Alt text: People walking and socializing on a spacious courtyard surrounded by intricate Nepalese-style temples and historic architecture under a clear blue sky. A stone statue is visible on the left.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, located in Bhaktapur, Nepal, is a historical masterpiece that holds significant cultural and architectural importance. The square served as the royal palace complex for the Malla kings of Nepal from the 14th to the 15th century, and later, for the kings of the Kingdom of Bhaktapur from the 15th to the late 18th century.

The Malla kings, who were patrons of art and architecture, played a crucial role in shaping the grandeur of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Under their rule, the square witnessed the construction of magnificent palaces, temples, and courtyards, showcasing the exceptional craftsmanship and architectural prowess of the Newari people.

The square consists of four different squares – Taumadhi Square, Durbar Square, Pottery Square, and Dattatreya Square. Each square houses a unique collection of ancient structures that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. These structures are a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Bhaktapur and the Newa community.

Over the centuries, Bhaktapur Durbar Square endured numerous challenges, including natural disasters. The square suffered significant damage during the 1934 earthquake and was further devastated by the 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal. Many buildings, statues, and structures were destroyed, causing a loss of invaluable cultural treasures.

Despite these challenges, Bhaktapur Durbar Square has undergone extensive renovation and restoration efforts to preserve its historical significance. The square continues to captivate visitors with its intricate woodcarvings, elaborate stone sculptures, and splendid architecture.

Today, Bhaktapur Durbar Square stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting tourists from around the world. It offers a glimpse into the glorious past of Nepal’s royal city-states and serves as a living museum of Newari art and architecture.

Visitors to Bhaktapur Durbar Square can explore the remnants of the royal palaces, temples, and courtyards that once adorned the square. The experience is a journey through time, where one can appreciate the grandeur and intricacy of Newari architecture and witness the resilience of the local community in preserving their cultural heritage.

Main Attractions

Temples and Palaces in Bhaktapur Durbar Square: A Glimpse into the Architectural Marvels

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, located in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, Nepal, is a treasure trove of temples and palaces that showcase the rich cultural heritage and architectural brilliance of the Malla dynasty. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to the patronage of art and culture by the Malla kings, who left behind a legacy of magnificent structures that continue to awe visitors to this day.

The square boasts an impressive collection of pagoda-style temples, intricately carved wooden structures, and a palace with fifty-five windows, all exhibiting the exquisite craftsmanship of the Newari artisans. Each temple and palace within the square has its own unique charm and significance, offering a glimpse into the religious and cultural traditions of the bygone era.

One of the highlights of Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the royal palace complex, which served as the center of political and cultural life in the city. The palace complex features the famous Luṁ dhvākā, also known as the Golden Gate, which serves as the main entrance to the inner courtyards. This ornate golden gate is adorned with intricate carvings and is a masterpiece of Newari architecture.

Another notable structure in the square is the Nyatapola Temple, a five-story pagoda-style temple that stands as a testament to the exceptional craftsmanship of the Newari artisans. This towering temple is dedicated to the goddess Siddhi Lakshmi and is known for its architectural significance. Despite sustaining damage during the 2015 earthquake, extensive restoration work has been carried out to bring this iconic temple back to its former glory.

In addition to these prominent structures, Bhaktapur Durbar Square is dotted with numerous other temples and palaces, each with its own unique architectural style and religious significance. The square is a living museum of Newari art and culture, with every corner revealing intricate wood carvings, stone sculptures, and beautiful courtyards.

Pottery Square: A Haven for Traditional Craftsmanship and Cultural Heritage

Situated in the heart of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Pottery Square serves as a testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage and traditional craftsmanship. This vibrant square is a captivating sight, where rows and rows of clay pots are left to sun-dry, and fully dried and decorated pots are on display for sale.

A visit to Pottery Square is a journey back in time, allowing visitors to witness the age-old pottery-making process that has been preserved for centuries. Skilled potters can be seen working diligently on their traditional wooden wheels, shaping the clay into beautiful and intricate forms. The rhythmic motions of the potters’ hands as they transform the raw clay into exquisite pots are a marvel to behold.

