Kathmandu. It was the seat of the king of Nepal. Kathmandu Durbar Square is part of the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an absolute 'must-see' in Nepal.

The palaces in Kathmandu Durbar Square date back to the 10th century CE. It was the residence of the Malla kings of Kathmandu. When Prithvi Narayan Shah invaded the Kathmandu Valley in 1769, he also favored the Kathmandu Durbar Square for his palace. Other subsequent Shah kings continued to rule from the square until 1896 when they moved to the Narayan Hiti Palace. However, the square is still the center of important royal events like the coronation of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001.

The oldest temples in the square are those built by Mahendra Malla (1560-1574). They are the temples of Jagannath, Kotilingeswara Mahadev, Mahendreshwara, and the Taleju Temple. This three-roofed Taleju Temple was established in 1564, in a typical Newari architectural style and is elevated on platforms that form a pyramid-like structure. It is said that Mahendra Malla, when he was residing in Bhaktapur, was highly devoted to the Taleju Temple there; the Goddess being pleased with his devotion gave him a vision asking him to build a temple for her in the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Then with a help of a hermit, he designed the temple to give it its present form and the Goddess entered the temple in the form of a bee.

Around 1692, Radhilasmi, the widowed queen of Pratap Malla, erected the tall temples of Shiva known as Maju Deval near the Garuda image in the square. This temple stands on nine stepped platforms and is one of the tallest buildings in the square.

Jaya Prakash Malla, the last Malla king to rule Kathmandu, built a temple for Kumari, Durga in her virginal state. The temple was named Kumari Bahal. In this house resides the Kumari, an immature girl who is revered as the living Goddess. He also made a chariot for Kumari and in the courtyard had detailed terra cotta tiles of that time laid down.

During the Shah dynasty that followed, the Kathmandu Durbar Square saw a number of changes. Two of the most unique temples in the square were built during this time. One is the Nautale, a nine storied building known as Vasantapur Durbar. It has four roofs and stands at the end of Nasal Chok at the East side of the palace. It is said that this building was set as a pleasure house. The lower three stories were made in the Newari farmhouse style. The upper floors have Newari style windows, sanjhya and tikijhya, and some of them are slightly projected from the wall. The other temple is annexed to the Vasantapur Durbar and has four-stories. This building was initially known as Vilasamandira, or Lohom Chok, but is now commonly known as Basantapur or Tejarat Chok. The lower floors of the Basantapur Chok display extensive woodcarvings and the roofs are made in popular the Mughal style. Archives state that Prthivi Narayan Shah built these two buildings in 1770.

In 1908, a palace, Gaddi Durbar, was built using European architectural designs. The Rana Prime Ministers who had taken over the power but not the throne of the country from the Shahs Kings from 1846 to 1951 were highly influenced by European styles.

One unusual custom is the Kumari, the living Goddess. The Kumari is thought to be an incarnation of Durga (Parvati). She is a pre-pubescent girl. She is selected by priests when she is 3-4 years old. Once she starts menstruating, a new Kumari is selected.

Eligible girls are Buddhists from the Newar Shakya caste (the clan to which the Buddha belonged) of silver and goldsmiths. She must be in excellent health, never have shed blood or been afflicted by any diseases, be without blemish and must not have yet lost any teeth. Girls who pass these basic eligibility requirements are examined for the battis lakshanas, or 'thirty-two perfections' of a Goddess. Some of these are poetically listed as such:

A neck like a conch shell
A body like a banyan tree
Eyelashes like a cow
Thighs like a deer
Chest like a lion
Voice soft and clear as a duck's

In addition to this, her hair and eyes should be very black, she should have dainty hands and feet, small and well-recessed sexual organs and a set of twenty teeth.

The girl is also observed for signs of serenity and fearlessness (after all, she is to be the vessel of the fierce Goddess Durga) and her horoscope is examined to ensure that it is complementary to the King's. It is important that there not be any conflicts as she must confirm the King's legitimacy each year of her divinity. Her family is also scrutinized to ensure its piety and devotion to the King.

Once the priests have chosen a candidate, she must undergo yet more rigorous tests to ensure that she indeed possesses the qualities necessary to be the living vessel of Durga. Her greatest test comes during the Hindu festival of Dashain. On the kalratri, or 'black night', 108 buffaloes and goats are sacrificed to the Goddess Kali. The young candidate is taken into the Taleju temple and released into the courtyard, where the severed heads of the animals are illuminated by candlelight and masked men are dancing about. If the candidate truly possesses the qualities of Taleju, she shows no fear during this experience. If she does, another candidate is brought in to attempt the same thing.

