Biography of Arniko : The Greatest Architect in History of Nepal

Nepal is wealthy in natural legacy, design being one of them. We see many lovely ancestral shrines in Nepal in construction and pagoda design. These are all Nepal’s hard work and architecture abilities. Arniko was Nepal’s most renowned builder among the different.


Nepal is one of the most richest country in the world in cultural heritage by the eyes of being the architecture. We have seen many beautiful building and pagoda style ancient temples in Nepal because of Nepalese who are and were the best in their architecture.

Those all are the hard working Nepalese people and skillful of the architectures in History of Nepal. Among the various painter, architecture, Arniko was the most famous and the greatest architect of Nepal.

Not only in Nepal, but also in Tibet, China, Mongolia and Indonesia, Arniko was popular. There was a famous emperor in China called Kublai Khan during the 13th century. He’s been a fantastic design and architecture fan.

He agreed in 1260 AD to request Nepal to dispatch qualified builders to oversee his teacher’s job of constructing a gilded stupa in Lhasa. More than eighty engineers expressed pleasure in moving to Lhasa and choosing the most talented and qualified one was hard for the King. Arniko finally went forward and provided the squad to guide. The King wasn’t persuaded at first, but he rendered Arniko the squad chief after seeing his abilities.

He built a beautiful monastery in the pagoda style in Lhasa that so impressed the teacher of the emperor that he asked Arniko to go to China and meet the emperor. Kublai Khan wished to evaluate him after consulting him, so he requested Arniko to fix a Sung emperor’s copper sculpture.

After Arniko had completed his restoration, the sculpture appeared so ideal that he was significantly praised by even the most qualified painters in China. With his job, Arniko demonstrated to be a genius. In architecture he was nice as well as in painting and sculpture.

He depicted and surprised everybody there a sequence of pictures of Chinese emperors. He was provided a silver plate to carry with a tiger picture in it by 1247, which implied China’s greatest appreciation. The emperor liked him very much and he was honored as Duke of Liang.


The White Pagoda or Peking’s Pai Ta Sze still exists proudly as Arniko’s excellent job. Yungtang’s Nepali-style archway is another excellent piece of his. Although Arniko enlisted in China and killed there in 1306, he was a Nepali.

His achievement tale is extremely praised in both China and Nepal. In addition, in his honor was built the 115 km Arniko road that links Kathmandu with Kodari on the south of the Kathmandu Valley connecting with the China National Highway. He’s regarded as one of Nepal’s legends that created the nation happy.


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Biography of Arniko : The Greatest Architect in History of Nepal

Arniko was born in 1244. He was the most famous Nepalese Architect of our past glorious history. In spite of tender age, he led 80 artisans to Lhasa and erected a golden stupa. He also showed his qualities as a bronze caster, painter and architect in China.

Araniko was a famous architect of Nepal. During the Malla period, the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan sent a message to Nepal to send some artists for making statues in China. In 1260 AD king Jaya Bhimdev Malla sent 80 Nepalese artists to Lhasa under the leadership of Araniko.

They built several pagoda style monasteries in Lhasa. Arniko’s works were highly appreciated by the Chinese. He made many temples and stupas in China. His good work helped to maintain good relation between Nepal and China.

Impressed by his craftsmanship, Emperor Kublai Khan of China appointed him the controller of the imperial architectural studies. He was posthumously awarded the Chinese Title of Ming Hoi and decorated with the title of Duke of Liang The white Pagoda in Peking, designed by Arniko, stands to this day as monument of the Nepalese art and architecture.

Architect Arniko was not only famous in within country Nepal but also in other countries like Tibet, China, Mongolia as well as Indonesia.

He died in China on March 11, 1306, at the age of 62.

Historical background

The event that brought Araniko to Tibet and ultimately to the Yuan court in Shangdu (today’s Beijing) was the 1260 CE decree of Kublai Khan to Drogon Chogyal Phagpa, the fifth patriarch of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism, to construct a golden stupa for Suer chi wa (Tibetan: “Chos rje pa” or “the Lord of Dharma”), that is, the Sakya Pandita Kun dga ‘ rgyal mtshan (1182–1251), the fourth patriarch of the sect. The order of Kublai was one of the indicators of his Sakya teaching acceptance.

The construction’s timing, 1260, is worth noting. In April 1260, his own followers appointed Kublai as the Great Khan, rivaling his older sister Ariq Boke’s argument. Thus a civil war was initiated between the siblings for the Empire’s governance. He appointed his Imperial preceptor Phagpa in the twelfth month of 1260, giving him a jade seal and the position of leader of Buddhism.

