Kathmandu Durbar Square is a living museum that seamlessly merges ancient traditions with modern life. The exquisite wood and stone carvings, intricate pagodas, and elaborate artwork serve as a testament to the exceptional artistic heritage of the Newari people. From awe-inspiring temples and shrines to grand palaces and museums, every corner of this enchanting square tells a fascinating story of Nepal’s rich history. This article covers places to visit and things to do in this city of temples.
Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, is a city of temples where the god and people have lived harmoniously for centuries. Amidst the hustle and bustle of modern Kathmandu, the Durbar Square remains a sanctuary of traditional culture, where you can wander among the ornate wooden carvings and stone sculptures, marvel at the gilded roofs of the ancient temples, and discover the stories of the gods and goddesses who call this place home. The Durbar Square is not just a UNESCO world heritage site; it’s a dynamic place where you can witness religious ceremonies, cultural celebrations, and local performances. The presence of various deities, including the living goddess Kumari further enhances the divine aura of the square. Amidst the fast-paced life of Kathmandu, the Durbar Square remains a tranquil oasis of tradition where you can immerse themselves in the flavors, sounds, and sights of Nepal’s past. This article guides the top sights and experiences in Kathmandu Durbar Square, where you can indulge in the intricate architecture, taste the local cuisine, and delve into the city’s cultural legacy.
Places to visit in Kathmandu Durbar Square
Taleju temple is the tallest temple dedicated to the royal household goddess, Taleju Bhawani. According to legend, the Malla kings used to worship the goddess, play dice, and seek advice on state affairs from her. Once a year, on the 9th day of Dashain, the temple doors are open to visitors, revealing an ornate interior filled with intricate carvings and sacred relics.
The Kumari House is where the living goddess of Nepal, Kumari, resides. Legend has it that Kumari is Taleju Bhawani’s incarnation, and many worshipped her as a divine presence. The house is located in a beautiful courtyard inside Durbar Square, and its three-story structure is artistically furnished with exceptional woodcarving. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of Kumari herself and even receive her blessing.
The Kasthamandap Temple is a marvel of Nepalese art and design and is said to have been constructed entirely from a single tree. This pavilion-style temple features intricate wooden carvings and a unique architectural style. The temple has stood for centuries without the aid of any nails or rivets made of metal. According to local legend, the temple inspired the city of Kathmandu to take its name
The Kaal Bhairav shrine is an imposing monument supposedly discovered in a paddy field and relocated to Durbar Square by King Pratap Malla. It is said to have been carved from a single stone block and erected during King Pratap Malla’s reign to act as a supreme court. To get the truth out of the suspects, they were brought before the terrifying Kaal Bhairav.
The Jagannath Temple in Kathmandu’s Darbar Square is one of the oldest shrines in the city, having been constructed in the early 16th century during the reign of King Mahendra of the Mala dynasty. The two-story pagoda-style structure is elevated over a platform and constructed mostly of wood and bricks. The temple is well-known for its beautiful architecture, profound religious importance, and exquisite erotic carvings.
Probably the most eye-catching palace with the neo-classical structure amidst medieval architecture, Gaddi Baithak is also known as the coronation palace. It was built by Rana, prime minister Chandra Shamsher. He built this architecture after being inspired by British
architecture. The building served as the place for the coronation of the head of the state and to
observe the festivals for the royal family and now serves as a museum.
Shiva Parvati Temple
The Shiva Parvati Temple is a beautiful temple dedicated to the god Shiva and his wife, Parvati. King Rana Bahadur Shah commissioned its construction in the late 18th century. The two wooden statues of Shiva and Parvati that stand in the open window at the temple’s first-floor central shrine are instantly identifiable landmarks.
Sweta Bhairava is a fearsome representation of Lord Shiva. In 1795, during the reign of King Rana Bahadur Shah, it was erected inside Durbar square. During the year, the mask is covered behind a wooden curtain, to be shown only during the September celebration of Indra Jatra.
Akash Bhairav Temple
Dedicated to Akash Bhairav, God of the Sky, another manifestation of Bhairava, is the stunning bronze and gold temple known as the Akash Bhairav. Between 3100 and 3500 BCE, the Akash Bhairav temple was the residence of Nepal’s first king, Yalambar. During the annual Indra Jatra ceremony, the head of Akash Bhairav is brought out of the temple and blessed by the Living Goddess Kumari.
At the gateway of the Hanuman Dhoka Museum, the fiery red statue of the Hindu Monkey God Hanuman keeps a watchful eye. This museum was previously the royal palace of Hanuman Dhoka. It was during the reign of King Pratap Malla in 1672 when the statue was erected close to the palace’s main entryway.
