A Travellerspoint blog

Kathmandu Indra Jatra


September 24th Kathmandu Nepal

We had specifically chosen our dates to coincide with the Indra and Kumari Jatra and the streets were pleasingly full of celebrating people, all happy and dancing. Indra Jātrā, commonly known as Yenyā is the biggest religious street festival in Kathmandu. Ye means "Kathmandu" and Ya means "celebration". The celebrations consist of 2 events, Indra Jātrā and Kumāri Jātrā. Indra Jātrā is marked by masked dances of deities and demons, displays of sacred images and tableaus in honour of the deity Indra, king of heaven. Kumāri Jātrā is the chariot procession of the living goddess Kumari. The main venue of the festivities is Kathmandu Durbar Square. Indra Jatra was started by King Gunakamadeva to commemorate the founding of Kathmandu in the 10th century. Kumari Jatra began mid-18th century. This year (2018), the festival takes place 21-29 September, and the main day of attraction is 24th.
We set off through Thamel down towards Durbar square. Starting at Thamel Marg we continued south until we got to a small lane leading to Maitripur Mahabihar Bahal, one of Thamel’s oldest monasteries. Inside this well persevered courtyard are several shrines. The most prominent was a large white Shiva Lingam. Behind the doors in front of it was a statue to Buddha.

Back on the main road and down to a small Bhagwati Shrine, almost hidden between stores at the bottom of Thamel Marg to the right, a tiny courtyard housing a small shrine dedicated to goddess Bhagwati. Unassuming on the outside, but the main shrine to Bhagwati was the most colourfully decorated in Kathmandu! One of the famous temples of the Hindu goddess Durga, the temple of Shova Bhagwati. The actual name of the temple was Shovagaya Bhagwati, which means luck, especially in married life but it was later changed into Shova Bhagwati. Outside Bhagwati temple the food market began and we entered Thahiti Chowk. From the bottom of Thamel we were in Thahiti/Thahity Chowk, a popular part of the old city filled with market streets, shrines and temples. The beauty of Kathmandu streets is that they are filled with local people, mainly Newari, the first settlers in Kathmandu Valley. From here we were quickly in Ason Chowk.
With six streets leading into Ason chowk and a lot of festival goers it was a bit overwhelming at first. Asan Tol (Nepal Bhasa: अस, Nepali: असन) is a ceremonial, market and residential square in central Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. It is one of the most well-known historical locations in the city and is famed for its bazaar, festival calendar and strategic location. Asan has been described as one of the fine Newar examples of a traditional Asian bazaar. The Tuladhar, Maharjan, Shrestha, Bajracharya and Shakya castes make up most of the population. Six streets converge on Asan giving the square a perpetual bustle. The bazaar at Asan attracts shoppers from all over Kathmandu because of the tremendous variety of merchandise sold here, ranging from foodstuffs, spices and textiles to electronics and bullion. Asan straddles one of the two legendary India-Tibet trade routes that pass through Kathmandu. Because of this history, Asan has been one of the city's main marketplaces since ancient times. The trade route is diagonally aligned, and the section within the city extends from Kathmandu Durbar Square to Asan and to the northeast. One side took us to towering 3-storey Annapurna Temple (right. In front of the temple we saw the lively and historic market where people sell fresh vegetables from the valley, spices from the Indian sub-continents and dried goods. The temple of Annapurna Ajimā (Asanmaru Ajimā असंमरु अजिमा) presides over Asan. She is the goddess of abundant food grain and is the patron deity of the neighborhood. The goddess is represented by a filled grain measure. The Newari style temple has a rich history and is highly decorated with mirrors, lamps, plates, statues and elaborate torans. Inside you might be surprised there is no deity. Instead there is a tantric silver vessel called a kalas which is a symbol of bounty.
Across from the Annapurna temple is the 2-storey brass roof of the Ganesh temple (left). The temple of Ganesh (Ganedya गनेद्य) stands at the north side of the square. The temple was renovated and its tile roofs replaced in 1928. The stone statue of Ganesh sits surrounded by a gilded arch, though the statue is so faded from rain water over the years it's hard to distinguish it. Every traditional Newar neighborhood has a Ganesh shrine. In front of it is the mysterious celestial stone fish surrounded by a small stone wall. Nyālon(न्यालोह) or “fish stone” is the stone figure of a fish placed on a pedestal at the centre of the square. It marks the spot where a fish fell from the sky and is related to the legendary founding of Asan. A small temple dedicated to the deity Narayan stands at the northwestern side of the square. Yita Chapā (यिता चपा) meaning "southern pavilion" is the long building on the southern side. It contains shrine rooms and a hymn hall where locals gather to sing hymns. Asan Dabu is a stone platform where sacred dances and musical performances are held during festivals. At other times it is covered by shops.
The streets and lanes radiating out from the square contain shrines and sacred courtyards. The Buddhist courtyards of Takse Bāhā, Kwathu Bāhā, Hāku Bāhā, Dhālāsikwa Bāhā, Dagu Bāhā, Asan Bāhā and Hwakhā Bāhā are situated around the perimeter of the square. Each of them contains a decorated shrine house with an image of the Buddha and assorted stupas. On the second day of the chariot festival of Kum!ri J!tr!, three chariots containing human representation of Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari are pulled through Asan. The chariot procession is part of Indra Jatra and is known as Thaneyā (थनेया:). It is held in September. Ason Chowk had temples and shrines around its busy main square, and we had to jostle to see the. Though some were surrounded by market traders all are very much active places of worship.

We went directly south into a narrow street filled with metalware and on south to Jana Bahal, a beautiful courtyard with an interesting history. After walking down from Ason Chowk past all the metalware stores we came to a junction with a 3-storey brick and wood Newari temple on the right (Luchhubhulu Ajima). This area is Jana Bahal (junction Kel Tole). Just past the temple on the right is the remains of archway now filled with local stores. Behind is impressive Seto Machchhendranath temple (pics below). In 2018 Jana Bahal is being renovated, but the temple is still open. Inside this courtyard in front of the temple is a small gilded statue of a woman, maybe Maya Devi, though many say it's too European to be her. Inside the temple is the impressive Seto Machchhendranath statue, worshipped by both Buddhists (as Seto (White) Machhendranath as form of Avalokiteshvara) and Hindus (as a rain-bringing incarnation of Shiva). The temple’s age is unknown, but it was restored in the 17th c. The arch entrance was marked by a small Buddha on an high stone pillar before 2 metal lions. In the courtyard were lots of small shrines, chaitya (small stupas), statues, and an odd European female surrounded by candles facing the temple (possibly an import from Europe accepted into the pantheon of gods?). Facing other way, just in front of temple, 2 bronze figures of the Taras were seated on pillars. Inside was a white-faced image of the god covered in flowers. I bought a candle, swirled it round three times, then got the god to bless it (well, the resident monk takes it and does it for you, but the principle is good). The main temple itself dates from the 17th century, but inside the temple the statue predates it by 700 years.
