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Discovering Bhaktapur

A Guide to the Historic Newar City

Aidan Warlow

Suyog Prajapati


2 - Durbar Square 4- The 55 Window Palace 9 - Taumadi Square 9 - Nyatapola Temple
Numbers refer to pages in this book

Important places to visit 13 - Varahi dyachhen 14A - Sukuldhoka 14B - Golmadi 14C - Palikhel

15 - Pujarimath 15 - Dattatreya Square 15 - Dattatreya Temple 42 - Pottery Square


4 2

9 9

13 42



15 15


Published by:
Deutsche Gesellschaft for Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH -German Technical CooperationUrban Development through Local Programme (MLD - GTZ) P.O. Box 1457, Kathmandu Tel: 00977 1 4464 767 Fax: 00977 1 4464 735 Email: Website: Bhaktapur Muncipality Bhaktapur, Nepal

Aidan Warlow Suyog Prajapati Facts presented, opinions expressed illustrations and interpetations made in the book rests exclusively with the respective authors. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers. Photographs by: Aidan Warlow, Suyog Prajapati, Kishor Kayastha, Ben Deakin, Jo Wolfarth, Sunil Banepali, Sunil Jangam and Kishor Rajbhandari Designed and processed by: WordScape, Jhamsikhel Printed by: Jagadamba Press, Hattiban Aidan Warlow and Suyog Prajapati 2008 Kathmandu 2008 Malla wall painting (18th Century)

Discovering Bhaktapur
A Guide to the Historic Newar City

Aidan Warlow

Suyog Prajapati

Discovering Bhaktapur is directed to the visitor of the ancient Newar City of Bhaktapur, one of the three royal cities of the Kathmandu valley, who wants to get deeper into the history, culture and architecture of this marvelous city. Bhaktapur was at its high time in the 12th century a city with far reaching connection, a city of international trade; its craftsmen were praised from central India to China. After a long period of decay, destruction through earthquakes and the loss of political power, Bhaktapur has become again a growing lively city. Big parts of its center are a World Heritage Site, in which arts and crafts are flourishing again and tourism is becoming an important aspect of daily life and employment. Discovering Bhaktapur has been conceived jointly by the Bhaktapur Municipality and the Urban Development through Local Efforts programme (udle). This programme is supporting Nepals municipalities in improving urban self governance and is jointly implemented by the Ministry of Local Development on behalf of the Government of Nepal and the German Development Cooperation on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Promotion and Development. The initiatives of the municipalities of Bhaktapur in maintaining its cultural heritage and bringing it to the increasing attention of an international public are an example for a growing proud and selfreliance of the city and its citizens. Presenting its precious culture, architecture and unique urban setting to a tourist, which may spend more than half a day in the city and may fall in love with it and its people, is the intention of this book. This is also a guide for the visitor who takes the trouble to look behind the visible beauty and tries to understand this city.

Mr. Bishnu Nath Sharma Joint Secretary Ministry of Local Development

Dr. Horst Matthaeus GTZ Programme Manager udle

Bhaktapur is one of the three main cities of the Kathmandu Valley. The importance of Bhaktapur City was enhanced from the start of the medieval period because it became the royal seat of undivided Kathmandu Valley during that period. It has preserved the unique medieval arts and architecture that flourished during the reign of the Malla kings, like the other two cities of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur has also a royal palace with many courtyards, temples of different architectural styles dedicated to different Gods and Goddesses and architectural buildings erected during different centuries by different kings. The importance of Bhaktapurs vast heritage of historic buildings and work of art is renowned throughout the world. Changu Narayan, located close to the city of Bhaktapur, is another one of the most important monument sites of the Kathmandu Valley. The site is important from historical, religious, art and architectural point of view. An inscription carved on the victory pillar in the year 464 is the oldest authentic record of the Kathmandu Valley. This pillar was erected by Lichchavi King Mana Deva. One can see from this spot the birds eyes view of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan are considered the most significant cultural resources of the Kathmandu Valley, i.e. areas of outstanding universal value. Subsequently, both sites were inscribed on the World Heritage list as a part of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage site. This book contains comprehensive information on art, architecture and various forms of intangible cultural heritage of Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan. This book is essentially a tourist guide book to Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan but it can be useful for those who are interested to know about the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of both sites. Because of their rich cultural heritage Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan are the potential destination for foreign tourist. In this context we are proud to have this opportunity to publish this book entitled Discovering Bhaktapur: A guide to the historic Newar city written by Aidan Warlow and Suyog Prajapati. We hope it will be helpful in understanding the heritage of both sites.

Indra Prasad Karki Executive Officer Bhaktapur Municipality

November, 2008

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Historical Background Durbar Square: the Royal Palace Durbar Square: the Temples Taumadi Square The Old Trade Route Dattatreya Square More Religious Centres Journey to Changu Narayan The Gods of Bhaktapur 1 2 6 9 13 15 18 21 25 29 32 34 41 44 45 48 50 51 52 52

10 The Great Festivals 11 Water 12 Newars 14 Arts and Crafts 15 Modern Bhaktapur 16 Stories about Bhaktapur 17 Some Questions about Bhaktapur Glossary Index Further reading Acknowledgements

13 The Bhaktapur Development Project 38

1. Historical Background
Three hundred years ago the Kathmandu Valley, no more than 200 square miles in area, contained three independent kingdoms Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. All of them were prosperous, well governed and enjoying a high level of culture. Each had fertile soil for agriculture, a good natural water supply, local clay to make bricks and rugged surrounding hills to discourage foreign invaders. It was an ideal environment for the growth of a civilisation. Bhaktapur was particularly well favoured. Built on high ground stretching from east to west, it has one main street which was until recently the trading route from Kathmandu to Tibet. Smaller streets run down to the river and to the scores of agricultural smallholdings farmed by the townsfolk. The city declined after national unification in 1768/9. Only in the last four decades has it recovered some of its former prosperity. Visitors now see it at a critical point in its history. Education is now available to almost everybody, the streets are clean and theres an effective sewerage system. Tourism has encouraged the revival of many traditional crafts and the restoration of the historic buildings.

1382-1395 Jayasthiti Malla codifies the elaborate Newari caste system. 1453 Yaksha Malla moves royal palace to present site. For next 300 years the Malla kings enrich Bhaktapur with fine buildings.

1696-1722 King Bhupatindra Malla builds 55 Window Palace, Nyatapola Temple etc. 1768/69 Gorkha army of Prithvi Narayan Shah overthrows Mallas. Nepal unified under Shah kings.

c 300-900

The ancient Lichchavi period. Highly developed culture followed by a period of confusion and decline.

1849-1950 Nepal governed by Rana family. Bhaktapur now a neglected backwater. 1934 1950 1974-86 2008 Massive earthquake (8.4 on the Richter scale) destroys many buildings. Ranas overthrown. Restoration of Shah dynasty. Bhaktapur Development Project. Nepal becomes a republic.

1147-1156 Ananda Dev said to have established Bhaktapur city layout including palace, temples and 12,000 houses. c 1200 Malla kingdom established in Kathmandu Valley, later separating into Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.

2. Durbar Square: the Royal Palace

You pay your entrance fee beside the tall white Main Gate (for royalty to ride their elephants through) and pause to take in the peaceful dignity of the great square. From here you can see at least twenty temples and historic buildings. In the 17th century all the left northern side of the square was a huge royal palace said to have once had 99 courtyards. In 1742 there were only 12. Now there are even fewer. You must imagine the palace extending through the grounds of the high school to the left of the main gate.

The Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Beside the high school gate are two notorious relief carvings. The first is of Bhairav with 12 arms and a necklace of skulls. The second is of the 18 armed Durga with a variety of weapons killing a demon. (For notes on these gods, see p. 25) The story goes that King Bhupatindra commissioned them in 1701. Then, to prevent the sculptor from producing such masterpieces for a rival, he ordered his right hand to be cut off. The sculptor bravely worked on with his left hand and so the king ordered that to be chopped off too. You come to a large white building which is the National Art Gallery. Flanking its entrance is a lively Hanuman (see p. 26) and a Nrisimha (man-lion incarnation of Vishnu) with a nasty grin on his face as he tears out the entrails of a demon. They date from 1698. These protect what was once the main entrance to the palace. The white facade dates only from the Rana period in the early 20th century. The Gallery contains a random assembly of artworks, mainly 18th and 19th century pauva paintings of Hindu deities and small

Malla stone carvings. Some of the finest exhibits are thought to have been stolen. Surviving items of interest are: the tall Lichchavi inscribed panel dating from the 6th century AD facing you as you enter; a very large 19th century painting of the life of Krishna; and a fine carving of Hari-Hara in the fireplace recess upstairs. Beyond the Art Galley is the Golden Gate or Sun Dhoka (Loon Dhwaakaa), a masterpiece of Newari gilded copper work dating from 1753. It leads to the religious areas of the palace. In the torana (see p. 3) above the gate you see the 4 headed 16 armed figure of Taleju, the goddess worshipped by the royal family. We will come to her temple shortly. Walk through the gate and you come to a deep archway containing two massive ritual drums made of elephant skin, secreted behind lattice screens. They were of course carried by elephants. Continue along the courtyards and past a pair of elegant stone figures in Malla court dress bearing oil lamps. They are said to represent the King Jitamitra Malla and his minister Chandrashekhar Rajopadhyaya, both signalling the Dashain festival.