As a final test, the living Goddess must spend a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear. The fearless candidate has proven that she has the serenity and the fearlessness that typifies the Goddess who is to inhabit her. After passing all other tests, the final test is that she must be able to pick out

The Kumari not allowed to go outside by herself. She is shown only infrequently. I was there for one of the rare appearances. When she is shown, she sits in here room, and the window is opened for maybe a minute. 14 times per year she is paraded outside, carried in a chariot.

This custom has been in place since the 18th century.

One interesting part of the architecture around Kathmandu are the temples with erotic statues. There are two that I visited around Kathmandu Durbar Square.

Here is a map of Kathmandu Durbar Square:

Nepal Kathmandu durbar
Map from PlanetWare.com

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

Palace

Front Royal Palace Basantapur
Front of the Royal Palace with the Basantapur Tower in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (617k)
Gaddi Durbar 1908
Gaddi Durbar from 1908. (642k)
Basantapur Tower Royal Palace
Basantapur Tower in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (750k)
Inside Court Yard Royal
Inside court yard in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (659k)
Carved Wooden Windows Doors
Carved wooden windows and doors on the Basantapur Tower in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (755k)
Carved Wooden Windows Doors
Carved wooden windows and doors in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (988k)
Carved Wooden Windows Doors
Carved wooden windows and doors in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (1088k)
Detail Carved Wooden Windows
Detail of carved wooden windows in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (1217k)
Detail Carved Wooden Doors
Detail of carved wooden doors in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (999k)
Carved Wooden Roof Support
Carved wooden roof support in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (842k)
Carved Wooden Roof Support
Carved wooden roof support in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (826k)
Carved Wooden Erotic Figures
Carved wooden erotic figures in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (767k)
Carved Wooden Erotic Figures
Carved wooden erotic figures in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (887k)
Carved Wooden Erotic Figures
Carved wooden erotic figures in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (893k)
Carved Wooden Erotic Figures
Carved wooden erotic figures in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (797k)
Carved Wooden Erotic Figures
Carved wooden erotic figures in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (838k)
Carved Wooden Erotic Figures
Carved wooden erotic figures in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (821k)
Carved Wooden Erotic Figures
Carved wooden erotic figures in the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (813k)
Pancha Mukhi Hanuman Temple
Pancha Mukhi Hanuman Temple. (647k)
Close-up Circular Roofs Pancha
Close-up of the circular roofs of the Pancha Mukhi Hanuman Temple. (719k)
Details Roof Supports Pancha
Details of the roof supports of the Pancha Mukhi Hanuman Temple. (799k)
Details Roof Supports Pancha
Details of the roof supports of the Pancha Mukhi Hanuman Temple. (741k)
Writings Palace Wall 15
Writings on the palace wall in 15 different languages. Pratap Malla, one of the Malla kings fancied himself a linguist. (732k)
Writings Palace Wall 15
Writings on the palace wall in 15 different languages. You can see the words "winter" and "hiver" (french for "winter"). (887k)
Hanuman Dhoka Portal Entrance
Hanuman Dhoka Portal, the entrance to the palace with a Hanuman statue, clothed, with garlands under an umbrella. The gate dates to 1672. (791k)
Carved Door Inside Palace
Carved door inside the palace. (847k)
Lord Narasimha Half-man Half-lion
Lord Narasimha (half-man, half-lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu), devouring the demon Hiranyakashipu, dating from 1673. (933k)
Gurkha Soldier Left Guard
Gurkha soldier (left) as guard in the palace. (831k)

Maju Deval (also called the Hippie Temple)

Kathmandu Durbar Square Maju
Kathmandu Durbar Square with Maju Deval (three-storied temple in center) and the Ardhanarishvara (small white Sikhara style temple). (747k)
Maju Deval Three-storied Temple
Maju Deval (three-storied temple in center) and the Ardhanarishvara (small white Sikhara style temple). (712k)
Vendors Steps Maju Deval
Vendors on the steps of the Maju Deval temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (873k)

Trailokya Mohan or Dasavatara

Trailokya Mohan or Dasavatara is a temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square, built by Parthivendra Malla, dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the late 17th century. It has a large, beautifully carved Garuda in front of the temple.

Back Vishnu Temple Trailokya
Back of the Vishnu temple Trailokya Mohan in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (686k)
Front Vishnu Temple Trailokya
Front of the Vishnu temple Trailokya Mohan in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (601k)
Garuda Front Vishnu Temple
Garuda in front of the Vishnu temple Trailokya Mohan in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (709k)
Garuda Front Vishnu Temple
Garuda in front of the Vishnu temple Trailokya Mohan in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (733k)
Garuda Front Vishnu Temple
Garuda in front of the Vishnu temple Trailokya Mohan in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (860k)

Kasthamandap

Kasthamandap temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. The origins of this temple date back to the 12th century. The temple was built in the early 17th century by King Lakshmi Narasimha Malla. Legend has it that the whole temple is built from wood of a single tree. It was renovated after the 1934 earthquake. It was used as a shelter for pilgrims. The pagoda enshrines a statue of Gorakhnath. It has a Ganesha statue in each of the four corners.

