Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square of Nepal

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square is also called Hanuman Dhoka or Basantapur Durbar Square.

Karuna Bhattarai
Author | Karuna Bhattarai Date Published:
Kathmandu Durbar Square Attractions

Nestled in the heart of Nepal's capital city, the Kathmandu Durbar Square is a cultural, historical, and architectural landmark that attracts visitors from all over the world. Also known as Hanuman Dhoka or Basantapur Durbar Square, the square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site rich in cultural, historical, and architectural significance.

At the center of the square stands the Temple of the Living Goddess, also known as the Kumari Ghar, a three-story building home to the Kumari, a young girl considered a living goddess. Nearby, the Hanuman Dhoka Palace is a grand 17th-century royal palace that now serves as a museum, offering a glimpse into Nepal's royal history.

The Old Royal Palace, also known as the Basantapur Durbar consists of courtyards and temples which once belonged to Nepal's royal family.  Visitors can explore the square's many temples and shrines, such as the Kasthamandap Temple, the Taleju Temple, and the Maru Temple as well.

Kathmandu Durbar Square is not just a collection of historical landmarks. You can also shop for souvenirs, try local food, and experience local culture and traditions. Surrounded by narrow winding streets lined with shops, temples, and traditional brick houses, Kathmandu Durbar Square is a great place to explore and experience local culture.

With its rich cultural, historical, and architectural significance, Kathmandu Durbar Square is a must-see destination for tourists visiting Nepal. Whether you are interested in exploring the square's landmarks, experiencing local culture and cuisines, or simply sightseeing in Kathmandu, Durbar Square has something for everyone. We will discuss everything there is to know about Kathmandu Durbar Square in this article.

Table Of Content

    Kathmandu Durbar Square Facts

    Monument

    Kathmandu Durbar Square

    City/District

    Kathmandu

    Province

    Bagmati

    UNESCO World Heritage Site Listed

    1979 AD

    Area occupied

    5 Acres

    Founded by (main palace)

    Shankaradev (1069-1083)

    Major Attractions

    • Taleju Bhawani Temple

    • The Old Royal Palace

    • The Kumari Ghar

    • Gaddi Baithak

    • Kasthamandap

    Major Festivities

    • Indra Jatra and Kumari Jatra

    • Gai Jatra

    • Seto Machhindranath Jatra

    Entry Fees

    • Free for Nepalese citizens

    • NRs. 150 for SAARC residents

    • NRs. 1000 for visitors outside of SAARC countries

    • Free for children below 10 years

    Where is Kathmandu Durbar Square?

    Kathmandu Durbar Square is easily accessible from many parts of the city because of its central location. Here is a quick overview:

    From Tribhuvan International Airport: Kathmandu Durbar Square is located approximately 6 kilometers from Tribhuvan International Airport. The journey takes around 30-40 minutes by car depending on traffic conditions. You can take a taxi, hire a private car or travel on public transport to reach the square from the airport.

    From Thamel: The square is located almost 2 kilometers far from Thamel. You can walk to the square in less than 20 minutes, or take a taxi to reach the square. Due to narrow streets and crowds, a taxi might take the same time as walking there from Thamel.

    From New Road: New Road is another popular tourist area in Kathmandu, and the square is about 1 kilometer from New Road. You can easily walk to the square from New Road, or take a taxi to reach the square gate.

    From Asan Tole: Asan Tole is a market area with everything from home appliances to clothes and accessories. You can simply walk to the square after completing your shopping spree,  as the square is located only 1 kilometer away from Asan Tole.

    A lot of winding streets (Galli) from nearby places connect to the Kathmandu Durbar Square or one of the places mentioned above. Walking through the streets is an adventure of its own. As it lies in the heart of the city, it is very easy to navigate to the square with online maps as well.

    History of Kathmandu Durbar Square

    Even though the exact date of the establishment of the Kathmandu Durbar Square is unknown, Shankaradev was credited for the palace construction in the 11th century. Later on,  in the 16th century,  Ratna Malla constructed the Taleju Bhawani Temple. The rest of the square then grew around these two landmarks, turning into what we see today.

    The square was once the center of the Nepalese royal palace and the throne for Nepal's kings and queens.  It is home to several important cultural, historical, and architectural landmarks, including the Temple of the Living Goddess, the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, the Kasthamandap, and the Old Royal Palace.

    Kasthamandap Temple is said to have been built in the 12th century from the wood of a single tree. It is named after the same "kastha" tree, also known as the "sala" tree. The temple was used as a rest house for travelers and a place for people to perform religious rituals and ceremonies.

