SIGHTSEEING IN NEPAL
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SIGHTSEEING IN NEPAL

KATHMANDU VALLEY

Seto Machhendra Temple AreaKathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, is surely one of the world's most amazing cities, being endowed with a very large number of ancient monuments, historic temples and other interesting and unusual sights.

Hanuman Dhoka - Probably the most interesting part of Kathmandu is the ancient Hanuman Dhoka Palace and temple complex in the middle of the old city. Built during the Malla period, the area consists of a number of different monuments, the most outstanding of which are as follows:

The Image of Hanuman-Standing to the left of the main entrance to the Hanuman Dhoka Palace is an image of Hanuman, the Hindu god who is always depicted in the form of a monkey. The Mallas placed this image of Hanuman at their palace gate both to protect the palace and to bring them victory in war. Theimage is made of stone, but each year is coated with a layer of red pigment made by mixing oil and vermillion powder. Over the years these repeated layers of pigment have distorted the face almost beyond recognition. The idol is always clothed in red, and is further honoured by the golden umbrella placed over its head. This particular image, and also the smaller one just beyond it, were erected in 1672 by King Pratap Malla.

Living Godess KumariKumari Chowk - Built in 1757 by King Jaya Prakash Malla (1746-68), Kumari Chowk is the home of the 'Kumari' or living goddess who is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess Taleju. The Kumari Chowk is a three-storeyed quadrangle lavishly decorated with fine woodcarving. It is the third storey of the building that is especially attractive with its fine bay windows, in which the Kumari appears from time to time in the company of her guardian priestess to see and be seen by her admirers.

The Golden Door -To the right of the image of Hanuman is the golden main door of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace. It is guarded by a pair of stone lions., Shiva sits on the lion-, to the right, while Shakti sits on the lionness to the left. These custodians undoubtedly date from Malla times; the golden door itself, however, is of a later period. The inscription above the door states clearly that it was erected in 181 0 during the reign of King Girbana Yuddha Bikram Shah. Such an extravagance at that particular period of Nepal's history must surely have a story to explain it, and indeed the story is found there in the inscription. Hundreds of outdated copper plate inscriptions were gathered and sold, the return from which bought the gold that was then pounded into sheets and moulded to the posts and panels of the door.

Above the golden door, in a niche formed by a large window opening, there are three interesting images. The central piece shows Krishna Bishwarupa, the multiple arms, the skulls and the terror image, are all indicative of a strong tantric influence. To the left is a group of three figures. The central figure is clearly of Krishna, and very likely the other two are meant to represent his two favourite consorts, Rukmini and Satya Bhama. The group on the right of the Bishwarupa is comprised of two seated figures. One of these figures, wearing royal robes and insignia, is playing an instrument. Seated near him in an attentive attitude is a woman, well dressed, heavily ornamented. The face of the king resembles very closely the features found on known images of King Pratap Malla; it can therefore be concluded that all the images date from Pratap Malla's time (1641-74).

Basantapur Chowk - At the south-east corner of the Nasal Chowk is an exit through which one can pass into Basantpur Chowk. During the time of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Shah kings moved from the old quarters formerly occupied by the Malla kings into this section of the Palace. While the woodcarvings in the central courtyard are an especially outstanding feature, the whole building is of equal historic value to all Nepalese.

The nine-storeyed Palace of Prithvi Narayan Shah, called the Basantpur Tower, is on the south-west of the quadrangle. The tower on the south-east corner is known as the Lalitpur Tower; Bhaktapur Tower is on the north-east corner while Kirtipur Tower is on the north-west.

Lalitpur Tower rises two storeys above the roofs of the quadrangle. The view from the windows of this tower is marvellous, and when the lavish gardens were laid out directly below, as they once were, its charm must have been even more enhanced. Bhaktapur Tower also rises two storeys above the general level of the quadrangle.

It too looked out over the gardens, but a more special attraction lies in its unobstructed view of the great temple of Taleju that lies directly to the north. The Kirtipur Tower has its own special fascination. The copper roof of this tower is of most unusual design and complexity and is unparalleled in Nepalese architecture. Where from the inspiration for the design was derived is as unknown as the names of the artisans who contrived it, but it does provide a perfect counterpoint to the towers that lie beyond it. Matching with the Lalitpur and Kirtipur Towers in height, the Kirtipur Tower offers a clear view into the courtyard of Nasal Chowk and also across the roofs to Degutaleju temple and Jagannath temple in the Hanuman Dhoka area.

