Kathmandu is the capital and largest municipality of Nepal. It is the only city of Nepal with the administrative status of Mahanagar (Metropolitan City), as compared to Upa-Mahanagar (Sub-Metropolitan City) or Nagar (City). Kathmandu is the core of Nepal’s largest urban agglomeration located in the Kathmandu Valley consisting of Lalitpur, Kirtipur, Madhyapur Thimi, Bhaktapur and a number of smaller communities. Kathmandu is also known informally as "KTM" or the "tri-city". According to the 2011 census, Kathmandu Metropolitan City has a population of 975,453 and measures 49.45 square kilometres.
The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major hills: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur), has the highest population density in the country, and is home to about a twelfth of Nepal’s population.
Historically, the Kathmandu Valley and adjoining areas were known as Nepal Mandala. Until the 15th century, Bhaktapur was its capital when two other capitals, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, were established. During the Rana and Shah eras, British historians called the valley itself "Nepal Proper". Today, Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, but also the headquarters of the Bagmati Zone and the Central Development Region of Nepal.
Kathmandu is the gateway to tourism in Nepal. It is also the hub of the country’s economy. It has the most advanced infrastructure of any urban area in Nepal, and its economy is focused on tourism, which accounted for 3.8% of Nepal’s GDP in 1995–96. Tourism in Kathmandu declined thereafter during a period of political unrest, but since then has improved. In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top 10 travel destinations on the rise in the world by TripAdvisor, and ranked first in Asia.
The city has a rich history, spanning nearly 2000 years, as inferred from inscriptions found in the valley. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Most of Kathmandu’s people follow Hinduism and many others follow Buddhism. There are people of other religious beliefs as well, giving Kathmandu a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the most commonly spoken language in the city. English is understood by Kathmandu’s educated residents. Kathmandu was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015.
The city of Kathmandu is named after Kasthamandap temple, that stood in Durbar Square. In Sanskrit, Kastha (काष्ठ) means "wood" and Mandap (/मण्डप) means "covered shelter". This temple, also known as Maru Satal (in ″Newar language″), was built in 1596 by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The two-storey structure was made entirely of wood, and used no iron nails nor supports. According to legend, all the timber used to build the pagoda was obtained from a single tree. The structure unfortunately collapsed during the major earthquake in April 2015.
The colophons of ancient manuscripts, dated as late as the 20th century, refer to Kathmandu as Kasthamandap Mahanagar in Nepal Mandala. Mahanagar means "great city". The city is called "Kasthamandap" in a vow that Buddhist priests still recite to this day. Thus, Kathmandu is also known as Kasthamandap. During medieval times, the city was sometimes called Kantipur (कान्तिपुर). This name is derived from two Sanskrit words – Kanti and pur. "Kanti" is one of the names of the Goddess Lakshmi, and "pur" means place.
Among the indigenous Newar people, Kathmandu is known as Yen Desa (येँ देश), and Patan and Bhaktapur are known as Yala Desa (यल देश) and Khwopa Desa (ख्वप देश). "Yen" is the shorter form of Yambu (यम्बु), which originally referred to the northern half of Kathmandu.
Archaeological excavations in parts of Kathmandu have found evidence of ancient civilizations. The oldest of these findings is a statue, found in Maligaon, that was dated at 185 AD. The excavation of Dhando Chaitya uncovered a brick with an inscription in Brahmi script. Archaeologists believe it is two thousand years old. Stone inscriptions are an ubiquitous element at heritage sites and are key sources for the history of Nepal
The earliest Western reference to Kathmandu appears in an account of Jesuit Fathers Johann Grueber and Albert d’Orville. In 1661, they passed through Nepal on their way from Tibet to India, and reported that they reached "Cadmendu, the capital of the Kingdom of Necbal".
The ancient history of Kathmandu is described in its traditional myths and legends. According to Swayambhu Purana, the present day Kathmandu was once a lake called Nagdaha. The lake was drained by Manjusri, who established a city called Manjupattan and made Dharmakar the ruler of the land.
Kotirudra Samhita of Shiva Purana, Chapter 11, shloka 18 refers to the place as Nayapala city famous for its Pashupati Shivalinga. The name Nepal probably originates from this city Nayapala.