For those looking to immerse themselves in this ancient art form, Pottery Square offers the opportunity to try your hand at pottery. You can step up to one of the potters’ wheels and create your own masterpiece under the guidance of experienced craftsmen. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced potter, the square also provides the option for long-term pottery training to further hone your skills.

The square not only showcases the art of pottery-making but also offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of Astamatrika idols. These idols, representing the eight mother goddesses, are intricately carved and hold great significance in Newari culture. During the Biska Jatra festival, Pottery Square becomes a hub of activity, hosting the ceremonial rising and deflecting of the lingam, a powerful religious symbol.

As you wander through Pottery Square, the air is filled with they scent of clay and the sounds of craftsmen shaping their creations. The vibrant colors and ornate designs of the pots on display are a feast for the eyes, showcasing the mastery and creativity of the local artisans.

Visiting Pottery Square is not just about observing the craftwork; it is an opportunity to connect with the cultural roots of Bhaktapur. The square holds immense historical significance and is considered an integral part of the city’s heritage. The preservation of traditional pottery-making techniques in this square is a testament to its importance in Bhaktapur’s identity.

There is no specific entry fee to visit Pottery Square, making it accessible to all. The square is generally open during daylight hours, and the best time to visit is in the morning when you can observe the potters at work, shaping and molding the clay with skill and precision.

Siddhi Laxmi Temple: A Sacred Shrine Protecting Against Evil Spirits

The Siddhi Laxmi Temple, located on the far-eastern side of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, is a remarkable Shikhar-style temple that holds great significance in the religious and cultural landscape of Nepal. This temple is dedicated to the goddess Siddhi Laxmi, a wrathful manifestation of the goddess Durga, who is believed to protect against evil spirits and negative forces.

As you approach the Siddhi Laxmi Temple, you will be captivated by the intricate details and architectural beauty of this sacred shrine. The temple is situated on a 15-stepped, diminishing pyramidal platform with 5 plinths, each adorned with a pair of stone figures depicting humans, animals, and fanatical creatures. These sculptures hold deeper meanings, and deciphering them can be an exciting experience for visitors.

At the entrances of the Siddhi Laxmi Temple, you will find the faces of Durga mounted, symbolizing the goddess’s presence and protective power within. These powerful depictions serve as a reminder of the temple’s purpose in guarding against malevolent forces.

Adjacent to the famous 55 Window Temple, Siddhi Laxmi Temple offers visitors a unique glimpse into the rich religious traditions of Nepal. This sacred space provides an opportunity for devotees and tourists alike to immerse themselves in the spiritual ambiance and seek the blessings of the goddess Siddhi Laxmi.

The 55-Window Palace: A Glimpse into the Magnificent Malla-era Architecture

One of the most iconic structures in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the 55-Window Palace, locally known as the Pachpanna Jhyale Durbar, stands as a testament to the exquisite craftsmanship and rich history of Nepal. This three-story palace, adorned with intricate carvings and patterns, is a true marvel that captivates visitors with its grandeur.

Built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1427, the palace took over a century to be completed, showcasing the dedication and craftsmanship of the Newari artisans of that time. The palace’s central courtyard and the stunning 55 intricately carved windows on its upper floor are the highlights of this architectural masterpiece.

Contrary to popular tales, the 55 windows were not built to parade each of the king’s 55 wives. Instead, they are believed to symbolize the 55 different stages of the human life cycle, adding a deeper meaning to the palace’s design. Each window is a work of art in itself, showcasing the cultural heritage and traditional craftsmanship of Nepal.

Nyatapola Temple: A Marvel of Newari Architecture

The Nyatapola Temple, located in Bhaktapur Durbar Square in Nepal, is a renowned architectural masterpiece that attracts visitors from all over the world. Built in 1702 during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla of the Malla dynasty, this iconic five-story pagoda-style temple is dedicated to the goddess Siddhi Lakshmi. It is not only one of Nepal’s most iconic temples but also a testament to the exceptional craftsmanship of the Newari artisans.