The White Machchhendranath statue inside the temple was by King Gunakamadeva in the late 10th century. Shortly after it was stolen by invaders from the west., but as they couldn't carry it they threw it into a river. The western king who stole it became infected by a skin disease as were his descendants. An astrologer linked the events and the statue was brought back to Jana Bahal. Soon after the temple was constructed to house the statue. Unique statues around Jana Bahal Jana Bahal's courtyard is filled with shrines and statues. For historians it is of interest to note the unusual gilded statue of a woman. Some suggest it’s the mother of Buddha, Maya Devi. Her look is far too similar to a European-styled figurine for others. Today she is adorned with red-vermilion. Perhaps her identity can be found in the temple itself. It is believed that during the rule of King Yakshya Malla, in a place called Kantipuri, people used to bathe in the holy river and visit Swayambhunath. Yamraj (God of Death) came to know the power of Swayambhunath and he visited the holy temple. During his return he was captured by King Yakshya Malla and his Tantric Guru who demanded immortality and would not let Yamraj leave. Yamraj prayed to Arya Awalokiteshwor (Seto Machindranath) to free him. The God heard his prayer and instantly appeared from the water. The god was white in colour with eyes half closed. He told the king to build a temple where Kalmati and Bagmati meet and organise a chariot procession so that the God could visit the people and bless them with happiness and long life.
img_4739_46424543915_o.jpgAs we left the temple, to the left there was a small 3-roof Tantric temple, the Lunchun Lunbun Ajima, red-tiled round the lower level with erotic carvings at base of struts. Just north of the temple in the side street Bhedasingh were shops selling topi (cloth hats) and Nepali traditional dress daura suruwal (long shirt, tapered trousers). Carrying on 300m led us to Itum Bahal, a courtyard monastery. This is Kathmandu’s largest bahal (Buddhist monastery courtyard), and a haven of tranquillity. On the west side was Kichandra Bahal (Keshchandra Paravarta Mahar Bihar), one of the oldest in the city, dating to 1381. A chaitya in front of the entrance has been completely shattered by a Bodhi tree, grown right through its centre. Inside Kichandra Bahal (Keshchandra Paravarta Mahar Bihar) was a central pagoda sanctuary, and a small chaitya decorated with standing bodhisattvas.
On the north side were 4 brass plaques on an upper-storey wall. The one on the left shows the demon Guru Mapa stuffing a misbehaving child in his mouth. The demon was bought off with the promise of an annual feast of buffalo meat. The plaque to the right shows him sitting down to a pot of food. Every year in Holi the inhabitants of Itum Bahal sacrifice a buffalo to Guru Mapa on the banks of Vishnumati Rv, cook it in the courtyard and in the middle of the night carry it in huge cauldrons to a tree in the Tundikhel parade ground where the demon lives. We continued south to Indra Chowk next to Seto Machhendraneth Temple, where the busy street of Makhan Tole spilled into Indra Chowk courtyard, named for ancient Vedic deity Indra. The traditional centre for selling cloth, merchants cover platforms Mahadev Temple. Continuing to the main junction we were passed by a marching band, and arrived at the large Akash Bhairab Temple (Indra Mandir)-pics below. On the west side of the square was the facade of Akash Bhairab (Bhairab of Sky) Temple. From the balcony 4 metal lions reared over street and the temple’s entrance (right- hand side) was guarded by 2 brass lions. The silver image normally only visible through the open windows from the street had been brought out for the festival. In a small niche just left of Akash Bhairab Temple was a small brass Ganesh shrine. King Yalambar of the Kirat Dynasty (800 BC) is said to be associated with this version of Bhairab. The temple is unusual due to its open 2nd level. It was constructed by Pratap Malla in the 17th century and also houses an image of Indra that comes out during Indra Jatra. Next door is a black stone Shiva Temple, a small version of Patan’s Krishna Temple. Akash Bhairav (आजु) is one of the forms of Bhairava. He is known as Yalambar in Nepal, Barbarika in Mahabharata and "aju (First King) in Nepal Bhasa. The temple of Akash Bhairav is supposed to have been a palace of the first king of Nepal, Kiranti King Yalambar c3100-3500 years ago. The surrounding of Akash Bhairav is known as Yen to symbolise Ne (Midland in Kiranti language) in Nepal. The head of Aakash Bhairav was dug up several hundred years ago in Kathmandu. It is taken out once a year on the Yenya Festival and blessed by the Kumari, in September. During the ceremony, large number of worshippers come to visit this temple. They offer Peda (sweets made from milk), flowers, money, etc (which we witnessed). I went to take some petals from the image along with all the worshippers. Facing Akash Bhairab Temple we took the small street immediately left of the temple all the way to Durbar Square. https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/thamel-heritage-walk.html

Durbar Square
At Durbar Square (unless you are a local and have a pass), you have to pay a tourist fee of Rs1000, which KK did while we looked around. The square was super vibrant with worshippers for the festival, singing, dancing, chatting and all very excited to see the Kumari. The Kumari has recently changed as the previous one reached puberty last year, and the current one is only aged 2 # (meaning she would only have a short time being processed around the square). Durbar square (which exists in all the Kathmandu valley royal cities) is where kings are crowned, and from where they ruled (durbar=palace). This one in the heart of Kathmandu is noted for its traditional architecture. The square was badly hit in the 2015 earthquake, although miraculously the Kumari palace was untouched (and you know what the locals believe about this... Kumari divine power etc). The square dates to the 17/18th century (though many buildings are older), and was rebuilt after the 1934 quake. Durbar is 3 loosely-linked squares; to the south open Basantapur Square (former royal elephant stables) runs into Freak Street. Durbar Square has Hanuman Dhoka and temples. From here Makhan Tole, the original main road is interesting to walk.
Below is a list of various temples, shrines, houses, etc with a guide to their current state. Those cells in grey were destroyed and have either not started restoration, or it is at a very early stage, those highlighted in yellow were badly damaged (or destroyed), but restoration has started and is progressing well, those highlighted in red were damaged, but restoration has been completed and those highlighted in blue were undamaged. There is an ongoing fight between who should pay for restoration, city or country. For the smaller temples/ shrines it has clearly been a city issue and they have, on the whole, got on and done it. It is the more iconic, very badly damaged temples, especially Kasthamandap and Trailokya Mohan, that have been more contentious. Last year it was finally agreed that it was the responsibility of Nepal (partly as Kathmandu city could not really afford it) and the work has now begun on them. This meant that although a lot of the temples have been mostly or completely restored, the two main ones were not for our visit. In many ways the 1934 earthquake restoration, which was roundly denounced as ‘not authentic’ at the time, has been a blessing, as those temple restored at the time with steel reinforcement poles (albeit hidden) did not collapse in 2015 at all, or with limited issues. In light of this, the decision has been made to continue to use steel reinforcement in the restoration work, despite it being ‘modern’, as it clearly worked to save both the buildings and the lives of people in the square at the time. Our guide was actually in the square during the earthquake and said he was surprised at how little fell (though then he, falsely, started worrying about his family instead. They were fine, but obviously an issue at the time).