Very few historical records exist of the period before the medieval Licchavis rulers. According to Gopalraj Vansawali, a genealogy of Nepali monarchs, the rulers of Kathmandu Valley before the Licchavis were Gopalas, Mahispalas, Aabhirs, Kirants, and Somavanshi. The Kirata dynasty was established by Yalamber. During the Kirata era, a settlement called Yambu existed in the northern half of old Kathmandu. In some of the Sino-Tibetan languages, Kathmandu is still called Yambu. Another smaller settlement called Yengal was present in the southern half of old Kathmandu, near Manjupattan. During the reign of the seventh Kirata ruler, Jitedasti, Buddhist monks entered Kathmandu valley and established a forest monastery at Sankhu.
The Licchavis from the Indo-Gangetic plain migrated north and defeated the Kiratas, establishing the Licchavi dynasty. During this era, following the genocide of Shakyas in Lumbini by Virudhaka, the survivors migrated north and entered the forest monastery in Sankhu masquerading as Koliyas. From Sankhu, they migrated to Yambu and Yengal (Lanjagwal and Manjupattan) and established the first permanent Buddhist monasteries of Kathmandu. This created the basis of Newar Buddhism, which is the only surviving Sanskrit-based Buddhist tradition in the world. With their migration, Yambu was called Koligram and Yengal was called Dakshin Koligram during most of the Licchavi era.Eventually, the Licchavi ruler Gunakamadeva merged Koligram and Dakshin Koligram, founding the city of Kathmandu. The city was designed in the shape of Chandrahrasa, the sword of Manjushri. The city was surrounded by eight barracks guarded by Ajimas. One of these barracks is still in use at Bhadrakali (in front of Singha Durbar). The city served as an important transit point in the trade between India and Tibet, leading to tremendous growth in architecture. Descriptions of buildings such as Managriha, Kailaskut Bhawan, and Bhadradiwas Bhawan have been found in the surviving journals of travelers and monks who lived during this era. For example, the famous 7th-century Chinese traveller Xuanzang described Kailaskut Bhawan, the palace of the Licchavi king Amshuverma. The trade route also led to cultural exchange as well. The artistry of the Newar people – the indigenous inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley – became highly sought after during this era, both within the Valley and throughout the greater Himalayas. Newar artists travelled extensively throughout Asia, creating religious art for their neighbors. For example, Araniko led a group of his compatriot artists through Tibet and China. Bhrikuti, the princess of Nepal who married Tibetan monarch Songtsän Gampo, was instrumental in introducing Buddhism to Tibet.
The Licchavi era was followed by the Malla era. Rulers from Tirhut, upon being attacked by Muslims, fled north to the Kathmandu valley. They intermarried with Nepali royalty, and this led to the Malla era. The early years of the Malla era were turbulent, with raids and attacks from Khas and Turk Muslims. There was also a devastating earthquake which claimed the lives of a third of Kathmandu’s population, including the king Abhaya Malla. These disasters led to the destruction of most of the architecture of the Licchavi era (such as Mangriha and Kailashkut Bhawan), and the loss of literature collected in various monasteries within the city. Despite the initial hardships, Kathmandu rose to prominence again and, during most of the Malla era, dominated the trade between India and Tibet. Nepali currency became the standard currency in trans-Himalayan trade.
During the later part of the Malla era, Kathmandu Valley comprised four fortified cities: Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and Kirtipur. These served as the capitals of the Malla confederation of Nepal. These states competed with each other in the arts, architecture, aesthetics, and trade, resulting in tremendous development. The kings of this period directly influenced or involved themselves in the construction of public buildings, squares, and temples, as well as the development of water spouts, the institutionalization of trusts (called guthis), the codification of laws, the writing of dramas, and the performance of plays in city squares. Evidence of an influx of ideas from India, Tibet, China, Persia, and Europe among other places can be found in a stone inscription from the time of king Pratap Malla. Books have been found from this era that describe their tantric tradition (e.g. Tantrakhyan), medicine (e.g. Haramekhala), religion (e.g. Mooldevshashidev), law, morals, and history. Amarkosh, a Sanskrit-Nepal Bhasa dictionary from 1381 AD, was also found. Architecturally notable buildings from this era include Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the former durbar of Kirtipur, Nyatapola, Kumbheshwar, the Krishna temple, and others.
