Bhaktapur Durbar Square: one open museum of Nepal

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Image by bhaktapur.com/Prasant Prajapati

Outlines

  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square is grounded within the area of 6.52 square miles.

  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square was enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979 A.D.

  • The entrance fee to enter Bhaktapur along with the Bhaktapur Durbar Square varies as per the nationality. It costs, Rs.1500 for Non-SAARC nationality, Rs.500 to SAARC, and for Chinese citizens, and free for the Nepalese.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one of the best places to sneak around at Bhaktapur. Or you can say it is the reason that makes travellers prefer to visit Bhaktapur. 

Reasonably, it is grounded within the area of 6.52 square miles yet it has numerous temples and wow monuments in it.

One can sit for hours and hours on the pedestals of the rest house or of the temples, observing the stunning poses of Shalabhanjika. Shalabhanjika is an assumption of a woman who displays stylish feminine features standing near a tree and grasping a branch.

Thus, watching them in space of wood carving must be something more like an offbeat experience.

With that, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square offers a religious tour along with a historical sightseeing tour. As you can see more temples than the surviving palaces and monuments there. The starting point of your walk somehow would make you realize that why Bhaktapur is actually called the city of temples.

And, for that reason, whenever people talk about Bhaktapur Durbar Square, they always start it with the temples, not the Royal palace of Bhaktapur neither the National Art Museum.

However, the word “Open Museum”, also perfectly suits this anciently choreographed city “Bhaktapur”. Over hereabouts, you can catch the sight of the marvelous erections of the last 18th century.  Amidst them, the then royal palace is one among the most attractive temptations of Bhaktapur Durbar square.

The shreds of evidence say that King Yakshya Malla built this durbar square, in 1427 A.D. And, Bhaktapur Durbar Square somehow is still holding the history and evidence behind the erection of Bhaktapur city as well as the contributions of various kings. It is believed that this burgh existed as early as 865 A.D or could be elder than that.

However, it was at its best during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla. He turned this, an eternal area into a world of fantastic architecture. That’s why it is enlisted in UNESCO world heritage site in 1979 A.D along with the Changu Narayan temple, which also exists in the same Bhaktapur district.

Moreover, the best way to explore Bhaktapur would definitely be a walk. Always! A walk through narrow alleys, courtyards, resident’s homes, temples, and then the market. It simply is the best way to explore Bhaktapur.

Starting from the western corner of the Bhaktapur Durbar square

Basantapur Chowk of Bhaktapur Durbar Squarei

Basantapur Chowk once used to be a place where feasts and royal parties used to take place. But, today we don’t even have its ruins. What we have left in the name of Basantapur Chowk are the statues of two lions and the statues of Bhagwati Ugrachandi and Ugra Bhairav.

It is said that those images were set by King Bhupatindra Malla after the beautification of Basantapur Durbar which used to stand right behind the gates which also states another fact that the current Padma High School was built on the remains of Basantapur Palace.

The sculpture of Ugrachandi

Ugrachandi, as, according to her name’s meaning, she is known as the most furious female deity on earth. As per the name, Ugra means more than anything else or limitless and Chandi means the most furious female deity.

Why this sculpture means so important than any other sculptures of Bhaktapur Durbar Square?

Yes, this sculpture is mounted as one of the most glorious arts of that period. That’s why it is often heard that the then king means the king Bhupatindra Malla ordered to cut off the hands of artists, who complete the masterwork. Hence, they wouldn’t be able to form another classic like that.

One who closely had a look at that sculpture would never say that it is not a masterpiece.

The angry-neutral face of hers, nine pairs of hands full of different types of weapons, the posture of slaying a demon, that slaughtered buffalo, then having a position of giving blessings and all those details on one sculpture is no ordinary thing to create. That all by carvings, especially.

The sculpture of Bhairava

The sculpture of bhairava stands right, on the right side of the sculpture of the Ugrachandi. It was also ordered to erect by King Bhupatindra Malla along with the sculpture of Ugrachandi. Alike as the Ugrachandi, the Bhairava is also known as one of the most fearsome incarnations of Lord shiva.

It looks like, it was the only pair of most furious and fearsome deities of that time. Here, the sculpture of Bhairava is also not less than Bhagwati’s. Essentially, the locals call Ugrachandi Bhagwati rather than Ugrachandi itself.