We entered through the booth with the huge Taleju Temple to our left (no entry to public). Durbar Square’s most magnificent temple stands at its northeastern extremity but is not open to the public. Even for Hindus, admission is restricted; they can only visit it briefly during the annual Dasain festival. The 35m high, 3-roof, temple was built in typical Newari architecture in 1564 by Mahendra Malla. Taleju Bhawani was originally a goddess from the south of India, but she became the titular deity, or royal goddess, of the Malla kings in the 14th century. Perhaps because of the influence of the royal goddess(!), the temple escaped with only minor damage in the 2015 earthquake. The temple stands on a 12-stage plinth, dominating the Durbar Square area. The eighth stage of the plinth forms a wall around the temple, in front of which are 12 miniature temples.
large_bfc61660-b66e-11eb-a387-e3714973186b.pngFour more miniature temples stand inside the wall, which has four beautifully carved wide gates. It is said that when Mahendra Malla was residing in Bhaktapur, he 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 Kathmandu Durbar Square. 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. The oldest temples in the square are those built by Mahendra Malla (1560–74); Jagannath, Kasthamandap (Kotilingeswara Mahadev), Mahendreswara, and Taleju Temple.
Entrance gate from North with Mahendreshwar behind; Mahendreshwar Temple; Kageshwor Temple
The first temple we came across, to our right, was Mahendreshwar Temple. This popular temple dates from 1561, during the reign of Mahendra Malla, and is always bustling with pilgrims. The temple was clumsily restored with marble in 1963 and is dedicated to Shiva. At the northeastern corner there is an image of Kama Deva. The temple has a wide, two-level plinth and a spire topped by a golden umbrella. Directly in front of us was the slightly larger Kageshwor Temple, with lots of dancing in front of it. Built in 1711 by Queen Bhuvan Laxmi in memory of the late King Bhupendra Malla, the temple was originally a pagoda style structure in the distinctive local Newari style. Kageshwor is an incarnation of Shiva. The temple is unusual because its pagoda style ground floor is surmounted by a Shikhari style dome, probably added after the temple was damaged in an earth-quake in the early 19th century. Poor restoration work after the 1934 earthquake led to further degradation of the temple.The timbers, roof and walls had to be renovated. Mud mortar was used to reduce vulnerability to future earthquakes and further structural strengthening was carried out. Inappropriate red wash was removed from the walls and the original wood carving were restored. As a result it was undamaged in 2015.
Indrapur (left) and Vishnu (right) Temples; Kal Bhairav
Passing this we saw a row of three smaller temples, twin ones to Indrapur (middle) and Vishnu (on the left), and a very small one to Kal Bhairav, which we came back to later {this one had the statue we saw}. Little is known about the mysterious Indrapur temple. Even the god to which it is dedicated is controversial, the lingam inside indicates that it is a Shiva temple, but the Garuda image half-buried on the southern side connects it to Vishnu. To compound the puzzle, the temple’s name clearly indicates it is dedicated to Indra! The temple’s unadorned design and plain roof struts, together with the lack of an identifying torana (pediment above the temple doors), offer no further clues. Bhairav is one of the most dangerous forms of Lord Shiva and among the various forms of Bhairav, Kala Bhairav is the most perilous. This huge stone image has six arms, wears a garland of skulls and tramples on a corpse, symbolic of human ignorance. The meaning of Kala is ‘time’ or ‘death’, hence, Kala Bhairav is the ‘Lord of time or death’. Considered the guru of the planetary deity Shani (Saturn), Kala Bhairav is often depicted carrying the decapitated head of Brahma in guilt for cutting of one of the five heads of Brahma. He had to carry the head and roam as a mendicant for several years until he was absolved of the sin. He is often depicted wearing twisted serpents, a tiger skin and an apron made of human bones. The image of Kala Bhairav in the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square in Kathmandu is said to be the largest image of him and is considered one of the powerful temples in Kathmandu valley. The 12 foot high stone image enshrined in the temple is said to have been sculpted in the 5th or 6th century and rediscovered in a paddy field in the 17th century by King Pratap Malla. Legend has it that the temple served as a supreme court in Nepal for a long time as the people believed that anyone who lied in front of the sculpture would be stuck dead. The image is black in colour and is worshipped everyday.

We looked at the temples to Indra and Vishnu before heading to the large Jagannath (after Taleju it was the largest in the square). Jagannath temple is noted for the erotic carvings on its roof struts, and is the oldest structure in this part of Durbar Square. Pratap Malla claimed to have constructed the temple during his reign, but it may actually date back to 1563, during the rule of Mahendra Malla (1560-74). The temple has a three-tiered platform and two storeys. There are three doors on each side of the temple, but only the centre door opens. There are worrying cracks in the upper-storey brickwork.
Jagannath (there were erotic dancers in the crowd); Hanumandhoka; Narasingha statue
Passing Sundari and Mohan Chowks (no entry), we came to the corner of the square where there was a Hanuman statue. Mohan Chok was built in 1649 north of Nasal Chok. It was the residential courtyard of the Malla kings, and mandatory for a Malla king to be born here. In the courtyard centre is a golden waterspout called Sun Dhara, said to be from Budhanilkantha, in north part of Valley. On the north side, a beautifully carved doorway leads to the Malla kings’ private quarters, which rank as the oldest parts of Hanuman Dhoka. The first courtyard is Mohankali (Mohan) Chowk, which dates from 1649. At one time, a Malla king had to be born here to be eligible to wear the crown. The last Malla king, Jaya Prakash Malla, had great difficulties during his reign, even though he was the legitimate heir, because he was born elsewhere. Impressive wood carvings line the wall alcoves, depicting the exploits of young Krishna, and the central hiti (water reservoir) is the palace's finest. Pride of place in the intimate black-and-white Sundari Chowk behind is the ritual bathing pool with its Lichhavi-era carving of Krishna subduing the coils of the Kaliya serpent, hewn from a single block of stone in the 6th century. The Malla kings would ritually bathe each morning at the golden waterspout, whose waters allegedly flow from Budhanilkantha in the north of the valley.