EARLY SHAH RULE
The Gorkha Kingdom ended the Malla confederation after the Battle of Kathmandu in 1768. This marked the beginning of the modern era in Kathmandu. The Battle of Kirtipur was the start of the Gorkha conquest of the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu was adopted as the capital of the Gorkha empire, and the empire itself was dubbed Nepal. During the early part of this era, Kathmandu maintained its distinctive culture. Buildings with characteristic Nepali architecture, such as the nine-story tower of Basantapur, were built during this era. However, trade declined because of continual war with neighboring nations. Bhimsen Thapa supported France against Great Britain; this led to the development of modern military structures, such as modern barracks in Kathmandu. The nine-storey tower Dharahara was originally built during this era.
Rana rule over Nepal started with the Kot Massacre, which occurred near Hanuman Dhoka Durbar. During this massacre, most of Nepal’s high-ranking officials were massacred by Jang Bahadur Rana and his supporters. Another massacre, the Bhandarkhal Massacre, was also conducted by Kunwar and his supporters in Kathmandu. During the Rana regime, Kathmandu’s alliance shifted from anti-British to pro-British; this led to the construction of the first buildings in the style of Western European architecture. The most well-known of these buildings include Singha Durbar, Garden of Dreams, Shital Niwas, and the old Narayanhiti palace. The first modern commercial road in the Kathmandu Valley, the New Road, was also built during this era. Trichandra College (the first college of Nepal), Durbar School (the first modern school of Nepal), and Bir Hospital (the first hospital of Nepal) were built in Kathmandu during this era. Rana rule was marked by tyranny, debauchery, economic exploitation and religious persecution.
Kathmandu is located in the northwestern part of Kathmandu Valley to the north of the Bagmati River and covers an area of 50.67 square kilometres. The average elevation is 1,400 metres above sea level. The city is directly bounded by several other municipalities of the Kathmandu valley: south of the Bagmati by Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City (Patan) with which it today forms one urban area surrounded by a ring road, to the southwest by Kirtipur Municipality and to the east by Madyapur Thimi Municipality. To the north the urban area extends into several Village Development Committees. However, the urban agglomeration extends well beyond the neighboring municipalities, e. g. to Bhaktapur and just about covers the entire Kathmandu valley.
Kathmandu is dissected by eight rivers, the main river of the valley, the Bagmati and its tributaries, of which the Bishnumati, Dhobi Khola, Manohara Khola, Hanumant Khola, and Tukucha Khola are predominant. The mountains from where these rivers originate are in the elevation range of 1,500–3,000 metres, and have passes which provide access to and from Kathmandu and its valley. An ancient canal once flowed from Nagarjuna hill through Balaju to Kathmandu; this canal is now extinct.
Kathmandu and its valley are in the Deciduous Monsoon Forest Zone (altitude range of 1,200–2,100 metres), one of five vegetation zones defined for Nepal. The dominant tree species in this zone are oak, elm, beech, maple and others, with coniferous trees at higher altitude.
Tourism is considered another important industry in Nepal. This industry started around 1950, as the country’s political makeup changed and ended the country’s isolation from the rest of the world. In 1956, air transportation was established and the Tribhuvan Highway, between Kathmandu and Raxaul (at India’s border), was started. Separate organizations were created in Kathmandu to promote this activity; some of these include the Tourism Development Board, the Department of Tourism and the Civil Aviation Department. Furthermore, Nepal became a member of several international tourist associations. Establishing diplomatic relations with other nations further accentuated this activity. The hotel industry, travel agencies, training of tourist guides, and targeted publicity campaigns are the chief reasons for the remarkable growth of this industry in Nepal, and in Kathmandu in particular.
Since then, tourism in Nepal has thrived; it is sometimes called the "third religion" of Nepal. It is the country’s most important industry. Tourism is a major source of income for most of the people in the city, with several hundred thousand visitors annually. Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world visit Kathmandu’s religious sites such as Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and Budhanilkantha. From a mere 6,179 tourists in 1961–62, the number jumped to 491,504 in 1999-2000. With the end of Maoist insuregency period in 2009 there was a significant rise of 509,956 tourist arrivals. Since then, tourism has improved as the country turned into a Democratic Republic. In economic terms, the foreign exchange registered 3.8% of the GDP in 1995–96 but then started declining[why?]. The high level of tourism is attributed to the natural grandeur of the Himalayas and the rich cultural heritage of the country.