The sculpture of Bhairava here is quite unique since it has seven pairs of hands holding some types of equipment. Plus, the sculpture is showing his control over betals. However, the details of this sculpture do not end here.

The most amusing fact about this sculpture is that the Bhairava over here had embraced himself with the skin of an elephant. Not with the real one but within the sculpture, it is carved like that.

Your keen eye would definitely gonna find these puzzle-like carvings if you give a minute to read those details on such sculpture.

Char Dham Temples in Bhaktapur

Char Dham temples are the set of four temples that are considered as the site that helps achieve moksha or salvation. In Bhaktapur too, there are four such temples considered as the Char Dham temples.

According to Anjan Sharma, the priest of char Dham temples of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the temples were then made to facilitate the common people because the actual char Dham temples are farther from them. And, precisely take more time and money to travel.

Thus, King Bhupatindra Malla insist to make these temples within the arena of Bhaktapur Palace.

Badrinath Temple                

Badrnath temple

Badrinath temple

Badrinath temple is now reassembled in its initial structure after the quake of 2015.

The temple is made in terracotta style and stands right behind the Jagannath temple.

By the sequence, King Bhupatindra Malla erected that temple. Unfortunately, the devastating earthquake of 1990B.S. turned this temple into a Nepalese roofing style temple.

It sounds quite weird. But another devastating earthquake of April 2015 brought this temple in its real posture. Today, the temple is again in its same shape. Yes, it is in the shikhara style as it was originally built.

Jagannath temple

Jagannath temple is one of the four temples of Char Dham. It looks very common though it has one unique thing which makes it different from other temples.

Yes, the statue of Lord Krishna, Balrama, and their sister Subhadra, the images of these statues are quite unusual as they were made out of wood and have such big beautiful eyes.

One can capture those images only if they reach there at the time of Nitya puja, daily worship, early in the morning.

Rameshwor temple

Rameshwor temple PC: bhaktapur.com/ Prasant Prajapati

Rameshwor Temple

Rameshwor temple is one such temple of Bhaktapur Durbar Square that has neither doors nor walls. It only has a Chaturmukhi Shivalinga which represents the Rameshwaram temple of India.

Gopinath Temple

Goinath templeGopinath temple (often called dwarikanath) is the only temple that is made in Nepalese pagoda form among the Char Dham temples. It also has the statues of Lord Krishna with Radha, not Subhadra. And, those statues are made of black stone which particularly might be perfect for the carving of those statues.

It just suits them.

You can have their glimpse too if you can make it during its Nitya Puja.

Well, these four temples are the Char Dham of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. However, people often get confused over actual Char Dham temples Since there are five temples in a row including Kedarnath Temple.

Kedarnath Temple

kedarnath temple

Kedarnath temple

The Kedarnath temple look-alike like the Badrinath Temple since both of them are made in terracotta form. The temple is called Kedarnath because of the statue of Kedaraeshwor.

This 17th-century temple is so eye-satisfying. Through which’s eastern pedestal, you can observe the entire durbar area along with the rest house and temple of Vatsala Durga Temple. While from the western or the front pedestal of the temple, you can have a glimpse of the entire char Dham temples.

On the same lane, you can see a large rest house which was quite spacious before the earthquake of 1934 A.D. Unfortunately, the earthquake of 1934 made more temples and palaces of Durbar square disappeared under the ground.

Bhandarkhal Chowk

Bhaktapur Durbar Square once had some 99 courtyards which are now left behind with some 12 or13 courtyards. And, Bhandarkhal Chowk is one of them. The chowk is locally called Bhandakha chowk, officially named after the Bhandarpukhu, which is a pond centered on that courtyard.

The Chowk was said to be the treasury of the state. Besides, it has a mysterious series of stone carvings on the western part of the pond. Some say the stone carving tells a story, related to the ducks and tortoise.

And, yes the entrance of this pond, don’t miss to check that out cause it is the most unique part of the whole Bhaktapur Durbar Square.  The entrance foremost is the only gate that is made out of entirely stone in the entire Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

The National Art Museum

National Art Museum

National Art Museum PC: bhaktapur.com/ Prasant Prajapati

The northern alley of the waylays after Bhandarkha Chowk, leads you toward the National Art Museum. This is the only gallery that is treasuring sculptures dated back to the Malla and lichhavi periods.