The Hanuman statue marks the Hanumandhoka (entrance/ gate) to Kathmandu's old Royal Palace and gave the palace its name. The 1672 statue of Hanuman in red cloth and umbrella, has its face smeared with red paste. On the left is a 1673 sculpture of Narasimha (half-man, half-lion incarnation of Vishnu), devouring demon Hiranyakashipu. Hanuman’s assistance to the noble Rama during the exciting events of the Ramayana has led to the monkey god guarding many important entrances. Here, cloaked in red and sheltered by an umbrella, a Hanuman statue marks the dhoka (entrance) to Hanuman Dhoka and has even given the palace its name. The statue dates from 1672; the god’s face has long disappeared under a coating of orange-vermillion paste applied by generations of devotees. Standards bearing the double-triangle flag of Nepal flank the statue, while on each side of the palace gate are gaudy stone lions, one ridden by Shiva, the other by his wife Parvati. Above the gate a brightly painted niche is illustrated with a central figure of a ferocious Tantric version of Krishna. On the left side is the gentler Hindu Krishna in his traditional blue colour accompanied by two of his gopi (milkmaids). On the other side are King Pratap Malla and his queen. The Hanuman Dhoka originally housed 35 courtyards (chowks), but the 1934 earthquake reduced the palace to today’s 10 chowks.
Hanuman palace with coronation pavilion
Hanuman Dhoka Palace was originally founded during the Licchavi period (4th-8th century), but as it stands today it was constructed by King Pratap Malla and his Queen. The complex of structures in the Royal Palace of the Malla and Shah dynasties covers 5 acres. The East wing with 10 courtyards is the oldest part, dating to the mid 16th century, and expanded by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century. In 1768, four lookout towers were added by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The royal family lived here to 1886, when they moved to Narayanhiti Palace. A stone inscription is outside in 15 languages; legend states if all 15 are read milk will spring from the middle of stone tablet.
15 language inscription; Nasal Chok/ Basantapur Tower (before 2015); Mul Chok
We went through the entrance into Nasal Chowk, an enclosed courtyard surrounded by buildings that were once the royal palace. The large Narsingha statue and small dancing Shiva statue, along with the coronation platform had recently been restored, but at far corners Patan Tower (left) and Basantapur Tower (right) were both still badly damaged. The courtyard is from the Malla Period, but the buildings are Rana. It is named Nasal (Dancer) for the dancing Shiva on the east side. Kabindrapur Temple, Pancha Mukhi Hanuman Temple, Basantapur Tower, Mul Chowk, Degutaleju Temple, Mohan Chowk and Rana museum are all part of Nasal Chowk. Near the entrance are carvings of 4 gods which lead to the private apartments of the king. There was a golden image of Maha Vishnu on the east wall. The Audience Chamber of the Malla kings was in the NE corner. Their throne was on an open verandah. Nasal Chowk was constructed in the Malla period, but many of the buildings around the square are later Rana constructions. During the Rana period, Nasal Chowk was used for coronations, a practice that continued until as recently as 2001 with the crowning of King Gyanendra. The coronation platform stands in the centre of the courtyard, while the damaged Basantapur (Kathmandu) Tower looms over the southern end of the courtyard. Beyond the door is the large Narsingha Statue, Vishnu in his man-lion incarnation, in the act of disembowelling a demon. The stone image was erected by Pratap Malla in 1673 and the inscription on the pedestal explains that he placed it here for fear that he had offended Vishnu by dancing in a Narsingha costume. The Kabindrapur Temple in Durbar Sq was built for the same reason. Next is the Sisha Baithak (Audience Chamber) of the Malla kings. The open verandah houses the Malla throne and contains portraits of the Shah kings. At the northeastern corner of Nasal Chowk stands the damaged Panch Mukhi Hanuman Temple, with its five circular roofs. Each of the valley towns has a five-storey temple, although it is the great Nyatapola Temple of Bhaktapur that is by far the best known. Hanuman is worshipped in the temple in Kathmandu, but only the priests may enter. In Nepali nasal means ‘dancing one’, and Nasal Chowk takes its name from the Dancing Shiva statue in the whitewashed niche in the entrance. On display along the east side of the courtyard are the palanquins used to carry Queen Aishwarya during her wedding to Birendra in 1970. Also displayed here is the royal throne. The palace wing to the west of Nasal Chowk, overlooking the main Durbar Sq area, was constructed by the Rana ministers in the mid/ late 19th century after they wrested power from the Shah dynasty. Ironically, it later became a museum celebrating King Tribhuvan (1911–55) and his successful revolt against their regime, along with memorials to Kings Mahendra (1955–72) and Birendra (1972–2001). Rising above the museum is the 9-storey Basantapur (Kathmandu) Tower (1770), which once stood like a beacon at the end of Freak St. Unfortunately, the upper tiers collapsed during the earthquake and the tower is closed.
Panch Mukhi Hanuman Temple in the NE corner is unique as it has 5 circular roofs (only the temple priest can enter). Basantapur (place of Spring) was a 9-storey tower with erotic images on the tower struts, one of 4 red towers built by King Prithvi Narayan Shah to delimit the 4 old cities of Kathmandu Valley. Mul Chok, dedicated to Taleju Bhawani (the tutelary goddess of Malla family), is a courtyard with 2 storey religious buildings all round. The temple, with its golden torana (door garland), is located on the south side of the courtyard, with its entrance flanked with the river goddesses Ganges and Yamuna. Degu Taleju is a 3-roofed temple by Shiva Singh Malla and also dedicated to Taleju. On west side of Nasal Chok is Tribhuwan Museum with carvings, thrones, coronation ornaments, weapons, furniture, coins, King Tribhuwan's bedroom, etc, sadly closed. This part of palace was built by the Ranas in the mid/ late 19th century. The first square after the Tribhuvan Museum is Lohan Chowk. The upper parts of Basantapur (Kathmandu) and Bhaktapur Towers (Lakshmi Bilas) collapsed in 2015, but Kirtipur and Patan (Lalitpur) Towers (known more evocatively as Bilas Mandir, or House of Pleasure) are still standing.
Sweta Bhairav on display (outside Degataleju and on platform later)
North of Lohan Chowk, Mul Chowk was completely dedicated to religious functions within the palace and is configured like a vihara,with a two-storey building surrounding the courtyard. Mul Chowk is dedicated to Taleju Bhawani, the royal goddess of the Mallas, and sacrifices are made to her in the centre of the courtyard during the Dasain festival. Generally non-Hindus are not allowed in the square, but it was so busy with festival goers no one noticed us.
We didn’t stay long as we came back out and walked along the square with Kumari House group on our left. This set of buildings, where the Kumari resides includes Degutaleju Temple and Sweta Bhairav idol (on display in a window as it was Indra jatra festival- he is normally hidden). In the centre of this area was the tall King Pratap Malla’s Column. Across from the Krishna Temple, standing on a slightly raised platform in front of the Hanuman Dhoka is the square stone pillar, known as the Pratap Dhvaja. It is topped by a statue of King Pratap Malla, seated with folded hands and surrounded by his two wives and his five (including an infant) sons. He looks towards his private prayer room on the third floor of the Degutaleju Temple. The column was erected in 1670 by Pratap Malla and preceded the similar columns in Patan and Bhaktapur.
