Durbar Square - A vibrant public square in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square, A UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of three squares within Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Durbar Square (durbar refers to “palace” or “a court held by a prince”) is an important venue for Buddhist and Hindu rituals, holy ceremonies, royal events, and kingly coronations as well.

Surrounded by fountains, ancient statues, small ponds, and a series of courtyards such as Mohan Chok and Sundari Chok, Kathmandu Durbar Square is a meditative, religious site for spiritual seekers. Within the inner complex of Durbar Square is the site of the Old Royal Palaces (named as the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex). The Royal Palaces used to house the kings of the Shah and Malla Dynasty, who ruled over the city until the 19th-century. The palaces have since been turned into museums.

After a devastating earthquake-plagued the area in 2015, many of the ancient temples and historic pagoda-like structures were severely damaged. Kathmandu Durbar Square was entitled a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979, and continues to undergo numerous post-earthquake renovations and reconstruction efforts.


Durbar Square Kathmandu


History of Durbar Square, Kathmandu

The outer complex consists of numerous pagoda-like temples featuring the meticulously carved facades crafted by talented artists, some of which date back to the 16th-century. Under the direction of the Malla Kings, Durbar Square underwent a series of changes and new architectural additions. King Mahendra Malla (1560–1574) ordered the construction of the oldest temples in Durbar Square. Built in the Newari architectural style, his contributions included the Jagannath Temple, Kotilingeshwara Mahadev (a stone temple of Lord Shiva), the Mahendreswara Temple, and the magnificent Taleju Temple (the biggest and perhaps most important temple of them all). Although these dates back to the 16th-century, it’s believed that construction for the square itself and the palaces started as early as the 3rd-century.

Later, King Pratap Malla instructed more additions to the square, including shrines and new temples, and also restored many of the older temples. When he passed away in 1674, new constructions ceased, but resumed during the Shah Dynasty. One of the most unusual sites built during the Shah Dynasty is the nine-storied structure called the Nautale, commonly recognized as Basantapur Durbar. Located at the east side of the palace, the structure has four roofs and was rumored to be a “pleasure house.” Other famous temples in the square include Mahadev Temple, Shiva Parvati Temple, Maru Ganesh, Bhagwati Temple, Saraswati temple, octagonal Krishna Temple, Jagannath Temple, and the Kal Bhairav (which represents the destructor form of Lord Shiva).

Perhaps the most peculiar (and respected) sites at the southern edge of Kathmandu Durbar Square is the three-storied temple called Kumari Bahal. This Newari temple, built by the last Malla king Jayaprakash Malla, houses the Kumari Devi–a young girl chosen through a highly selective process and believed to be the living embodiment of the Hindu Mother Goddess. The Kumari Devi is paraded around the square in a custom-made gilded chariot during the festival of Indra Jatra and others, and worshiped by the people, who carefully watch her for specific signs that may hint to their fortune and fate.


Kumari Bahal, Kathmandu Durbar-Square


Highlights on the Square

Most of them are pagoda style buildings, decorated with complex sculptured exterior, and most of the buildings we see here can be traced back from the 15th century to the 18th century. Durpa square, with ancient temples and palaces, is the epitome of people's religious and cultural life.

It is recommended to spare as much time as possible to walk around and immerse yourself in the surrounding environment. During the day, pay a visit to baktapu, pashpatina and budanath temples, or take an evening tricycle tour.

Kasthamandap Temple

Kasthamandap (literally "Wood-Covered Shelter") was a three-storied public shelter that included a shrine consecrated to Gorakshanath situated at Maru, Kathmandu, Nepal. Several myths and stories about the date of the construction of the Kasthamandap have been resolved with the recent archeological findings: newly discovered objects during the excavation in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake have suggested that the Kasthamandap may have been built in the 7th century during the Lichhavi era. The temple, like many other buildings in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, was built in traditional pagoda style, an architectural design that is often identified with religion in South and Southeast Asia.


Kasthamandap Temple


Kumari Ghar Palace

Kumari Ghar is a palace in the center of the Kathmandu city, next to the Durbar square where a Royal Kumari is selected from among several Kumaris. Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the tradition of worshiping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in South Asian countries. In Nepal the selection process for her is very strict. Kumari is believed to be the bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju (the Nepalese name for Durga) until she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body.


Kumari Ghar Palace


Hanuman Dhoka Palace

Hanuman Dhoka is a complex of structures with the Royal Palace of the Malla kings and also of the Shah dynasty in the Durbar Square of central Kathmandu, Nepal. It occupies over five acres. The Hanuman Dhoka Palace (Hanuman Dhoka Darbar in Nepali) derives its name from the stone image of Hanuman, the Hindu deity, that sits near the main entryway. 'Dhoka' means door or gate in Nepali. The buildings were severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake.

The eastern wing with ten courtyards is the oldest part dated to the mid-16th century. It was expanded by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century with many temples. In 1768, in the southeast part of the palace, four lookout towers were added by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The royal family lived in this palace till 1886. They after shifted to Narayanhiti Palace.


Hanuman Dhoka Palace


Shiva Parvati Temple

The glorious Shiva Parvati Temple is located in the religious area of Durbar Square. It is as important as the Kumari Bahal or the Kasthamandap and is often visited by pilgrims and tourists. Built in 18th century by Bahadur Shah, every inch of the temple wall is covered in immensely intricate carvings. From a distance in the outer portion of the Durbar Square, one would notice someone looking down a window of a two-storey pagoda style building that opens into a courtyard. It is, in fact, the idols of Shiva and Parvati installed in the window right in the centre of the top floor of the temple.


Shiva Parvati Temple


Taleju Temple

The magnificent Taleju temple, located in Durbar Square of Kathmandu, is dedicated to the clan Goddess of Malla kings, Devi Taleju Bhawani. Traditionally, entering into the temple was restricted to kings but has now been extended to the Hindus. It is believed that the temple was constructed in the shape of a Yantra (a form of Mandala) as was directed by the Devi herself. In the middle of Durbar Square, the temple, set atop a pedestal, is a stunning sight. The Degu Taleju Temple is not open to all. Everyone else can explore the shrine from the outside.


Taleju Temple


Jagannath Temple

This temple, noted for the erotic carvings on its roof struts, is the oldest structure in this part of Durbar Sq. Pratap Malla claimed to have constructed the temple during his reign, but it may actually date back to 1563, during the reign of Mahendra Malla. 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.