It is said that the main Taleju idol housed in the temple is made up of a single block of gold. Much of what goes on inside is kept secret by the priests who come from the Karmacharya caste. Strict regulations are maintained regarding those allowed inside the temple which was largely rebuilt by Jitamitra Malla in the mid-seventeenth century. He is said to have neglected his kingdom to concentrate on art and worship. Still it is the scene of massive sacrifices of buffalo at the annual Dashain festival.

The Durbar Square

You come now to the entrance of the Mul Chowk. Inside is the most holy temple of Taleju. Non-Hindus are not allowed in. But they can peep through the door and see some of the wonderfully ornate carvings in the great courtyard. An array of exquisite carvings, some of them said to have been carved by King Bhupatindra himself, will keep Hindu visitors spell bound and make them forget the other works of art in the valley. Inside there are passages leading to more courtyards, namely Kumari Chowk and Bhairav Chowk, both of which are restricted to Hindus except during certain occasions. Bhairav Chowk is open only during the annual Dashain festival. Inside Hindus can see beautiful idols of the eighteen Bhairavs.
The Golden Gate, leading into the ritual centres of the palace

A few yards further on is the water spout (hiti) at the Sundhara (Loonhiti) Chowk. Here the royal family performed their ritual bathing under the watchful eyes of the gilded snakegod Vasuki on a post in the middle. The small statues that once filled the niches around the spout have been stolen for sale to westerners. The beautiful gilded water spout hasnt yet been pillaged. (See p. 32 for more about water tanks and spout.) As you walk back into the main square you pass the magnificent 55 Window Palace on your left. It was built by King Bhupatindra Malla at the end of the 17th century. Both the interior and exterior are outstanding examples of Newari woodcarving. On the first floor are important Malla wall paintings of scenes from the Mahabharat with Shiva

55 Window Palace

as the central figure. On the upper floor are paintings of the Krishna Charitra which were sadly damaged by another earthquake in 1988.The process of painting is interesting. Michael Hutt tells us that the figures were first traced in black soot from oil lamps onto a surface of polished slaked lime mixed with water and animal glue. A massive restoration project launched in 2006 will, we hope, conserve the wall paintings and prevent more earthquake damage. The restoration is expected to cost at least 200 million rupees. On a tall pillar facing the Golden Gate is one of Nepals great treasures, the statue of Bhupatindra Malla (1696-1722). He kneels on his lion throne with an air of calm authority, gazing at the palace that he did so much to restore. Try to spot a tiny bronze bird under the lotus pedestal. The statue was set up in 1753 by Bupatindras son Ranajit Malla, the last King of Bhaktapur. Nearby is the large bronze Taleju
Malla king guarding the door to the Bhairav Chowk King Bhupatindra Malla on his pedestal. He built the Nyatapola Temple and restored many other buildings.

Bell hung by King Ranajit Malla in 1737. A priest still tolls it three times a day having removed his shoes and said the mantras. Another smaller bell nearby is known as the Barking Bell because dogs were supposed to bark when it is rung; now it is locked. In the same group of buildings is a beautiful pit water spout (hiti), now dry. The two storey octagonal timber building close to the 55 Window Palace is the Chyasilin Mandap. It was originally built in the 17th century probably as a viewing stand during public events and to entertain royal guests. Totally destroyed in the 1934 earthquake, it was carefully reconstructed in the 1980s under the direction of the Austrian architect Gtz Hagmller with German funding to mark the state visit of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. It is a masterpiece of scholarly restoration though very controversial at the time. You can try to pick out which carvings are original and which were done by a modern local wood-carver. Eight of the twelve pillars and six of the sixteen capitals are original. The exposed steel frames are there to resist future earthquakes. Along the main square facing the palace is an extended two level dharmashala building with a long open ground floor platform. This would have provided lodging for travellers and visitors to the palace and simply a shelter in the rainy season. Trading was not normally allowed in Durbar Square. Look at the pre-earthquake picture on page 39. You will see on the right hand side of the picture that the dharmashala has been moved further away from the palace during the restoration programme.

The Chyasilin Mandap, rebuilt in the 1980s

The Chyasilin Mandap

King Bhupatindra

Yaksheswor Temple

Vatsaladevi Temple

3. Durbar Square: the temples

Durbar Square is an important religious as well as political centre. We start our journey again at the western Main Gate. Across the square facing the high school are four shrines known as the Chaar Dhaam. They represent four important pilgrimage centres in India; devotees unable to make the massive journey south can worship here instead. The two-tiered pagoda temple is for Krishna; it has very elegant wood carvings, showing the ten incarnations of Vishnu.

Further down the square, outside the Shiva Guest House, are two large temples in very contrasting styles. The sandstone one is the Vatsaladevi Temple. Its in the shikhara style: large tapering upper section representing Mount Kailash flanked by nine smaller towers. Built in 1696, it is dedicated to the Goddess Durga whose fierce images can be seen around the upper sections along with idols of Bhairav. The other large temple is built of brick and timber in the Newari pagoda style. This is the Yaksheswar Mahadev Temple dedicated to Shiva and dating back to the 1450s. It always attracts a large number of worshippers. Its a replica of the great pilgrimage centre of Pashupatinath on the edge of Kathmandu. They say that it was built for pilgrims who couldnt get to the real Pashupatinath during a period of hostilities between the two kingdoms. There are some

rather surprising erotic carvings on the roof struts that local people believe were meant for preventing lightning strikes. In fact they are associated with deeper religious erotic cults, well known to students of tantric practices. Go back towards the 55 Window Palace and turn right into the next wider section of the square. This area was particularly damaged in the 1934 earthquake. The first smart little shikhara style temple on the left is dedicated to Siddhilaxmi. It has a delightful series of figures guarding its steps: a couple of chained rhinos (suggesting that the Mallas perhaps kept a menagerie), a pair of camels and what appears to be two naughty boys refusing to accompany their mothers. The next plain white temple is that of Silu Mahadev, also called Fashidega (Pumpkin Temple). It replaces what must once have been a larger building. Luckily the guardian figures have survived.
Yaksheswar Mahadev Temple, a replica of the Pashupati shrine near Kathmandu

The guardians of the Siddhilaxmi Temple

In the middle of this open area are some lonely steps guarded by two large lions all that remains of the huge vanished pagoda temple dedicated to Harishankar or possibly Krishna. You can see what it once looked like in the far background of the pre-1934 picture on pages 38 and 39.

At the eastern end of the Durbar Square is the Chatubrahma Mahavihara once occupied by the living goddess, Kumari (see p. 27 for more about her). It now houses one of the five Dipankara Buddhas, on the left as you enter. You should give a small donation when you visit it.

4. Taumadi Square
This very beautiful square is always busy. Early in the morning and again in late afternoon local farmers used to sell their fruit and vegetables alongside the inevitable cheap clothing and pirated DVDs. At other times it is the scene of political rallies, cultural events and major religious festivals. It is particularly pleasant in the late evening when the traditional music bands (daaphaa) are playing in front of the Bhairav Temple.

The Nyatapola Temple

The Nyatapola Temple is the 30 metre high pagoda that dominates the city skyline. It has five timber storeys set on five massive stone platforms. Children love scrambling over the ledges and never seem to get hurt. Older folk feel a bit uneasy climbing up the steep steps. Its thought to be dedicated to the beautiful goddess Siddhilaxmi and only special Taleju priests are allowed secret access to the inner sanctum. Nobody else worships there. It was built on the orders of Bhupatindra Malla in 1702. It is said that he set a fine example by carrying the first three bricks on his shoulder. This so inspired the population that all the remaining materials were brought up in the following five days. (Read a story about it on page 45.)

Nyatapola Temple

Taumadi Squares fruit market during festival time

It is an outstanding feat of engineering. Apart from some minor damage at the top it fully survived the 1934 earthquake. Stand close to it and look upwards to appreciate the mass of intricate carving. There are 108 roof struts (try counting them). A government archaeologist tells us that the building consumed 1,135,350 locally baked bricks, 102,034 oily pavement bricks and 600 grams of gold for the pinnacle. And that was only one of Bhupatindra Mallas building projects. All gold for the temples had to be imported from Tibet. Guarding the temple are ten mighty figures. At the bottom are two local wrestling champions called Jayamala and Patta. Next up, ten times stronger, are a pair of elephants. Then two lions, two griffins (sarduls) and two deities, Singhini and Byanghini. Each is ten times stronger than the pair below.

Traditional music band


At the top you will see the beautiful torana of the temple. But as you circle the other facades you wont find any more. They have all been stolen. The outstanding wooden struts still remain though, showing the various forms of goddess Bhagvati (Durga). Outside the temple at its four corners are four small shrines to Ganesh which are much used by worshippers.

The Bhairav Temple

This broad three-tiered pagoda on the eastern side of the square is the most important religious building in the area. It was first built by Jagajjyotir Malla in the early 17th century.

Bhairav Temple alongside the chariot carrying the deity during Bisket Jatra

The story goes that the dangerous god, Bhairav, visited Bhaktapur disguised as a commoner. A clever local tantric priest recognized him and used magic to trap him in the ground. Then when the god tried to escape, the priest chopped his head off and installed it in this temple where of course it still is, or should be. Actually his image was stolen and has had to be replaced. The temple has had its ups and downs. It began as a single storey rectangular building. Then Bhupatindra Malla added two storeys in the early 18th century. It collapsed in the 1934 earthquake and was then rebuilt by the Mathema family in 1941. The massive wheels and beams lying against the side of the temple are assembled to carry the god during the Bisket Festival.

