Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal. Kathmandu Valley civilization is at least two thousand years old. The earliest archaeological evidence found in Kathmandu belongs to 4th century AD. It is a stone idol of Virupaksha, one of the forms of Hindu God Shiva. Virupaksha is in the premises of Pashupatinath Temple.
Nepal is the melting pot of Hinduism and Buddhism. More than 80 percent people in Nepal are Hindus and Buddhists. Actually, Hinduism and Buddhism have no segregation in Nepal. Both sects worship Hindu and Buddhist deities. There are over 1200 ancient Buddhist temples and more than 2000 ancient Hindu temples in Nepal. Some of the Hindu and Buddhist temples in Nepal are at least 2000 years old, however, most of the temples date back to 11th through 18th century.
There are three types of temple architecture in Nepal.
Dome Style Temples
Multi-roofed Temples (Pagoda Temples)
Temples Architecture in Kathmandu
Dome Style Temples: Most of the Buddhist temples in Nepal are built in dome style. Dome style temples are called Stupa, which consists of white dome with a gilded spire and a canopy on the top. Stupas are decked with prayer flags, the Buddha’s eyes painted on the base of the spire and the prayer wheels fixed on the wall of the white-washed dome. Some of the popular Stupas in Kathmandu are Swayambhunath, Baudhanath, Charumati Vihara etc. Indian Emperor Ashoka is credited for Stupa temple design. When he traveled to Kathmandu in 249 BCE, he built 5 stupas, Charumati Vihara is one of them. Ashoka has also erected a stone pillar in Lumbini, Nepal, marking the Birthplace of the Buddha.
Multi-roofed Temples: Multi-roofed Temples, or Tiered Temples, are also called Pagoda Temples. However, some scholars differentiate multi-roofed architectural design with Pagoda Temple. Pagoda Temples have many storeys similar to Tiered Temple; however, they do not contain eaves as in multi-roofed temples. Multi-roofed Temple architecture originated in Nepal. Some of the ancient Tiered Temples in Kathmandu are Pashupatinath, Khumbheshwor, Changunarayan etc.
Pagoda Temples, or Multi-roofed Temples, are built with bricks, roofs are made of copper plate or mud tiles, and wooden eaves support each storey. Tiered Temples have metal or wooden doors in four sides, numerous wooden latticed windows, and idols of Hindu Goddesses and Gods installed in the inner sanctum.
Spire Temples: Spire Temples are distinguished with single or multiple spires. The spires could be the main temple or tapered to the main temple. The designs for Hindu Spire Temples originated in India. Most of the temples in India, including Vishwonath in Varanasi, are built with spire design. However, when this temple design came to Nepal, it went through a number of modifications. Some of the ancient Spire Temples in Kathmandu are Krishna Temple, Mahabouddha Temple, Jagatnarayan Temple etc.
Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu
Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is the most auspicious temple for the Nepalese, and one of the important Hindu Temples in the world. Pashupatinath is in the eastern part of the city, adjacent to Tribhuvan International Airport and situated on the bank of River Bagmati. Pashupatinath Temple is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley.
Pashupatinath is two-storied Tiered Temple with copper roof, golden pinnacle, and four silver doors. A Muslim invader destroyed Pashupatinath in 15th century. Since then only Hindus are allowed to enter the Temple. However, people belonging to other faiths can visit outer wings of Pashupatinath. During the Hindu festivals like Shivaratri, Teej and Balachaturdasi over one million devotees worship Lord Pashupatinath. Literal meaning of Pashupatinath is the Master of Animal-kind (Pashu= animal, Nath = Master). Pashupatinath is another name of Lord Shiva.
It is not known when the Pashupatinath Temple was built, however, many archeologists agree that it was built around 400 AD. The earliest record of Pashupatinath Temple is a stone inscription belonging to 753 AD. Over the years, Kings of Nepal renovated Pashupatinath Temple. The earliest mention of such renovation was by Shivadeva in 11th century. King Bhupendra Malla erected the present temple in 17th century.