Kasthamandap Temple Kathmandu Durbar
Kasthamandap temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (789k)
Ganesha Statues Kasthamandap Temple
One of the Ganesha statues in the Kasthamandap temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (743k)
Stone Lion Guarding Kasthamandap
Stone lion guarding the Kasthamandap temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (728k)

Jagannath Temple

Jagannath Temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. This temple was build by Mahendra Malla (1560-1574). It was originally dedicated to Vishnu, but was later re-dedicated to Jagannath, a different incarnation of Vishnu. It is famous for its erotic carved wooden figures.

Jagannath Temple Kathmandu Durbar
The Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (761k)
Roof Decoration Jagannath Temple
Roof decoration of the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (442k)
Inscriptions Side Jagannath Temple
Inscriptions on the side of the Jagannath temple in different languages, including Sanskrit in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (980k)
Wood Carved Roof Support
Wood carved roof support on the Jagannath temple with erotic carvings in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (885k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (862k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (858k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (829k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (863k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (885k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (861k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (853k)
Erotic Carvings Jagannath Temple
Erotic carvings on the Jagannath temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (866k)

Degutale Temple

Degutale Temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. This temple is dedicated to the patron Goddess of the Malla kings, Taleju. The temple was built by the Malla king Shiva Simha (1583-1620).

The statue on the pillar in front of the temple is the family of Parthivendra Malla (from late 17th century), worshiping the Goddess Taleju.

Degutale Temple Kathmandu Durbar
Degutale temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (786k)
View Degutale Temple Inside
View of the Degutale temple from inside the palace in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (660k)
Wood Carved Roof Support
Wood carved roof support on the Degutale temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (809k)
Wood Carved Roof Support
Wood carved roof support on the Degutale temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (802k)
Pillar Malla Family Worshiping
Pillar with the Malla family worshiping Taleju in front of the Degutale temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (724k)
Close-up Figures Malla Family
Close-up of the figures of the Malla family in front of the Degutale temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (592k)
Feeding Pigeons Front Degutale
Feeding pigeons in front of the Degutale temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (938k)

Mahendreshvara Temple

Mahendreshvara Temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built by King Mahendra Malla (1560-1574). The temple was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake and rebuilt thereafter.

Mahendreshvara Temple Kathmandu Durbar
Mahendreshvara temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (920k)
Roof Decorations Mahendreshvara Temple
Roof decorations of the Mahendreshvara temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (719k)

Other buildings in the Kathmandu Durbar Square

Golden Palanquin Kumari Living
The golden palanquin of the Kumari, the Living Goddess in Kathmandu. (624k)
Shiva Parvati Temple Kathmandu
The Shiva Parvati temple in Kathmandu. (893k)
Narayan Temple
Narayan Temple. (764k)
Taleju Temple Opened Only
Taleju Temple. It is opened only once per year in Kathmandu. (685k)
Taleju Bell Rung Only
Taleju Bell. It is rung only at festivals in Kathmandu. (594k)
Relief Kala Bhairab Incarnations
Relief of Kala Bhairab (one of the incarnations of Shiva, the Destroyer). It was carved in the 6th - 7th century, found in the jungle in the 17th century and established in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (826k)
Gorakhnath Shrine Built King
Gorakhnath shrine, built by King Prithvi Narayan Shah after invading Kantipur (now Kathmandu) in 1768, is overgrown by a peepal tree. In the shrine are the brass footstep of Lord Gorakhnath. (1018k)
Brass Footstep Lord Gorakhnath
Brass footstep of Lord Gorakhnath in Kathmandu. (855k)
Worshiper Ganesha Shrine Kathmandu
Worshiper at a Ganesha Shrine in Kathmandu. (898k)
Ganesha Shrine Kathmandu
Ganesha Shrine in Kathmandu. (954k)
Vamsagopala Octagonal Pagoda Style
Vamsagopala, an octagonal Pagoda style temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna, built by Pratap Malla in 1649 in Kathmandu. (784k)
Temples Danger Falling Apart
One of the temples that is in danger of falling apart in Kathmandu. (648k)
Intricate Wood Carved Windows
Intricate wood carved windows and doors on a house in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (952k)
Close-up Wood Carvings House
Close-up of the wood carvings on a house in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (899k)
Intricate Wood Carved Windows
Intricate wood carved windows on a house in Kathmandu Durbar Square. (926k)

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Page last updated on Tue Sep 24 18:19:03 2019 (Mountain Standard Time)


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