Kumari House; Degu taleju Temple with Pratap Mall’s Column in front.
As we past back Jagannath on the right we came into Makhan Tole with a of buildings in front of us. From right to left these were the Giant drums building (recently restored), Krishna Temple (the largest of the group), Saraswati Temple, Stone Vishnu Temple and the Big Bell. Among the pantheon of Hindu deities, Saraswati is one of the few goddesses who has remained significant in later Hinduism. The earliest reference to her is in the Rig Veda, as the manifestation of the river, on the bank of which Vedic culture developed. The Puranas narrate she was created by Brahma, the supreme creator of the universe. In some, she is his wife, in others his daughter. She is worshipped now as goddess of speech, learning, and fine arts. Her early associations with water, fertility, and prosperity are forgotten. Like every other Shakti deity in Hinduism, Saraswati is associated with a male deity, Brahma. In Nepal, particularly Kathmandu Valley, images of the deity can be found seated in lalitasana (on a lotus), or standing (samabhanga mudra). Standing idols sometimes have two arms, sometimes four. The right hands hold rosary beads, while the left hold a book and ink pot. Most seated idols are four-armed; the two right hands hold the rosary and the veena (instrument). The octagonal Krishna Temple (Chyasin Dega) was built in 1648/9 by Pratap Malla, either as a response to rival Siddhinarshingh Malla's Krishna Temple in Patan, as a religious consolation for his earlier failure to conquer that city, or in memory of his two wives, or a combination of all three. The three-tiered traditional Newari building is supported by stone columns around the circumference of the base. The image of Krishna inside the temple is accompanied by his two wives, Satyabhama and Rukmani, which, according to a Sanskrit inscription, are modelled on Pratap Malla and his two queens.
corner of Stone Vishnu Temple, Saraswati (small), Krishna (centre back); corner of Bhagwati temple, Big Bell (Taleju Bell), Stone Vishnu Temple
We headed round the corner to the left with Kumari House on our left (which included Bhagawati Temple). To our right was the Shiva Parvati mandir (Nawa Jogini). This brick and wood temple had 2 stone lions. It was only mildly damaged in 2015. Narayan Temple was behind Shiva Parvati. The larger Maju Deval Temple and associated shrine,
Ashok Binayak (Manu Ganesh) Temple were on our right. Located in the south west of Kathmandu Durbar square behind Kasthamandap is the House of the Priest (or of Spells). This awkward looking house with a red door with Buddha eyes. It is known both as the house of the priest and the house of spells. The house is home to a priest who looks after the nearby Ganesh shrine (Ashok Binayak) located around the corner beside Kasthamandap. Strangely the building isn't known as the house of spells due to a priest living inside but due to its perpendicular construction. Just past the house of spells to the left is a descending street known as "Pig Alley". This area is a traditional market dating back to the origins of Kathmandu city. Right in front of the house of spells is the back of Kasthamandap which was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake and is still in the midst of a rebuilding crises.. All around this area is a local vegetable market. There are no stalls just blankets or produce from each vendor is placed on the walls or ground here. To the west of the house of the priest is an Indian style brick shikhara dedicated to Shiva. At the junction is an entry point to Kathmandu Durbar Square and in front of it the rundown building known as Simha Sattal which was once a dance house dedicated to Shiva. To the east of the priests house is the ganesh shrine he looks after known as Maru Ganesh or Ashok Binayak. Ganesh's mouse sits opposite it! The once impressive Maju Deval temples, built in 1690 by the mother of Bhaktapur’s king Bhupatindra Malla had a large, triple-roofed temple with erotic carvings on its roof struts and a Shiva lingam inside. At the bottom of the temple stairway on the east side was a small white temple to Kama Deva, the Hindu god of love and desire, built in Indian shikhara style, with a tall corn cob–like spire. Sadly both of these were very badly damaged in 2015.
Shiva-Parvati Temple; Bhagwati Temple; Laxmi Narayan (left) and Trilokya (right edge) Temples (both destroyed)
Ashok Binayak; House of the Priest; Maju Deval and Kasthamandap (both destroyed 2015)
Although the small Shiva temple/shrine was standing the large and impressive Kasthamandap Temple (aka Kotilingeshwara Mahadev/ Maru Sattal) was rubble, having been destroyed in the earthquake. A plaque found inside Kasthamandap dated to 1048 made it one of the oldest buildings in Nepal. Kathmandu’s name is most likely derived from this temple due to its proximity between two ancient villages (Yambu and Yangala) that when merged formed the city. Kasthamandap was founded during the turbulent, sparsely recorded Transitional Period in Kathmandu history that was sandwiched between Licchavi decline and the rise of the Malla rule. Current bickering between the local municipality and the department of archaeology have hampered its reconstruction. Kasthamandap was not consecrated so it’s never been a temple. It is in fact a rest house which was converted into a shrine for Gorakhnath in 1379, whose central orange coloured statue was inside. Gorakhnath was a 10/11th century yogi. He is where the Gurkhas of Nepal get their name. It is said that Gorakhnath attended the chariot procession of Machhindranath while in human form, but a tantric priest recognised him and cast a spell which imprisoned him in Kathmandu Valley. Gorakhnath made a deal with the priest for his freedom. The priest needed wood to construct a building so Gorakhnath made a sal tree grow. The priest then used to the tree to tantrically build Kasthamandap and dedicated it to Gorakhnath. Another legend mentions a pinnacle which was never constructed. The builders promised to build the pinnacle once the price of oil and salt became equal, but this never happened. The story of the priest and Gorakhnath changes to say that King Laxmi Narsingha Malla built Kasthamandap using the wood from a single sal tree. Indeed engineer reports state that Kasthamandap has no metal joints, rivets or nails, though note that the building was extensively renovated in 1596 by King Lakshminarasimha Malla and again in the 17th century. Whichever is the case there is little doubting the important cultural significance of Kasthamandap. Aside from Gorakhnath statue and the tablet from the 11th century there were four smaller shrines to Ganesh. The second floor was often closed off but housed more smaller shrines. Sadly the local municipality has fenced off the remaining religious grounds citing that it was a danger. Considering there were no remaining structures this was called into question by many. This included local people living in the area and the department of archaeology who pointed out that the use of metal poles for the fence have damaged the ground around it. The wood carvings along the buildings struts were of particular note for their craftsmanship. And, again the fact the wooden building had no metal reinforcement yet stood for so long is a testament to its construction or legend. The pavilion is by no means the best example of Newar architectural craftsmanship. It lacks the tundaals (struts supporting the overhanging roofs) that add deep tantric mystique to temples of the later Malla Era and has no carvings and paintings. However what it lacks in stylistic grandeur, Kasthamandap more than makes up in its sheer size and one thousand years of history it captures within its copper-plate inscriptions, statues and rounds of renovations.
