Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of the three durbar squares of Kathmandu Valley. This place is also widely known as 'Basantapur' or 'Basantapur Durbar Square'. Along with the other two durbar squares, it is also part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The durbar square has the palaces of the Malla and Shah monarchs who have ruled the valley. Kathmandu Durbar Square has also several courtyards, temples, and shrines.
History of Kathmandu Durbar Square
The palaces inside the Durbar square is believed to be built around the Licchavi period in the third century, however, numerous renovations during the time have changed a lot the buildings and nothing remains same from that early period of time. In the early scriptures, palaces are referred by Gunapo and Gupo, which indicates that the places were built by king Gunakamadev late in the tenth century.
Later, when the valley was ruled by King Ratna Malla (1484–1520), the palaces inside the Durbar square was declared as the Royal Palaces for its Malla Kings. In 1769 Prithvi Narayan Shah invaded the Kathmandu Valley and picked Kathmandu Durbar Square for his palace, which later on continued to be the royal residence of Shah kings until 1896 when they shifted to the Narayanhiti Palace.
Still, all the major royal events like the crowning of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001 was held in Kathmandu Durbar Square.
However, there are no written records stating the history of Kathmandu Durbar Square and construction of the palace in the square is said to be done by Sankardev (1069–1083). Along with the time numerous temples, shrines, and chowks were built by the rulers like Taleju temple was built in 1501 in the north side of the palace, Bhagavati Temple built in the early eighteenth century, temples of Jagannath, Kotilingeshwara Mahadev, Mahendreswara, and Degutale was built over the time. Likewise, the constructions of the courtyards such as Mul Chok and Karnel Chok courtyard has placed, and the Karnel Chok courtyard is considered to be the oldest among all of the courtyards.
During the regime of Pratap Malla, the entire square was broadly developed. As a matter of fact, King Pratap Malla was very interested in arts and also was a pious devotee and very intellectual. Moreover, he called himself Kavindra, king of poets. His passion and interest in art have made rapid enlargements of the royal palace along with reconstruction of old temples and construction of new shrines, temples, and stupas around the Durbar square. He built a small entrance in the traditional Newar style and doors were precisely decorated with carvings and paintings of the deities and promising signs.
In front of the entrance, King Pratap Malla installed a statue of the Hanuman in hope, he will strengthen his army and protect his home. The entrance leads to the courtyard, Nasal Chok where most of the royal events such as holy fire rituals, coronation, performances, yagyas takes place. During his regime, a very famous and scary masked dance-dramas used to take place in Nasal Chok. Moreover, in one of the drama, King Pratap himself played the role of Lord Vishnu, and it is said that the spirit of the lord remained inside the king's body, which later on transferred into a stone of Narasimha, the half-lion, and half-human image. In this way, the excellent image of Narasimha built in 1673 still stands in the Nasal Chok. Later in 1650, Mohan Chok was built, which was the royal residential courtyard for many years where it is believed to have a huge treasure hidden inside its surface. Further, along with the time Sundari Chok, Naga Pokhari, and many old temples were reconstructed.
Things to know about Kathmandu Durbar Square
The external complex of Kathmandu Durbar Square has numerous intriguing sanctuaries like Kasthamandap, Shiv-Parvati Temple, Kumari Ghar, Jagannath Temple, Big Bell, and many others.
The internal complex of Kathmandu Durbar Square includes the old royal residence region, Hanuman-Dhoka, and its courts as Basantapur Durbar, Nasal Chowk, Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, and many others.
The complex celebrate various festivals and cultural events followed by communities from hundreds of years.
Festivals like Dashain, Gaijatra, Indra Jatra, Machchhindra-Nath Jatra, extra are celebrated here in a huge way making the region even more divine during these times of the year.
Now, there are several small book stores, antique stores, cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops are built here.
Following the tiny streets of Ason Market, one can head to Thamel.