Worshippers come to do puja to a little gilded bronze image at the front. There is a mass of fine images all around it. To enter the temple they have to go round the back through a small temple to Vetaal, Bhairavs vehicle. (Read more about the gods on page 25 and about the Bisket Festival on page 29.) The large stone platform covering the southern area is a dabu. Its for ritual dancing and events. The popular Nyatapola Cafe standing in the middle of the square was once a sattal (rest house). It was sensibly converted into a restaurant in 1976 and is a good place to sit and watch the world go by. Behind the cafe and the mass of tourist souvenir shops is a large Malla house with fine carvings. It is Pu-baha (Bahatal) belonging to a rich merchant family, the Dhaubadels.


Early morning at the Tilmadhav Narayan Temple

The Tilmadhav Narayan Temple

Its in an interesting courtyard hidden from the main square by a row of shops. Go down the narrow passage between the tourist shops behind the dabu platform. This is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in the city with an inscription dated 1163. The twin roofed pagoda temple is dedicated to Narayan (Vishnu). His vehicle, the birdman

Garuda, is parked on a pillar outside a particularly fine gilded bronze figure. On other pillars you see Vishnus conch, shankha and his chakra, the disc-shaped weapon. The figure of Narayan in the torana over the temple door has been ripped out by thieves, like so much of Bhaktapurs sacred metalwork. A male lingam and female yoni are in a wooden cage nearby, symbols of Shiva and Parvati. The whole area is much used by worshippers.


A Tamrakars shop.

5. The Old Trade Route

The ancient route from Delhi and Kathmandu to Lhasa and Beijing went through Bhaktapur. A steady trade was maintained in salt, wool, gold dust, copper, medicinal herbs, spices and yak tails (used as royal fly whisks). Probably not much silk though. This trade peaked in the early 18th century and then declined after the national unification in 1767. A community of Newari traders has remained in Lhasa to import Nepali goods up to the present time. Merchants entered Bhaktapur through the Lion Gate on the western side of the city, avoiding the Durbar Square (see the map on the inside front cover). They travelled down Bharbhacho, Tekapukhu and Nasamana, Varahi dyachhen, just above the Pottery Square.

You have to cast your mind back five hundred years and imagine a rough stone paved and very mucky road filled with heavily laden donkeys, yaks and human porters, smarter travellers on ponies but no wheeled traffic. Very grand people, particularly ladies, were carried in palanquins. They doubtless had to pay a considerable sum at the customs post. Most of the shops in the city are still located along this route. Leaving Taumadi Square following the main road northeast, you soon come to a group of metalwork shops displaying beautiful bronze and copper utensils. They are made by the Tamrakar caste who live in this area. If you are specially interested in metalwork shops, go down the steep narrow turning to the right. The noise of hammering will tell you where the workshops are.


The busy street of Sukuldhoka.

Along the way on the right, just past the Taumadi Square on the first rightward bend in the street, is the Sukuldhoka Math (straw-matted door). Its doors tend to be blocked by fruit stalls but you can ask permission to go through the small middle door. This is a math or Hindu sage house dating from 1744. Youll find yourself in a murky but atmospheric building well worth exploring. Keep going along the main street which soon widens into a small area of shrines, Golmadi Square. A lot of puja goes on

here, particularly at the three level GaneshBhairav shrine on the right. There is a very deep hiti with a fine early relief carving of Shiva and Parvati (Uma-Mahesvara) over the spout. Continuing along the street you pass on the left two-storeyed vihara with carved windows in Palikhel. This is the Mangal Dharmadeep. You are welcome to explore inside, especially if you are interested in Buddhism. Finally you reach Dattatreya Square.


6. Dattatreya Square (or Tachupal Tol)

This is a remarkably unspoilt area. Almost all the buildings you can see date from the eighteenth century or earlier, though several had to be reconstructed after the 1934 earthquake. Historically this is probably the oldest settlement in Bhaktapur. Dattatreya Temple dominates the square on the eastern side. It dates from the reign of Yakshya Malla (1428-1482). Its dedication is complex. Dattatreya himself was a sage and a combined form of the great trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Their various symbols can be seen in front of the temple including a particularly fine gilded man-bird Garuda on a large pillar with a crown of snakes. Like the Nyatapola, this temple is guarded by the two mighty wrestlers Jayamala and Patta. These two are said to have fought each other for forty days and nights, knocking down several buildings in the process. The king had to intervene and then posted them as temple guards which of course they still are. They have amusingly bewildered expressions. We are told that all the timber in the temple came from a single tree. At the lower end of the square is the Bhimsen Temple. On the ground floor there is a resting place while the deity is upstairs. This causes problems when a buffalo has to be carried for sacrifice. Bhimsen is the wrathful son of Vayu (the wind god) and much worshipped by merchants in Bhaktapur. They say that when he appears in disguise at a market stall, hell pay whatever price the seller asks! Overlooking the north side of the square is a first floor open gallery, currently a restaurant. Originally it was the home of members of the Jangam caste whose job it still is to maintain the two big temples in the square and some of the nearby maths.

Dattatreya Square

These are the handsome timber and brick buildings many of which surround Dattatreya Square. They were dwelling hostels for Hindu sages and religious students. There are twelve altogether in Bhaktapur, nine of them in this area. They were still thriving in the 1950s on the proceeds of donations and endowments from as far away as Tibet. King Mahendra deprived them of their incomes with his land reforms in the sixties leading to their closure. The largest and most famous is the Pujari Math on the right hand side beyond the main temple. It dates back to the 15th century but most of what you see is from the 18th century.


A woman drying rice in front of the Pujari Math.

It was almost wiped out by the 1934 earthquake and remained in a partially rebuilt state of decay. The German government funded a total restoration as an unusual wedding gift to Crown Prince, later King, Birendra in 1972. It is a magnificent rabbit-warren of a building on four storeys, with three inner courtyards where the best wood carved windows are to be seen. Some of it is now a Woodcarving Museum which gives you an excuse to wander around. If you walk down an alley to the left of the building for about fifty yards you will see, high on the right hand wall, the most beautiful window in Nepal the Peacock Window.

It dates from about 1750. You can ask the friendly owner of the woodcarving shop opposite to let you view it at first floor level. None of the carved versions on sale in the tourist shops remotely match up to the original, though accurate full-size replicas are sometimes made to order by the two shops facing the window. Another math on the other side of the square from the Pujari Math is the Chikanappa Math, now open to visitors as a Metalwork Museum. There are some erotic carvings on the outside of this math. The interior has an attractive atmosphere and the exhibits, though not old, are worth seeing.


Shiva and Garuda images in the courtyard of Wakupati Narayan.

You can continue along the main road beyond the Dattatreya Temple. You pass a beautiful well alongside a small temple and the Bramhayani god-house on the left near a school. You soon see on your right a very attractive little area containing the Wakupati Narayan Temple. Its a replica of the famous Changu Narayan. The temple itself has no less

than five figures of the bird-god Garuda on pedestals in front of it; the first and largest dates are from ancient times. Little Shiva linga also strew its compound showing the dominance of the Shaiva (Shiva worshipping) cult in later times. It is a peaceful sacred precinct, usually with a lot of old men sitting and gossiping in the nearby patis.


7. More Religious Centres

These are places of worship that are not really welcoming to tourists. Only go there if you are seriously interested in religious culture. Please be discreet with your photography. And dont take large tourist groups.

The Navadurga Dyachhen

The Navadurga Dyachhen is a very interesting temple but awkward to find. Go to Dattatreya Square and then ask the way. It is the headquarters or agam of the famous nine masked dancers known as the Navadurga. They belong to the Banamala (Gatha) caste of landless gardeners. Every year, since 1513, they put on their frightening clay masks and do a vibrant dance round the 21 squares of the city wearing bright female costumes. They are respected and feared as living gods by their devotees. They engage in a variety of obscure tantric rituals and sacrifices; on the eighth day of the Dashain festival they swear over the body of a sacrificed ram not to reveal their secrets. You must not photograph them in their masks during the rituals. Read a story about them on page 46. Navadurga Dyochhen has recently been rebuilt and repaired using much of the original woodwork. You can go into the courtyard and admire the various toranas, pillars and struts. You might find a buffalo just inside the door awaiting sacrifice. The masks are made by artists of the Chitrakar caste amidst strict rituals using specially sanctified clay called bo-cha lined with cotton and local paper. Each year the masks are solemnly cremated and replaced during the Dashain festival. You can buy accurate full size replicas at The Peacock Shop and smaller papier-mch versions in all the tourist shops.
Bhairav. a protective deity among the Navadurga dancers.

Svet (White) Bhairav dancing during a Navadurga procession.

The Ashtamatrika
The 8 Mother Goddesses or Ashtamatrika are protective deities located at the eight points around Bhaktapur. They represent the spiritual axes of the city, said to form the shape of a conch. Their places of worship are open shrines called piths but the actual idols are usually in nearby god-houses (dyachhen). The eight goddesses are dangerous and require regular sacrifices to insure the protection of the surrounding neighbourhood. They correspond to eight of the nine Navadurgas. You need a good guide to take you round all the piths as we havent space to describe them here. It involves a lot of hard walking for at least a day.

Buddhist Vihars
Buddhists listen to sermons at particular schools and monasteries called vihars. A vihara generally includes a small courtyard with a stupa at the centre and a study room where the guru lectures from holy scriptures such as the Tripitaka and the Jatakas. You can see viharas at all the sites of the Dipankara Buddha.

Dipankara means the Buddha of Light. He was a pre-Buddha who foretold the coming of the famous Shakyamuni Gautam Buddha. His idols are installed at various viharas. Now only five are significant. These idols, made of clay, papier-mch and bamboo, are taken around the city during the Panchadaan in mid-August. Locals here mistakenly call the five Dipankaras the five Pandavas of the Mahabharata epic.