Thus Kublai formally recognized Phagpa as his greatest spiritual power and had to patronize the learning of Sakya. In exchange, he was expecting spiritual sanction from the Sakya sect. The construction of the stupa was not only a tribute to the Sakya Pandita, but was also intended as a project to win a critical year’s religious blessing. Finally, on August 21, 1264, Ariq Boke presented to Kublai in Shangdu.

Arniko during Nepal

Araniko was raised in 1245 when King Abhaya Malla (1216–55) reigned in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. While Nepalese history has no mention of Arniko and all that is recognized about him stems from Chinese records, Chinese history and historian Baburam Acharya believes that Arniko might be from Patan, a location renowned for sculpture and fine arts.

He would have been from the individuals of Newar and a Buddhist as such. However, it is recognized that during the rule of Jaya Bhim Dev Malla, Abhaya Malla’s descendant, Araniko resided in Kathmandu Valley.

His grandfather’s title is provided in the Chinese documents as “Mi-ti-rha” and grandma as “Kun-di-la-qi-mei,” respectively, Chinese pronunciation for Sanskrit designations Mitra and Kundalaxmi. The title of his father was “La-ke-na,” while the title of his mother was “Shu-ma-ke-tai.”

As is often said about skilled performers in tales, even in his late adolescence, Araniko was an architectural prodigy. An anecdote from his epitaph tells of his relatives taking the kid to a temple when he was three years aged to give homage to the Buddha.

Looking up at a stupa, he inquired “who created his bronze stambha, bhumis, anda?” Amazingly astonished, the individuals around him knew he was a living artist. His temperament was drunk as an individual when he was about seven. He learned his lessons at college and in such a short time became a fine calligrapher that even the holy teachers recognized their inferiority.

As quickly as he noticed them write, he could memorize painting treatises. He was already a specialist in painting, modeling and drawing pictures before he departed Nepal for Tibet.

Life and times of during Arniko’s period

Stamps were given, a highway was titled after him, one of the national icons of Nepal was proclaimed. But Arniko continues very much an enigma in his nation of origin 900 years ago.  But in China, where Arniko moved to Kublai Khan’s tribunal in 1260 as a master architect, he is still honored.

He was named Duke of Liang, and the spot where he was cremated in Hsiang Sheng near Beijing is marked by a memorial stele. A biography has been published about him, and there is a section on him in the Yuan genealogy.

Because of these credible accounts from Chinese accounts, we can track the tale of this notable historical person from Kathmandu today, even though facts about him are patchy in Nepal itself. In 1260, Mongol ruler Kublai Khan requested to construct a gilded stupa in Tibet for his religious guru Phags-Pa.

When the patriarch of the Shakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism requested Nepal’s emperor Jaybhimdev Malla for a hundred performers, the prince was only able to gather 80. Arniko, seventeen, already recognized as a baby actress, offered to guide them.

The reality that Nepali painters were required demonstrates just how the art and architecture of Nepal evolved at the moment, “describes art historian Manuj Babu Mishra.”In reality, the Changu Narayan Temple of the sixth century pre-dated Arniko and shows the richness of the cultural history of Nepal.

In the subcontinent of Tibet, due to the decrease of Buddhism, Nepal was seen as the origin of Buddhist wisdom and philosophy. Phags-pa was so pleased with the stupas of Arniko that he educated him to become a monk and sent him to Beijing to satisfy himself with the Great Khan.

By fixing a bronze monument, Arniko met Kublai Khan (the daughter of Genghis Khan) and moved on to construct the White Dagoba, a monument in Beijing to this day. The design and architecture of China had already been extremely established, so China was not looking for any architect from Nepal.

What Arniko brought with his philosophy and symbolism to China was Buddhist architecture, “suggests historian Satya Mohan Joshi, whose thesis on Arniko was released in 1988.  For example, the Chaitya symbolized Chaitanya or consciousness in Swoyambhu and Baudha.

Arniko is intended to have taken the renowned tiered temple design of Kathmandu Valley to China, from where it traveled to Korea and Kyoto. But while that’s hard to demonstrate, Satya Mohan Joshi claims Arniko holds many other northern Nepali aspects: the wooden door, stone pillars and sculpted doors (tikijhya) at the White Dagoba, its bronze tower (gajur), Dipankar Nepali-style sculptures, Shakyamuni and Maitreya Buddha, Paubha deity images such as Mahakala, White Tara, Green Tara, Avalokiteswar.