    The Hanuman Dhoka Palace is a royal palace built in the 17th century that is now open to the public as a museum. It is named after the deity Hanuman, depicted in a statue at the entrance to the palace. The Old Royal Palace, also known as the Basantapur Durbar, is a complex of courtyards and temples composed of old royal lands and structures.

    The Temple of the Living Goddess, also known as the Kumari Ghar, is a three-story building home to the Kumari, a young girl considered the living goddess. Kumari is chosen through a rigorous process involving physical, mental, and spiritual tests. This tradition dates back to the 18th Century and is an important destination for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

    The Kathmandu Durbar Square and its surrounding area have a long and fascinating history, and hence are a testament to Nepal’s rich cultural, historical, and architectural heritage.

    Landmarks

    Date (B.S) and Founder

    The First Royal Palace in the square

    11th century  

    By Shankaradev

    Kasthamandap Temple

    12th century

    By Laxmi Nar Singh Malla

    Renovated drastically in the 16th century

    Taleju Temple

    1564th century

    By Ratna Malla

    Hanuman Dhoka Palace

    17th century

    Constructed over time by multiple kings of Lichhavi and Shah dynasty

    Nautale Durbar(Basantapur Durbar)

    1770

    By Prithivi Narayan Shah 

    Kumari Ghar and tradition

    1757 

    By Jaya Prakash Malla

    Attractions of Kathmandu Durbar Square

    The Kathmandu Square is a major cultural and religious hub in Nepal, with many important temples and shrines located within its confines. It is a bustling hub of activity surrounded by narrow winding streets lined with shops, temples, and traditional brick houses, making it a great place to explore and experience local culture. In this section, we will discuss the major attractions you shouldn’t miss in Kathmandu Durbar Square.

    Taleju Bhawani Temple

    Taleju Bhawani Temple is one of Nepal's oldest and most important Hindu temples. This temple is dedicated to the goddess Taleju Bhawani, who is believed to be the reincarnation of the goddess Durga. Goddess Taleju Bhawani is believed to have granted kingship to the Malla Kings, who ruled over Kathmandu from the 12th to 18th centuries and hence became their guardian deity (Kul Deuta).

    Taleju Temple is built in Nepali architectural style in the shape of a “yantra”, a mystical diagram holding magical power. It has a golden roof and is covered with ornate decorations and intricate carvings. The temple is made on top of a multi-tiered platform, surrounded by a tall stone wall. It has a central shrine dedicated to the goddess Taleju Bhawani, represented by a statue.

    taleju bhawani

    On a lower platform of this pyramidal structure, there are 12 smaller shrines dedicated to other deities. The inside of the temple is adorned with articulate paintings of heavenly events and wooden carvings of deities. A large bell at Taleju Bhawani Temple's entrance is rung to announce the start and end of a worship session. The four main decorative gates are guarded by hand-carved stone lions.

    The temple is open to the public only on Maha Navami, the ninth day of Navaratri for a very brief period. Even during Maha Navami, only Hindus are allowed to visit the temple; non-Hindus are restricted and can only observe from outside the temple.

    Kumari Ghar and The Living Goddess

    Kumari Ghar is a palace dedicated to the Kumari, a young girl revered as the living goddess in Hindu and Buddhist traditions of Nepal. She is believed to be the living manifestation of the goddess Taleju Bhawani. Kumari is considered the symbol of good fortune and prosperity.

    Kumari Ghar is a traditional, Newari-style building with a red brick exterior and intricately carved wooden windows and doors. It has several rooms and courtyards and is surrounded by a stone wall. Every day at around 9-11 am and 4-6 pm, Kumari makes an appearance on the balcony facing the courtyard of Kumari Ghar. Numerous people visit there every day to catch a glimpse of the living goddess.

    The Kumari is chosen from the Shakya caste of Buddhist Newars in Kathmandu. As one might expect, the selection process is rigorous and performed in several stages. Girls, aged 3-5 are tested for their physical, mental, and astrological compatibility for the role. They must be physically perfect with no blemishes or scars and a good temperament. 

    kumari ghar

    Kumari candidates must be capable of withstanding the training and isolation that comes with becoming a Kumari. The final decision is made by a panel of priests and astrologers, considering her attributes and planetary alignment at the time of the decision.  Once the Kumari is selected and all the rituals are complete, she will be thrones in the Kumari Ghar till she gets her first menstrual cycle. Kumari comes out of her palace only for festivals and pujas, where hundreds of devotees visit to get her blessings.

