Nepal Places of Interest
The Kathmandu Valley has an exotic setting. It is surrounded by tier upon tier of green mountain walls above which tower mighty snowcapped peaks. It consists of three main cities of great historic and cultural interest Kathmandu, Lalitpur (Patan) and Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon). The Kathmandu Valley covers an area of 218 sq. miles. It is situated at 1336 m above sea-level. From the air, the oval shaped Kathmandu Valley, the hub of the Country looks like a large chess board with the sacred river Bagmati and its tributary Bishnumati wending their way to the south. Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is named after Kasthamandap, an imposing pagoda near Hanuman Dhoka Palace. The city was built in its present form by Gunakama Dev in 723 A.D.
Hanuman Dhoka (Durbar Square):It is the historic seat of royalty. The Durbar square, with its old temples and palaces, epitomizes the religious and cultural life of the people. It is here that kings of Nepal are crowned and their coronations solemnized. Interesting things to see here are Taleju Temple built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 AD), Gigantic figure of Kal Bhairav, the God of Destruction.) Basantapur Durbar or Nautalle Durbar, built by King Prithvi Narayan Shah .Coronation Platform (Nasal Chok) the Hall of Public Audience (Gaddi) Baithak) ,the statue of King Pratap Malla ,the Big Bell .Big Drums, and ,the Jagannath Temple. There is also a temple of Pancha Mukhi Hanuman inside the old palace. This is one of the only two such structures in Nepal, the other is in Pashupatinath. Opposite the entrance to the Hanuman Dhoka Palace stands the Krishna Mandir. It is one of the few octagonal temples in Nepal. On the right hand corner, larger wooden lattice screen hides an enormous glided face of Sweta Bhairav, a fascinating masterpiece of popular art. The screen is removed only during the Indra Jatra festival. Just before entering the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka Palace, there is a temple of Shiva-Parvati, on the left. The deified couple, carved in wood and beautifully painted, look graciously down from the centre window of the upper balcony. There are also Numismatic Museum and Tribhuvan Museum inside the Hanuman Dhoka Palace building. Photography is prohibited inside the museums. Both the museums remain closed on Tuesdays and government holidays. A nominal fee is charged to enter the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka Palace where one can get exposed to a visual feast of carvings and mouldings on the nine storey pagoda of the palace. The main ceremonial umbrella suspended above his head and wrapped in a scarlet cloak, he squats on a stone plinth. The image of hanuman was kept by King Pratap Malla.
Swayambhunath:This is one of the world's glorious Buddhist Chaityas. It is said to be 2000 years old. The Chaitya which forms the main structure is made of a solid hemisphere of brich and clay supporting a lofty conical spire capped by a pinnacle of copper gift. Painted on the four-sides of the spire bases are the all- seeing eyes of Lord Buddha. It is three kilometers west of Kathmandu city, and is situated on a hillock about 77m above the level of the Valley. The hills ls is a mosaic of small Chaityas and pagoda temple.
Pashupatinath Temple:Situated five kilometers east of Kathmandu on the bank of sacred Bagmati river, the temple of Lord Shiva-Pashupatinath with two-tiered golden roof and silver doors is famous for its superb architecture. It is a centre of annual pilgrimage on the day of Maha-Sivarati. Entrance to the temple precinct is permitted to the Hindus only however, visitors can clearly see the temple and the activities performed in the temple premises from the eastern bank of the Bagmati river. Bus, minibus, tempos and taxi for Pashupatinath temple are available at Ratna Park.
Bouddhanath:The Stupa of Bouddhanath lies eight kilometers east of Kathmandu. This colossal and ancient Stupa, one of the biggest in the world, has the all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha. It was built by Lichchhavi King Ma na Dev in the fifth century AD. It is built on an octagonal base inset with prayer wheels. Ratna Park and Shahid gate are the main bus stops for Bouddhanath.
LALITPUR (Patan):This ancient city of Patan is situated on the southern bank of the river Bagmati and is about five kilometers southeast of Kathmandu. The city is full of Hindu temples and Buddhist monuments with bronze gateways, guardian deities and wonderful carvings. Noted for its craftsmen and metal workers, it is known as the city of artists. The major tourist attractions of Patan are:
Durbar Square:Patan Durbar Square, situated in the heart of the city constitutes the focus of visitor's attraction. The square is full of ancient palaces, temples and shrines noted for their exquisite carvings. One can rummage for treasures in the various shops around the square. The main attraction of Patan Durbar Square is the ancient Royal Palace itself. It consists of three main chowks or courtyards, the central Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Min Keshab Narayan Chowk. In the north eastern corner of the courtyard is the triple rotted octagonal tower of Taleju Bhawani Temple built by King Shree Niwas Malla in 1667. The Sundari Chowk holds in its centre a masterpiece of stone architecture, the Royal bath called Tushahity. Between the central Mul Chowk and Main Keshab Narayan Chowk there is a temple of Degu Taleju.
Krishna Mandir:Built in the seventeenth century by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla, the temple of Lord Krishna holds a commanding position in the palace complex of Patan. It is supposed to be the first specimen of Shikhara style architecture in Nepal. It is the only temple in Nepal having 21 shrines and is completely made of stone. Most of the important scenes from the ancient Hindu epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, have been engraved on its friezes.
BHAKTAPUR (Bhadgaon):Bhaktapur, situated at an altitude of 1401m, is a home of medieval art and architecture. The urban city covers an area of 4 square miles. Shaped like a conch-shell, Bhaktapur means the city of devotees. Pottery and weaving are its traditional industries. The city lies about 14 kilometers east of Kathmandu and can be reached by public transport and by trolley buses. The major sightseeing places in Bhaktapur include:
Durbar Square:The main square of the city contains innumerable temples and other architectural showpieces like the Lion Gate, the Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, the Picture Gallery, the Golden Gate, the Palace of 55 Windows, the Batsala Temple and the Bell of Barking Dogs, the replica of Pashupatinath Temple, etc.
The Lion Gate which was built during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla is adorned with the lovely stone figures of Hanuman, Bhairav and Narasingh Narayan. The statue of Malla King in the act of worship is placed on a column facing the palace. Of the many statues available in Nepal this is considered to be the most magnificent.
The Picture-Gallery contains ancient paintings belonging to Hindu and Buddhist schools of Tantrism of various periods and descriptions.
The Golden Gate has Kali and Garuda, the winged carrier of Lord Vishnu and is attended by two sky nymphs. This gate is embellished with monsters of marvellous intricacy.
The Palace of 55 Windows was built in the seventeenth century by King Bhupatindra Malla. Among the brick walls, with their gracious setting and sculptural design, is a balcony of 55 windows. This balcony is a masterpiece of wood carving.
The stone temple of Batsala Devi which is also located in the Durbar Square is full of intricate carvings. This temple also sets a beautiful example of Shikhara style of architecture in Nepal. There is a bronze bell on the terrace of the temple which is also known as the "bell of barking dogs". When it peals, the local dogs start barking. This colossal bell, placed in 1737 A.D. by King Rankit Malla, was used to sound curfew during his reign. The bell is rung every morning while worshipping Goddess Taleju.