The neighborhood of Thamel is Kathmandu’s primary "traveler’s ghetto", packed with guest houses, restaurants, shops, and bookstores, catering to tourists. Another neighborhood of growing popularity is Jhamel, a name for Jhamsikhel coined to rhyme with Thamel. Jhochhen Tol, also known as Freak Street, is Kathmandu’s original traveler’s haunt, made popular by the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s; it remains a popular alternative to Thamel. Asan is a bazaar and ceremonial square on the old trade route to Tibet, and provides a fine example of a traditional neighborhood.
With the opening of the tourist industry after the change in the political scenario of Nepal in 1950, the hotel industry drastically improved. Now Kathmandu boasts several five-star hotels like Hyatt Regency, Hotel Yak & Yeti, The Everest Hotel, Hotel Radisson, Hotel De L’Annapurna, The Malla Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel (which is not operated by the Shangri-La Hotel Group) and The Shanker Hotel. There are several four-star hotels such as Hotel Vaishali, Hotel Narayani, The Blue Star and Grand Hotel. The Garden Hotel, Hotel Ambassador, and Aloha Inn are among the three-star hotels in Kathmandu. Hotels like Hyatt Regency, De L’Annapurna and Hotel Yak & Yeti are among the five-star hotels providing casinos as well.
Kathmandu’s urban cosmopolitan character has made it the most populous city in Nepal, recording a population of 671,846 residents living in 235,387 households in the metropolitan area, according to the 2001 census. According to the National Population Census of 2011, the total population of Kathmandu city was 975,543 with an annual growth rate of 6.12% with respect to the population figure of 2001. 70% of the total population residing in Kathmandu are aged between 15 and 59.
Over the years the city has been home to people of various ethnicities, resulting in a range of different traditions and cultural practices. In one decade, the population increased from 427,045 in 1991 to 671,805 in 2001. The population was projected to reach 915,071 in 2011 and 1,319,597 by 2021. To keep up this population growth, the KMC-controlled area of 5,076.6 hectares has expanded to 8,214 hectares in 2001. With this new area, the population density which was 85 in 1991 is still 85 in 2001; it is likely to jump to 111 in 2011 and 161 in 2021.
The largest ethnic groups are Newar (29.6%), Matwali (25.1% Sunuwar, Gurung, Magars, Tamang etc.), Khas Brahmins (20.51%) and Chettris (18.5%) . Tamangs originating from surrounding hill districts can be seen in Kathmandu. More recently, other hill ethnic groups and Caste groups from Terai have become present as well in vast majority. The major languages are Nepali, Nepal Bhasa and English is understood by about 30% of the people. The major religions are Hinduism and Buddhism.
The linguistic profile of Kathmandu underwent drastic changes during the Shah dynasty’s rule because of its strong bias towards the Brahminic culture. Sanskrit language therefore was preferred and people were encouraged to learn it even by attending Sanskrit learning centers in Terai. Sanskrit schools were specially set up in Kathmandu and in the Terai region to inculcate traditional Hindu culture and practices originated from Nepal.
Architecture and cityscape
The ancient trade route between India and Tibet that passed through Kathmandu enabled a fusion of artistic and architectural traditions from other cultures to be amalgamated with local art and architecture. The monuments of Kathmandu City have been influenced over the centuries by Hindu and Buddhist religious practices. The architectural treasure of the Kathmandu valley has been categorized under the well-known seven groups of heritage monuments and buildings. In 2006 UNESCO declared these seven groups of monuments as a World Heritage Site (WHS). The seven monuments zones cover an area of 188.95 hectares, with the buffer zone extending to 239.34 hectares. The Seven Monument Zones (Mzs) inscribed originally in 1979 and with a minor modification in 2006 are Durbar squares of Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur, Hindu temples of Pashupatinath and Changunarayan, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Boudhanath.