    Kasthamandap

    Kasthamandap, which translates to “wooden pavilion”, is a temple dedicated to the god Gorakhnath in Kathmandu Durbar Square. It is said to have been built in the 12th century from the wood of a single tree by King Laxmi Narsingha Malla. The temple is named after the tree from which it was made, the "kastha" tree, which is also known as the "sala" tree.

    It is believed that the name of the city Kathmandu is derived from Kasthamandap. The 3-storied temple was used as a rest house for travelers and a place for people to perform religious rituals and ceremonies. But in the earthquake of 2015, the Kasthamandap Temple was completely destroyed. The quake caused the collapse of the temple's roof and walls, leaving the temple in a state of disrepair.

    The Kasthamandap Temple underwent extensive renovations and repairs in the aftermath of the earthquake. The temple was restored to its former glory, and the roof and walls were rebuilt using traditional techniques and materials. The restoration work was completed in early 2022, and the temple was reopened to the public.

    Kasthamandap Temple is once again a popular tourist attraction and place of worship for the Hindus in Nepal. The temple is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Nepalese people, who worked hard to rebuild and restore their cultural and historical landmarks in the aftermath of the earthquake.

    The great bell and two large drums

    The great bell and two large drums of Kathmandu Durbar Square are two iconic landmarks that have been a part of the city's cultural and social fabric for centuries. The great bell, also known as the "Golden Bell," is an enormous brass bell that hangs in a tower overlooking the Durbar Square.

    The Great Bell is one of the world's largest bells, and it's deep, resonant sound can be heard throughout the city. The bell is traditionally rung to mark important events, such as the start of festivals or the arrival of important visitors. It is also rung to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the city.

    The two large drums, known as "dhimay," are equally iconic. These massive drums are made of wood and are covered with animal hides. They are played with wooden sticks and produce a deep, booming sound that can be heard for miles. The drums are traditionally played at ceremonies and to announce important news or events to the community.

    Despite being centuries old, the big bell and giant two drums of Kathmandu Durbar Square are still an integral part of the city's cultural life. They are symbols of the city's past, present, and future.

    The Image of Kal Bhairav

    Kal Bhairav is a Hindu deity who is associated with death, destruction, and transformation. He is depicted as a fierce and powerful deity with a wrathful expression and is often depicted holding a trident and a bowl made from a human skull. Kaal Bhairav was considered the judge, jury, and executioner in ancient times.

    The image of Kal Bhairav in Basantapur Durbar is a particularly important and revered representation of the deity. The 12 feet tall Kal Bhairav statue is believed to have been carved from a single stone centuries ago. According to legends, it was found in a paddy field by King Pratap Malla. He then installed the statue near the old royal palace in the 17th century.

    kaal bhairav

    The figure played the role of the Supreme Court in the old times. It was believed that anyone who lied in front of the painting would be punished by Kal Bhairav himself. There is a long line of devotees waiting to worship the black-painted sculpture of the lord every day, surrounding the shrine with incense, flowers, and other offerings.

    Shiva Parvati Temple

    Shiva-Parvati temple lies on the southwest side of the Basantapur Durbar square. Located in the heart of Kathmandu, the Shiva-Parvati Temple is a two-story, rectangular building that stands out among the other temples in the city with its singular roof. It was constructed towards the end of the 18th century, during the rule of Rana Bahadur Shah.

    Formally known as the “Navadurga” temple, Shiva Parvati temple is an ode to the nine manifestations of the goddess Durga. The ground level of this temple is dedicated to Navadurga. Whereas, the upper level has statues of lord Shiva and Parvati gazing across the Kathmandu Durbar Square from a window/balcony hence, giving the name to the temple.

    Devotees are allowed to worship the temple from the outside but only priests and temple custodians are allowed to enter the temple.

    Gaddi Baithak Palace

    Gaddi Baithak is a traditional throne room located in Kathmandu Durbar Square in Nepal. It was the official residence and throne room of the Malla kings of Kathmandu, who ruled the city from the 12th to the 18th centuries.

    The Malla kings were known for their patronage of the arts and their support of cultural and religious institutions. Despite the abolition of the monarchy in 2008, the Gaddi Baithak remains an important attraction for visitors and a symbol of Nepal's cultural and historical identity.