Regarding the height and dramatic position, the other towers pale to insignificance in comparison with the Basantpur Tower, which rises a full five storeys above the general level of buildings in the whole Palace. It is a mark of pride today that King Prithvi Narayan Shah saw fit to build his Kathmandu Palace in the Nepalese style, thus not only showing his appreciation for the merits of the traditional architecture of the Valley but also establishing a firm precedent that was to continue during the coming centuries.

The Basantpur Palace is a work of art in its own right, and even today there is hardly a spot in Kathmandu that can compare with the upper terrace of the Basantpur Chowk for observing finely carved roof struts, excellent windows, and the poetry of roof rising upon roof.

Tajeju Mandir - Built in 1564 by King Mahendra Malla, this is the most famous of the three Taleju temples built by the Malla kings. It is situated in Trishul Chowk, an appendage of Hanuman Dhoka Palace, but can also be approached by way of the Singha Dhoka or Lion Gate. The temple stands over 36.6 metres high, resting on a twelve stage plinth. Its three roofs soar above the rest of the Hanuman Dhoka complex, and until very recent times, it was considered very inauspicious to build a house higher than this temple. At the eighth stage of the plinth, the step broadens out into a spacious platform on which a wall is mounted, barring further progress.

On the platform just outside this wall there are twelve miniature temples, each with a double roof and all other appurtenances of a temple built in the Nepalese style. The same theme is repeated inside the wall, where there are four more such temples, each housing a deity, and each having a spire, one of the symbols of the attributes of Taleju goddess. On the south side, where the main door is found, there are large stone images of men and beasts, each one a powerful protecting force. At the top, on the final stage of the plinth, is a finely wrought bell on either side of the main door of the temple, one erected by Pratap Malla in 1654 and one by Bhaskar Malla in 1714. They are rung only when worship is offered to goddess Taleju.

Kasta Mandap - Known locally as Maru Sattal, this huge, open temple has a long history. Popular legend has it that during King Laxmi Narsingh's time Kalpa Briksha came to see the chariot festival of Machchhendranath, where he was recognised by one of the priest of Machchhendranath, The priest seized him and refused to release him until he promised to give a tree from whose wood a rest house could be built. Kalpa Briksha made the promise, and so he was released. Four days later, a huge sal tree was delivered. With the King's permission, the Kastha Mandap was built from the wood of this single tree; Kathmandu has derived its name from Kastha Mandap.

The Great Bell - Without the great bell erected by King Rana Bahadur Shah in 1787, the Palace area would have seem incomplete. The bells in the Patan Durbar Square and the Bhaktapur Durbar Square date from 1736. For some reason Kathmandu did not imitate this achievement immediately though it was in the same year that Jaya Prakash Malla came to power. Sixty years later, King Rana Bahadur Shah filled the deficiency by providing this bell to drive off the evil spirits. The bell is rung only when worship is being offered in Degutaleju.

The Great Drums - Located close to the great bell, two huge drums were made during the reign of Girbana Yuddha Bikram Shah (1799-1816) and are played only during the worship of Degutaleju. An inscription on copper plate, in the keeping of the one who plays the drums, specifies that a buffalo and a goat must be sacrificed for them twice a year.

Kal Bhairab at Kathmandu Durbar SquareThe Image of Kala Bhairab - This huge stone image of Bhairab represents Shiva in his destructive manifestation, hence its terrifying expression and the symbols of death and destruction. It is undated, but was set in its present location by Pratap Malla after it was found in a field north of the city. The image is a single stone, though the portion on the upper right hand side was damaged and repaired by adding another stone. The sun and moon to the left and right, and the heads of lions in the upper portion also seem to have been later additions. Such large images made of a single block of stone are very rare in Nepal.

Apart from the Hanuman Dhoka Palace and temple complex and other monuments in the surrounding vicinity, some other places worthy of mention are:

Dharahara - Also known as Bhimsen Stambha (Tower), Dharahara is a 50.5 metre tower built by Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa in 1832. Situated near by the General Post Office, the tower is one of Kathrnandu's best known monuments. From the top of the tower, one has a panoramic view of the whole Kathmandu Valley. But it is not open for the public.

Kesher Library-Located near the Narayanhity Royal Palace, Kesher Library has got a huge and rare collection of books and manuscripts collected during the last century. It also offers an opportunity to have a glimpse of the inside of Nepal's numerous palaces. It is open for the public during normal office hours.

 
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