The name “Nyatapola” translates to “Five Stories” in Newari, which perfectly reflects the unique and impressive structure of the temple. Standing at a height of 33 meters (108.27 ft), it is also the tallest temple in Nepal. The temple’s design is not only visually captivating but also holds symbolic significance. The five levels of the temple are believed to correspond with the five elements, creating a harmonious balance in its architecture.

Upon approaching the Nyatapola Temple, visitors are greeted by stone lions and wrestlers guarding the steps. These intricate details showcase the attention to detail and artistic prowess of the Newari craftsmen. As you climb the steps, a sense of reverence and awe towards Nepal’s ancient culture and traditions envelops you.

The interior of the Nyatapola Temple is equally impressive, with each floor revealing more intricate carvings and religious artifacts. The temple’s main deity, Siddhi Lakshmi, is worshipped by devotees who come to seek blessings and offer prayers. The spiritual and serene ambiance of the temple adds to its allure, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of Nepal’s religious heritage.

The Nyatapola Temple is often included in the Bhaktapur Durbar Square ticket, which allows visitors to explore multiple historical sites in the area. It follows the opening hours of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, making it accessible for tourists throughout the day. However, the best time to visit is when the weather is pleasant and festivals often take place, as it offers a vibrant and lively atmosphere.

Rituals and Traditions in Bhaktapur: A Celebration of Devotion and Cultural Identity

Bhaktapur, known as the “City of Devotees,” is a place where traditions and spirituality thrive. The residents of Bhaktapur actively uphold their rich cultural heritage through various rituals and traditions, showcasing their deep devotion and commitment to preserving their identity.

One of the most prominent ways in which the people of Bhaktapur celebrate their traditions is through religious festivals. These festivals are celebrated with great fervor and involve elaborate processions, traditional dances, and rituals dedicated to various deities. Dashain, Indra Jatra, and Nepal Sambat, the New Year’s festival of Nepal, are some of the most significant festivals celebrated in Bhaktapur. Residents actively participate in these festivals, immersing themselves in the vibrant atmosphere and honoring their religious beliefs.

Temple worship is another integral aspect of the rituals and traditions in Bhaktapur. The city is home to numerous temples, each with its own set of rituals and observances. Residents visit these temples regularly to offer prayers, light oil lamps, and make offerings to the deities. The Nyatapola Temple, Dattatraya Temple, and Bhairavnath Temple are some of the notable temples where devotees gather to seek blessings and express their devotion.

The Bisket Jatra, a nine-day extravaganza, is a festival deeply rooted in ancient local beliefs and superstitions. Celebrated during mid-April, this festival holds great significance for the Newar communities of Bhaktapur and Thimi. It is not only seen as a New Year celebration but also as a way to honor the legends of the Kathmandu Valley, particularly the myths about the death of the serpent. The festival is packed with fascinating rituals and traditions that showcase the cultural richness of Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur’s commitment to preserving its cultural identity is evident in its unique form of local governance known as “Nepal Sambat.” This governance system incorporates traditional Newari customs and rituals into administrative functions, emphasizing the city’s devotion to its heritage. The blending of governance and culture highlights the strong connection between the people of Bhaktapur and their traditions.

Artistic expressions, such as traditional dances, music, and religious ceremonies, play a significant role in the cultural life of Bhaktapur. These artistic forms of devotion are often showcased during festivals and special events, adding to the vibrancy and atmosphere of the city. They serve as a medium through which the residents express their deep-rooted beliefs and showcase their cultural heritage.

Cultural education is given great importance in Bhaktapur. The residents, especially the youth, are taught about their heritage, language, and customs to ensure the continuity of traditions. This emphasis on cultural education helps to pass down the rich traditions from one generation to the next, ensuring that Bhaktapur’s cultural identity remains strong.

In addition to these rituals and traditions, the residents of Bhaktapur also uphold their cultural identity through their attire. Many continue to wear traditional Newari clothing, with women adorning vibrant “haku patasi” sarees and men donning “bhadgaule topi” hats. This choice of attire reflects their commitment to preserving their cultural identity and serves as a visual representation of their heritage.

