Nepal’s rich mosaic of cultural heritages could be likened to a precious diamond having numerous facets. The Kathmandu Valley is a treasure trove of Nepalese culture, and an important side of that culture is its architectural heritage which is represented in the numerous monuments included and preserved within the seven monument zones in the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. The valley is replete with marvelous creations in various shapes and forms of art and architecture, extending even to a small stone or a bronze statue. The five woodcarvings in the temples and houses are well-known throughout the world. The exquisite temples, monasteries, stupas or Chaityas, shrines, palaces, monuments and every other architectural wonder of the valley are glorious cultural treasures of Nepal as well as a heritage of the whole of mankind. Nepalese architectural heritage is represented in the unique design of built structures like the pagoda and Shikhara-style temples, shrines, monasteries, palaces, individual homes, stupas or Chaityas (Buddhist hemispherical structures but they DO NOT contain the mortal remains of Buddhas or other holy persons), Sattals (wayside rest house), Patis (public rest house), Pauvas (one or two-storey public rest house ), Dhunge Dharas or stone waterspouts, Dabalis or open platforms, Ghats or river banks, ponds, pillar statues, minarets or towers, forts and so on.
UNESCO has included seven monument sites of the Kathmandu Valley in the World Cultural Heritage list. Of the seven sites, three are centered on the ancient medieval palaces of the valley, namely the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar (Palace) Square in Kathmandu, Patan Durbar Square in Patan (Lalitpur) and Bhaktapur Durbar Square in Bhaktapur. These palace complexes were the residences of the Malla kings. The other world heritage sites are Swayambhunath, Boudhanath Stupa, the temple complex of Lord Pashupatinath in Kathmandu and Changu Narayan Temple in Bhaktapur.
The great Stupa of Boudhanath is the principal center of Tibetan Buddhist worship in the Kathmandu Valley. It has long been a major destination for pilgrims from the Himalayas, Tibet and southeast and east Asia. It is one of the largest and most magnificent Buddhist monuments in the world. Bouddhanath is an imposing structure standing some 36 meters. The Stupa stands on the massive three level Mandala style platform surrounded by colorful private family houses. The basic feature of this great stupa is very much like those of Swayambhunath stupa except its finial displaying. It is much bigger than Swayambhunath Stupa and lies on the valley floor where s former one stands on the hilltop. This stupa is said to have been built in 5th century AD.
Swayambhunath (also known as Monkey Temple)
Three kilometer west of Kathmandu city complex locates the one of the world’s most glorious Buddhist Stupa, it is said to be 2000 years old. Visitors often call it “Monkey Temple”. The main structure brick and clay which supports a lofty conical spire capped by a pinnacle of copper gilt, there are the all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha on the four sides of spire. Being situated seventy meter above the level of valley, the hill of Swayambhunath is a mosaic of small stupa and pagoda temples. Aside, in front of the temple, one of the famous goddess with the shrine of Ajima called “Harati Mata” is there. This temple of goddess believes to be famous in the way of tantric. Both the stupa of Lord Buddha and temple of a goddess are surrounded by other temples and Tibetan monasteries. Being located in the top level of valley, this place is famous for visitors for sightseeing.
Nepal has numerous pilgrimage sites, sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. To the Hindus, the most famous and most venerated is the temple of lord pashupatinath, situated on the banks of the holy river Bagmati in Kathmandu. It is among the most revered shrines for Hindus all over the world. The main temple, which stands in the middle of a courtyard, is two–tiered, built upon a square plinth, and is 23.6 metres high. The four large gates of the temple are silver and gold plated and richly carved with images of deities. The two copper roofs are supported by numerous struts adorned with beautifully carved images of various Hindu gods and goddesses. The sacro sanctum, or the main idol of “Mukhalingam”, is one metre high and has faces in four directions. The original temple is said to have been built at the beginning of the Christian era. It is said to have undergone several reconstructions over the ages to what stands today.