The easiest one to visit is in the Chatubramha Mahavihara at the far eastern end of Durbar Square. The Dipankara is in a cage on the left as you go in. You should donate a few rupees when you see it. Another Dipankara Buddha is to be seen at the Prasannasheel Mahavihara in a back street further to the north of Dattatreya Square. Youll need guidance to find it. Its in a beautiful building with unusual gilded medallions on the front and a variety of ancient chaityas in the forecourt.

Ghats are stone embankments on the rivers used firstly for ritual bathing in the river (you have to be very devout to do that nowadays in the filthy water), secondly for sanctification of the dying and thirdly the cremation of the dead. Conceptually there are eight ghats in Bhaktapur, corresponding to the eight mother goddesses or Ashtamatrika. Not all of them are still used. Local communities usually use the one nearest their house but there are some special ghats: Indrani Ghat near the tourist bus-park is only for infants who are buried, not cremated;
Worshipping the Dipankara Buddha in procession.

the Chupinghat near the Kathmandu University Music School is used mainly by the sweeper caste; the Vaishnavi Ghat (Moodeep) nearby was and still is used by Malla kings and their descendants. These ghats are interesting to know about but you are not encouraged to visit them. And you must not photograph funerals this would be a gross intrusion of privacy. If you particularly want to visit a ghat then go to the Hanuman Ghat (youll need directions to get there) where there is a mass of important shrines and a very devout atmosphere. A more visitor-friendly ghat is that of Indrani, no longer used for cremation. Again you must ask for directions. Its on a quiet corner just outside the Durbar Square gate, northwards down the stairways. The temple under a tree is one of the eight Ashtamatrika shrines and the scene of a lot of rituals but no cremation.

Ghat, cremation site at the river bank


8. Journey to Changu Narayan

Changu Narayan is a village set in the hills about six kilometres north of Bhaktapur. You can reach it by bus or taxi and then enjoy walking back downhill on the footpath. Alternatively you can walk there from Nagarkot. It is one of the most important ancient sites in Nepal, particularly famous for its temple dedicated to Narayan (Vishnu) and its sculptures dating from the ancient Licchavi period. (You can read a story behind it on page 45.) You arrive at the eastern end of the village and pay a small entrance fee. You then walk the length of the village street to the temple area at the far end. Its worth stopping on the way to visit the small private Museum on the right. You enter the temple courtyard surrounded by resthouses which are still used by pilgrims at festival time. The two tiered pagoda temple was rebuilt by Queen Riddhilaxmi after a fire in 1764. Look at the beautiful gilded copper roof with its smart pinnacle of five spires under a parasol. The roof is supported by very elegant painted struts in the shape of multiarmed deities. Below that is a row of windbells. And then there are triple doors on all four sides of the temple. Walking clockwise round the courtyard you pass a bright little temple dedicated to Chhinnamastaa; she is an incarnation of Parvati, Shivas consort, who cut off her own head to feed her attendants. There are three fine gilded small toranas on the outside. Sadly two of them were stolen quite recently and replaced by replicas. Nearby is a very curious rough hewn stone elephant. It remained unfinished because one morning it was discovered to have walked from the workshop to its present position. Nobody dared continue carving it after that.

The elephant that ran away from its workshop.

Beyond the migrant elephant you reach the important Licchavi sculptures which we describe later in this chapter. You are now at the front of the temple facing west. Originally one approached it from this direction up a flight of steps from the other side of the village. You might like to explore the area below the steps which offers a fine view of the Kathmandu Valley and the winding Manohara River. The front of the temple is a rich mass of Vishnu symbols and a beautiful gilded triple door. Above the door is a magnificient torana with standing figures of Vishnu and two consorts under the protective head of Garuda. Facing the door is a charming little gilded statue of the Queen Riddhilaxmi and her son King Bhupalendra Malla, in a square metal cage. These sculptures were stolen a few years ago but luckily recovered. Continue round the courtyard. You pass a small library and medical dispensary for locals to use. (Theres no doctor in the village.)


the most precious works of art in Asia. The Lichchavi period (c. 4th-9th century) has a very distinctive style of carving using hard dark-coloured stone, usually highly polished, the figures having long smooth limbs often in unusual poses. Each sculpture is highly individual and packed with sacred information. We walk (as always) clockwise round the temple, coming to the first major sculpture of Vishnu Vishvarupa towards the end of the left hand side.

Vishnu Vishvarupa Vishnus grand unified form (Circa 7th century)

At the base of this relief we see a figure asleep in the primeval ocean of serpents (nagas). He is probably Valaram, one of Vishnus incarnations. On top at the centre is Vishnu, standing in magnificent yet compassionate authority with

The millenial shrine of Changu Narayan showing its ancient inscription on the left hand pillar.

Back near the entrance you see a collection of dusty wooden carriages and palanquins. These are used to carry the sacred images round the village at festival time. Twice a year Narayans spirit in a large silver pot is brought on a ritual visit to the royal palace in Kathmandu. The best of the small carriages has been ruined by thieves who (just before we came to write this chapter) removed two beautiful wooden elephants that used to support the deity.

The ancient sculptures of Changu Narayan

Having walked round the courtyard, you can go back to examine the stone carvings more carefully. They are some of
The majestic Vishnu Vishvarupa


multiple heads that represent each of his different forms. He holds all his ritual symbols and is surrounded by rows of humbled minor gods, heroes, angels and elephants. The complex web of images is designed with remarkable clarity and technical virtuosity. It is one of Nepals greatest treasures.

Manadevs inscription (464 AD)

Nearby, under a gilded chakra, is an inscription on a square pillar. It is a dedication by King Manadev dated 464 AD. The script is Gupta-Brahmi, a language based on Sanskrit. A portion of the inscription cannot be seen as the pillar is sunk into the ground. But we see enough to appreciate the beautifully carved ancient script.

Garuda (7th century)

This is the earliest and most famous statue in the temple complex. Garuda is a mythical bird-man with wings as well as limbs. The face that replaces the beak in this sculpture is believed to be that of the then king Manadev. It was probably once on a pillar that collapsed during an earthquake.

Vishnu Vikrant The giant Vishnu (Circa 7th century)

At the bottom we see Vishnu disguised as a dwarf (Vaman) receiving donations from the generous demon-king Bali. Bali makes countless offerings to Vaman. Finally Vaman asks for only three strides worth of land. Bali agrees to give this. Vaman then takes his true form as a god who covers all the worlds in three gargantuan strides. All this to win back the heavens which Bali had seized from the Gods.

Lord Vishnus mount Garuda

The colossal dwarf, Vishnu Vikrant (8th century).


Nrisimha (circa 14th century)

Nrisimha is the lion-man incarnation of Vishnu. This gory image shows him calmly disemboweling the demon Hiranyakasipu. Brahma had decreed that this demon could not be killed by man or beast, nor during day or night, not inside or outside a building, nor with any weapon. But Nrisimha circumvented these rules by being neither man nor beast but a lion-man; it was neither day nor night but twilight; it was neither indoors nor outdoors but in the doorway of the palace; and he used no weapon but his claws. Brahma is watching from the upper left corner. It is an outstanding piece of ancient sculpture, most notable for its display of huge arms and legs.

Garudasana VishnuVishnu astride Garuda (Circa 8th century)

Vishnu bearing his discus (chakra) and mace (gada) voyages on his vehicle, Garuda. This image is also seen on the Nepalese Rs 10 banknote.

Vishnu voyaging on top of Garuda (9th century).

Lion-man, Nrisimha, tearing the chest of the demon Hiranyakasipu


and street corner, is Shivas image of the lingam, the male procreative symbol, which is devoutly worshipped. Bhairav is Shiva in his fearsome form with horrible fangs, many arms holding a variety of weapons and wearing a garland of skulls. There is a large temple of his in Taumadi Square (see p. 11) and another in Durbar Square. He also features in many thanka/ pauva paintings. Parvati is Shivas beautiful consort. They often appear together in relief sculptures. Alternatively Parvati can appear in her dangerous form as Durga amidst weapons and skulls but always with a calm face. Her other form is Taleju, the tutelary deity of the royal family, with her big temple in the palace. (See p. 3 ) Durga and Taleju are dangerous goddesses who have to be appeased with animal sacrifices particularly during the Dashain Festival. Tourists are not encouraged to watch this happening. Ganesh is the friendly son of Shiva and Parvati. He has an elephant head because Shiva once mistakenly chopped off his human one. He brings good fortune and is very popular with children. His vehicle is a long-tailed rat always to be seen on a pedestal outside his temples. There is an important

Bhairav, Shivas wrathful form.

9. The Gods of Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur means City of Devotees. It is the home of both gods and people. The gods can be seen on every street corner, in every courtyard and inside every home. These are a few of the main ones. Shiva the creator and destroyer. You recognize his temples because his vehicle, the bull Nandi, is patiently waiting on a pedestal outside. Shivas most conspicuous place of worship is the Yaksheswar Temple in Durbar Square (see p. 6) but youll find him in many other temples. His common attributes are a long handled trident (trishula) and a handdrum (damaru). Much more widespread, in every square

Shiva linga and the trident trishul.


