Percy Brown, an eminent English and historical art critic, described the Golden Gate as the most beautiful work of art in the whole Kingdom. And stands as a jewel, flashing with innumerable facets in the beautiful environment and in its surroundings.
3. Nyatapola Temple: Temples on Bhaktapur Durbar Square Area
A very imposing and robust temple, the Nyatapola has been able to withstand the many known earthquakes in Nepal. You can not miss it because it is the highest temple in Nepal. Located on Taumadhi Square, it overlooks all other buildings. You can climb the steps to its base to take the height and appreciate the overview of the complex.
But the entrance of the temple itself is reserved for the faithful. The pagoda is dedicated to the tantric goddess Siddhi Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, whose image is mysteriously hidden inside the temple. Lakshmi is a manifestation of the goddess Durga.
No one except the priests can see the image of the goddess. The stone staircase that leads to the temple is decorated with various stone sculptures: wrestlers, elephants, lions, griffins, Baghini goddesses in the image of a tiger and Singhini in the image of a lion. Rajput wrestlers Jayamel and Phattu sit on the lower tier.
The temple was erected by the Nepalese Malla King Bhupatindra in 1702. The five-storey temple with a five-level roof, which stands on Taumadhi Tole Square, reaches a height of more than 30 meters. Climbing the stairs, you can go to the top of the temple. Thanks to its height and beauty, the temple became a true symbol of these places, depicted on many souvenirs.
Five floors of the pagoda symbolize the five basic elements of nature – water, earth, fire, wind, and sky. The name of the temple is impersonal, i.e. does not bear the name of any god. Remarkably, the roof of the pagoda is supported by brackets in the amount of 108 pieces, which is a sacred number for believers.
The staircase to the temple is guarded by stone mythical creatures: the goddess tigress and the goddess lioness, pairs of griffins, lions (although there are no lions on those lands, therefore they are sometimes called dogs), elephants. At the very beginning of the staircase, there are two figures of a local wrestler, the strongest in the city at the time of the temple construction.
Next to the door of the temple are eight well-wishing symbols of Buddhism, an example of the close mix of the two main religions of Nepal. Upload the high of the Nayatapola temple and sit down to contemplate the panorama for a long time, if it is the sunset better than better. At that time you will be a witness how the light of day gives way to the light of the candles, the only night illumination of Bhaktapur
4. Batsala Temple: Places To See on Bhaktapur Durbar Square Area
Near the statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, right in front of the Royal Palace. There is a stone temple of Vatsala (Devi) Durga, richly decorated with fine wood carvings, built in 1672. This Shikhara-style temple is completely built of sandstone and is erected on a three-stage pedestal, and has similarities to the Krishna temple of Patan.
It is dedicated to Vatsala Devi, another form of the goddess Durgā. The structure that can be seen today, however, is rebuilt by King Bhupatindra Malla and dates from the late 17th or early 18th century. Behind the temple there is a hiti (fountain) called Dhunge Dhara and next to it is the Chayslin Mandap.
In front of the temple, there is a large Taleju bell dedicated to the goddess Taleju, installed by King Jaya Ranjit Malla in 1737. This temple made of stones displays a plethora of fine carvings perfectly worked. The temple is especially famous for its silver bell called by the locals “the bell of the barking of dogs”. Which is explained by the reaction of the dogs of the neighborhood who began to scream and bark as soon as the reasoning of the bell.
5. Chyasilin Mandap:
Next to the temple of Vatsala Durga there is an attractive water reservoir, then Chyasilin Mandap rises. It is an excellent copy of the result of the project for the development of Bhaktapur. This octagonal temple was one of the most beautiful buildings on the square before the 1934 earthquake. The temple was rebuilt in 1990 in the same form using its original components (fragments, details).
Some of the fragments of the old pagoda were saved and were subsequently used in the reconstruction. The temple was reinforced with steel supports to prevent possible damage during an earthquake. The ground floor of the building has retained its function; in the distant past, the city nobility observed the progress of festivals and ceremonies.