Changu Narayan Temple
The site of the Changu Narayan is revered as sacred location dating back to the Lichchhavi period and is believed to be one of the valley’s earliest settlement sites. It is situated on a small hillock northwest of Bhaktapur. Revered by both Hindus and Buddhists Changu Narayan has been among the most venerated sites for worshiper of lord Vishnu since early times, and hence it is a very important pilgrimage site for the Vaishnavas. The main pagoda-style temple is located at the centetr of a large courtyard, which is surrounded by rest houses known as Chaughera Sattal .In addition to the main two –storey temple, the Changu Narayan monument zone includes several smaller shrines, including the temple of Chhinna Mastaa, the headless goddess. The site is renowned for the masterpieces in stone and metal sculpture dating back to different periods of history. Examples of such masterpieces in stone sculptures are the Vishwarup of lord Vishnu’s circa 8th century, Vishnu Vikranta or lord Vishnu’s form circa 8th century, and the fearful figure of Narasimha Avatar, or half lion-half human figure of lord Vishnu, which dates back to the 9th century.
Kathmandu Durbar Square Kathmandu
Durbar Square in Kathmandu is the most extensive of the three royal palace squares, not only in size but also in scale of its open space and structures. It contains 60 important monuments, of which the majority dates from the 17th and 18th centuries. King Mahendra Malla of the 16th century, Pratap Malla of the 17th century and Prithvi Narayan Shah of the 18th century added to the architectural splendor of this Durbar square. King Mahendra Malla (1560-74 A.D) constructed numerous temples inside the place complex and it’s Vicinity. Prominent among them are the temple of Mhendreshwar Mahadev, the Jagannath Temple and the grand Taleju Bhavani Tempe. The magnificent Taleju Temple was built in 1563. On of the tallest and largest temples in the country, towering more than 40 meters, it is built atop a plinth of brick platform. Nearby, Jagannath Temple, built in the 16th century, in known for the fascinating erotic carvings of human sexual union on the wooden struts. The Hanuman Dhoka Durbar monument zone encompasses marvelous edifices built by King Pratap Malla (1641-74 A.D). Theses include the Krishna Temple, Kabindrapur, Indrapur Temple, Paanchamukhi Hanuman Temple of Nasal Chowk, and a stone pillar with his statue stop facing the Degu Taleju Temple. King Pratap Mallla had erected stone statue of Hanuman, the bravest of the brave monkey-god in the epic Ramayana, in front of his palace to drive away evil spirits and be victorious in wars. This palace later came to be known as the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar,or the palace guarded by God Hanuman. After the conquest of the valley by king Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha in 1769, he expanded the palace. Two very impressive architectural structures, the nine-storeyed Basantapur and Vilas Mandir, were built during his reign. All the four towers of this palace are considered remarkable pieces of Nepalese architecture. This palace square Is surrounde by many important monuments, such as the resident temple of the Living Goddess Kumari; the Kashtha Mandap, or Maru Sattal, which is the largest open rest house and a landmark of Kathmandu from which the city derives its name; Simha Sattal; and the Maju Dewal which is the tallest temple in the periphery. Anyone who visits this palace complex cannot but be overwhelmed by its grandeur and the architectural heritages which it represents.
Patan Durbar Square
If the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square has a unique combination of Malla and shah period architecture, patan Durbar Square, on the other hand reflects singular Malla architecture. In comparison to Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, it is smaller in size, but it comprises a number of unique architectural styles. Mahga Haiti, the sunken stone water spout, and the magnificent Krishna Temple, a Shikhara-style temple built of stone, are but few examples of its opulence. Monuments, each a masterpiece, are clustered on a small area measuring roughly 160 by 70 meters. An additional 30 monuments are located in the immediate vicinity. Professor emeritus Dr. Eduard F. Sekler of Harvard University has compared Durbar Square of Patan to San Marco Square of Venice. The renowned French orientalist M. Sylvain Levi describes Patan Durbar Square as “a marvel beyond the power of words to tell”. Indeed, Patan Durbar is the most spectacular example of Nepalese architecture in an urban context. Right in the middle of the hustling downtown Mangal Bazzaar stands the famous palace of the Malla kings known as Maningal Rajprasad, or the palace of Maningal, probably built during Lichchhavi period (beginning of the 1st century to 9th century). Among the latter king of Patan, Siddhi Narasimha Malla (1618-61), Sri Niwas Malla (1661-85) and Yog Narendra Malla (1685-1706) added to the grandeur of the palace complex.