The museum is home to the collections of manuscripts, and paintings of the Malla Ruling era. Plus, it also has the remains of statues from 1934s destroyed temples. While the gallery itself is the face of the Royal Palace, Simhadhwoka, it is worth sneaking around in it.

With those lions, there are two more stone images standing in front of the door, facing south. They are the images of Hanumanta Bhairav( left) and Narasimha (right).

Statues of Narshima and Hanuman

Another spectacular sculpture of Bhaktapur Durbar Square…

Yes, the statue of Hanumanta Bhairava and Narasimha. These statues are placed right in front of the doors of Simhadwaka Durbar (Currently National Art Museum), accompanied by two giant lions. By which the name of the palace became Simhadhwoka durbar (the palace with lions on the gate).

Statue of Narshima

Statue of Narshima PC: bhaktapur.com/ Ram Maka

Statue of Hanumante Bhairav

Statue of Hanumante Bhairav PC: bhaktapur.com/ Ram Maka

These two images were also anchored up by King Bhupatindra Malla which today, somehow attests to us about the effects of having an affair with stone images. As you can observe, the statue of Narsimha is worshipped regularly, thus it looks quite old. 

But on the other hand, the images of Hanuman which is neither worshipped nor touched seem in good condition to this date. Moreover, there is a reason behind establishing these statues and not worshipping the image of Hanuman.

The Golden Gate

Golden Gate of Bhaktapur

Golden gate of Bhaktapur (also known as Swarnadwar).

Moving toward the east from the National Art Museum would lead you to the outstanding drafting, the golden gate. The golden gate, also known as the swarnadwar is the last masterpiece left by the last Malla king and reign, King Ranjit Malla.

Though it was the decisive contribution of the Malla reign, it was the best creation of that period.

The replica of Taleju, the symbols of Astamatrika, Purna Kalash (the symbol of good fortune), the Nepalese roofing style, the Ganesha temple, and the current national flag of Nepal. The gate looks like a complete package, filled with Nepalese architecture, carvings, symbols, temples, inscriptions, and noticeable spangles.

So, it’s worth having a glimpse over there before you enter the palace.

55 windowed palace

55 window palace

55 window palace PC: bhatapur.com/ Prasant Prajapati

Entering the golden gate would lead you to another master of works of woodcarvings, a 55 windowed palace. The palace is best known for its fifty-five beautifully engraved windows.

Inspiring by which the palace was named as Pachpane jhyale durbar by the shah ruler which already was in name as nye nyeppa jhya layaku.

Today, the palace offers us the great wall paintings of the Malla era along with the best wood carving of Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Did you know that this 55 window palace once was used as the post office of the city?

past post office of Bhaktapur

past post office of Bhaktapur

Mulchowk

Taleju Temple of Bhaktapur Durbar Square beholds the most powerful tantric deity and is considered the holiest shrine of Bhaktapur. Mulchwok, where the taleju temple lies as a bar is the most sacred place of the palace where non-Hindus are not allowed to enter.

Even for the locals, there are some strict rules that need to be followed to enter there. Like taking off the shoes, prohibiting photography, not wearing leathers, and must leave each belonging right in front of the door like bags.

The Mul chowk then leads to another chowk named dribhajuchowk through a narrow dark alley. The Chowk has a small pond named Ajima, the Dribhaju Pokhari, or Dwinmaju Pokhari.

Dwinmaju Pokhari

Dwinmaju pukhu, you can call it a secret pond of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Since it lies within the northwest part of the palace and one must cross through the Mulchwok to reach there. And, not everyone is allowed to the Mulchwok.

Therefore, only Hindu people could enter there.

There is a belief that taking bath in this pond can cure ailments like loss of appetite and malnutrition among infants.

Lunhiti Chowk

Luhiti Chwok, Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Luhiti Chowk of Bhaktapur Durbar Square is more famous as Naag Pokhari.

Under the premises of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, there is an open tap named Lunhiti which means the golden conduit. Yet, the courtyard is more notable as Nagpokhari. That, definitely because of its presentation. You can witness a beautiful stone sculpture of a snake, all cut into pieces, and a pond that has the presence of a stone snake.

However, the water of the pond is not favorable to touch or play. It’s green and quite uncommon too.

It is also counted as one of the courtyards of the palace which was erected during the reign of king Jitmitra Malla. It is said that it took 10 years to complete this spout.

The Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla

Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla

The statue of King Bhupatindra Malla. PC: Prasant Prajapati

When you get out of the golden gate, you’ll face the statue of King Bhupatindra Malla facing toward Taleju temple. This statue shows respect toward taleju rather than a king’s self-image.

Also, it depicts the king as a devotee since he is facing north, toward the temple. Today, when we transpired in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, most of us might not notice the statue and its devotional position, of course.

But, in the evening, from the pedestal of 55 windowed palaces, you couldn’t deny saying that the statue looks much more beautiful than anything else at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It’s just pristine.

Isn’t it interesting talking about the kings and their stories? Well, we have another article all about the Malla kings of Bhaktapur. You can check that out.

Still more to explore at Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Besides these monuments, there is still more to explore in the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Vastala Durga Temple

Vatsala Durga templeVatsala Durga temple is the white elegance of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It looks more like the Krishna Mandir of Patan but it’s not the one. It is the temple of Tantric Shakti, Durga that in the form of Sri Yantra.

You can see a Kalash as the representation of Vatsala Durga in the temple which was possibly possible to observe only after the quake of April 2015. Before that, the temple used to be locked and people be like totally unknown about what actually is inside this temple?

Besides, the temple has a barking bell hung right in front of it accompanying the beautiful stone creatures’ elephants and lions. The anecdote says that dogs start to bark and whine when it rings. The barking bell was established there by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1721 A.D when he renovated the temple.

Pasupatinath Temple

Pasupatinath temple of Bhaktapur

Yakshyashwor temple (Pasupatinath temple of Bhaktapur).

The Pashupatinath Temple or the Yakheshwor Temple of Bhaktapur have some similarities as well as a difference to the genuine temple of Pashupatinath, which lies in Kathamandu. The temple was erected by King Yakshya Malla. Accordingly, the name of the temple ended up as Yakshyeshwor Mahadev temple.

Despite that, it is considered one of the oldest temples of Bhaktapur. The temple is one among those which have some erotic carvings. It is believed that the then king made make that kind of carvings to give sex education to the locals.

Plus, there is another belief which tells that those kinds of carving prevent temples from thunderbolt strikes.

Chyasalin Mandap

Chyasalin Mandap

Chyasalin Mandap. PC: Prasant Prajapati

Chayalin mandap is not a temple. It was built to receive guests and attend different occasions by the royal personalities. Yet, there are more stories that tell it was made to stop the aurora of Pasupatinath which was slightly direct to the Royal Palace.

shankhar narayan temple

Shankar Narayan temple. PC: Prasant Prajapati

And it is still assumed as not a good sign to have direct sight of a temple in front of any residence in Bhaktapur. So, people made an alternate architecture to avoid that aurora.

The Chyasalim mandap lies right in between the Pashupatinath temple and 55 windowed palaces.

Shankar Narayan temple

Shankar Narayan temple is one small, dome-like temple that lies on the southeast side of the 55 window palace of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Though the temple is not such notable, once in a time, it used to have a beautiful stone image of Harihar (the combined form of Lord Shiva and Vishnu).

Siddhi Laxmi Temple

Shiddi Laxmi temple

Shiddhi Laxmi temple. PC: Prasant Prajapati

Shiddhi Laxmi temple of Bhaktapur Durbar Square is also called Lohan Dega, the stone temple. The temple is as beautiful as the Vatsala Durga temple but undoubtedly has more guardians.

As per some folk talks, the very first pair of guardians of the temple is related to then’s society and human behavior. It simply shows what happens when a child is raised by a father or a mother. The difference is shown there, all you need to do is go and find it.

Annapurna Temple

Temple of Annapurna

Temple of Annapurna. PC: Prasant Prajapati

Right behind the temple of Shiddi Laxmi, often called Lohan Dega, there is one unusual temple. Most of you might have noticed it, a temple where the supposed doors are filled with brick walls.

There is an even conflict about its name. Some people call it Shiddhi Laxmi temple, some say there is Annapurna inside the temple, and some claim that there is a Sriyantra which is a tantric symbol of Goddess Vatsala Devi.

Phasidegal temple

Phasidegal once claimed as the tallest temple of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, even of the entire Bhaktapur Nagar, and that once upon a time was the time before the emergence of Nyatapola. Well, there are a lot of rumors related to these two temples. You must catch one local guide of Bhaktapur if you wanna know more and more such stories and uncovered mysteries of Bhaktapur. 