Singha Sattal,Gaddi Baithak, Kabindrapur temple
We ended at Singha Sattal on the right with the Kabindrapur temple/shrine opposite. Originally built with wood left over from the Kasthamandap Temple, the squat 700 year old building was called Silengu Sattal (silengu = ‘left over wood’ and sattal = pilgrim hostel) until the addition of the golden-winged singh (lions) that guard each corner of the upper floor (when it became singha= lion). At this point we turned to see the magnificent white Gaddi Baithak, a whitewashed european colonial style building. It looked out of place among the architecture of the surrounding temples and places. Gaddi Baihak was badly damaged during the April 25th earthquake in Nepal and it was announced in 2016 that Gaddi Baihak would be torn down and rebuilt. This is currently being contested by locals who have stated they want it repaired. Gaddi Baihak is actually apart of the royal palace throne room. Built in 1908 during the Rana period it was heavily influenced by the British who liaised with Nepal. The word “gaddi” means throne and “bhaithak” means meeting room and today Gaddi Baihak is used only for special state ceremonies. Around the side is the entrance to Hanuman Doka or the inner palace. The Ranas ruled Nepal 1846-1951 and stood behind the Shah monarchy who remained head of state. The Ranas were very pro-British and helped the British during the Indian rebellion of 1857 and both World Wars. Jang Bahadur Rana was prime minister when Gaddi Baihak was built in what can still be seen as a very definite salute to the British empire.
We then returned looking right, past Kumari Bahal (small covered stall) where two white lion guardian statues stand outside the entrance to Kumari Ghar (Kumari Chowk). Built in 1756 the interior of this three story red brick building is off limits to all but the Kumari’s assistants and guests. The inner courtyard is the only exception. Inside here are ornate wooden windows and panelling, and the top centre is where the Kumari may appear. It is said good luck will befall you if you catch a glimpse of her. There are three main Kumari's in Nepal, all based in Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu city hosts the royal Kumari while Bhaktapur and Patan host the other two Kumari's. Do take your time in the Kumari Ghar examining the unique woodwork that makes up the outer walls of the buildings. It's is unique and very old. If you are here during the Indra Jaya festival you can see her bless the King, or in our case the Prime Minister. The Kumari is a Sakya girl from the Newar community, selected to be town’s living goddess until puberty when she reverts to a normal mortal (although our guide said she oftens finds it hard to adjust and most men are too in awe to marry her). The Kumari Goddess is regarded as the living symbol of devi, the Hindu concept of female spiritual energy. The building is in Buddhist vihara (monastic) style, built in 1757 by Jaya Prakash Malla. In the courtyard is a mini stupa with symbols of Saraswati, goddess of learning. Non-Hindus not allowed beyond the courtyard. A large yellow gate to the right, normally holds the chariot that transports the Kumari around city for Indra Jatra festival.

The word Kumari is derived from Sanskrit Kaumarya "princess". In Nepal, a Kumari is a pre-pubescent girl selected from the Shakya caste or Bajracharya clan of the Nepalese Newari community, and worshipped by the country's Hindus. As of 2017, the Royal Kumari is Trishna Shakya, aged 3, installed in Sept 2017 by the Maoist government that replaced the monarchy. A Kumari is believed to be the incarnation of Taleju. When her first menstruation begins, the goddess vacates her body. Serious illness or a major loss of blood also causes loss of deity. Whilst the veneration of a living Kumari in Nepal is relatively recent, dating from the 17th century, the tradition of Kumari-Puja (virgin worship), has been in Nepal since the 6th century. According to a popular legend, King Jayaprakash Malla, the last king of the Malla Dynasty (12th–17th century) and his friend, the goddess Taleju played tripasa, a dice game in his room. The goddess came every night, with the condition that he told no one. But one night his wife followed him to find out who he was meeting. She saw Taleju and the goddess was angered. She told the king that if he wanted to see her again or have her protect his country, he'd have to search for her among the Newari (Shakya) community of Ratnawali, as she would be incarnated as a little girl among them. Another story says that it was king Trailokya Malla who played with Taleju, but when he made sexual advances towards her, she stopped visiting. The king pleaded for her return and she agreed to appear in the body of the virgin girl from the Shakya family. In another version, a king was attracted to young girls. Unfortunately, during sex with a young girl, she died, leaving him guilt-ridden. He concluded the girl had returned to her spiritual goddess nature and declared the creation of the Kumari Devi to remind the world of the sacred nature of young girls and virginity. Even today, a mother's dream of a red serpent is believed to be a portent of the elevation of her daughter to the position of Royal Kumari. A
variation of the legend says that during the reign of King Jayaprakash Malla, a young girl was banished from the city because it was feared that she was possessed by the goddess Durga. When the queen learned of this, she insisted that the king fetch the girl and install her as the living incarnation of Durga.
Kumari courtyard
Once Taleju has left the Kumari, there is a frenzy of activity to find her successor, similar to the process used in Tibet to find the reincarnations of Tulkus, such as the Dalai Lama. Eligible girls are from the Newar Shakya caste of silver and goldsmiths. She must be in excellent health, never have shed blood or been afflicted by disease, be without blemish and not lost any teeth. Girls who pass these basic requirements are examined for the battis lakshanas, or 32 perfections of a goddess, which include; neck like a conch shell, body like a banyan tree, eyelashes like a cow, thighs like a deer, chest like a lion, voice soft and clear as a duck, hair and eyes very black, dainty hands and feet, small and well-recessed sexual organs, 20 teeth. Once the priests have chosen a candidate, she undergoes more rigorous tests to ensure she possesses the qualities necessary to be the living vessel of Durga. On 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. If she truly possesses Taleju, she shows no fear. If she does, another candidate is brought in. The final test is that she must be able to pick out the personal belongings of the previous Kumari from an assortment of things laid out before her.
Garuda statue; Pavilion Bhimsen; Kumari in chariot.
A magnificent Garuda ( Vishnu's eagle mount) statue in front is all that remains of Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple. Built in 1680 and dedicated to Vishnu/Narayan, the Trailokya Mohan was best approached from the opposite side of the Kumari Ghar in Kathmandu Durbar Square. Sadly Trailokya Mohan was completely destroyed during the earthquake. The tall three roofed temple was built on top of a red-brick platform (intact). There was a central staircase leading up the temple. Nearby is Kabindrapur Temple. This wooden temple (pic right), also known as the Dhansa Dega, is an ornate 17th-century performance pavilion that houses the god of music. Behind Basantapur Square (and the former elephant stables) we accessed the (in)famous Freak Street. During the 1960s and early 70s Freak street (Jhochhen Tole - झोछेँ टोल) became a popular hangout place for hippies looking for legal hashish. During this period the government had legalised hashish in Nepal making it a nirvana of sorts. There were even direct buses from the airport to Freak street that bypassed Thamel and Durbar Square just to get hippies to the famous area. After hashish was banned in Nepal, Freak street’s popularity plummeted as trekking took over as Nepal's greatest attraction and tourists moved to more upmarket Thamel. In recent years Freak street has been making a bit of comeback as new restaurants are opening up and there's a small "classic" revival for yesteryear taking place.