And to this day it attracts tourists and visitors to the city with its extraordinary beauty and grace.
6. Royal Palace: Major Attraction of Bhaktapur Durbar Square
The Royal Palace, founded during the reign of King Yaksha Malla (1428-1482), was subsequently rebuilt by subsequent kings, especially Bhupatindra Malla. As in the ancient palaces of Kathmandu and Patan, entry is allowed only in parts of the Royal Palace.
Earlier, the palace was famous for ninety-nine magnificent courtyards, of which only half a dozen remained. The rest were destroyed by the earthquake of 1934. The western part of the palace, formerly known as Malati Chowk, was remade into an art gallery.
The entrance to the gallery is guarded by figures of Hanuman – the god of monkeys and Narasingha (Narasimha- the incarnation of the god Vishnu in the form of a lion-man especially revered by adherents of Vaishnavism). The gallery contains a beautiful collection of Hindu and Buddhist art paintings, manuscripts on palm leaves, thangok, metal, stone and wood products.
7. Shiva Parvati Temple:
At 70 meters from the western entrance to Bhaktapur Durbar Square there is a very small Shiva Parvati temple, famous for its carvings depicting erotic scenes. It is also known as the Temple of Erotic Elephants. On the left just before the entrance to the square, there is a hiti (a water tank) and a few steps away from this but on the opposite side of the road.
There is a small double-roofed temple dedicated to Shiva-Parvati with some erotic sculptures. One of these shows a pair of elephants copulating in the missionary position.
8. Statue of Ugrachandi and Bhairava:
Next to Sundari Chowk on the wall of the building you can see the statues of the fearsome Bhairava (right) and Ugrachandi (Durga’s terrible embodiment). God and goddess are decorated with garlands of human heads. This status is one of the major attraction on Bhaktapur Durbar Square area.
They are located near the main gate on the west side. The statues date back to 1701, and it is said that the unfortunate sculptor had his hands cut off as soon as the work was finished to prevent him from duplicating his masterpieces. Ugrachandi has eighteen arms in possession of weapons, and she is in the position to kill a (Buffalo) demon.
Bhairava has twelve arms and both god and goddess are garlanded with necklaces of human heads. The palace wings, located to the west of the national gallery, have long collapsed. Of the entire complex, once the former summer residence of the queen, only two stone gatekeepers Durga and Bhairab are preserved.
Both were installed in 1701, but they look no less impressive today. Hung with all sorts of weapons, needs only one of her eighteen hands to kill a demon. The Lion Gate (the Door of the Lions). This door, dating from the year 1696, is guarded on both sides by two huge lion statues.
9. Char Dham: Places to Visit on the Bhaktapur Durbar Square
These are four temples located on the west side of the square. And were built for pilgrims who could not afford a trip to the Indian state of Uttaranchal, where there are homonymous temples. Temple of Kedarnath – The temple built in terracotta follows the style of the Shikara temple and is dedicated to Shiva.
Destroyed by the 1934 earthquake, it was restored by a German group in 1990. Badrinath Temple – A small temple west of the Gopi Nath Temple known locally as Badri Narayan and is dedicated to Vishnu and Narayan. Temple of Gopi Nath (also called of Jagannath) – With a double roof shows the various incarnations of Vishnu carved in the beams, a statue of Garuda at the entrance.
The temple is in the Gum Baja style. Rameshwar Temple which houses the three deities: Balarāma, Subhadra and Krishna. The name derives from the Rameshwar which comes from Ram as the incarnation of Vishnu. It is difficult to see the gods because the door remains mostly closed. Dwarika, also known as the Temple of Krishna, the houses of the three deities, from left to right: Satyabhama, Krishna, and Rādhā.
Their images are carved in stone. In the month of Mangsir (November / December), the deities are placed in a fercolo and taken to the city. Together, the four temples are called Char Dham, like four Himalayan shrines.
10. The column of King Bhupatindra Malla
Of the kings of the Malla dynasty ruling in Bhaktapur, King Bhupatindra Malla was the most prominent. He had a great influence on the development of art and architecture of the city. Opposite Taleju Chok stands a column with a kneeling king on its top, turned his gaze to the magnificent gate of his palace.