Overall, the rituals and traditions in Bhaktapur are a testament to the city’s deep-rooted devotion and commitment to preserving its cultural identity. Through religious festivals, temple worship, unique governance, artistic expressions, and cultural education, the residents of Bhaktapur ensure that their rich traditions continue to thrive and flourish.

Visiting Bhaktapur Durbar Square – Entry Fees and Details

When visiting Bhaktapur Durbar Square, there are entry fees that tourists need to pay. For foreign tourists, the entry fee is around NPR 1,500 to NPR 1,600 (approximately $13 to $14 USD). SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nationals and Chinese nationals are required to pay $5 / NRs 500, while Nepalese citizens and children below 10 years old can enter for free.

It’s important to note that the ticket counter for Bhaktapur Durbar Square opens only after 7 am and closes at 7 pm every day of the week. The square itself, however, is open 24/7 for a general stroll.

In addition to the entry fee for Bhaktapur Durbar Square, there is a separate fee for visiting the National Art Museum, which covers the Brass and Bronze Museum and the Woodcarving Museum. Foreign visitors are charged NPR 150, SAARC nationals pay NPR 50, and Nepalese citizens pay NPR 25 as an entry fee for the National Art Museum.

If you are planning to take photographs or videos during your visit, there are additional charges for cameras. The National Art Museum charges NPR 100 for a normal camera (NPR 50 for SAARC nationals) and NPR 200 for a movie camera (NPR 100 for SAARC nationals).

It’s worth mentioning that the square may be closed on certain days for cleaning and maintenance purposes, so it’s advisable to inquire about the opening hours and closures with your tour guide before confirming your visit.

Nearby Attractions

In addition to the magnificent Bhaktapur Durbar Square, there are several other attractions in the vicinity that are worth exploring. These sites offer a diverse range of cultural and historical experiences, allowing visitors to delve deeper into the rich heritage of Bhaktapur. Here are some nearby attractions that you should not miss during your visit:

  1. Taumadhi Square: Located in the heart of Bhaktapur, Taumadhi Square is the center of all festivals in the city. It is the second most important square after Bhaktapur Durbar Square. The square is adorned with stunning temples and traditional Newari architecture, providing a glimpse into the city’s religious and cultural practices. Taumadhi Square is a vibrant and lively place, especially during festivals, where you can witness traditional dances and rituals.
  2. Dattatraya Square: Considered one of the oldest squares in the entire Kathmandu Valley, Dattatraya Square is a treasure trove of ancient temples and architectural wonders. Named after the deity Dattatraya, this square was once a major hub for trade. It is home to the Dattatraya Temple, Bhimsen Temple, and several museums showcasing the art and craftsmanship of Bhaktapur. One of the highlights of Dattatraya Square is the Peacock Window, a masterpiece of Newari art that dates back to the 15th century.
  3. Pottery Square: If you are fascinated by traditional pottery and craftsmanship, Pottery Square is a must-visit. Located a short distance from Bhaktapur Durbar Square, this square is a hub for pottery-making activities. Here, you can witness skillful potters molding clay into beautiful pots and vases using traditional techniques. You can even try your hand at pottery-making and create your own souvenir to take back home.
  4. Chaar Dham Temples: Situated near Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Chaar Dham Temples hold great religious significance. These four temples represent the four major pilgrimage sites of Hinduism – Badrinath, Dwarka, Rameswaram, and Puri. Each temple is dedicated to a specific deity and showcases exquisite architecture and intricate carvings.
  5. Vatsalya Durga Temple and Taleju Bell: Another notable attraction near Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the Vatsalya Durga Temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Durga. The temple’s architecture is sure to mesmerize you with its intricate woodwork and artistic designs. Adjacent to the temple is the Taleju Bell, a large bell with historical significance. It is believed that ringing the bell fulfills the wishes of devotees.
  6. Chyasalin Mandap: This beautiful pagoda-style pavilion is located in the vicinity of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It is a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. The pavilion offers a peaceful escape where you can relax and soak in the beauty of the surrounding architecture.