Known locally as the Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square, the Kathmandu Durbar Square located in the heart of old Kathmandu city in Basantapur is one of three ancient medieval kingdoms. Previously a walled fortress known as Durbar (Palace) Square, the Kathmandu Durbar Square is among the region’s revered World Heritage Sites.
Surrounded by concrete buildings, the complex was once the residence of Nepal’s Royal family. Built by the Malla, Shah and Rana rulers over the centuries, the palatial grounds host an unbelievable 50 temples including the temple of the titular deity, Taleju Bhawani.
Divided into two courtyards, the Durbar has an outer section consisting of the Kumari Ghar, Shiva-Parvati Temple and Kasthmandap while the inner section is home to the Hanuman Dhoka and the main palace. Some floors of the palace have been converted into museums dedicated to three generations of Shah kings.
Apart from the large white neoclassical building called the Gaddi Baithak that features European architecture, the rest of the monuments boast intricate wood carvings in pagoda style architecture with guardian deities looking our from their sanctuaries forming a well-orchestrated symphony of Newari architecture. With majority of the intricately carved exteriors built between the 12th and 18th centuries, the Durbar Square with its old temples epitomizes the religious and cultural life of the people.
It is here in this grand quadrate that the kings of Nepal were crowned and their coronations solemnized. Until the early 20th century, the Durbar Square was the king’s residence and must have been a beautiful place with colourful flora and fauna oozing in royal reverence. Today unfortunately with the suspension of the monarchy in 2008, the Kathmandu Square is lost in a world of misuse and over crowding, filth, animal faeces and poor maintenance.
The most popular location within the Kathmandu Durbar Square is the Kumari Ghar that houses the living goddess of Kathmandu. Built in 1757, the temple is known for its magnificent carvings as well as its divine inhabitant. There is a tradition of worshipping a young pre-pubescent girl whom devotees believe is the reincarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess Durga. Some might find this practice disturbing while others see it nothing but an act of God’s will. What ever your perspective of this practice, you will find equal amounts of locals and travellers alike visiting the Kumari to receive her blessings.
Located at Ganga Path, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal, the Kathmandu Durbar Square itself is open every day, however each building inside has different visiting timings. The best time to visit is in the mornings and find out from the ticketing office on the opening times of each temple or museum as they can change without prior notice. Tickets for foreigners cost approximately USD8.70 while tickets for those from SAARC countries cost approximately USD2.30.
Text & Photography by Rosemarie John © All Rights Reserved