Ganesh, god of good initiation. (wood)

Hanuman, the powerful monkey god. (stone)

Durga, the protective mother deity (stone)

Ganesh shrine at Surya Vinayak to the south of Bhaktapur. You see his statue everywhere. Siddhilaxmi is related to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. She is greatly revered in Bhaktapur and resides in the huge Nyatapola Temple and in the little stone temple (Lohandega) close to the 55 Window Palace. She is the bringer of success. Hanuman the brave monkey god stopped off in Bhaktapur in the course of rescuing the goddess Sita, wife of Ram, from captivity in (Sri) Lanka. His heroics in the epic Ramayan is a cherished myth. He is much worshipped at the Hanuman Ghat (see p. 20 ).

the Kumari in Kathmandu, who is confined to her palace and never allowed to touch the ground with her feet, the Bhaktapur Kumari leads a reasonably normal life. She lives with her family, goes to school and plays with her friends. On religious occasions she wears rich clothing and performs ancient rituals. She can be called out at other times to minister to dangerously sick people or in a crisis. Blessings can be obtained at her residence on the northeast end of the city. You should ask for directions. Her devotees were very upset when she went to America in 2007 to feature in a documentary film.

Vishnu is one of the supreme Hindu trinity along with Shiva and Brahma and is very much revered by the royal family. He was the representative deity of the ancient Lichchavis who had established many centres for his worship. Later the Shah

Kumari, the living goddess

This is a little girl selected at the age of around three from the Shakya caste to be a goddess until she reaches puberty. Unlike


Kings claimed to be incarnations of him. Vishnu is considered the preserver and nourisher. His most famous shrine is the Wakupati Narayan Temple at the eastern end of the city and the Narayan Temple to the south of Taumadi Square. His vehicle is the man-bird god, Garuda, who guards the front of his temples. His symbols are shankha (the conch), chakra (the disc), gada (the mace) and padma (the lotus).

Bhaktapur is said to have 172 places of worship quite apart from the little roadside and family shrines. You can watch people of all ages doing puja throughout the day but

Kumari, the living goddess, answering her phone.

Vishnu, the preserver.

particularly in the early morning. Please dont photograph them. This is very intrusive. Normally puja consists of going round several shrines, beginning with Ganesh, carrying a copper dish containing some tika powder, rice grains, barley, flowers, fruits and some burning incense and, most important, some holy water in a little copper pot to bathe the god. If there is a bell, you ding it to announce your arrival. You make your offering and bring back the consecrated remainder in the form of prasad for your family to receive. You might do a circuit of the shrine, always clockwise with your right arm towards the god. Puja is a simple but very strengthening part of Hindu life.


Daily Puja at the Wakupati Narayan


10. The Great Festivals

It is said that there are around seventy-nine festive events celebrated in Bhaktapur over some seventy five days. Here are a few of the best known ones. Bisket Jatra coincides with the Newari New Year around April. This amazing festival brings the whole city out on to the streets. It is an orgy of religious devotion, colour and

a fair amount of violence.The religious basis is the mating of the god Bhairav with the goddess Bhadrakali to insure the communitys fertility and welfare for the coming year. Bhairav represents the sky and the rain; Bhadrakali represents the earth. The two must be brought together. The image of Bhairav is installed inside a massive wooden chariot (rath) in Taumadi Square. His vehicle Vetaal is attached to the tongue in front. There is a desperate contest


A Gai Jatra procession.

between the men of the upper area of the city (thane) and the lower area (kone) to drag the rath in their own direction. (In 2007 a wheel broke. It all degenerated into a stonethrowing contest and the police had to intervene.) The rath amazingly finds its way down the steep streets to where it meets the Bhadrakali. Hundreds of people are involved in this frenzied activity and every year or so mishaps occur when the big wooden wheels crush the devout youngsters. The next stage of the festival takes place in Yasinkhel where a huge pole (phallic lingam) is inserted into a stone (female yoni) base. Men compete to bring it down on the

final evening of the festival. (Read legend about all this on page 45.) Gai Jatra is another extraordinary event that takes place around the end of August and lasts for eight days. What happens is that every family that has lost a member through death in the past 12 months joins a huge procession. They carry with them on a bamboo pole the symbolic image of the sacred cow that enables the deceased to cross over the Vaitarani River into heaven. Attached to the bamboo poles you will also see photographs of the dead relatives. All this is accompanied by cheerful music and boys in pairs whacking sticks (Ghintang Kishi).


The bamboo elephant effigy (Pulu Kishi) seen during Indra jatra.

During this weeklong festival people can tease and lampoon the authorities without fear of reprisal. Gai Jatra was the curious invention of a Malla king who was fed up with his wife perpetually mourning the death of their young son. He ordered all the other families who had recently lost a relative to parade in front of her to show that she wasnt the only one to suffer. And frolicking clowns managed to bring a smile back to her lips. The festival cotinues to provide therapy to bereaved families. Dashain (Mohani) is celebrated around September/October over a span of about ten days. It is generalized as the victory of good over evil. In Bhaktapur it signifies the empowerment of the Navadurga through Taleju. A fortnight after Dashain, Tihar (Sunti) is observed to mark the beginning of the Nepal Sambat (Newari New Year). Three of its five days are important

and involve Laxmi Puja, worship of the goddess of wealth, selfworship (Mha Puja) and worship of brothers by females (Kija Puja), successively. Around April, Digu Puja is celebrated to show honour to the patriarchal lineage deity, Digu Dya. Then in July Gatha Mugha Chare is observed to mark the preparatory stage for the resurrection of the Navadurga as well as to symbolize the death of the licentious ogre, Ghantakarna. Indra Jatra takes place some days before Dashain. Celebrated for three days, this event recalls the salvation of god Indras son by an appalling character, Mupatra, and the threeheaded elephant, Airavata. A procession of the effigies of both these takes place around the city.


11. Water
Water is a fundamental source of life and therefore sacred. For many centuries the kings of Bhaktapur cared for the water supply so that the people could safely drink, wash and provide for their livestock. This involved rituals and lavish expenditure on stone carving and fine metalwork. The old underground sources of water the Rajkulo built by the kings were badly damaged by landslides and the 1934 earthquake. The water supply system has improved to a great extent in the 1970s by the Bhaktapur Development Project. The water spouts (hiti) are usually at the bottom of a fine stone gaa (pit) or deep rectangular water recess. These can be interpreted as a mirror image of a temple. The spout itself is usually in the form of a makara, a mythical water creature that seems like a cross between a crocodile and an elephant.It is the vehicle of the water god Varuna. It often has a fish emerging from its mouth. Many of the hitis are still used for anything from laundry to cleaning teeth.

Wells are a major source of water for many families.

Wells are still much in use in the courtyards as community water supplies. There are 152 of them. There are 34 Ponds (pukhu/pokhari) all over the city. Some such as the Kamal Pokhari on the east side of the town are very large. The grandest is the Siddha Pokhari, well worth a visit especially in the early morning or evening. Its a ten minute walk out of the city leaving the Main Gate of Durbar Square. Stay on the main road. You pass one large rather mucky pokhari on your right, then the bus park on the left and then the civic hospital on the right. Behind a marvellous ancient peepal tree you reach the wall-bound Siddha Pokhari having climbed a few steps. It is over a 150 metres long and dates back to the time of Yakshya Malla (15th century). Local families and bunches of students love to wander peacefully round its stone pathway and feed the massive carp. Its underground water sources remain a mystery. There are interesting religious carvings around the banks. Some of them date back to the ancient period before the 9th century AD. Read a story about Siddha Pokhari on page 45.

The goat emerging from the makaras mouth once poured water for puja and bathing at the royal palace


The serene environment of Siddha Pokhari


12. Newars
Well over 90% of the people inside the city are Newars the dominant ethnic group of the Kathmandu Valley. They are divided into countless castes, sub-castes and family groups relating to their occupations and levels of sacred purity. Even now it is very awkward for young people to marry outside their caste and most marriages are arranged or at least approved by the family elders. Caste privileges were made illegal in 1963 but this has been slow to take effect. Each sub-caste used to live in its own district (tol) and worship at its own shrine. The caste distinctions become most apparent at the time of weddings, cremations, ancestor worship (Digu Puja) and other family events. For example, each localized caste has its own very ancient fixed route through particular streets when they are on a funeral procession. Modern education has done little to change this very conservative society. Young people may leave Bhaktapur to seek their fortune elsewhere but very few outsiders move into the city to replace them. Conservatism is reinforced by the high density of the population. 80,000 people squeeze into 8.6 square kilometers. Three or four generations often live in one building, making it difficult to get out of the sight of grandma. Of course good culture, rules and regulations are maintained and a great sense of security prevails. Girls when they marry move into the boys house as very junior members of his family. All these are of great benefit when it comes to looking after children; plenty of aunts and grandparents plus a lot of cousins to play with.

Kaita Puja, proclaiming a boys maturity

Family events
Newari lives are marked out by a succession of significant rites of passage, important for the individual and creating deep and loving bonds in the family.

Shortly after birth the baby has a Naming Ceremony (Nwaran) when the astrologer assigns a public and a secret name. After six months there is the Rice-feeding Ceremony (Annaprasan/Machajanko). A few years later little girls have two symbolic marriages, first to a bel fruit, symbol of Vishnu (lhi), and later to the sun god (Suryadarshan). Little boys have a Bratabandha (Kaita Puja) ceremony when their hair is shaved off apart from one tuft at the middle. They


are offered a sacred loin cloth by their uncle to signal their maturity; after this they are considered able to participate in all the other rituals. Then there are all the very complex marriage procedures. Youll probably see plenty of wedding processions during your visit. They parade through the streets accompanied by a very noisy band. And at the age of 77 years 7 months theres another celebration when aged people are symbolically re-born and another Rice-feeding Ceremony (Janko/Bhimrathaa-rohan) is carried out. And so it goes on wonderful family occasions and a good excuse for a feast.