The Hanuman Dhoka Palace’s Nasal Chowk is the palace’s central courtyard. Here is where all of Nepal’s monarchs have been crowned. Kings of Nepal’s coronations (including those of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001) continued to be conducted at Nasal Chowk till the end of the Monarchy in 2008
Things To Do In Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square is an open museum with many medieval and neo-classical architectural monuments and artifacts. You can visit Kumari bahal, Gaidi Baithak, Nasal Chowk, and Taleju temple to observe beautiful wood carvings and their cultural significance.
Take A Blessing From Kumari
One of the most sacred and mystical experiences at Kathmandu Durbar Square is receiving a blessing from the Kumari, the living goddess of Nepal. She resides in the Kumari Bahal, a temple in the heart of Durbar Square. You can catch a glimpse of the Kumari from outside the temple, but if you are lucky, you are allowed to enter and receive her blessing. Being in Kumari’s
presence is a rare and awe-inspiring experience and a must-do if you are seeking to connect
with the spiritual heart of Kathmandu.
One of the most charming aspects of Kathmandu Durbar Square is the presence of pigeons. These birds are a beautiful sight throughout the square, adding a touch of natural beauty to the bustling cityscape. You can enjoy the unique experience of feeding the pigeons, a relaxing and entertaining activity. As you scatter seeds or crumbs for the birds, you may be surrounded by a flurry of wings and feathers, creating a magical moment you won’t forget.
Visit The Museum
Though Kathmandu Durbar Square is a living museum, visiting a museum is a must if you are looking forward to knowing more about its history. The most popular museums in the square are the Hanumandhoka, Tribhuvan, and Mahendra Museum. The museum’s halls are lined with intriguing displays that recount the stories of the dynasties and rulers who shaped the nation while highlighting the unique customs and beliefs that define Nepalese culture. So, step inside
this immersive museum and discover the secrets of Nepal’s past, present, and future.
Evening Vibe At Basantapur
As the sun sets over Kathmandu, Basantapur Durbar Square transforms into a golden land. The beauty of temples and monuments hits differently at the golden hour. Similarly, the night vibe at Basantapur is nothing short of magical, as a colorful array of lights illuminates the ancient architecture and historical monuments. The air is filled with the lively sounds of music, chatter,
and laughter as locals and tourists soak up the lively atmosphere. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a night out with friends, take a romantic stroll, or simply experience the charm of Basantapur after dark, you’re sure to be swept away by the vibrant night vibe
Enjoy The Jatras
Indulge in the vibrant festivities of the Indra Jatra, the grandest and most vibrant celebration in Kathmandu Durbar Square held in late August or early September. The living goddess Kumari, seated in her magnificent golden palanquin, is carried through the streets of Kathmandu in a procession of dancers, musicians, and devotees. Apart from this, you can enjoy Gaijatra, Holi,
and Seto Machindranath jatraswhich, adding more vibrance to the city
Taste Of Basantapur
Basantapur is not only a feast for the eyes but also for the taste buds. As you wander through the alleys, the aroma of freshly brewed tea and spices will lure you toward the many cafes and restaurants scattered throughout the area. From local specialties to international cuisine, Basantapur has something for every palate. Be sure to try the famous Indrachowk lassi, Tiptop Samosas, Narayan dai ko massagali momos, and Mama’s tea shop. So, take a break from your sightseeing and enjoy the taste of Basantapur
A Ship Of Tea At Basantapur
The Nepali people have a deep-rooted love for tea, so much so that their day cannot start without it. While plenty of cafes serve tea, the best way to experience the true essence of tea culture is by visiting a traditional tea shop. Sitting on a low stool in the corner, sipping on a cup of tea while observing the hustle and bustle of the locals passing by. The best time to appreciate the view is during the evening when the sun sets in the west, making it the perfect moment to
unwind and enjoy a steaming cup of tea
Kathmandu Durbar Square is a shopper’s paradise. This vibrant area offers an array of unique souvenirs and gifts that will capture Nepalese culture’s essence. From intricate handicrafts to stunning jewelry, colorful clothing, and much more, the bustling markets and shops around the square will leave you spoiled for choice. So, take your time to wander through the lanes, soak up the vibrant atmosphere, and pick up a one-of-a-kind memento to take home with you.
Getting The Tattoos
The art of tattooing has deep roots in Nepalese culture, and this square boasts an array of talented tattoo artists specializing in traditional designs. From the intricate mandala to the sacred lotus and other culturally significant symbols, you can choose from various designs connecting you to the Nepalese culture.
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