The literal meaning of Durbar Square is a "place of palaces". There are three preserved Durbar Squares in Kathmandu valley and one unpreserved in Kirtipur. The Durbar Square of Kathmandu is located in the old city and has heritage buildings representing four kingdoms (Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur); the earliest is the Licchavi dynasty. The complex has 50 temples and is distributed in two quadrangles of the Durbar Square. The outer quadrangle has the Kasthamandap, Kumari Ghar, and Shiva-Parvati Temple; the inner quadrangle has the Hanuman Dhoka palace. The squares were severely damaged in the April 2015 Nepal earthquake.
Hanuman Dhoka is a complex of structures with the Royal Palace of the Malla kings and of the Shah dynasty. It is spread over five acres. The eastern wing, with ten courtyards, is the oldest part, dating to the mid-16th century. It was expanded by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century with many temples. The royal family lived in this palace until 1886 when they moved to Narayanhiti Palace. The stone inscription outside is in fifteen languages.
Kumari Ghar is a palace in the center of the Kathmandu city, next to the Durbar square where a Royal Kumari selected from several Kumaris resides. Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in South Asian countries. In Nepal the selection process is very rigorous. Kumari is believed to be the bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju (the Nepali name for Durga) until she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body. Serious illness or a major loss of blood from an injury are also causes for her to revert to common status. The current Royal Kumari, Matina Shakya, age four, was installed in October 2008 by the Maoist government that replaced the monarchy.
Kasthamandap is a three-storeyed temple enshrining an image of Gorakhnath. It was built in the 16th century in pagoda style. The name of Kathmandu is a derivative of the word Kasthamandap. It was built under the reign of King Laxmi Narsingha Malla. Kasthamandap stands at the intersection of two ancient trade routes linking India and Tibet at Maru square. It was originally built as a rest house for travelers.
The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous 5th century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Pashupati). Located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It served as the seat of national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, until Nepal was secularized. However, a significant part of the temple was destroyed by Mughal invaders in the 14th century and little or nothing remains of the original 5th-century temple exterior. The temple as it stands today was built in the 19th century, although the image of the bull and the black four-headed image of Pashupati are at least 300 years old. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shivaratri, or the night of Lord Shiva, is the most important festival that takes place here, attracting thousands of devotees and sadhus.
Believers in Pashupatinath (mainly Hindus) are allowed to enter the temple premises, but non-Hindu visitors are allowed to view the temple only from the across the Bagmati River. The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Brahmins from Karnataka, South India since the time of Malla king Yaksha Malla. This tradition is believed to have been started at the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. This procedure is followed in other temples around India, which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya.
The temple is built in the pagoda style of architecture, with cubic constructions, carved wooden rafters (tundal) on which they rest, and two-level roofs made of copper and gold.
The Boudhanath, (also written Bouddhanath, Bodhnath, Baudhanath or the Khāsa Chaitya), is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal, along with Swayambhu. It is a very popular tourist site. Boudhanath is known as Khāsti by Newars and as Bauddha or Bodhnāth by speakers of Nepali. Located about 11 km from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu, the stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. Boudhanath became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.The base of the stupa has 108 small depictions of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha. It is surrounded with a brick wall with 147 niches, each with four or five prayer wheels engraved with the mantra, om mani padme hum. At the northern entrance where visitors must pass is a shrine dedicated to Ajima, the goddess of smallpox. Every year the stupa attracts many Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims who perform full body prostrations in the inner lower enclosure, walk around the stupa with prayer wheels, chant, and pray. Thousands of prayer flags are hoisted up from the top of the stupa downwards and dot the perimeter of the complex. The influx of many Tibetan refugees from China has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan gompas (monasteries) around Boudhanath.
Swayambhu is a Buddhist stupa atop a hillock at the northwestern part of the city. This is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. Although the site is considered Buddhist, it is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. The stupa consists of a dome at the base; above the dome, there is a cubic structure with the eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions.[clarification needed] There are pentagonal Toran above each of the four sides, with statues engraved on them. Behind and above the torana there are thirteen tiers. Above all the tiers, there is a small space above which lies a gajur.
Kathmandu valley is described as "an enormous treasure house of art and sculptures", which are made of wood, stone, metal, and terracotta, and found in profusion in temples, shrines, stupas, gompas, chaityasm and palaces. The art objects are also seen in street corners, lanes, private courtyards, and in open ground. Most art is in the form of icons of gods and goddesses. Kathmandu valley has had this art treasure very long, but received worldwide recognition only after the country opened its doors to the outside world in 1950.
