The plazas and areas opposite of the royal palaces are described as Durbar Square in Nepal, which consists of temples, idols, open courts, water fountains and more. Durbar Squares are the most prominent remnants of the old kingdoms in Nepal. Nepal consisted of small kingdoms before King Prithvi Narayan Shah unified it as one country.
The most popular Durbar Squares are in Kathmandu Valley, which belonged to the three Newar kingdoms. They are Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. All three Durbar Squares are rich in architecture and treasure historic memoirs. UNESCO has listed all three of them as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In the past, Durbar Squares were the place where important events were witnessed such as coronation of the kings. They were also used for a king’s court. These Durbar Squares are fine examples of the lifestyle of the ancient kingdom of Kathmandu Valley.
These three Durbar Squares are under the must-visit-list of Kathmandu. They are the living museum of cultural and architectural history of ancient Kathmandu. The palace and temples are magnificently decorated with intricately carved wooden windows and panels.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square is also known as Basantapur Durbar Square and Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square. Located in front of Hanuman Dhoka Palace (former Kathmandu Kingdom), this remarkable Durbar Square displays the striking architecture. This is one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu valley that are listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Spread over 5 acres, the Hanuman Dhoka Palace is named after the stone image of Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God, that sits near the main entryway. This Durbar Square brilliantly showcases the architectural skills of the Newar artists and craftsmanship over several centuries. Kathmandu Durbar Square houses palaces and ancient temples from the period between 12th and 18th centuries. The square surrounds quadrangles that reveal courtyard and temples.
Kathmandu Durbar Square appears to be more prominent than other two Durbar Squares. It comprises of two divisions; outer complex and inner complex. The outer complex includes famous temples such as Taleju Temple, Jagannath Temple, Shiv-Parvati Temple, Big Bell and Kumari Bahal. The inner complex includes old palace, courtyards, Basantapur Durbar, Hanuman Dhoka and other artistic structures.
Kathmandu Durbar Square has been favored for the Royal Palaces. King Prithvi Narayan Shah chose Kathmandu Durbar Square as his palace when he invaded Kathmandu Valley in 1769. After that Shah kings continued to rule from the Kathmandu Durbar Square until they moved to Narayanhiti Palace in 1896. The square was still the center of important royal ceremonies and event until Monarchy was abolished in 2008.
Hanuman Dhoka Palace is now used as Memorial Museum of King Tribhuwan, and King Mahendra. You can visit the staterooms inside the palace. The temples in the Durbar Square area are being preserved as national heritage site. Only some parts of the palace are open for the visitors and Taleju temple are only open for Hindu and Buddhist faith.
Temples and palaces have been reconstructed from time to time after being damaged by the natural disasters or abandonment. Recently, the devastating earthquake of April 2015 has destroyed many temples and parts of Kathmandu Durbar Square. Reconstruction works have been started.
Beside Hanuman Dhoka Palace, the other major attraction of Kathmandu Durbar Square is Kumari Bahal, the temple for Kumari. The last Malla King of Kathmandu, Jaya Prakash Malla, built the temple structured like a typical Newari Vihara. The Kumari, the living goddess of Nepal resides in this temple. Hindus worship her during certain religious festivals and she makes her public appearances on major occasions. Indra Jatra is one of the festivals that are enthusiastically celebrated in Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Entry Fee for Kathmandu Durbar Square
- For Foreign Nationals: NRs. 1000
- For SAARC Nationals: NRs. 150
- For Chinese Nationals: NRs. 1000
Further Read: History’s house
Patan Durbar Square
Situated at the center of the Lalitpur city in Kathmandu valley, Patan Durbar Square is one of the three popular Durbar Squares of Kathmandu Valley. Like Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square also consists of ancient royal palaces of Malla Kings of Lalitpur, city of art and architecture. This is yet another spectacle of Newar architecture.
This Durbar Square comprises of palace, temples and idols. All temples are aligned opposite of the western face of the palace. The square houses old traditional Newari residential houses. The square is a demonstration of Newari architecture, which reached its zenith during the rule of Malla kings who were great builder and patrons of the arts.
The Patan Durbar Square consists of three main courtyards namely Mul Chok, Sundari Chok and Keshav Narayan Chok. There are many striking temples, religious shrines and historical places that shout exquisite carvings and beautiful ancient Newari architecture. The temples in the square are devoted to Ganesh, Shiva, Taleju and others.
