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Kathmandu Durbar Square

kathmandu durbar square

Kathmandu Durbar Square is located at the center of Kathmandu city. It is a magnificent collection of art, architecture, and culture from our ancestors to date. Durbar square represents the royal palaces and its surrounding, enclosed in a square boundary. Hence, Kathmandu Durbar Square was the royal palace of Nepalese kings for centuries. But now, Nepal is a federal democratic republic country which means the government of Nepal is run by the house of parliament with multi-parties. This Durbar Square is also famous as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar and Basantapur Durbar.

Kathmandu Durbar Square is just 2 km from Thamel and one can reach here in just 10-15 minutes from Thamel. Kathmandu Durbar Square is an important site of Nepal also enlisted in the UNESCO world’s heritage site since 1979. This heritage site is very famous for its art, architecture, culture, monuments and various idols that reflect the culture of our ancestors and skills of various artists and craftsmen of several centuries. A large group of Newar people lives around the Kathmandu Durbar Square. They are the locals; other people from different caste and culture also live around Durbar Square.

The main preference for constructing this durbar square dates back to the Lichhavi period of the 3rd century. This heritage site has experienced multiple renovations and reconstruction which is the major cause of no physical remains from that period. Scripts were found in the durbar square which has names like “Gunapo” and “Gupo”.  These scripts imply that these sites dates back to the period of King Gunakama Deva in the 10th century. Even there is no history; Sankhara Deva is credited for the construction of the durbar in a square surrounding.

Kathmandu Durbar Square became the royal palace of various kings of Malla and Shah Dynasty. Various important royal events like Coronation of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001 were held in this durbar square. Indra Jatra is celebrated within this durbar square territory.

The Malla Dynasty

basantapurKal Bhairab, Kathmandu Durbar Square (Pratap Malla)

Malla kings ruled over Kathmandu valley since the 12th century. Malla kings used to rule whole kingdom of Kathmandu valley. During the mid-15th century, Kathmandu became an independent city under the rule of King Ratna Malla. He was one of the six sons of Jaya Yakshya Malla and named the city “Kantipur”. Kathmandu valley was divided into 3 kingdoms: Kantipur, Bhadgaon and Yala (Patan). Ratna Malla declared Kathmandu Durbar Square his royal palace and started ruling the city. Different Malla kings then ruled over Kantipur city from Kathmandu durbar square until the mid-18th century.

Constructions and Contributions during the Malla Period

Ratna Malla (1484-1520)

  • Refused to rule the kingdom collegially in his grandfather’s pattern with the other 5 sons of Jaya Yakshya Malla.
  • The first king to rule the Kathmandu city “Kantipur” independently residing in Kathmandu Durbar Square.

Mahendra Malla (1560-1574)

  • Construction of Jagannath temple in 1563, the oldest temple in this complex.
  • Built 3 roofed Taleju Temple in 1964. Reflects typical Newari architectural style. Goddess Taleju was believed to be the protective deity for Nepal as well as the former royal family of Malla kings.
  • Similarly, built Kotilingeshwara Mahadev (A stone temple of Lord Shiva)
  • Likewise, built Mahendreswara Temple (Carved an idol of Lord Shiva in the form of Shivalinga.

Shiva Simha Malla (1583-1620)

  • Establishment of Degutale Temple dedicated to Goddess Taleju.

Pratap Malla (1641-1674)

  • Established small entrance in the traditional, low and narrow Newari style. Door decoration with carving and painting of deities.
  • Placed the statue of Hanuman in the belief that it would strengthen his army and protect his royal family.
  • Built Octagonal Krishna Mandir in 1648-49.
  • Construct Mohan Chowk and Sundari Chowk in 1650.
  • Set up a stone inscription dedicated to the goddess Kalika. It is written in 15 different languages in 1664.
  • Placed Kal Bhairab, a fearsome form of Lord Shiva, near the Jagannath Temple.
  • Donated metal door to the main Taleju temple in 1670.
  • Construction of Pratap Malla’s column in 1670 which includes a statue of King Pratap Malla seated folded hand and surrounded by his 2 wives and 5 sons.
  • Rebuilt Degutale Temple and Taleju temple.
  • Built Shiva Temple, Indrapura, near his palace.
  • Carved hymns on the walls of Jagannath Temple.
  • In addition, he built Kavindrapura, the mansion of the king of poet.
  • Restored the Lichhavi stone sculptures; the Jalasavana Narayan, the Kaliyadamana and the Kala Bhairab.
  • Lastly, Consult with Tantric leader and order a stone image of Vishnu in incarnation as Nara Simha.

Jaga Jaya Malla (1722-1736)

  • Construction of Narayan Temple (Bhagwati Temple in recent days)

Jaya Prakash Malla (1746-1750)

  • Construction of Kumari Ghar and named “Kumari Bahal” structured in a typical Newari Bihar.
  • Last Kantipur king of the Malla dynasty before the unification of Nepal.

The Shah Dynasty

Gaddi BaithakGaddi Baithak, Kathmandu Durbar Square (Chandra Shamsher)

After conquering Kathmandu valley in 1769 by Prithivi Narayan Shah, he declared Kathmandu valley as the capital city. Shah Kings ruled over the current territory of Nepal after the unification of Nepal in the mid-eighteenth century. The Shah Kings ruled over Nepal for 240 years from the capital city Kathmandu. During this period, Kathmandu Durbar square experienced a number of changes and constructions.

Constructions and Contributions during Shah Period

Prithivi Narayan Shah

  • Declared Kathmandu the capital city and started ruling over the country’s territory from Kathmandu.
  • The Narayan idol was stolen from the Narayan Temple. So, Prithivi Narayan Shah placed a Bhagwati idol completely transforming the whole name into Bhagwati Temple.
  • Built 4 roofed Nautale durbar, also known as Basantapur Durbar, at the end of Nasal Chowk in the eastern side of the palace.
  • Likewise, Built Basantapur Chowk displaying woodcarving and roofs made in popular Mughal style.

Rana Bahadur Shah

  • Built Shiva Parvati Temple.
  • Donated metal-plated heat of Swet Bhairab near Degutale Temple during Indra Jatra in 1795.
  • Similarly, Donate a huge bronze bell as an offering to Goddess Taleju.

Rana Dynasty

  • Built Gaddi Durbar in European architectural designing in 1908
  • The southeastern part of the palace like Hatti Chowk has cleared away after the earthquake of 1934.

Later, Shah Kings changed their palace from Basantapur durbar to Narayanhiti Royal Palace after King Mahendra built it in 1963. Since then, Basantapur Durbar square was declared as the Basantapur museum with the memories of Shah Kings: Tribhuwan, Mahendra, Birendra, and Gyanendra. Kathmandu Durbar Square experienced heavy destruction during the earthquake of April 25th, 2015.  As a result, a lot of temples including Kasthamandap, Maju Dega, Narayan Vishnu Temple, Trailokya Mohan, Octagonal Krishna Temple, Kakeshwor, Gaddi Durbar, and many other monuments were damaged. In contrast, the construction work in this heritage site is in process and some of the monuments have already been re-built.