You still see ladies in the traditional hakupatashi costume, particularly on religious occasions. It consists of a black dress (patashi/sari) with red border, its huge extra length wrapped round the waist and reaching the shoulders, a top and a white shawl (gaa/khasto). The men sometimes wear distinctive baggy trousers (surwo/ daura surwal) with thick, semi-woollen, laced vest (bhoto), a waist coat and woven Dhaka cap (tapli/topi). What impresses western visitors is the smartness and cleanliness of ordinary Newari city dwellers. The saris are immaculate, the mens shirts perfectly ironed and the girls long hair beautifully groomed. The school children are as clean and tidy as their parents. All this is achieved in households where very few people have washing machines or running hot water.

Most people in the city can speak both Nepali and Newari. But very few can now read or write in the traditional Newari scripts which are of 18 different types. They speak Newari with an accent that is clearly distinguishable from that of Kathmandu or Patan.
Bel vivaha, symbolic marriage to a fruit.


Traditional Newari dress.

Newari houses
Newars, even farmers, have always preferred to live in tightly packed communities of attached houses of three or four storeys. There is usually a shop or store at the bottom maybe occupied by a couple of goats; first floor guest room; more bedrooms above; on the top floor the important family room with kitchen (baigal/ baiga). And, close to the cooking stove, a puja area. Non-family visitors are not normally invited into the baigal. Most houses are very overcrowded with beds secreted all over the building. They are generally without indoor toilets or taps, making them unpopular with the rising generation. We can foresee that in the next few decades younger people with increased prosperity will move to modern concrete apartments outside the city, leaving the poorer communities and old people behind in the traditional houses (see p. 49 on brick factories).


The co-author of this book outside his traditional Newari house.

However one traditional house has been interestingly modernised. It is the Namuna Ghar in a back street near Dattatreya Square. The owner has introduced modern facilities while conserving the old features. It has received several awards. (Visit for information)

Guthis and local care

Guthis are the traditional associations of neighbouring families who share duties at funeral ceremonies and care for shared resources such as hitis and temples. They perform many important roles in the community. But inevitably the pressures of modern life are drawing key members of the guthis away from their responsibilities. They are tempted to sell off the precious treasures in the religious buildings and leave their maintenance to foreign donors.

Winnowing of rice.

At least half the population of Bhaktapur is Jyapu, a peasant group. They own a few ropanis of rice paddy or vegetable patch outside the town which have been held by the family for many generations. Normally they have other sources of income and use the land to feed their own family and maybe have some surplus to sell. All the family has to help with the rice planting before the start of the monsoon, around June, having first ploughed and spread muck. Harvesting starts around October once the festivals are over. They begin on a day approved by the local astrologer avoiding, for some obscure reason, Mondays and Thursdays.

The harvested grain is piled outside the family house to dry for about a week. To ward off thieves, the owners watch their grain piles over night, often camping under little tents of straw and happily telling tales, watching the stars and singing traditional songs (sinaa-jyaa-mae). To remove the husks, they still use the timber levered dhiki, a seesaw, which strikes the grain in a pit. Flattened rice is made by beating the grains using wooden poles (lushi) within hollow wooden or stone cylinders (lushi-ma-chaa). Livestock, cows, buffaloes and goats were often kept in the city under small shades near the houses. Some still rear goats and chickens for sacrifice in festivals. Now most animals are brought from nearby villages or from southern Nepal for both sacrifice and butchery.


Durbar Square in the mid 1800s.

13. The Bhaktapur Development Project

Every civilization has its ups and downs. The great upward phase of Bhaktapur was the late Malla period, the 16th and 17th centuries. The Malla Kings were more than just the rulers of the Bhaktapur Kingdom; they were the patrons of art and culture and the administrators of the famous Bhaktapurian infrastructure. The city was prosperous, well governed and happy. Different events led to a period of decline in the 19th and 20th centuries. The first was political. The Kathmandu Valley was conquered and unified by the Shah King of Gorkha. After the establishment of the Shah dynasty in 1768, Bhaktapur lost political independence and slowly its economic and social foundations eroded.

The second event was the most dramatic, the earthquake of 1934. It was the worst that we know about. The majority of houses and temples were damaged or destroyed. The western half of the palace vanished. Additionally the trade routes to Tibet and India once the backbones of Bhaktapurs glory changed. With the closure of the Tibetan border in the late 1950s all trade connections with Tibet came to a halt. The new motor-able road to the Chinese border, opened in 1972, by- passed Bhaktapur by one or two kilometer distance. As a result, until 1974 most shops in the main bazaar area never opened their shutters. Streets, lanes and courtyards were full of unbelievable filth, garbage and rubble of collapsed houses. The infrastructure was no longer maintained. Splendid Maths as well as simple private ones were seen everywhere in decay. The caretakers of many of the social religious foundations (Maths) did nothing to maintain the splendid structures. Bhaktapur, although still the third largest town in Nepal with a population of approximately 40,000 inhabitants, was the poorest among the 26 towns.


This gift was so much appreciated that in 1974 a more comprehensive effort to improve the living conditions of the population of Bhaktapur was launched as an Integrated Urban Renewal and Development Project, in short the Bhaktapur Development Project (BDP). This integrated urban development project was the most complex project in a developing country the newly founded GTZ undertook on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation (BMZ), with interventions in a living historical urban environment covering physical, socioeconomic and urban management activities.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square before the 1934 earthquake.

The project carried out works in the following sectors: Restoration and preservation of historic and religious monuments Water supply and sewerage Schools Basic urban social infrastructure Health education Community development Economic promotion Land development and housing

In 1970 on the occasion of the wedding of the then Crown Prince Birendra, the Federal Republic of Germany presented a gift in the form of financial contribution of DM 100,000/- which was to be used for the restoration of a historic building. In the following months, Nepali and German experts analysed the feasibility of the restoration of a number of buildings and finally decided to concentrate on the Pujari Math in Bhaktapur. The restoration was carried out in 1971/72 by a group of German architects together with the Department of Archaeology. During the restoration of the Pujari Math a number of traditional techniques were rediscovered and used, from wood carving to the laying of roof tiles (chingatti) in specially prepared mud etc. In a formal reopening session, the head of the German team of architects handed back the key of the building to then Queen Aiswarya. On behalf of the Queen the key was received by the Guthi Sansthan Chairman, who in reply speech announced that the building should be used as a national museum for wood carving as ordered by the Queen.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square after the 1934 earthquake.


Provided support to the Municipality and the Archaeology Department for repairs and maintenance of constructed infrastructure and restored monuments.

Initially, activities focused on the restoration of temples and other historic monuments, preparations for a Master Plan, and studies for infrastructure work. Over time, the priorities shifted from conservation works to infrastructure improvements such as water supply, sewerage, pavements, solid waste management, and the promoting of economic activities. In 1980, an evaluation of the past project activities revealed a crisis of confidence and communication gap between the project and the local people. Too much was done by the project itself; too many Nepali and German Experts took sometimes contradictory - decisions. Thus, a thorough reorganisation and revision of procedures and policies of the project was carried out and that responded to the changing political environment of the country. A Community Development Unit was formed to intensify communication with local communities and to acquire peoples maximum participation to implement the project. Also the planning and management skills of Nepali experts were upgraded and local line agencies were made responsible to implement project activities. By the end of 1986, local line agencies capacities had further improved and they were capable to implement the project according to the spirit of the Decentralisation Act through local development committees. Ongoing activities were handed over to the respective institutions like Bhaktapur Municipality, Department of Archaeology, Industrial Service Centre, and Nepal Water Supply Corporation. In 1986, the Bhaktapur Development Project ended. The two Governments agreed upon a follow-up phase of five years through the Urban Development through Local Efforts (udle) programme. Technical and financial support was provided to the respective institutions to complete remaining works. During the follow-up phase, Bhaktapur municipality started a technical unit that repaired and maintained already

constructed social infrastructure. Similarly, Department of Archaeology established a permanent institution, the Monument Maintenance and Durbar Caretaker Office to look after the preservation of the cultural heritage of Bhaktapur and surrounding areas and to repair work on monuments completed during the project period.

Bhaktapur today
The Bhaktapur Development Project was famous principally for its restoration works. However, other components of the project, like the installation of a water supply, drainage, and sewerage system contributed substantially to the improvement of the living conditions of Bhaktapurians. A solid waste management system with an appropriate collection system as well as the pavement of streets, lanes, and courtyards contributed to the cleanliness of the city. Until today, the combination of these measures is the backbone of the tourist attraction: the appreciation of the historical setting of the public places in the Dattatreya, Taumadi, and Durbar area and many other monuments and historical sites. The promotion and revitalization of traditional handicraft as well as the establishment of modern small-scale industries made Bhaktapur a growing economic centre in the eastern part of the Kathmandu Valley. The decline in population observed up to the middle of the 70s has turned around to growth and prosperity. Bkaktapur nowadays is a vibrant town which is able to maintain its built cultural heritage and to manage its development. Revenue from tourist entrance fees has since been the major source of income for the municipality and is spent on the restoration and rehabilitation of monuments, maintenance of public services as well as on other public works. Acknowledging the cultural settings of Bhaktapur as areas of outstanding universal value it has been inscribed on the World Heritage list as a part of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage site. The municipal administration of Bhaktapur, intensively supported by the Project, is today an example for other municipalities in terms of revenue collection, organization, and good governance.