Krishna Mandir is one of the main attractions of the square with very unique architecture. Krishna Mandir was built to honor Lord Krishna, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, who is one of the main characters of Hindu epic, Mahabharat. King Siddhi Narsingh Malla built this temple in 1636. The temple features 21 gilded pinnacles and are the excellent example of stone architecture in Nepal. The prospects from the Mahabharat are engraved on the walls of the temple.
The Bhandarkhal Garden of Patan Durbar Square is another attraction that carries historical importance. Bhandarkhal Garden is large open space where people can stroll and relax during the leisure hours. It is where the Bhandarkhal Parva (Bhandarkhal Massacre) took place, one of the three massacres during Rana regime.
At the center of the largest courtyard, Mul Chok are located Vidya Temple and Taleju temple. Keshav Narayan Chok is now used as museum of bronze artifact. The other main attractions to visit in this Durbar Square are the Golden Gate and golden windows of the old palace, the bath with carvings in stone at Sundari Chok, the Taleju temple, the Bhimsen temple, Char-narayan temple, Chyasi Dega, Tusha Hiti and Manga Hiti.
Some parts of Durbar Square were also damaged in the earthquake of April 2015. Many fine arts and architectures were lost but rebuilding works have been carried out and it is on the way of restoration.
Entry Fee for Patan Durbar Square
- For Foreign Nationals: NRs. 1000
- For SAARC Nationals: NRs. 250
- For Chinese Nationals: NRs. 1000
Further Read: Patan Durbar Square – Legend and History
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Located in the city of Bhaktapur, anciently known as Bhadgaon, Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the plaza in front of the royal palace of the old Bhaktapur kingdom. It is also listed on UNESCO World Heritage Site like the other two Durbar Squares and is one of the most visited sites in Kathmandu Valley.
The whole complex consists of four distinct squares namely Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square and Pottery Square. The whole area is commonly known as Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Bhaktapur is the city of devotees and is regarded as the cultural city. It flaunts the antique arts and architecture from 15th century. The masterwork of metal, wood and stone arts will captivate any visitor.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a museum of medieval art and architecture with magnificent examples of sculpture, woodcarving, gigantic pagoda and sikhara-style temples. The square displays the fascinating architectural showpieces and the ancient arts of Nepal. The golden effigies of kings perched on the top of stone monoliths, the guardian deities, woodcarvings in struts, lintels, uprights, tympanums, gateways and windows are outstanding.
The Bhaktapur Durbar Square has been severely damaged by many earthquakes. Out of 99 courtyards, only 6 are remaining. The earthquake of April 2015 demolished many buildings in the square. The rebuilding and reconstruction is in progress and there are still many things to appreciate and visit.
The major attractions of Bhaktapur Durbar Square are 55-window palace (Pachpanna Jhyale Durbar), Statue of Bhupatindra Malla, Nyatapole temple, Bhairav Nath temple, Golden Gate, Lion’s Gate and Mini Pashupati temple. There are other temples of Ugrachandi and Ugrabhairav, Shiva-Parvati, Rameshwar, Badrinath, Gopi Nath, Kedar Nath, Hanuman and Vatasala Devi.
The Palace of fifty-five windows was built by King Bhupatindra Malla and was completed during the reign of his son Ranjit Malla. This was where the kings resided until 1769 and now used as a national gallery. The Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla in the act of worship is facing the palace and is considered to be the most magnificent statue of the square.
Nyatapola Temple is the highest pagoda of Nepal and has survived the earthquake. In Newari language, Nyatapola means five stories symbolizing the five basic elements. This temple is brilliant paradigm of architectural perfection and artistic beauty. Near the Nyatapola, there is the Bhairav Nath Temple of the fiercest god, Bhairav.
The Golden Gate is the entrance of fifty-five window palace and is the most beautiful specimen and one of its kind in the world. The figure of Hindu goddess Kali and Garuda surmount the door. The monsters and other Hindu mythical creatures are extraordinarily elaborated and embellished.
The other magnificent gate is Lion’s gate, enormous gate protected by two lion statues on either side of the gate. Bhadgaon King cut off the hands of artisans who built it so that there won’t be other masterpiece like Lion’s Gate. Dattatreya temple is a three-storied shrine in Dattatreya Square that holds historic monuments and artistic shrines.
Bisket Jatra is a great festival celebrated only in Bhaktapur on the New Year’s Day. There are many restaurants and eateries where one can taste traditional Newari foods. One cannot miss ‘Juju Dhau’, the king curd when in Bhaktapur.
Entry Fee for Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- For Foreign Nationals: NRs. 1500
- For SAARC Nationals: NRs. 500
- For Chinese Nationals: NRs. 500
Further Read: Bhaktapur