We headed around the group Makhan Tole where we were privileged to see the Kumari dressed in yellow coming out on her chariot. We then joined with the festivities in front of the Bhairav idol, before heading out of the square for a break. We found a coffee shop opposite with a rooftop bar that gave great views of all of Durbar Square and we enjoyed watching the Kumari procession from on high.

History of Durbar Square
Licchavi Period- The preference for the construction of royal palaces at this site dates back to as early as the Licchavi period in the 3rd century, although the present palaces and temples have undergone repeated and extensive renovations and nothing physical remains from that period. Names like Gunapo and Gupo, which are the names given to the palaces in the square in early scriptures, imply that the palaces were built by Gunakamadev, a King ruling late in the 10th century. Though there are no written archives, construction of the palace in the square is credited to Sankharadev (1069–83).
Malla Period- When Kathmandu City became independent under the rule of King Ratna Malla (1484–1520), the palaces in the square became the Royal Palaces for its Malla Kings. As the first king of the independent Kathmandu City, Ratna Malla is said to have built the Taleju temple in the Northern side of the palace in 1501. For this to be true the temple would have to have been built in vihara style as part of the palace surrounding Mul Chok courtyard, as no evidence of a separate structure that would match this temple can be found within the square. Construction of Kernel Chok is not documented in any historical inscription, but it is probably the oldest courtyard in the square. Bhagavati (Bhagwati) Temple, originally known as a Narayan Temple, rises above the mansions surrounding it and was added during the time of Jagajaya Malla in the early 18th century. The Narayan idol within the temple was stolen so Prithvi Narayan Shah replaced it with an image of Bhagavati, completely transforming the name of the temple. The oldest temples in the square are those built by Mahendra Malla (1560–74); the temples of Jagannath, Kotilingeswara Mahadev, Mahendreswara, Taleju. The 3-roofed Taleju Temple was established in 1564, in typical Newari architectural style and is elevated on platforms that form a pyramid-like structure. Mahendra Malla, when residing in Bhaktapur, was highly devoted to the Taleju Temple there. The Goddess, pleased with his devotion, gave him a vision asking him to build a temple for her in Kathmandu Durbar Square. 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. His successors Sadasiva (1575–81), his son, Shiva Simha (1578–1619), and his grandson, Laksmi Narsingha (1619–41), do not seem to have made any major additions to the square. During this period, the only constructions were the establishment of Degutale Temple dedicated to Goddess Mother Taleju by Shiva Simha and enhancement in the royal palace by Laksminar Simha. However, under Pratap Malla, the square was extensively developed. He was a pious devotee, and especially interested in arts. He called himself a Kavindra, king of poets, and boasted he knew 15 languages. Following his coronation, he immediately began enlargements to his royal palace, rebuilt some old temples and constructed new temples, shrines, and stupas around his kingdom. During the construction of his palace, he added a small entrance in the traditional, low and narrow Newari style. The door was elaborately decorated with carvings and paintings of deities and auspicious signs and was later transferred to the entrance of Mohan Chok. In front of the entrance, he placed the statue of Hanuman thinking that Hanuman would strengthen his army and protect his home. The entrance leads to Nasal Chok, the courtyard where most royal events such as coronation, performances, and yagyas (holy fire rituals), take place. It was named after Nasadya, the God of Dance, and during the time of Pratap Malla the sacred mask dance dramas (kham) performed in Nasal Chok were widely famed. In one of these dramas, Pratap Malla himself played the role of Lord Vishnu and it was said that the spirit of Vishnu remained in the king's body after the play. After consulting Tantric leaders, he ordered a stone image of Vishnu in his incarnation as Nara Simha (half- lion/ half-human), and transferred the spirit into the stone (Stone Vishnu Temple). This fine image of Narasimha made in 1673 still stands in the Nasal Chok. In 1650, he commissioned the construction of Mohan Chok. This chowk remained the royal residential courtyard for many years and is believed to store a great amount of treasure under its surface. Pratap Malla also built Sundari Chok at this time. He placed a slab engraved with lines in 15 languages and proclaimed that he who could understand the inscription would produce the flow of milk instead of water from Tutedhara, a fountain set in the outer walls of Mohan Chok. He made extensive donations to temples and had the older ones renovated. Next to the palace, he built a Krishna temple, the Vamsagopala, in an octagonal shape in 1649. He dedicated this temple to his two Indian wives, Rupamati and Rajamati, as both had died during the year it was built. In Mohan Chok, he erected a 3-roof Agamachem temple and a unique temple with 5 superimposing roofs.

After completely restoring Mul Chok in 1670, he donated metal doors to the adjoining Taleju Temple. He rebuilt the Degutale Temple built by his grandfather, Siva Simha, and the Taleju Temple in the palace square. As a substitute to the Indreswara Mahadeva Temple in the distant village of Panauti, he built a Shiva temple, Indrapura, near his palace in the square. He carved hymns on the walls of the Jagannath Temple as prayers to Taleju in the form of Kali. At the southern end of the square, near Kasthamandap at Maru, which was the main city crossroads for early traders, he built another pavilion named Kavindrapura, the mansion of the king of poets. In this mansion, he set an idol of dancing Shiva, Nasadyo, which today is worshipped by dancers. In the process of beautifying his palace, he added fountains, ponds, and baths. In Sundari Chok, he established a low bath with a golden fountain. He built a small pond, the Naga Pokhari, in the palace adorned with Nagakastha, a wooden serpent, which is said he had ordered stolen from the royal pond in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. He restored the Licchavi stone sculptures such as the Jalasayana Narayana, the Kaliyadamana, and the Kala Bhairav. An idol of Jalasayana Narayana was placed in a newly created pond in the Bhandarkhal garden in the eastern wing of the palace. As a substitute to the idol of Jalasayana Narayana in Buddhanilkantha, he channelled water from Buddhanilkantha to the pond in Bhandarkhal. The Kalyadana, a manifestation of Lord Krishna destroying Kaliya, a water serpent, was placed in Kalindi Chok, adjacent to the Mohan Chok. The 10ft high image of terrifyingly portrayed Kal Bhairav was placed near the Jagannath Temple. This image is the focus of worship in the chok, especially during Durga Puja. With the death of Pratap Malla in 1674, building in the square came to a halt. His successors retained relatively little power as ministers took control, and they had no interest in building. Only a few minor constructions were made in the square. These projects included Parthivendra Malla’s temple, the Trilokya Mohan or Dasavatara, dedicated to Lord Vishnu in 1679. A large statue of Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, was added in front of it a decade later. Parthivendra Malla added a pillar with an image of his family in front of the Taleju Temple. 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 9 stepped platforms and is one of the tallest buildings in the square. When her son, Bhupalendra Malla, took the throne he banished the widowed queen. After his death at the age of 21 his widowed queen, Bhuvanalaksmi, built a Newari style temple in the square known as Kageswara Mahadev. After the earthquake in 1934, the temple was restored with a dome roof, which was alien to the Newari architecture. Jayaprakash Malla, the last Malla king to rule Kathmandu, built a temple for Kumari and Durga in her virginal state. The temple was named Kumari Bahal and was structured like a typical Newari vihara. In his house resides the Kumari, a girl revered as the living goddess. He made a chariot for Kumari and the detailed terra cotta tiles of the courtyard were laid down. During the Shah dynasty that followed, Durbar Square saw a number of changes. Two of the more unusual temples in the square were built during this time. One is the Nautale, a 9-storied building known as Basantapur 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, some slightly projecting from the wall. The other temple is an annex to the Vasantapur Durbar and has 4 stories. It 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 wood carvings and the roofs are made in popular Mughal style.