Worship rituals in Pashupatinath Temple dates back to 8th century. Pashupatinath is worshiped in Shiva Lingam form, which is a fertility symbol in Hinduism. Shiva Lingam is the iconic depiction of Shiva’s Phallus and his consort Parvati’s Vulva.
There are many legends associated with Pashupatinath. According to one legend, Parvati asked the Buddha to establish Shiva Lingam. Buddhists believe the five heads of Pashupatinath are five mythical Buddhas.
The bank of Bagmati, along Pashupatinath Temple, is used as cremation ground. The most popular open-air crematoriums are Arya Ghat, Bhasmeshvar Ghat and Gauri Ghat.
There are over 100 shrines and temples in the Pashupatinath Complex.
Bashuki Temple is few meters north of Pashupatinath Temple. Bashuki is a Naga, the serpent God, who guards the treasure of Pashupatinath.
Unmatta Bhairava Temple is few meters south of Pashupatinath Temple. Unmatta Bhairava is depicted with erect phallus, wearing garland of skulls and flashing big fangs.
Ram Temple is on the hillock opposite to Hindu open-air crematorium. Ram Temple dates back to 14th century.
Guhyeshwari Temple is 50 meters away from the main temple of Pashupatinath. It is dedicated to Sati Devi, consort of Shiva. Sati is another form of Parvati. Guhyeshwari is mentioned in the documents dating back to 11th century.
Kirateshwor Temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. According to a legend, Shiva took a form of a Kirati man, thus he was named Kirateshwor. Kirat is a Mongolian tribe in Nepal. Kirateshwor Temple dates back to 5th century.
Vishorupa Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple is on the way to Guhyeshwari from Pashupatinath.
Some of the ancient temples in Kathmandu are
Sapana Tirtha Temple
Shobha Bhagwati Temple
Chabahil Ganesh Temple
Nil Barahi Temple
Swet Bhairab Temple
Temples in Kathmandu
There are many places to visit in Kathmandu, and the temples are one of the main attractions.
Budhanilkantha Temple is on northern side of Kathmandu and situated on the foot hill of Shivapuri National Park. Lord Budhanilkantha sleeps on the bed of serpent in a water tank, which resembles to the Lord Vishnu sleeping on the bed of serpent in the cosmic ocean. However, the literal meaning of Budhanilkantha is Buddha and Nilkantha (One of the names of Shiva). A farmer, while plowing his farm, found the black stone idol of Budhanilkantha, in the time of antiquity.
Lumadhi Bhadrakali Temple is situated on western side of Simha Durbar Gate and near Martyr’s Gate. Brass idol of Goddess Bhadrakali is installed inside the temple. Bhadrakali is a form of Parvati, the consort of Shiva.
Mahankala Temple is just opposite to Nepal Army Hospital Liaison office. Hindus believe Mahankala as the form of Shiva, where as the Buddhists believe him to be one of the forms of the Buddha. Mahankala is the Lord of Death and time.
Annapurna Temple is in Ason Bazzar. It was built in 1893. Annapurna is the Goddess of prosperity and abundance.
White Machindranatha Temple is at the juncture of Ason and Indrachok. Patan city has Red Machindranatha, where as Kathmandu has White Machindranatha. Every year during October, a chariot procession is held in the honor of White Machindranatha. The Buddhists and the Hindus equally venerate Machindranatha.
Akasha Bhairava Temple is in Indra chok. According to a legend, Yalembar, the first king of Nepal, went to participate in the Epic War of Mahabharata. Lord Krishna had to behead him because Yalembar wanted to support the enemy. The head of Yalembar flew and dropped in Kathmandu. Today he is worshiped as Akash Bhairava.
Temples in Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square was the seat of power in medieval times. There are 3 palaces and over 50 temples in Kathmandu Durbar Square. Some of the ancient temples in Kathmandu Durbar Square are Mahadev Parwati Temple, Majipa Lakhey Temple, Kal Bhairab Temple, Taleju Temple, Kumari Temple, Jagannath Temple, Trailokya Mohan Temple etc.
Ashoka Binayaka Temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, which is one of the four important Ganesh Temples in Kathmandu.