Among the Cloud Terrace remains close the foundation of the Great Wall is an enormous stone arch comprising pictures such as the Garud, Nagkanya, crocodiles, animals, and Panchabuddha. In fact, the green stupa in Nanking and other places have carvings in Ranjana text–all vestiges of the impact of Arniko in China.

Late historian Dina Bangdel says in another research paper that the functions of Arniko were influential in converting Kublai Khan to Tantric Buddhism. Phags-pa guided Araniko to produce a picture of Mahakala that was used in a ritual of defense to help Khan in his (winning) fights.

The Mahakala picture of Araniko became a strong sign of the power of a leader to govern, “Bangdel wrote. Arniko also developed science tools such as armillary spheres and water clocks. However, there are unusual pieces of architecture that can definitely be ascribed to him.

The Cleveland Museum claims Arniko’s Green Tara picture, while Arniko is thought to be paintings of Kublai Khan and his mother Chabi at Taiwan’s National Palace Museum. Portrait of Chabi, Kublai Khan’s daughter, now living in Taiwan’s National Palace Museum.

Although these claims cannot be demonstrated, Prof. Anning suggests that Araniko is now a bronze sculpture of Manjushri (numbered 1305) in the Palace Museum in Beijing and a brocade picture of a three-faced, six-armed Guhyasamaja in Lhasa’s Potala Palace.

Arniko set up a Nepali art school in China that educated at least two of his own children and thousands of Chinese painters. By taking insights from Pala, Nepal and China’s cultural traditions, Anige (Araniko) developed a fresh type of public painting on its own and supported it under his management through the enormous artisan organizations,’ says Prof. Anning.

Marco Polo, an Italian traveler who traveled to China from 1271-1295, was Arniko’s predecessor. History has no memory of it if they’ve ever encountered. In Chinese history, Marco Polo has not even been appointed. Ironically, while Marco Polo achieved enduring notoriety after returning back and writing about his journeys, Arniko vanished from world history at the era of 62 after his suicide in 1306, given the regard he ordered in the Chinese tribunal.

Satya Mohan Joshi believes that the heritage of Arniko is the enduring bond between Nepal and China, and mentions the White Dagoba that was left alone even during the Cultural Revolution, and that the Chinese state still cares for and rehabilitates it with high priority. Nepal requires to survive by the panchasheel strategy, and we have historical evidence that Arniko supported it. He needs to be our national icon for that reason.


Arniko divorced, and remarried in China and lived there. He had two Mongolian wives and seven Chinese wives besides his Nepali wife. They had six son and eight daughters. He resided in China at the era of 62 until his suicide in March 1306. Cheng Jufu talks about his suicide:

He stared at the individuals around him on the eighth of March 1306, saying, “If I go, you should put up windows in the room and a couch so that I can move back in serene peace.” He got a dip the next day and came to trial. He emerged sick after he returned. Palace envoys and attended physicians, but on the eleventh he slipped back in bed.

After receiving the press, the emperor grieved for his suicide and stopped the judicial meeting. He ordered officials from the palace to take care of the family and to pay twenty-five thousand silver taels to the family. The Emperor instructed the interested officials to arrange for the funeral. A tree dropped in the courtyard that evening.

On the forests the next day saw herecles. Seven days later, according to Nepali law, his bodies were buried on the seventeenth of March. On July 15, in the stupa at Gangziyuan, Xiangshan, Wanping County, his remains were placed.


The royal paintings of Arniko depict the watershed of Song, Yuan, and subsequently royal paintings. Later pictures were no longer intended to suggest virtuous behavior, but rather physiognomy. This approach was followed not only in later Yuan imperial portraits, but also in the imperial portraits of Ming and Qing which, under the new influence of European portraiture.

Three major waves of artistic influences from Central and South Asia witnessed the history of Chinese Buddhist art: Gandhāra before the Tang (618–907), Gupta art during the Tang, and Pāla-Himalayan art during the Yuan. Arniko is the symbol of the following phase. His banks ‘ artworks, stupas, and two Yuan pictures from his side show that by taking influences from Pāla, Nepal, and China’s architectural traditions.

Following the fall of Mongol rule in China, Arniko’s creative heritage and development in the Ming and Qing judiciary persisted to affect Buddhist art. In appreciation of his accomplishments, the Nepalese government released postal stamps in his name to reward him. Also appointed after him is the Araniko Highway in Nepal.

Jitendra Sahayogee

I am Jitendra Sahayogee, a writer of 12 Nepali literature books, film director of Maithili film & Nepali short movies, photographer, founder of the media house, designer of some websites and writer & editor of some blogs, has expert knowledge & experiences of Nepalese society, culture, tourist places, travels, business, literature, movies, festivals, celebrations.

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