14. Arts and Crafts

Woodcarving is traditionally carried out by the Shilpakar caste. Their industry survives through commissions to replace old windows and architectural features. Their skill with the chisel (jyaaval) is outstanding. In recent years their trade has been boosted through the support and training funded by the German government and UNESCO. And they sell a lot of small carvings to tourists, some of them of very high quality.

Metalwork, especially in copper, is carried out by the Tamrakar caste in the area to the north-east of Taumadi Square. They make big brass water jars, copper water pots and dishes for puja, and bronze religious items. It is worth exploring their shops. If you are interested they might show you their traditional casting processes. Some of their bronze items are very beautiful and well worth buying.

A Shilpakar working on an unconventional piece.

Nepali Paper.
This is an attractive rough textured material. It is exceptionally tough, making it useful for official documents as well as artwork. It is specially resistant to damp and to insects. Each sheet is made from the inner bark of lokta (Daphne cannabina or Daphne papyrceae), a high-altitude shrub. You can watch the paper being processed at The Peacock Shop near Dattatreya Square, close to the Peacock Window. They also sell very beautiful paper products.

Thanka or Pauva Painting

These are religious paintings on stretched cotton. You see them in all the tourist areas of Bhaktapur and they make very attractive wall pictures to take home. Historically they come from two traditions, Tibetan and Newari. The word thanka is Tibetan and it is the Tibetan refugees entering the country in the 1960s who introduced their style of mandalas and Lives of Buddha and made them commercial items for tourists.
Paper-making at The Peacock Shop.


Boiling buffalo milk to make Bhaktapur Curd.

earthen pots. Previously they were only made for special occasions. Now you can enjoy them at any local dairy and restaurant.

Every major Newar tol had its own pottery square until a few decades ago. There are still several courtyards in Bhaktapur with potteries but they are losing out to the plastic and aluminium wares from China. The famous Pottery Square is to the southwest of Nyatapola Square. The products are laid out to dry in the sun. In the lower area of the square you can see the open kilns burning rice straw. The local tough black clay cannot be fired at high temperatures to produce delicate ceramics. The most common products now are dishes for King Curd, little dishes for oil lamps, little mugs for homemade liquor (thwon), piggy-banks for children and moulded religious items for tourists. The craft is carried out mostly by the Prajapati or Kumha caste. Their double-roofed pagoda temple dedicated to Jyatha (Jetha) Ganesh is in the Pottery Square; its priest is still appointed by the Kumha caste.

A Chitrakar artist working on a tantric pauva.

The earlier pauva tradition belongs to the Chitrakars (or Pun) caste of Newars. Until quite recently they produced them following ancient rituals and processes. This involved grinding natural minerals and plants to produce the pigments; a young girl wove the cotton; the designs came from ancient model art-books. They were then consecrated by a priest. It took several weeks to produce one pauva. They were used in temples and houses for meditation and spiritual instruction. The Chitrakars work for the Hindu as well as Buddhist religious groups.

Bhaktapur Curd
Bhaktapur Curd (Juju Dhau) is a special and delicious yoghurt peculiar to Bhaktapur. Its made out of thick buffalo milk in


A Kumha potter making a clay money pot (khuturke).

For art lovers

People interested in buying different art pieces mentioned above can visit The Peacock Shop near the Peacock Window on the right hand turning past the Pujari Math, Dattatreya Square. There you will find all kinds of crafted goods displayed in a beautiful Newari house. The salesman there will also give you a good tour of their paper factory describing all the processes involved in making Nepali Paper. You can also find a mini-Pottery Square at the back.
Pottery Square displaying a range of handmade clay items.


15. Modern Bhaktapur

The People
Bhaktapur Muncipality has a population of 72,543 (36,681 male and 35,862 female) living in 12,133 households. Majority of polpulation are Newars. It is spread over an area of 656 ha. Average life expectancy is 57 years and the literacy rate is 59.14% ( 49% for women). Main occupation of the inhabitants is agriculture. These data are based on National Census 2001.

Bhaktapurs great success story has been the establishment of Khwopa Engineering College by the Municipality in 2001. This now has top class facilities for 1000 students with Bachelor and Masters courses ranging from urban design to nursing. Fees are comparitively less than in other similar engineering colleges.

The earliest standing hospital at the moment is the Goverment Hospital at the west end of the city. Its very inexpensive and many of its services are funded by JICA. There is also the Cancer Hospital nearby that provides excellent service. Other clinics and health centres are spread all over the city.The Siddhi Memorial Hospital is for women, children and elderly people. It was established by a family in memory of their young son Siddhi who was tragically hit by an army vehicle on the highway and died before he could get treatment. It maintains high standards.

In 1950 there were only two schools in Bhaktapur, Shree Padma High School and Vidyarthi Niketan. The vast majority of the population received no education. A number of government schools opened in the fifties, though they were never completely free to pupils. In the eighties and nineties there was a large increase in privately owned fee paying schools reflecting widespread dissatisfaction with the state system. Quite poor families strive to send their children to private schools of variable quality.

50 years ago these girls would have been married.


16. Stories about Bhaktapur

Siddha Pokharis Serpent King (see p.32)
There was once a Tantric magician living in Thimi. He had a beautiful wife.This magic man had the ability to change himself into any shape or form. One day his wife asked him to demonstrate his power and become something else. The magic man agreed. But first he gave his wife magic rice grains and told her that he could only regain his normal form if she threw the grains over him. He then changed into a mighty serpent. The stupid wife was so terrified that, instead of throwing the rice over him, she ran away screaming. The poor serpent cried to her to save him and restore him to his human form. But she was gone. He then came to Siddha Pokhari in Bhaktapur and threw himself into the water where he still is. He is the Serpent King of the pond and nobody from Thimi ever dares to go near.

lazy man slowly got up, loaded the huge pinnacle on his shoulder and then amazed everybody by climbing up the five roofs to the summit and skilfully putting the pinnacle into place.

How Changu Narayan came into being (see pg.21)

Once in the forests north of Bhaktapur there lived a young farmer who took his cows each day to the nearby pasture for grazing. While they were grazing he went in search of firewood. One day he noticed that his most healthy cow had stopped giving milk. To find the milk thief he hid behind a bush while the cow grazed near a Michelia champaca tree and waited. Just as he was about to leave, frustrated, a little boy jumped out of the tree and sucked the cows milk dry. Then he returned to the tree. The angry farmer got his axe and chopped down the tree to catch the boy. He was stopped by a booming voice telling him that the boy was none other than Lord Vishnu himself. Realizing his mistake, the farmer vowed to repent by establishing a shrine at that place. The shrine was consecrated in the name of Champak Narayan. As time went by it became famous as Changu Narayan.

Nyatapolas pinnacle (see p.9)

On the auspicious day that the foundation of the Nyatapola Temple was laid, a farmer was planting his rice. Later when he came to harvest it, the rice plants were so firmly embedded in the soil that he needed a spade to move them. This proves the stability of the temples foundations. Everybody helped to build the temple except one man who was so lazy that he just lay there watching. The temple was almost complete but nobody could think how to put the gold cap on the very top. At last the

The story of Bisket one of several versions (see p.29)

Bis in Newari means serpent and syaake means slaughter. This story is about the death of two serpents. There was once a princess in Bhaktapur who was beautiful but so passionate that her father was obliged to find a new lover for her every night. The sad thing was that the lover was always found dead the next morning.


sleeping princesss nostrils. They became vicious serpents and attacked him. Needless to say, he bravely chopped their heads off and everybody lived happily ever after. You can see two banners representing the serpents at the Bisket Festival hanging down from the top of the mammoth pole (Yasindya) in Yashinkhel/Moodeep. The people drag it from a nearby forest, if they are lucky enough to find it. On the final day young people engage in a tug of war to bring it down.

The story of black rice (see p.37)

The legend goes back to the ancient period, when the Lichchavi king Manadev was ruling. It describes a war between Nepal and Tibet at the time of the harvesting season.Now, all the people had to go and fight for their kingdom so, instead of waiting for the rice to ripen, they just piled up the plants and left. After successes in the war they returned only to find the rice-grains to be beautifully fermented to a darker colour. When it was cooked it became a cherished delicacy. It also happened that the local Jyapus had prayed to Chyangrase (Lokeshvara, the compassion late Buddha) at the time of the war. So they believed that the black rice was a gift from him to the people of this country. And so began the tradition of making haakujaaki (black rice). One day a handsome prince was visiting the city. He found an old lady weeping because her son had been chosen to be the princesss doomed lover for the following night. The prince offered to spend the night with the princess in the sons stead. That night they made love and the princess fell asleep. The prince waited, sword in hand, to see what would happen next. To his horror, two black threads emerged from the

The Navadurga (see p.18)

The Navadurga are the nine fierce goddesses who dance through the streets of Bhaktapur in huge masks and bright costumes. Once upon a time they were living in a dark area of the jungle northeast of Bhaktapur. They hated living there and took their revenge by kidnapping any lonely traveller passing by that way and sacrificing them.


Now there was a brave tantric priest who was determined to release the local people from the fear of being sacrificed by the Navadurga. He announced that he would walk to Bhaktapur on the day after full moon. Two other strange men offered to accompany him. As they came to the area occupied by the Navadurga, the two strange men revealed their true identities. We are Simha and Dumha, messengers of death. Come with us into the jungle. The Navadurga will be pleased to see you. And so the Tantric followed Simha and Dumha into the jungle. They met the Navadurga who said, Welcome. It is your good fortune to come to us and be sacrificed in our name. You must prepare to die. The brave Tantric said, I am very willing to be sacrificed. I will make prayers and offerings. I am your great devotee. Let me worship you.

And so the Navadurga allowed the Tantric to do ritual acts of worship to each of them in turn. But secretly, while he was worshipping them, the Tantric also cast a spell on them binding their hands and legs so they couldnt move. Have your sacrifice! shouted the Tantric. I am ready! But of course the Navadurga could do nothing. Then the Tantric ordered them to shrink themselves so that he could carry them in his bag to Bhaktapur. The Navadurga agreed to this on condition that when they got to Bhaktapur, they would be locked up in a secret room and only the Tantric would come daily to worship them. And so it was arranged. The Tantric brought the Navadurga to his own house in Bhaktapur and locked them up in a secret room. Now the Tantrics young wife was very beautiful and full of curiosity. She always longed to know what was in the secret room. One day when the Tantric was out, she made a little hole in the door and peeped through. To her horror she saw the Navadurga engaged in their horrible dances. They saw her peeping and, in fury, rushed through the little hole and out into the street. They saw a pig and brutally tore its heart out and drank its blood. Then they danced through the streets terrifying everybody. Eventually the Tantric persuaded them to return to their secret room. And, as a punishment for drinking the blood of the unclean pig, they would every year be incorporated into human bodies and dance through the streets taking offerings-which of course they still do.


17. Some Questions about Bhaktapur

Tell us about the dogs that you see everywhere in Bhaktapur. How do they live? Many belong to nobody and are perfectly content. Do not feed them or theyll turn into tiresome scroungers. And do not try to pet them they wont appreciate it and are extremely unhygienic. Whats there to do in the evenings? Not much. You wont find discos or bars. Young people in Bhaktapur are happy to spend their evenings at home or peacefully wandering the streets with their friends. Couples might visit Siddha Pokhari or Surya Vinayak. We suggest you join the street wanderers or sit in your hotel reading this book. Is it safe to be out in the evenings? Yes. Huge contrast with western cities. Children can play safely in the streets and courtyards late into the evening. But young women wandering alone might attract some undesirable attention. In general there is amazingly little street crime in Bhaktapur. The people here are almost all loyal, responsible and kind. We hope that western media culture doesnt undermine this. Stealing local sacred art - is it a big problem? Yes. We frequently refer to robberies in this book because we feel appalled by such acts which do terrible damage to local culture. Theres an ancient inscription in Changu Narayan about conservation. It decrees that anybody desecrating the holy places will spend 3600 years as an insect in hell. How is it that the brick factories to the east of Bhaktapur are allowed to cause such pollution? Every year more factories appear despite protests. They burn cheap coal from India plus anything else they can throw in

The central gilt Narayan idol has been stolen from this torana.


including rubber tyres. They employ migrant labourers who live in appalling squatter camps with their families. The most serious long term problem is the destruction of the land. What happens is that the factories scrape off up to a metre depth a year of the precious fertile soil to make bricks. This stops with the monsoon and, surprisingly, the land reverts to rice paddy. The rice is harvested and the clay excavation starts again. This cannot continue for long. Soon the surface level will get so low that there is no more soil. Then, no doubt to the delight of the owners, the land can be used for uncontrolled housing development. But they wont have so much homegrown rice to eat. Of course there is the obvious other side to the argument . New houses need to be built ever year and there is a huge demand for more and more bricks. There are no easy solution easy solutions.


Asthamatrika Bahal Caste The eight mother goddesses of Bhaktapur housed at different Power points surrounding the old city (see p.19). Buddhist monastery, usually two storeys round a courtyard. Bahil is a lesser Bahal. The traditional Hindu separation of communities into different levels based on their occupations and degrees of purity. Small oval shaped Buddhist stupa, originally containing religious relics. A yard or square surrounded by houses; or a road junction. A stone platform used for dancing and rituals. Royal palace, seat of government (Persian word). Stone steps down to a river, for ritual bathing, sanctification of the dying and cremation of the dead. Large stone lined water source set in the ground with steps down to it. See p. 32. Image of the phallus of Shiva and his generative powers. Often set on its female counterpart, the yoni see p. 25 Mystical circular diagram relating to astrology and the cosmos that is taken as the blueprint for temples. Hindu sage-house having a main deity such as Shiva and Krishna. See p. 15 for examples. A stone lined pond commonly used for ritual bathing. Example on p. 33. Pagoda Square or rectangular brick and timber construction with tiered tiled rooves at 2 to 5 levels. See p. 9 for example. Open fronted rest house made out of wood. Traditional Newari religious tantric painting on cloth, similar to Tibetan thanka. See p. 42 Edible offerings from a temple that are considered to have life-giving properties. Religious worship involving various rituals. Described on p. 27. Stone built Hindu temple with rounded spires that represent Mount Sumeru (Kailash) and its four continents. Example on p. 6. A variety of ancient Hindu Mystic cults involving secret magic practices and the worship of dangerous gods. Tibetan style religious painting on cloth, for meditative visualisation. See p. 41. Colourful ornamental marking on the forehead of devotees that signifies the third eye of consciousness. Bhaktapur is divided into 24 tols or districts related to the tradition of the Asthamatrika and the caste communities living in them. Stone, wood or metal semicircular carving over the entrance to a religious building. It indicates the deity inside, similar to a tympanum in a medieval Christian church. A Buddhist monastery. Pati Pauva Prasad Puja Shikhara temple Tantrism

Chaitya Chowk Dabu Durbar Ghat

Thanka Tika

Hiti Lingam

Tol/ Twaa







Dharmashala 5 Dipankaras 19 Dogs 48 Dress 35 Durbar Square 2,6 Earthquakes 1,7,11,16,38 Education 44 Family life 34-37 Fashidega Temple 7 Festivals 29-31 55 Window Palace 4, Gai Jatra 30-31 Ganesh 26 German Restoration 1,5,16,39-40 Hanuman Ghat 20 Lichchavi sculpture 22-24 Lonely steps 8 Masks 18 Maths 14,15,16,40,50 Metalwork 13,16,41 Music 9 Namuna Ghar 37 National Art Museum 2 Navadurga 18,46 Newari culture 34-37 Nyatapola Square 9 Piths 19 Pokharis 32-33, 50 Population 44 Pottery 42-43 Prasannasheel Mahavihar 20 Puja 27 Royal Palace 2-4 Shah kings 1 Shikara temples 6,7,50 Shiva 25 Siddha Pokari 32, 45 Siddhilaxmi 7,8,9,26 Stolen artworks 2,4,11,12,21,48 Sukuldhoka 14 Sundhara Chowk 4 Tadhunchen Bahal 20 Taleju 1,3,5,25 Taumadi Square 9-12 Thanka and pauva 2,41,50 Trade route 13-14 Vatsaladevi Temple 6 Vihar 19 Vishnu 12,21,22-24,26,45 Wall painting 4 Water supply 32, 40 Woodcarving 16, 41 Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple 6 Worship (puja) 27


Further Reading
The next book to be read after this one is Michael Hutt, Nepal: A Guide to the Art and Architecture of the Kathmandu Valley, Kiscadale (1994) which is both scholarly and readable. Serious students wishing to engage in research can begin with the following works: Robert Levy, Mesocosm, Berkeley, 1990 (Anthropology) Niels Gutschow et al., Newar Towns and Buildings, Sankt Augustin, 1987 Suyog Prajapati, Glimpses from Nepal and Tibet, Bhaktapur, 2007 (Iconography) Mary Slusser, Nepal Mandala - A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley, Princeton, 1982 Anne Vergati, Gods and Masks of the Kathmandu Valley, DK Printworld, 2000 Wolfgang Korn, The Traditional Architecture of the Kathmandu Valley, Kathmandu, rev. ed. 2007 Giovanni Scheibler, Bhaktapur - Nepal, Zurich, 1998 (Architecture) Krishna Deva, Images of Nepal, New Delhi, 1984 Ernst and Rose Leonore Waldschmidt, Nepal - Art Treasures from the Himalayas, Oxford, 1967 Shaphalya Amatya, Monument Conservation in Nepal, Vajra Books, 2007 Aidan Warlow would like to thank Dr Horst Matthaeus and Mr Laxman Rajbhandari of UDLE (MLD - GTZ) for their generous support; also Dr Rohit Ranjitkar and his colleagues at the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust for photographs on page 39; Dr Goetz Hagmuller for advice; The Royal Geographical Society (London) for permission to reproduce the Oldfield painting on the outside cover; Caroline Warlow for her advice, typing and painstaking proof correction; most of all, the Prajapati family at the Peacock Shop for their friendship and support; plus a word of gratitude to my former colleagues and students of Kathmandu University Dept. of Art who introduced me to the great city of Bhaktapur.

Suyog Prajapati would like to thank Mr. Binodraj Sharma Rajopadhyaya, Mr. Suresh Jyoti Shakya and Prof. Dr. Bhadraratna Bajracharya for their information on Bhaktapurs history, Mr. Hiranya Vaidhya of the National Art Gallery for his suggestions, the Peacock Shop for its technical support and Mr. Aidan Warlow for having given me the opportunity to be a part of this project.


Bhaktapur is one of the great historic cities of South Asia. Its temples, squares and traditions are a constant source of fascination to westerners. This book introduces Bhaktapur to visitors who want to understand its present way of life as well as its ancient monuments. Once you start discovering things about Bhaktapur, you want to learn more and more. This little book is just a starting point.

Painting of Bhaktapur street by early British resident in Nepal Dr. HA Oldfield. 1853. (Royal Geographical Society, London)

Ministry of Local Development

German Technical Cooperation

Bhaktapur Muncipality