Tuesday, January 22: Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square has two claims to fame: 1) It was listed a World Heritage Site in 1979 and 2) it was used in the filming of ancient flashback scenes in the 1995 film Little Buddha. It lacks the architectural harmony of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square due to a 1934 earthquake that destroyed several of its temples. It also has never served as a commercial or social focal point to Bhaktapur, according to Rough Guide to Nepal. However, it is the main square of the city and is a mixture of stone art, metal art, wood carving, and terracotta art and architectural showpieces, according to Bhaktapur Municipality.
The Royal Palace is said to have once had 99 chowks (courtyards), but since the 1934 earthquake and resulting demotions and renovations, it now has only five. This palace was built during the reign of King Yakshay Malla in AD 1427 and was subsequently remodeled by King Bhupatindra Malla in the late seventeenth century, when the eastern wing, known as Panchapanna Jhyale Durbar (“Palace of Fifty-Five Windows”), was built. It was home to royalty until 1769.
The Golden Gate, or Sun Dhoka, is said to be the most beautiful and richly molded specimen of gilt copper repoussé in the entire world. Repoussé is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief (Wikipedia). The door is embellished with monsters and mythical creatures of amazing intricacy. The Golden Gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla and is the entrance to the main courtyard of the Palace of Fifty-Five windows.
Turning back from the Golden Gate a doorway on the left leads through to Naga Pokhari, or “Snake Pond.” This is an early 16th century royal bathing tank. The waterspout is covered in thirsty animals in gilt copper, overlooked by two gilt nag figures standing clear of the water.
The 15th century Pashupati Mandir is the oldest structure in the square. The temple holds a copy of the Pashupatinath linga, a complex symbol of Hinduism associated with Shiva, representing energy and strength. Its roof is embellished with wildly erotic carvings.
Next door stands the 18th century shikhara-style stone Vatsala Durga was built by King Jagat Prakash Malla in 1672. Shikhara refers to a rising-tower Hindu architectural style, which translates literally to, and resembles, a “mountain peak.” (Wikipedia/Lonely Planet Nepal).
The Chyasin Mandap, erected in 1990 to replace an 18th century temple destroyed in the earthquake, is known as the Pavilion of the Eight Corners.
On the west side of the square, we see a school group clustered on the steps of an unnamed building.
And then we wander around and check out other interesting things in the square.
We leave Durbar Square and go in search of the Kumari’s house.