Monday, December 31, 2001

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Heritage tour

By Razen Manandhar

Whenever one talks about the monument conservation in Nepal, he or she names Bhaktapur Durbar Square as a model — the way of protecting it and cashing benefit of conservation — all has set an example for the country itself.

When Henry Oldfield visited Nepal in 1880, Bhaktapur was "largest and most costly of any in Nipal." And Merry Slusser justly writes in her book —"For the moment, at least, Bhakpapur remains one of the remarkable treasures of the Kathmandu Valley — indeed, of the globe."

The indigenous settlements developed a city in Bhaktapur long before the Lichhivis came into power in the fifth century, the historians hypothesize, though, a few Lichhivi inscriptions and architectural remains have so far been frond from there. Still, we have names of ancients palaces like Tripura and Yuthunium, though we can’t locate where they might have stood in the mediaeval Bhaktapur.

Some historians believe that Bhaktapur is the oldest royal palace of the valley. Still, the oldest found inscription of 594 AD shows that it was a Drung (or big town) called Khopring (the city is still called Khwapa in the local Newar language).

Chronicle Gopalraj Banshavali states that King Ananda Dev established Bhaktapur state in 1146 AD. The predominantly Hindu state was developed in the 12th century and different kings, who came to Bhaktapur’s throne after it became a separate state of the valley in 1482 AD. By the 15th century, the state of Bhaktapur was surrounded by strong walls and moats to secure it from unfriendly neighbours (the wall and city boundary have disappeared). It is "traditionally" divided into two parts — upper and lower — that can be traced in the annual festival of Bisket Jatra even today.

The last three kings Jitamitra Malla, Bhupatindra Malla and Ranajita Malla (1673-1769 AD) were among the kings who contributed the most to decorate the royal square, which we see today.

Not only the palace area, but the whole of the city is full of midaeval temples and residential houses. The stone or brick-paved streets, brick-made houses and temples — all equally decorated with smooth bricks, tiled roofs, carved windows and doors, wooden struts or columns with designs of deities and animals and topped with gilded pinnacles.

Today, the fifty-five window palace is the centre of the protected monument zone. The main palace used to stand elegantly with 99 courtyards but now it has only half a dozen to possess. Mulchowk (supposedly the oldest remaining part of the palace), Bhairav Chowk, Ita Chowk, malati Chowk, Siddhi Chowk, Kumari Chowk are some of them.

After undergoing numerous stages of renovations, it still represents the complicated and miraculous Newari architecture and excellent wood carving, and extraordinary wall paintings. However, it has lost its original spectacle after it was restored following the collapse during the earthquake of 1934. The palace is waiting for renovation and the locals say dirty games among the contractors is the reason behind the delay.

The Yakhseshwor Temple, the Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, Golden Gate, Taleju Temple, The Golden Spout, The Big Bell, Chyasilin Mandap, Siddhi Laxmi Temple, Vatsala Templeand Chaturbramha Mahavihar are the major monuments at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Along with this we cannot neglect other landmark monuments which lie outside the Durbar Square. These include Nyatapola Temple, Bhairavnath Temple, Dattatraya Temple, Bhimsen Temple, Salan Ganesh Temple, Tekhacho Barahi Temple, Wakupati Narayan Temple, Chhuma Ganesh Temple, Nawadurga Temple, Rudrayani Temple, Mahalaxmi Temple, Hanuman Temple and Kamal Binayak Temple. Apart from that, the Peakock Window and Tucchimala Terracota Window and Talako Potter Square are other spectacles of the historic city.

Lokeshwor Mahavihar, Jyetvarna Mahavihar, Akandasheel Mahavihar, Lumbavarna Mahavihar, Mangal Dharma Mahavihar, Indravarna Mahavihar, Dhimottar Mahavihar, Adipadma Mahavihar, Bishow Mahavihar, Parasannashil Mahavihar, Dipankar Mahavihar, Manjuvarna Mahavihar, Yangalvarna Mahavihar, Chaurvarna Mahavihar, Jetvanr Mahavihar (Tekhacho), Jaya Kirti Mahavihar, Sukravarna Mahavihar, Sukravarna Mahavihar (Kwachukhusi) and Tom Baha are all indispensable parts of the cultural heritage of the city of Bhaktapur.

In the Durwar Square itself, three separate museums, for paintings (in the main palace wing), metal-craft (Chikamapa Math) and woodcraft (in Pujari Math) are allocated.

The efforts of the Bhaktapur Municipality in conservation of the cultural heritage is always appreciable. Kamal Binayak Pond, Bahare Pond, Bharwacho Gate, Jagannath Temple, Shiva Parvati Temple, Chhuma Ganesh Temple, Chaurabahi Monstery and other renovations are some major projects the municipality carried out last year. Of course, the much-criticised entrance fee is the bedrock of the renovations. The only demand the citizens have is that the renovation should not be only toursm promotion-centred, all the city should benefit from the money, not only the streets whey the tourists walk around.
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