Established in 1699, it is rightly considered the most beautiful column among those similar to it (installed in Patan and Kathmandu). Both the golden gate and the column are connected with the Taleju Mandir temple, built under Bhupatindra. The column is crowned by a sculpture of the founder of the temple, and the gate serves as the main entrance to the temple.
If we compare this column with similar structures in Kathmandu and Patan, we can conclude that the column of Bhupatindra is much shorter. Legend explains this phenomenon. King Jaya Ranjit Malla wanted to erect a column similar to those in Kathmandu and Patan, but due to the lack of skilled and experienced artisans, this task proved impossible.
He, therefore, addressed King of Kathmandu Jay Prakash Malla. Artisans were immediately sent to Bhaktapur, but before leaving, they were all instructed to sabotage the construction of the column. The first column overturned and broke into pieces to the great wrath of King Bhaktapur. However, the column was assembled again and this time successfully.
11. Naga Pokhari or Royal Water Tank:
In the north-eastern part of the royal palace is Naga Pokhari, the royal water reservoir, built in the XVII century. And used for daily ritual bathing of the goddess Taleju. Stone naga (snakes) surround it along the perimeter, and a column with a naga head rises in the middle of the reservoir.
Water enters the tank from a drain pipe in the form of a Makara (a mythical sea monster), from the mouth of which a goat’s head peeps which is being devoured. And on the back of the former creeps the third creature with scales body and webbed feet. Naga Pokhari, which means cobra in translation, plays an important role in the Hindu religion.
According to tradition, on the fifth day after the new moon in the month of Shraavana the Nag Panchami festival is celebrated. Residents of the city place images of a cobra above the doors of their houses, ask him to protect the house from evil spirits and leave dishes with treats in certain places.
12. Pashupatinath Temple:
The Pashupatinath Temple, or Jaksheshwar Mahadev Temple, is dedicated to Shiva and is an exact replica of the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. The holy temple of the god Shiva is located behind the temple of Vatsala Devi. It is believed to have been built right in front of the palace after King of Bhadgoan dreamed it.
It was built by Yaksha Malla in 1475 (or 1482) and is the oldest temple in the square. According to legend, King Yaksha Malla, whose name the temple was named, in the dream appeared Shiva and ordered to build a copy of the Pashupatinath temple next to the palace. The earthquake of 1934 partially destroyed the structure. Later the building was restored, having received a second birth.
13. Siddhi Lakshmi Temple:
At the southeastern corner of the Royal Palace is, dating from the 17th century, the temple of Siddhi Lakshmi, also known as Lohan Degas, or the Stone Temple. On both sides of the temple staircase, there are statues of men and women pulling on their hands reluctantly walking children and holding onto dogs. They are followed by horses, rhinos, Kimpurushs (semi-divine nature creatures with a human head and the body of a lion) and camels.
14. Temple of Fasidega:
In the center of the second part of Bhaktapur Durbar Square there is a large white temple Fasidega dedicated to Shiva with statues of elephants, lions, and cows. The temple rises on a six-level platform, offering a magnificent view of the entire valley. The structure is white and stands out easily as it is visible from different points of view.
The White Temple of the Fasi Durga Mandir could hardly be called since it looks absolutely disproportionate. The temple was rebuilt on a massive stepped base after the building was destroyed in 1934. The massive five-level base and staircase are guarded by three pairs of different animals.
15. Tadhuchen bahal:
Tadhuchen Bahal or Chatur Varna Mahavihara is a renovated monastery dating back to 1491. This is where the cult of worship of the goddess Kumari originated. In the courtyard, on the east side of the roof supports, you can see an unusual thread depicting the flour of sinners. It is a Buddhist temple on the east side of the square, linked to the cult of kumari.
16. Dattatreya: Major Attraction of Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Another most popular destination among tourists and visitors to the city is Dattatraya Square. This place got its name in honor of the Holy Place of the same name. This sanctuary has been renovated several times since it was built. In 1427, in honor of the three gods Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu.
They created a sacred structure from a tree trunk, by visiting which you can see the symbols of divine idols. The temple is dedicated to Dattatreya – the mixed incarnations of the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, although the Garuda on the top column and the traditional weapons of Vishnu on the pillars indicate the strong influence of Vishnu.
The temple is the most important place of worship for Vishnuites and Buddhists. The temple is a three-story building, built on a special basis above the ground. On this basis, cut some erotic scenes. The front of the temple, which was added later, is guarded by two wrestlers Malla.
In addition to it, in the square, you can see another shrine, which is a place of worship for Bhimsen. According to local lore, it originated in honor of one of the heroes of Indian folklore and was built on the site of an old monastery. Currently, local authorities set up a carving museum here, which eventually acquired national importance.
The Dattatreya Square dominates the Upper Town, in the east . This square with a length of 80 meters and a width of 25 meters runs in an east-west direction and should have had a central function already at the beginning of the city’s history. You should definitely visit this cultural institution to see with your own eyes what gorgeous creations made of wood, brass, and bronze came out of the hands of local craftsmen.
17. Pottery area or Bolachhen square:
To keep a pot of Bhaktapur as a souvenir, visit the square where potters parade their clay masterpieces. In addition, you can participate in the process, and create a personal pot with your own hands. And if you’re lucky, then watch the firing, which is carried out here in the open furnaces. On the square is the temple of Ganesh, the patron saint of potters, built with funds donated by the potters themselves.
And the priest who serves in this temple is elected exclusively from the pottery caste. All the dishes that pottery craftsmen create are used in the daily life of the local population. As soon as you enter the square, you will immediately see a huge amount of manufactured products, which are dried in the sun. The area is characterized by the fact that here they make pots in the traditional way, like 500 years ago.
Tourists here cannot just watch how they mold and burn clay pots, but they themselves can try to make any clay product. Today, making pottery is an extraordinary craft of Bhaktapur, and plays the role of the living cultural heritage of Nepal.
The clay artifacts created on the potter’s wheel are main dishes used for religious, cultural, and daily purposes. To make pots, potters use black clay, a special type of clay dug near Bhaktapur. Clay mixed with sand and water is placed in the center of the potter’s wooden wheel.
The potter uses a stick to rotate the wheel to ideal speed so that he can use both hands to form products that are later dried in the sun. And ultimately put in a traditional oven to bake them. In the pottery square, you can see hundreds of pots drying in the sun.
18. Taleju Bell: Things to Do on Bhaktapur Durbar Square Area
The Taleju bell, created in 1737, was popularly called the “barking bell”, thanks to which it became known throughout the world. It is located on the terrace of the Temple of Vatsala-Durga. The colossal bell was hung by King Ranjit Malla in 1737 and was used to announce the daily curfew. It was played every morning when the goddess Taleju was worshiped.
It was completely demolished in 2015 by the earthquake in Nepal. The bell got its nickname for a reason. The tone of it’s ringing in a certain way affects the dogs, so that all the dogs in the area begin to bark. The bell when it was there could be heard every morning. Another bell, also dedicated to the goddess Taleju, but of much larger size, is located in front of the temple itself.
19. Bansi Narayan Mandir:
Among the temples located on the western part of the square, dedicated to the four main Hindu pilgrimage sites, Bansi Narayan Mandir Temple stands out more than others. The two-story pagoda is distinguished by massive carved wooden doors, windows, and multi-level roofs. Here you can see multiple images of the god Vishnu.
Behind the temple of Bansi Narayan is a small temple Durga Mandir, built in the style of Shikhara. The temple is an interesting unusual combination of bricks, terracotta, stone, and wood in the finish. Graceful carved stone columns adorn each of the 4 entrances to the temple.
20. Katur Varna Makha vihara:
Katur Varna Makha vihara or Tadhunchen Bahal is located near the Bhaktapur Durbar Square and is separated from it only by a number of ancient Dharam halls (today there are souvenir shops). This ancient monastery is one of the oldest monuments of Bhaktapur.