The religious art of Nepal and Kathmandu in particular consists of an iconic symbolism of the Mother Goddesses such as: Bhavani, Durga, Gaja-Lakshmi, Hariti-Sitala, Mahsishamardini, Saptamatrika (seven mother goddesses), and Sri-Lakshmi(wealth-goddess). From the 3rd century BC, apart from the Hindu gods and goddesses, Buddhist monuments from the Ashokan period (it is said that Ashoka visited Nepal in 250 BC) have embellished Nepal in general and the valley in particular. These art and architectural edifices encompass three major periods of evolution: the Licchavi or classical period (500 to 900 AD), the post-classical period (1000 to 1400 AD), with strong influence of the Palla art form; the Malla period (1400 onwards) that exhibited explicitly tantric influences coupled with the art of Tibetan Demonology.
A broad typology has been ascribed to the decorative designs and carvings created by the people of Nepal. These artists have maintained a blend of Hinduism and Buddhism. The typology, based on the type of material used are: Stone Art, Metal Art, Wood Art, Terracotta Art, and Painting.
Kathmandu is home to a number of museums and art galleries, including the National Museum of Nepal and the Natural History Museum of Nepal. Nepal’s art and architecture is an amalgamation of two ancient religions, Hinduism and Buddhhism. These are amply reflected in the many temples, shrines, stupas, monasteries, and palaces in the seven well-defined Monument Zones of the Kathmandu valley recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This amalgamation is also reflected in the planning and exhibitions in museums and art galleries throughout Kathmandu and its sister cities of Patan and Bhaktapur. The museums display unique artifacts and paintings from the 5th century CE to the present day, including archeological exportation.
KATHMANDU MUSEUMS ABD ART GALLERIES INCLUDE:
The National Museum
The Natural History Museum
Hanumandhoka Palace Complex
The Kaiser Library
The National Art Gallery
The NEF-ART (Nepal Fine Art) Gallery
The Nepal Art Council Gallery
Narayanhity Palace Museum
The Taragaon Museum
The National Museum is located in the western part of Kathmandu, near the Swayambhunath stupa in an historical building. This building was constructed in the early 19th century by General Bhimsen Thapa. It is the most important museum in the country, housing an extensive collection of weapons, art and antiquities of historic and cultural importance. The museum was established in 1928 as a collection house of war trophies and weapons, and the initial name of this museum was Chhauni Silkhana, meaning "the stone house of arms and ammunition". Given its focus, the museum contains an extensive quantity of weapons, including locally made firearms used in wars, leather cannons from the 18th–19th century, and medieval and modern works in wood, bronze, stone and paintings.
The Natural History Museum is located in the southern foothills of Swayambhunath hill and has a sizeable collection of different species of animals, butterflies, and plants. The museum is noted for its display of species, from prehistoric shells to stuffed animals.
The Tribhuvan Museum contains artifacts related to the King Tribhuvan (1906–1955). It has a variety of pieces including his personal belongings, letters and papers, memorabilia related to events he was involved in and a rare collection of photos and paintings of Royal family members. The Mahendra Museum is dedicated to king Mahendra of Nepal (1920–1972). Like the Tribhuvan Museum, it includes his personal belongings such as decorations, stamps, coins and personal notes and manuscripts, but it also has structural reconstructions of his cabinet room and office chamber. The Hanumandhoka Palace, a lavish medieval palace complex in the Durbar, contains three separate museums of historic importance. These museums include the Birendra museum, which contains items related to the second-last monarch, Birendra of Nepal.