Among its numerous courtyards, the recently renovated Keshav Narayan Chowk has been converted into a bronze artifact museum. The main entrance of this courtyard and the windows on the second floor with the figure of God Avalokeshwar in the middle is gilded. A highly impressive and exquisite monument is the stone temple of Lord Krishma, situated in an imposing Location in the Durbar Square complex. King Siddhi Narasimha Malla built this temple in 1636. It features 21 gilded pinnacles- the highest number ever built in the valley. Another unique feature of this temple is the bas-relief carvings on the walls and ceilings, depicting major scenes from the great Hindu epice, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The krushna Temple of patan Durgar Square is undoubtedly one of the finest stone structures in the Kathmandu Valley and is, thus, of considerable national importance.
Other important temples of the Durbar Square are the Char Narayan Temple constructed in 1565 by king Purandhar Singh, the Bishwa Nath Temple constructed by king Sri Niwas Malla in 1626 and the large rectangular three –storeyed Bhimsen Temple constructe d in the 16th century. There is also the octagonal Shikhara –style Krishna Temple known as Chyasilin Dewal. Patan Durbar Square, located in the middle of the city, has assimilated the vibrant atmosphere of a crowded bazaar. Outside the patan Durbar Square, there are numerous other important monuments, such as the Maha Bouddha terra- cotta Shikhara temple constructed at the beginning of t 17th century. Hiranya Varna Mahavihara, or thGolden Temple built in the early 15th century and t five-stoeyed Kumbheshwar Mahadev Temple built at the beginning of the Malla period-it is one of the only two surviving five –dtoreyed temple in the country, the other being the Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Among the three Squares, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square is by far the most elegnt with its large open space facing south. The Golden Gate and the palace of 55Carved Windows have added splendor to this palace square which consists of buildings dating from the 13th century to the 18th century. Bhaktapur’s landmark is the world famous five-tiered Nyatapola, or five –storeyed temple, built in 1702at Taumadhi Square. Bhaktapur is a living museum of arts and architecture. Each and every piece of art speaks of the city’s history. The monuments and sculptures reflect centuries-old craftsmanship. The city has suffered much from earthquakes, especially those of 1808, 1833 and 1934.These earthquakes caused extensive damage to its ancient buildings. Yet, despite the destruction, the external appearance of the city does not seem to have changed much. Temples and monuments have been restored and preserved. Dilapidated buildings have been rebuilt or renovated in their original form. So the basic structure of the town is intact.
In the 1970s, the pioneering Bhaktapur Development project with financial and technical assistance from the German government, restored considerable portions of the city’s lost heritage and improved its physical infrastructure. The main attraction of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the famous Golden Gate or Swarna Dwa, built by king Ranjit Malla in 1753 British historian Perceval Landon praised it as ‘the most exquisitely designed and finished piece of giledd metalwork in all Asia’. The gate is the main entrance to the palace. The palace of 55 windows, built by King Yaksha Malla in 1427 and renovated by King Bhupatindra Malla is famous for its intricately carved wood works. There are many courtyards inside the palace, but they are closed to the public. The visitor has to be satisfied with the diversity of monuments around the palace complex.
