I am so blessed to be able to travel around the world and see exotic countries such as Nepal. When I was a child of 6 or 7, one of the first movies I remember seeing and loving, was From Russia With Love. No silly, not because of the women (sheesh, I was 7 years old . . . yuck), but because of how cool, debonair, and witty James Bond was; and equally important, the foreign, exotic and mysterious places where he lived and visited, London and Istanbul, respectfully. I had two dreams back then – neither of which came true – become a professional baseball player or a secret agent. Oh well . . . LOL.
So, I was reminded of those long ago dreams when I visited Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square, with my new friend, Ursina Caminada. This square, along with the surrounding area is exotic and mysterious. Something I can easily imagine Ian Fleming writing about in one of his James Bond novels. Moreover, my thoughts drifted back to the grace I have been blessed with, which allows me a “glimpse” of the Nepalese culture.
For purposes of this post and brevity, I will refer to this World Heritage Site monument zone as HD Square. The first thing you see when you come through the southeast entrance (Ganga Path) are two tiger statues that stand sentry. You also can see Basantapur Durbar, also called Nau-talle Durbar. It was built by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1770. This dominant nine-storied Basantapur Durbar (Kathmandu Tower) was built along with three other towers named after three other ancient cities of the valley – the Kiritipur tower, the Bhaktapur tower and the Lalitpur tower.
The only negative about this World Heritage Site, was the fact that you are practically assaulted by vendors and other trinket sellers touting their souvenirs. Additionally, upon entering the site, potential guides will “glom” onto you, immediately going into their spiel about the site, thinking if they yabber enough initially, that their hire is a mere formality by you. If you want a guide, by all means hire one of them, because usually they are quite knowledgeable about the place. However, if you don’t want a guide, make that clear as well (and quickly).
Frankly, it took all my will power to not lose my temper after nearly a half hour of listening to this crap. Even Ursina was frustrated with the high pressure sales pitch directed toward us. Fortunately, it only lasts for the first 1/8 of a mile when you enter the site. My advice to visitors is two-fold: 1. Show absolutely no interest and only say a firm and direct “NO,” when asked about buying one of their souvenirs; and, 2. Wear Nepalese clothing and a respirator mask, so they can’t make out your features (see my picture below) or Ursina’s suggestion for females was to cover every inch of your body as Muslim women do. 🙂
The next temple we came to was called Maju Dega. It was built in the late 17th century. This temple is probably the most impressive of the “storied” type buildings we saw. Its nine step brick base gives it the size which dominates the skyline of HD square. The wooden doorway, pillars, windows and struts are all beautifully carved. There are images of Hindu deities both inside and outside the shrine.
We next visited the Kasthamandap temple, which locals refer to as “Maru Sattal.” This huge and open temple is thought to have been constructed of one single tree. Wow! This three storied building has an open ground floor, underlining its original purpose as a public building. The central image in Kasthamandap is of Gorakhnath and at each of of the 4 corners is an image of Ganesh (the elephant god). The temple was constructed in the 12th century and has been renovated numerous times.
Further along, Ursina and I saw this huge statue of what we were told later, was Kal Bhairav or Shiva in his destructive manifestation. No idea when this was constructed, but it was set in its present location by King Pratap Malla after it was found in a field north of Kathmandu. This is the most famous Bhairav statue and was used by the government (at one time) for people to tell the truth. Hmm. I have no idea how that was done, nor what they did if they thought someone wasn’t telling the truth. Food for thought, huh?
The kneeling figure of Hanuman, the Hindu God who is always depicted as a monkey, sits on a tall stone pedestal. It was consecrated by Pratap Malla in 1672. To the right of the statue is the golden main door of the HD Palace, guarded by a pair of stone lions. Ursina and I went inside the palace, which is now a museum. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed while inside.
Ursina and I must have seen a dozen temples at HD Square, but the oldest one at this site is called Jagannath Temple. It is most famous for the erotic carvings on its roof (which from the ground were hard to make out . . . umm, I did try to strain my eyes though. Grin.). The image of Jagannath stituated inside the temple dates back to 1563 during the rule of Mahendra Malla. The temple has a 3-tiered platform and two stories. The rest of the photos which follow, are a miscellaneous hodge podge of shrines, temples, and Nepal people going about their daily lives. Enjoy!