The enclosed compound of the Narayanhity Palace Museum is in the north-central part of Kathmandu. "Narayanhity" comes from Narayana, a form of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu, and Hiti, meaning "water spout" (Vishnu’s temple is located opposite the palace, and the water spout is located east of the main entrance to the precinct). Narayanhity was a new palace, in front of the old palace built in 1915, and was built in 1970 in the form of a contemporary Pagoda. It was built on the occasion of the marriage of King Birenda Bir Bikram Shah, then heir apparent to the throne. The southern gate of the palace is at the crossing of Prithvipath and Darbar Marg roads. The palace area covers (30 hectares) and is fully secured with gates on all sides. This palace was the scene of the Nepali royal massacre. After the fall of the monarchy, it was converted to a museum.The Taragaon Museum presents the modern history of the Kathmandu Valley. It seeks to document 50 years of research and cultural heritage conservation of the Kathmandu Valley, documenting what artists photographers architects anthropologists from abroad had contributed in the second half of the 20th century. The actual structure of the Museum showcases restoration and rehabilitation efforts to preserve the built heritage of Kathmandu. It was designed by Carl Pruscha (master-planner of the Kathmandy Valley ) in 1970 and constructed in 1971. Restoration works began in 2010 to rehabilitate the Taragaon hostel into the Taragaon Museum. The design uses local brick along with modern architectural design elements, as well as the use of circle, triangles and squares. The Museum is within a short walk from the Boudhnath stupa, which itself can be seen from the Museum tower.
Kathmandu is a center for art in Nepal, displaying the work of contemporary artists in the country and also collections of historical artists. Patan in particular is an ancient city noted for its fine arts and crafts. Art in Kathmandu is vibrant, demonstrating a fusion of traditionalism and modern art, derived from a great number of national, Asian, and global influences. Nepali art is commonly divided into two areas: the idealistic traditional painting known as Paubhas in Nepal and perhaps more commonly known as Thangkas in Tibet, closely linked to the country’s religious history and on the other hand the contemporary western-style painting, including nature-based compositions or abstract artwork based on Tantric elements and social themes of which painters in Nepal are well noted for. Internationally, the British-based charity, the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre is involved with promoting arts in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu contains many notable art galleries. The NAFA Gallery, operated by the Arts and crafts Department of the Nepal Academy is housed in Sita Bhavan, a neo-classical old Rana palace.
The Srijana Contemporary Art Gallery, located inside the Bhrikutimandap Exhibition grounds, hosts the work of contemporary painters and sculptors, and regularly organizes exhibitions. It also runs morning and evening classes in the schools of art. Also of note is the Moti Azima Gallery, located in a three storied building in Bhimsenthan which contains an impressive collection of traditional utensils and handmade dolls and items typical of a medieval Newar house, giving an important insight into Nepali history. The J Art Gallery is also located in Kathmandu, near the Royal Palace in Durbarmarg, Kathmandu and displays the artwork of eminent, established Nepali painters. The Nepal Art Council Gallery, located in the Babar Mahal, on the way to Tribhuvan International Airport contains artwork of both national and international artists and extensive halls regularly used for art exhibitions.
The staple food of most of Kathmanduites is dal bhat. It consists of rice and lentil soup, generally served with vegetable curries, achar and sometimes Chutney. Momo, a type of Nepali version of Tibetan dumpling, has become prominent in Nepal with many street vendors selling it. It is one of the most popular fast foods in Kathmandu. Various Nepali variants of momo including buff (i.e. buffalo) momo, chicken momo, and vegetarian momo are famous in Kathmandu. Dal Bhaat is the local cuisine of Kathmandu.
Most of the cuisines found in Kathmandu are non-vegetarian. However, the practice of vegetarianism is not uncommon, and vegetarian cuisines can be found throughout the city. Consumption of beef is very uncommon and considered taboo in many places. Buff (meat of water buffalo) is very common. There is a strong tradition of buff consumption in Kathmandu, especially among Newars, which is not found in other parts of Nepal. Consumption of pork was considered taboo until a few decades ago. Due to the intermixing with Kirat cuisine from eastern Nepal, pork has found a place in Kathmandu dishes. A fringe population of devout Hindus and Muslims consider it taboo. The Muslims forbid eating buff as from Quran while Hindus eat all varieties except Cow’s meat as the consider Cow to be a goddess and symbol of purity. The chief breakfast for locals and visitors is mostly Momo or Chowmein.