Upon entering the gate to the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, there are two temples to the right. One is the two-storeyed Krishna Temple, with roof struts depicting the 10incarnationsof Lord Vishnu. The second is a terracotta Shikhara temple dedicated to Goddess Durga or Bhagawati. The life-size statue of king Bhupatindra Malla with folded palms atop a stone pillar in front of the National Art Gallery is another remarkable piece of sculpture. The last Malla ruler of Bhaktapur, King Ranjit Malla, erected this statue in 1753 as a tribute to Bhupatindra Malla, who enriched the cultural heritage of Bhaktapur. The Big Bell installed here by Ranjit Malla in 1737, is used while worshipping Goddess Tulaja Bhavani. Behind this, there is a beautiful stone Shikhara-style temple with nine pinnacles dedicated to GoddessBatsala built in 1672 by King Jagat Prakash Malla. Next to the B atsala temple is the two-storeyed pagoda-style temple of Yaksheswara Mahadev built by King Yaksha Malla in the 15th century.
Taumadhi Square that houses the Nyatapola Temple is one of the three main squares included in the world heritage site ofBhaktapur. This square is dominated by two of Bhaktapur’s grandest temples. The Nyatapola, or five- storeyed temple of Goddess Siddhi Laxmi, the patron deity of King Bhupatindra Malla is by far the most imposing. Its five –step base gives it a towering height, which makes it the tallest temple in the country thisgrand temple, a masterpiece of Nepalese architecture, was built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1702. The columns around the temple sanctum and door frame have exquisite carving. The impressive woodwork includes 108supporting roof struts, which depict the diverse forms of the goddess Bhagawait, or Mahismardini, and other associate deities. In the southeast corner of this courtyard stands a massive three-storeyed rectangular temple of Bhairav, also known as Kashi Bishwanath. The original temple is believed to have been constructed in 1001 during the reign of King Nirvaya Deva.
Tachapal, or Dattatraya Square, is one of the three main squares of Bhaktapur . The Dattatraya Temple stands in the east of the square. It was built by King Yaksha Malla and his son Biswa Mall in the 15th century. The god Dottatraya represents the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar or Shiva.surrounding the Dattatraya Square are several Hindu Maths or monasteries, of which the most important is the Pujari Math. The Pujari Math is especially known for the rich 18th century woodcarvings that grace its doors and windows. Particularly well-Known is the famed intricately carved ‘peacock Window’ facing the lane on the east side of the building. It is supposedly the finest specimen of woodcarving. In fact, the ancient city of Bhaktapur is home to some of the rarest and probably thefinest examples of Nepalese woodcarving art and architecture.
Lumbini (the Birth place of Lord Buddha)
Outside the Katmandu Valley, Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, has been enlisted in the World Cultural Heritage site. Siddhartha Gautama, who later attained enlightenment as the Buddha, was born in Lumbini in the spring of 623 B.C. An inscription on a stone pillar erected by Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 249 B.C. authenticates that the Buddha was born at this spot. Recent archaeological excavations have discovered the “marker stone” at the basement of the Maya Devi Temple, believed to have been laid there by Emperor Ashoka to denote the exact sacred spot where the exact sacred spot where the Buddha first put his foot on earth. This has further enhanced the importance and sanctity of the site. The stupas built during different periods dating from 3rd century B.D. to 15th century A.D. the Maya Devi Temple and Pushkarni pond where the baby Siddhartha was given his first bath after birth are some amcient edifices of Lumbini.
A Master plan for the development of Lumbini was initiated in 1978 as per the design of world-renowned architect Professor Tange of Japan. The Master plan segregates the Lumbini area into four main components: the Sacred Garden which includes the Maya Devi Temple and the Ashokan pillar; the monastic zone; the cultural centre; and the Lumbini village. Since the early 1980s, many countries with significant Buddhist populations have contributed in its infrastructural development. Monasteries reflecting the architecture of the individual countries have been constructed in the monastic zone. But much still remains to be done t o give final shape to the Master plan. As the birthplace of Lord BUDDHA, Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world’s greatest religions. It has remained a hallowed Buddhist pilgrimage spot since very early times. Lumbini has been designated as the “Fountain of World peace and the Holiest pilgrimage Centre of Buddhists and peace-loving people of the world”. The site remains a place of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus alike from all over the world.
Beside the existing world Heritage sites in Nepal. There are many other natural and historical monuments and sites in the country which merit inclusion in the world Heritage list.