The monastery was built under the ruler Raye Malle (1482-1505), but the modern appearance of the monastery was attached to the rule of King Yagat Prakash Malla (1644-1973). The cult of Kumari has been represented here since the days of King Ranjit Malla.
Once a palace complex, included 99 yards. Of these, only six have survived, but almost all of them are closed to the public for religious and security reasons. From Sundhoka, the path leads around Bhairava Chowk and goes to the carved wooden gate, the only entrance to Mul Chowk.
This is the oldest central part of the palace, this palace courtyard was dedicated to the goddess Taleju. However, by prior arrangement, tourists can get inside and look at the courtyard interior. From here you can see the main temple, and to its left are huge statues of the Ganges and Yamuna, decorated even richer than their “brothers in Patan”.
Then you can see a triple marble portal leading to Kumari Chowk. Both Mul Chowk and Kumari Chowk are considered pearls of Nepalese architecture. During the period of decline, this used to be the abode of kings. However, the temples located on the territory of the former palace complex were maintained in good condition, as people still believed with the strength and power of the gods.
22. National Gallery:
To the left of the golden gate, there was once a building characterized by massive carved frames. This building was demolished in the middle of the XIX century and in its place a real hall was built. Since the time of Jitamitra, the Mullah has survived the only decorative portal, it was guarded by a pair of stone lions. In 1697 they have added the statues of the guardian gods Hanuman and Narashima.
Today it houses the national gallery, which exhibits more than 200 works of the XIV-XX centuries. Among the exhibits of the gallery, the illustrations of Yogi Purusha, depicting the chakras of the human body, deserve special attention. Here works of high cultural value are kept, belonging to the Hindu and Buddhist religions, and related to the history of Bhaktapur and Nepal.
23. Statue of Hanuman:
The entrance to the National Art Gallery is flanked by Two Lions and by the figures of Hanuman, the monkey god, who appears in tantric form as Hanuman Bhairab with four arms. Hanuman is worshiped for strength and devotion. Next to it is Vishnu in the form of Narsingha. Both representations are from the seventeenth century.
24. Taleju Temple:
This temple is located inside the royal palace on Mul Chowk and was built in 1553. It is accessible only to Hindus.The temple is dedicated to the Hindu cult, that is why only those who practice this creed are allowed inside. Taleju Bhawani, is a form of the Hindu goddess Durga, she comes from southern India (Tulajapur Karnataka), she was the tutelary deity of the Malla kings.
The entrance to the temple of Taleju Bhawani is in the main courtyard and the oldest of the Palace: the Mul Chowk. Its tympanum is finely carved with the deity in its center.
25. Temple of Bhairavnath:
The temple of Bhairava Nath is dedicated to Bhairava the terrible incarnation of Shiva. The temple dates back to the 17th century with a first enlargement of 1717 commissioned by Bhupatindra Malla. And the addition of a floor after the post-earthquake restoration of 1934.
Between the walls of the temple are visible wheels and parts of the wagon normally used for the party of Bisket Jatra dedicated to Bhairava. In the facade there are two brass lions that support the Nepalese flag.
26. Temple of Mahadev Narayan:
The temple of Mahadev Narayan is two-storey and dedicated to Mahadev. It is topped with sacred symbols of Vishnu but also of Shiva. There is also a plaque depicting the Buddhist deity Vajrayogini.
27. Bhimsen Temple:
17th century temple dedicated to the god of commerce Bhimsen. The temple has two floors and behind it is a hiti called Bhimsen Pokhar.
28. Pujari Math:
It is a building originally used as a math (home for Hindu) and was built in the 15th century during the reign of Yaksha Malla, then rebuilt in 1763. In 1979 German architects restored the building as a gift to the sovereign Birendra.
The most famous element of the building is undoubtedly the 15th century peacock window, finely carved in wood. The interior of the building houses the Wood Carving Museum. The peculiarity of this place that many tourists immediately notice is the window with the peacock just above one of the entrances.