Coming back to the temple, this temple is called Phasidega because it looks like a pumpkin. Yes, here phasi means the Pumpkin and dega means the god. Though the temple is often called Silu Mahadev and Ta: ja dega.

This temple is now under reconstruction process, after the damaging earthquake of 2015.

What’s next? Is there still something left behind at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square!

Lapandegal

Yes, the stone lions Generally, they are called Lapandegal, which means an obstacle on the road. But they weren’t before the earthquake of 1934. There was a temple of Harihar and those lions were the guards of that temple.

Unfortunately, the temple collapsed in the quake. And, left those lions in between the road, making a beautiful obstacle.

Kumari house

Kumari House ( the house of the living goddess), lies quite distant from Durbar Square. But one can have a visit over there after roaming in and around Bhaktapur Durbar square.

It’s not that far, as for instance. The eastern way right after the end of the large resthouse, that’s it.

Kumari House of Bhaktapur

The Kumari House of Bhaktapur. PC: Prasant Prajapati

A Hiti at Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square hiti

Bhaktapur Durbar Square hiti. PC: Prasant Prajapati

And the Durbar square hiti(a stone tap) at the end of the row. It is on the premises of Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Remember the Chyasalin Mandap and the Vastala Durga Temple, the conduit endures behind them. The old among the oldest taps of Bhaktapur.

In conclusion, this spiffing durbar square bequeathed you with full of stories. From monuments to the pillars of the chapel, every piece of art had a spellbinding anecdote.

Hence, this could be a perfect place for you to prosecute your imaginations cause the statute cannot deem but you can.

And here goes the list of temples that resides within the area of Bhaktapur Durbar Square

  1. Ugra Chandi Bhagwati
  2. Ugra Bhairav
  3. Jagannath
  4. Badrinath
  5. Kedarnath
  6. Rameshwor
  7. Dwarikanath
  8. Hanumante Bhairav
  9. Narshima
  10. Guyeshwori
  11. YantraVatsala
  12. Nritya Vatsala
  13. Shiddhi Vatsala
  14. Pasupatinath (Yakshyashwor temple)
  15. Chaturmukhi Narayan
  16. Dhakshinkal
  17. Lanpadegal
  18. Harihar Narayan
  19. Chetrapal
  20. Pureshwor Mahadev
  21. Taleju
  22. Dumaju
  23. Padhwakaganesh
  24. Dattatraya
  25. Manakamana
  26. Balakhu Ganesh
  27. Chaturbramha Mahabihar
  28. Shankar Narayan temple
  29. Nrityanath
  30. Tribikram Narayan temple
  31. Vatsaleswori
  32. Phasidega (Silu Mahadev)
  33. Hari Shankar temple

FAQs

Within the premises of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, each and every piece of a cube is worth watching. Though, here is a list of some monuments including temples, without which there wouldn’t be Bhaktapur Durbar Square and are highly recommended to follow toward.
1. 55 window palace
2. Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla
3. Golden Gate
4. Pasupatinath Temple
5. Vatsala Durga Temple (Don’t misunderstand it with the Krishna mandir)
6. Char Dham temples
7. National Art Museum
8. Statues of Ugra Chandi and Bhairav
9. Stone spout
10. Shiddhi Laxmi temple
11. Phasidegal
12. Long Inns and many more minor temples and chowks (Courtyards)

In 1979, Bhaktapur Durbar Square was enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The entrance fee to enter Bhaktapur along with the Bhaktapur Durbar Square varies as per the nationality. It costs, Rs.1500 for Non-SAARC nationality, Rs.500 to SAARC, and for Chinese citizens, and free for the Nepalese.

No, you don’t need to pay for your infant. In fact, it is free entry to the children below 10 years of each national at Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

It would be a pleasure to sneak around Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It doesn’t matter when you will visit there. But if you are interested in temples and worshipping then the morning would be the best time to be present there.

Yes, there are restaurants and cafes on-site, convenient for all kinds of visitors.

While being in Bhaktapur, you must mind few things like taking out of your shoes while entering the temple and other religious sites. Likewise, you might not be allowed to click pictures of some specific events or places. You should consider these things.

As we informed you earlier it is all safe for solo traveling which means you can travel without a guide. But we also recommend you to have a certified guide who would help you to understand the authentic Bhaktapur and the stories carved all over the monuments.

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  • Bhaktapur Municipality, Bhaktapur District, Nepal.

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