Taleju Temple, the tallest temple in medieval Nepal, was originally built in the 14th century, however, the current temple was constructed in 1549. Taleju Temple stands on the multi-tiered brick platforms. The temple is opened only once a year during the Navaratri festival, and worshiped by sacrificing fouls, goats and water buffaloes.
Bhimsen Temple is on the south-west corner of Kathmandu Durbar Square. It is dedicated to Lord Bhimsen, one of the five heroes of Hindu Epic Mahabharata.
Kashthamandap Temple is believed to be constructed from a single tree in the 11th century. Kathmandu takes its name from Kashthamandap, which literally means the monument of wood.
Kumari Chhen or the temple of Living Goddess Kumari is opposite of Gaddi Palace in Kathmandu Durbar Square. Kumari is the human form of Goddess Taleju. Anointing a young girl as Goddess Kumari is a 400-years old tradition in Nepal. The current Kumari Temple was built in the 18th century.
Temples in Durbar Square Patan
In the medieval times, Kathmandu valley was divided in four kingdoms, and ruled by the cousins. The four kingdoms in Kathmandu valley were Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur. Durbar Square Patan was the seat of power for the kings of Patan. There are over 20 temples in the Durbar Square Patan and more than 100 Hindu and Buddhist temples in the city of Patan. Indian Emperor Ashoka built four Buddhist Temples in Stupa design when he visited Patan in 249 BCE.
The 17th century palace in Durbar Square Patan, now converted into a museum, is one of the best tourist attractions in Nepal. It showcases best stone and woodwork in the country. Taleju Temple and Kumari Temple are inside the palace.
Krishna Temple in the Durbar Square Patan is the finest example of Nepali architecture. The stone temple built in spire design, in 1637, is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is a three-storied temple with tall stone pillars and circumambulatory passage on each storey.
The pagoda style temple was built in 1408 AD. Every year during May, a chariot procession is held in commemoration of Machhindranath, who is loved and worshiped by the Hindus as well as the Buddhists.
Kumbheshwar Temple is 50 meters away from Durbar Square Patan. It is five storied tiered temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was originally constructed in the 11th century.
Bagalamukhee Temple is few meter east of Kumbheshwor Temple. It is dedicated to tantric goddess Bagalamukhi.
Mahaboudha is a Buddhist temple built in 1600. The each brick used in Mahaboudha Temple depicts the Buddha’s image.
Temples in Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Some other ancient temples in the city of Bhaktapur are:
Tripura Sundari Dyochhen
Bhaktapur is about 5 miles east of Kathmandu. There are more than 20 ancient temples in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, which dates back to 15th and 17th century. Some of the oldest temples in Nepal are in the city of Bhaktapur.
In the medieval times, Kathmandu valley was divided in four kingdoms, and each kingdom had its own Taleju Temple, Kumari Temple and Living Goddess Kumari. Bhaktapur’s Taleju Temple and Kumari Temple are inside the Golden Gate Palace in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Some of the ancient temples in Bhaktapur Durbar Square are Bhairava Temple, Bhimsen Temple, Nava Durga Temple, Dattareya Temple, Brahmayani Dyochhen etc.
Nyatapola Temple is in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It is a five-storied Pagoda Temple built in 1708. Nyatapola Temple stands on five-tiered brick platforms. There are four doors in the temple and stone elephants, lions etc. guard the main door of the temple. Nyatapola Temple has a brass pinnacle and roofs are layered with mud tiles.
Chyasingdega Temple is opposite to 55-windowed Palace in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It is one of the best temple architectures in Nepal. The temple is decked with wood and stone carvings.
Batsaladevi Temple was built in 1737, in spire design. Batsaladevi is another name of Hindu Goddess Parvati. Her consort Shiva’s temple, popularly called Mahadeva Temple, is just opposite to Batsaladevi Temple.
Changu Narayana Temple is three miles north of Bhaktapur. The temple is dedicated Lord Vishnu, one of the Gods in Hindu Trinity. The stone inscription in the premises Changu Narayan Temple says that the temple was built by King Mandev in 6th century. This is the only temple in Kathmandu, which stands with its original structure.
Suryabinayak Temple is couple of miles south of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Suryabinayak temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha.