Three of Nepal's major kingdoms--Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur--are all within a fairly short distance of each other. These are where the kings were crowned and ruled and the main religious ceremonies took place. Kathmandu is the one that eventually won out over the others. Most of the buildings in its square (Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square) were built in the 17th and 18th centuries though an earthquake in the last century did much damage. Some of the buildings were interesting but I admit it was my least favorite of the three I saw. Too chaotic and too many places I wanted to see that were marked "No Entry."
This is the iconic landmark of Kathmandu and definitely one of the must-do in the city. It is actually a complex of Hindu temples, government offices and even a palace where Nepal was once ruled. This is the historical heart of Kathmandu which has a lot of character.
Durbar Square contains a series of palaces, courtyards and temples with quadrangles in between them. There is spectacular architecture by the Newari artists and craftsmen. The first palace was built on this site 1,800 years ago and through the centuries the buildings have been continually rebuilt. Many souvenirs are for sale in the area so bargain well. It is just interesting to find yourself a perch by one of the buildings where you can appreciate the square.
On Saturday(19-11-2011) was extremely lucky to get a glimpse of the "Living Child Goddess(Kumari)" at the Kumari Mahal situated in Durbar Square.The "Child Goddess" occasionally comes to the balcony of the building to wave out at tourists and at first glance i thought i was viewing a 'Toy doll", such was the unique childlike innocence beauty of the present "Living goddess" in Kathmandu.She is controlled by a monk who stares down from the balcony and tells tourists not to photograph the "Living Goddess".Photographs of the "Living Goddess" are sold in postcard form outside the building, hence the ban on personal photography.Don't forget to visit "Freak Street" which is the lane exiting from Durbar Square and the street that made Kathmandu famous as a "Backpackers Hippy Paradise" in the 1960's/70's before Thamel was developed.
North in Durbar square, there is a huge stone relief of Kala Bhairava, the fierce manifestation of Shiva, associated with annihilation. Carved from a single piece of stone the ferocious six-armed Bhairava is depicted crushing the demon Vetala underfoot. In his right hand he holds a kapala (a skull cup) while his left hand displays the vyakhyana mudra (thumb as ring finger). The Nepalis come here to settle disputes, believing that anyone who tells lies in front of Kala Bhairava will spit blood. You will se people offering, putting food in its mouth.
Built in the middle of the 16th century, the temple can, unfortunately, be only seen outside by the non-Hindus (even for Hindus, entry is restricted to the Dasain festival) - it's dedicated to the protector goddess of the Malla dynasty in the 14th C.
At over 100 ft high, the temple towers over the Durbar square, surrounded by a wall erected on one of the 12 'stages' of the structure, with richly decorated miniature temples (each with a spire) and gates. One of the reasons for such domination is that, until recent times, it was considered 'unlucky' to build a house that would be higher than the temple.
There is also a 1,000-year old Garuda statue nearby.
Entrance is NPR300. We took our passport and photos to the site office and got a pass for our whole stay. This was useful because sometimes you want to nip off the square and back on, or come back on a different day to visit one of the square's many rooftop cafes.
Durbar Square is really three temple filled squares next to the royal palace. Entrance to the royal palace is extra- we did not go in. The door to the royal palace is guarded by a statue of the monkey god hanuman dating from 1672. It does not look like a monkey as it is smeared with red paste and shaded by an umbrella. There is a colourful gate into the palace next to this statue. This gate is guarded by soldiers.
There are several temples next to the gateway to the royal palace including Jagannath Mandir and Gopinath Mandir. The temples are multiroofed and generally covered with pigeons. The Black Bhairav sculpture is in this area. This fierce god with his necklace of skulls and eight arms was believed to punish anyone who lied in front of him by making them bleed to death. Criminals used to be dragged here to swear their innocence. The White Bhairab is nearby but was located behind a grating. It is only revealed during a Hindu festival when beer spills from its mouth.
The next square contains the tall Maju Deval Shiva Temple with its three roofs and steep plinth. You can climb up this for good views over the square and surrounding streets. The nearby Navadurga Temple has a famous painted image of Shiva and Parvati gazing out over the square. Nearby is the Kasthamandap - house of wood. Kasthamandap marks the very centre of the city. It gave its name to Kathmandu and is said to have been constructed from a single piece of wood.
The Kumari Bahal (house of the Living Goddess) is nearby. You can enter the courtyard of this house and can take pictures as long as the living goddess is not at the window. It is forbidden to take a picture of the goddess. The living goddess is choosen from a selection of girls aged around 4 or 5. Her feet must never touch the ground. She remains the living goddess until she starts menstruation. The Kumari Bahal has beautifully carved peacock windows.
The final square is the Basantapur Square which is filled with trinket sellers. One side of it is lined by the walls of the royal palace.
There are several rooftop cafes giving good views over the squares.
It was the Royal Palace of the Late King, His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shahdev of Nepal. The Shah kings moved to this palace from their old palace in the late 18th century. The new edifice was inaugurated in 1970 on the occasion of the wedding of His Majesty king Birendra Bir Bikram Shahdev. The palace takes its name from the Narayanhiti, a famous historic waterspout situated at the southern corner of the Palace. The Palace compound is immense, surrounded by high walls and guarded by soldiers.
The Great King and his entire family is believed to be shot dead by using an Uzi Machine gun by Crown Prince Dipendra in 2001 at a family dinner party. Those who survived was later found dead after 3-12 months in accident. Who killed them, Prince Dipendra was already dead. Whatever it is many Nepali and Indians believe that they were assasinated by somebody close to the Royal family.
(20.05.2010)I wrote the above lines in 2007 but then democracy in Nepal. King Gyanendra ( First cousin of King Birendra Shah Dev), who became the King after King Birendra was also ousted from the palace and the palace was converted in to a museum. I went there at 9.00AM sharp with a hope to see the palace but I was told by the sentry at the gate that it opens at 11.00AM to 3.00PM for four hours only for the visitors. I had to leave for the airport at 1.00PM , so I did not take a chance to venture. Earlier, stopping and photography was not allowed but today it is open to public. I requested the sentry to take my picture at the gate. I will have to come back again to see the palace.
The original centre of Kathmandu goes by the name Basantapur, Hanuman Dhoka and Durbar Square, all denoting pretty much the same location. Like the royal squares of the other city kingdoms of Kathmandu Valley Patan, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur, Kathmandu's Durbar Square is made up of various historical royal and governmental institutions mixed with temples of different styles and ages. It is roughly L-shaped seen from a pedestrian's view. Cars are half-heartedly kept away, but local drivers pass. Surprising how many they are! The guards are better at catching tourists who have to pay a fee to enter the area. If you stay for a while, bring a passport photo and stick it to your ticket, get a stamp and you will be done with that one-time fee.
The centre pieces appear to be Hanuman Dhoka (limited access) and the Kumari temple, but both arre hyped up compared with some of the other temples around.
The place can be noisy and confusing, but if you have a lot of time and patience with providers of all kinds of mostly unwanted services, you'll be seeing some of the finest templescapes in the world. it is a living museum, with commercial activities, religious ceremonies and all sorts of things going on as may have been the case since the 14th century.
My favourite is to climb atop one of the pyramid shaped pagoda temples and just enjoy the view for a while. Durbar square is a fantastic place for photography, just ask people first if it is ok.
Durbar Sq is a good place to pick up a souvenir to them back home, just beware of the quality and price. On the actual market square there are rows upon rows of souvenir sellers - old-looking stuff, but for the most part quite recently made. Next to the square are two of Nepal's best tea shops also, Everest and Nepal Tea Shop. There is a night market toward New Road, and plentyof shopping for all kinds of clothes and knick-knacks up Asan and Indra Chowk roads.
For a description of Durbar Sqauare and events there, look at the brochure you get with your ticket as you enter, or any guide book. If you have not seen this place, you have not seen Kathmandu - so important it is for the city's identity and history. You really need to see this.
A square located at the end of Makhan Tole, the square has a wonderful temple the Akash Bhairab, next to it there´s a small Ganesh shrine. The square is the crossroad of some small streets full of shops and the main stop for hundreds of Tuc Tucs and a living market. The Sukra Path is specially interesting with lots of shops of brass and bronze handicrafts.
This busy street located Northeast of Durbar Square, used to be the beggining of the route to the Tibet and Kathmandu´s main road. Actually is a busy street full of souvenir shops selling Tibetan paintings, wooden articles and craftsmanship . The street has some great medieval houses with it´s wooden balconies, and some temples. Wandering through this street to the Indra Chowk is a fascinating experience, and be prepared to avoid dozens of vendors, guides and as usually in this city Tuc Tuc traffc jams.
This small temple has few interest but it was really the most crowded, dozens of worshipers were visiting the temple, with offerings and flowers, it looked to me more than a real temple than the others.
This temple built in 1681, was heavily damaged during the strong 1934 earthquake, it´s a combination of styles the typical Newari architecture in the first floor mixed with the Indian spire form of the top (wich means that a female goddess is adored in the building).
This temple located in Makhan Tole was built in the year 1600 by the Mahendra Malla. This temple is interesting because has a different style of construction, the temple has a bell shaped dome not common in Durbar.
This temple located at the beginning of Makhan Tole was built in 1560 by Mahendra Malla, so it´s one of the oldests buildings in Durbar. It´s famous for it´s beautiful wooden carvings (some of them erotic as i was told, but i couldn´t find it) in the doors, windows and roof, is entered via three gates, but just the central one is opened. Originally the temple was dedicated to Vishnu, but as in the case of other Durbar temples was re-dedicated to Jagannath. It´s funny to observe a temple full of pigeons, with cows around, one of the wonders of Durbar and Kathmandu. The column located in front is the king Pratp Malla´s column.