Kathmandu had only one restaurant in 1955. A large number of restaurants in Kathmandu have since opened, catering Nepali cuisine, Tibetan cuisine, Chinese cuisine and Indian cuisine in particular. Many other restaurants have opened to accommodate locals, expatriates, and tourists. The growth of tourism in Kathmandu has led to culinary creativity and the development of hybrid foods to accommodate for tourists such as American chop suey, which is a sweet-and-sour sauce with crispy noodles with a fried egg commonly added on top and other westernized adaptations of traditional cuisine. Continental cuisine can be found in selected places. International chain restaurants are rare, but some outlets of Pizza Hut and KFC have recently opened there. It also has several outlets of the international ice-cream chain Baskin-Robbins
Kathmandu has a larger proportion of tea drinkers than coffee drinkers. Tea is widely served but is extremely weak by western standards. It is richer and contains tea leaves boiled with milk, sugar and spices. Alcohol is widely drunk, and there are numerous local variants of alcoholic beverages. But its use has been now reduced.refnational survey. Drinking and driving is illegal, and authorities have a zero tolerance policy. Ailaa and thwon (alcohol made from rice) are the alcoholic beverages of Kathmandu, found in all the local bhattis (alcohol serving eateries). Chhyaang, tongba (fermented millet or barley) and rakshi are alcohols from other parts of Nepal which are found in Kathmandu. However, shops and bars in Kathmandu widely sell western and Nepali beers. Shops are forbidden to sell alcohol on the first two days and last two days of the Nepali month (Nepal Sambat).
Most of the fairs and festivals in Kathmandu originated in the Malla period or earlier. Traditionally, these festivals were celebrated by Newars. In recent years, these festivals have found wider participation from other Kathmanduites as well. As the capital of the Republic of Nepal, various national festivals are celebrated in Kathmandu. With mass migration to the city, the cultures of Khas from the west, Kirats from the east, Bon/Tibetan from the north, and Mithila from the south meet in the capital and mingle harmoniously. The festivities such as the Ghode (horse) Jatra, Indra Jatra, Dashain Durga Puja festivals, Shivratri and many more are observed by all Hindu and Buddhist communities of Kathmandu with devotional fervor and enthusiasm. Social regulation in the codes enacted incorporate Hindu traditions and ethics. These were followed by the Shah kings and previous kings, as devout Hindus and protectors of Buddhist religion.
Cultural continuity has been maintained for centuries in the exclusive worship of goddesses and deities in Kathmandu and the rest of the country. These deities include the Ajima, Taleju (or Tulja Bhavani), Digu taleju, and Kumari (the living goddess). The artistic edifices have now become places of worship in the everyday life of the people, therefore a roster is maintained to observe annual festivals. There are 133 festivals held in the year.
Some of the traditional festivals observed in Kathmandu, apart from those previously mentioned, are Bada Dashain, Tihar, Chhath, Maghe Sankranti, Naga Panchami, Janai Poornima, Pancha Dan, Teej/Rishi Panchami, Pahan Charhe, Jana Baha Dyah Jatra (White Machchhendranath Jatra), and Matatirtha Aunsi.
Assumedly, together with the kingdom of Licchhavi (c. 400 to 750), Hinduism and the endogam social stratification of the Caste was established in Kathmandu Valley. The Pashupatinath Temple, Changu Narayan temple (the oldest), and the Kasthamandap are of particular importance to Hindus. Other notable Hindu temples in Kathmandu and the surrounding valley include Bajrayogini Temple, Dakshinkali Temple, Guhyeshwari Temple, and the Sobha Bhagwati shrine.
The Bagmati River which flows through Kathmandu is considered a holy river both by Hindus and Buddhists, and many Hindu temples are located on the banks of this river. The importance of the Bagmati also lies in the fact that Hindus are cremated on its banks, and Kirants are buried in the hills by its side. According to the Nepali Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times into the Bagmati before cremation. The chief mourner (usually the first son) who lights the funeral pyre must take a holy riverwater bath immediately after cremation. Many relatives who join the funeral procession also take bath in the Bagmati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation as the Bagmati is believed to purify people spiritually.
Buddhism started in Kathmandu with the arrival of Buddhist monks during the time of Buddha (c. 563 – 483 BC). They started a forest monastery in Sankhu. This monastery was renovated by Shakyas after they fled genocide from Virudhaka (rule: 491-461 BC).
During the Hindu Lichchavi era (c. 400 to 750), various monasteries and orders were created which successively led to the formation of Newar Buddhism, which is still practiced in the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Sanskrit.
Tagged: , asienman-photoart , Nepal , Kathmandu , asienman-photography