The attention is in fact captured by the well-known animal, who in a regal position observes the crowd approaching with its finely decorated tail.Inside you can buy a ticket for three of the Bhaktapur museums and start visiting the first, right here in the Pujari Math, or the Museum of Woodworking.
Discovering the techniques used since the past by the artisans of Bhaktapur is an essential step, given the considerable use of this material in the religious and cultural structures of the city. The second museum to which you are entitled with the same ticket is the nearby Museum of brass and bronze. It will allow you to admire some very important religious artefacts for Nepalese culture.
29. Salan Ganesh Temple:
This temple is located on the northern side of the square and dates back to 1654. Behind it is a pool: Ganesh Pokhari.
30. The pictorial Museum
This museum is of great value, which contains ancient paintings belonging to Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism of various periods with different descriptions. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays.
Effects of the Nepal Earthquake (1934 and 2015)
The Durbar Square in Bhaktapur was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1934 and, therefore, appears larger than those of Kathmandu and Patan. Originally, there were 99 courts connected to this place, but now only 6 remain. Before the earthquake of 1934, there were 3 distinct groups of temples. Currently, the square is surrounded by buildings that survived the earthquake.
The earthquake of 25 April 2015 damaged as many as 116 historic sites in the city. 67 were heavily damaged, 49 only partially. The earthquake struck Durbar square, perhaps the most significant place in the city. The main temple in Bhaktapur square has lost its roof. While the Vatsala Devi temple, famous for its sandstone walls and topped by a golden pagoda roof, was demolished by the earthquake.
About municipal buildings: Rameshwor temple, Batsala, Narayan, Siddilaxmi, Biswaroopa, Siddiganesh, bhairav, Siva Mahadev, Degaina, Sattal, Pati and Pujari Mathas were also damaged. It is estimated that over 293 million Nepalese Rupees are needed for reconstruction and restoration of damage. Due to the earthquake on April 25, 2015, around 200 people died in the collapse of many smaller buildings and two large temples on the central Thaumadi Tole in the Old City.
Most of the support is directed to important cultural sites such as the Pujari Math Museum, the National Art Gallery and the prized temples. This is not just about culture. Not only for the preservation of buildings. This is really about human lives in the here and now.
Individual fates in Bhaktapur, representative of a whole country. Fascination and fright go hand in hand. In addition to the unmistakable architecture of the ancient buildings with their inconceivably detailed, colorful wood carvings, powerful cracks in the walls stand out.
The walls of the temples and the roofs, skilfully adorned with clay tiles, are supported by meter-long and underarm-thick wooden supports. There is a danger of collapse. Between the rubble mountains, old men sit and knock on limestone remains of stones to build the collapsed temple buildings. The catastrophe is also a new beginning in Nepal. There are jobs for the locals in reconstruction and restoration.
The coarsest debris has long been removed from the streets of the city center. The shopping experience of the tourists in the Bhaktapur Durbar Square is nothing in the way. But if you venture out of the city center and drift through the narrow and branched streets of Bhaktapur, you see the destruction of the neighborhoods.
Much is destroyed and the money is missing to rebuild. The construction of the temples will take decades, and the construction of the dwellings can not and must not wait so long. Anyone who now thinks Bhaktapur’s inhabitants are walking through the streets with disillusioned faces and affectionately bent backs, is wrong. Optimism instead of pessimism. Bhaktapur is getting closer and families have taken in their homeless relatives.
1934 and 2015. It is not the first devastating earthquake that struck Nepal and it will not be the last. But as in the past, this time the Nepalese people will be able to cope with this great challenge.
Although ordinary people can not count on much support from their government. And much of the money donated has gone into corruption and inability to organize, the belief in a better future and joy in the faces of those affected is the country’s greatest asset.
The great temples will be rebuilt just like in 1934. A magnetizing piece of culture (especially for paid tourism) will be returned to humanity. It is only to be hoped that Bhaktapur will be worth living again for all its inhabitants.
Author: Ankur Pradhan