Shah Period- When Prithvi Narayan Shah invaded Kathmandu Valley in 1769, he favoured Kathmandu Durbar Square for his palace. Subsequent Shah kings continued to rule from the square until 1896 when they moved to the Narayan Hiti Palace. The square remained the centre of royal events like the coronation of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001. Archives state that Prithivi Narayan Shah built two buildings in 1770. Rana Bahadur Shah was enthroned at the age of two. Bahadur Shah, the second son of Prithvi Narayan Shah, ruled as a regent for his young nephew 1785-94 and built a temple of Shiva Parvati in the square, a single roofed temple in Newari style, remarkably similar to previous temples built by the Mallas. It is rectangular in shape and enshrines the Navadurga, a group of goddesses, on the ground floor. It has a wooden image of Shiva and Parvati at the window of the upper floor, looking out at the passersby in the square. Another significant donation made during the time of Rana Bahadur Shah is the metal-plated head of Swet Bhairav near the Degutale Temple, donated during the festival of Indra Jatra in 1795. It continues to play a major role during the festival every year. This 12ft high face of Bhairav is concealed behind a latticed wooden screen for the rest of the year. Following this Rana Bahadur donated a huge bronze bell as an offering to the Goddess Taleju. Together with the beating of the huge drums donated by his son Girvan Yudha, the bell was rung every day during the daily ritual worship of the goddess. However, after the death of his beloved third wife Kanimati Devi to smallpox, Rana Bahadur Shah turned mad with grief and had many images of gods and goddesses smashed including the Taleju statue and bell, and Sitala, the goddess of smallpox. In 1908, a palace, Gaddi Durbar, was built in European architectural design. The Rana Prime Ministers who had taken power from the Shahs Kings 1846-1951 were highly influenced by European styles. The Gaddi Durbar is covered in white plaster, has Greek columns and adjoins a large audience hall, all foreign features to
Nepali architecture. The balconies of this durbar were reserved for the royal family during festivals to view the square below. Some of the parts of the square like Hatti Chok near the Kumari Bahal were removed during restoration after the 1934 earthquake.
On finishing our walk we headed back on a slightly different route via Gangalal Marg (street) past Naradevi Bhajan Sthal (Nara devi temple aka Niyata Maru Ajima)- picture left. This unprepossessing (from the exterior) temple is one of the oldest in Kathmandu. One of the finest examples of

Newari architecture, Nara Devi temple is a three storied Pagoda style temple that attracts thousands of visitors each day. Nara Devi is composed of two terms, ‘Nara’ meaning ‘human’ and ‘Devi’ meaning ‘goddess’, hence, Nara Devi means the ‘goddess of human being’. Nara is a manifestation of Kali (Shiva’s wrathful consort). The people of Newar community call the goddess Ajima, which means mother. The temple is built according to the Ying principle of female energy. It is said that by worshiping here, people get power, courage, etc. The roof and the walls are carved with the images of various Hindu gods and goddesses. The temple is crowded with the devotees during the time of Navaratri and Dashain. The statue of the goddess inside is a beautiful piece of Newari sculpture. It is because of these temples that Kathmandu valley is known as the valley of temple. Nara Devi is also Kula Devi (familial deity) of some of the Newar community who believe in the power of the goddess and say that the goddess has protected them from various disasters. The goddess protects human from weakness. It is also said that she comes to the dreams of her devotees and tell them about upcoming dangers, problems, etc. She is also the protector of Kathmandu valley. I asked if I could go in and quickly had a look (and obligatory blessing).
Passing various smaller shrines (Kathmandu appears to have one every few metres) we came back up to Amrit Marg to Bikramashila Mahabihar (Bhagwan Bahal), said to be over 1,000 years old, though it has been rebuilt on many occasions over this period. There is a temple to Ajima beside the Bahal but the deity shrine is long gone. Inside, Bhagwan Bahal contains the manuscript Swayambhu Puran, one of the oldest manuscripts narrating the story of Kathmandu Valley. Bhagwan is the god, bahal means square. Bhagavān (Bhagwan or Bhagawan) is an epithet for deity, particularly for Krishna and other avatars of Vishnu in Vaishnavism, as well as for Shiva in the Shaivism tradition of Hinduism, and is used by Jains to refer to the Tirthankaras, particularly Mahavira and by Buddhists to refer to the Buddha. Bhagavān can therefore also represent the concept of abstract God to Hindus who are religious but do not worship a specific deity. Bhagwan Bahal has a close relationship with the Kathmandu Kumari who visits here once a year. Opposite the monastery are tiny shrines surrounded by motorcycles.
Facing Bhagwan Bahal we went right and on past the next junction north, where there was a small Sunken Ganesh Shrine lodged into the steps below a pavement. Then on north as the road crooked right to another junction and to the left a small shrine with a roof, dedicated to Ganesh. Though the concrete building is not interesting we went up close to the deity statue below street level. The statue of Ganesh is very detailed and was worth a closer look.

We finished our walk back at the hotel and after a brief rest decided to wander Thamel for some retail therapy. We had spotted some T-shirts we wanted and quickly did a deal on the yak, yak, yeti T-shirts that are maybe clichéd but still amusing. A local jeweller was a next stop to purchase some earrings which we agreed to collect at the end of the holiday. The sun sets quickly in Thamel, but shopping continues until 10 pm, so it was later than expected when we found ourselves hungry. Not wanting the same restaurant we wandered Thamel until we found a restaurant (Baardali) that looked like it was upstairs until the lady suggested their garden at the back. Great find and only locals sitting at the 5 table area with pond and resident cats. We had the Nepali set menu, very nice, which included a beer (Everest for Steve) or wine (a local sweetish red for me).

Posted by PetersF 07:30 Archived in Nepal Tagged nepal kathmandu hindu kumari indra jatra

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