    Gaddi Baithak

    The Gaddi Baithak is an ornately decorated room located within the Hanuman Dhoka palace complex in Durbar Square. It is furnished with a throne and several ceremonial chairs and is adorned with intricate wood carvings, paintings, and other works of art.

    The Gaddi Baithak was used by the Malla kings for a variety of purposes, including receiving important guests, holding meetings with government officials, and issuing royal decrees. It was also the site of important ceremonies and rituals, such as coronations and investitures.

    Today, Gaddi Baithak is open for the public to visit. It is a reminder of the city’s royal past. Visitors can tour the room and learn about the history and cultural significance of the throne room.

    Indra Jatra

    Indra Jatra, also referred to as "Yenya" in Nepal Bhasa, is a significant festival celebrated by the Newar community in Nepal for eight days. The festival is held in honor of Indra, the god of rain, and takes place either in September or October according to the lunar calendar.

    The celebration starts with the raising of the Linga(symbolic pole) in Durbar Square, followed by a procession featuring masked dancers and musicians. The Kumari Jatra, in which the living goddess Kumari is paraded through the streets of Kathmandu, is one of the most notable events of the Indra Jatra.

    indra jatra

    Indra Jatra was first celebrated back in the Licchavi period (3rd to 9th centuries) as a harvest festival. In the past, the festival used to mark the end of the monsoon season, denoting the beginning of dry months.

    The festival is also represented by the display of the sacred mask of Bhairava, the guardian deity of the city. The festival of Indra Jatra ends with the lowering of the (lingam) pole bearing Indra's flag amidst religious ceremonies. It is a must-see event for anyone looking to explore the festivals of Kathmandu Valley.

    Gai Jatra

    Gai Jatra, also called the festival of sarcasm, is typically celebrated in August for a whole week in Kathmandu Valley. Gai Jatra initially began as a way to honor the deceased and help guide their souls to the afterlife. During this time, various rituals and ceremonies are performed along with several cultural programs held in the city.

    During the Gai Jatra festival, a variety of traditional dances are performed. These include the Pulu Kisi, a dance performed by young boys dressed in cow costumes, the Dapha and the Dhime, which are both performed by drummers, and the Lakhe, a dance performed by men dressed in demon-like costumes.

    One of the main highlights of Gai Jatra is the procession of cows through the streets of Kathmandu, which is led by young boys dressed in cow costumes. The procession is accompanied by a variety of musicians and dancers and is followed by a large crowd of people.

    Overall, Gai Jatra is an important cultural and religious festival for the Newar community in Kathmandu, celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy. It is a time for people to come together and pay their respects to the deceased, and celebrate the many blessings that the gods and goddesses have bestowed upon them.

    Religious Significance

    Kathmandu Durbar Square is a significant religious site in Nepal, home to a number of temples and other religious structures that are revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike. These structures are important places of worship for people of these faiths and are visited by thousands of devotees each year.

    One of the main religious attractions in the square is the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, named after the Hindu god Hanuman. The palace was the former royal palace of the Nepal Malla kings. It consists of several temples, including the temple of Hanuman, which dates back to the 16th century.

    The palace also has several Buddhist shrines, including the temple of Kumari, the living goddess, who is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. The palace is considered a sacred site and is visited by devotees seeking spiritual guidance and blessings. Another important religious site in the square is the Temple of Taleju, dedicated to the Hindu goddess Taleju.

    kathmandu durbar square

    In addition to these major sites, the square is also home to the Kasthamandap Temple, which is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists, as well as other temples and shrines, such as the Shiva-Parvati Temple and the Kal Bhairav Temple. Overall, Kathmandu Durbar Square is a vibrant  proof of spiritual and religious diversity in Nepal.

    Cultural Significance

    Kathmandu Durbar Square is a central hub of culture and history in Nepal, boasting a variety of landmarks, events, and religious structures that showcase the country's rich cultural heritage. Kathmandu Durbar Square has everything from dazzling temples and palaces to bustling festivals.

    The Taleju temple, Kasthamandap, Shiva-Parvati temple, and Kal Bhairava temple all of them attract a large number of devotees to the square every day. The devotees perform the worshiping rituals and seek spiritual guidance and blessings. Even though all of these temples lie in the same vicinity, they all have their cultural significance and meanings. 

    The aspect that sets Kathmandu Durbar Square apart is the coexistence of different religions and cultures in the same place. The square being home to several temples and shrines revered by both Hindus and Buddhists reflects the cultural and religious tolerance and coexistence that is a hallmark of Nepal.

    basantapur durbar square

    Events such as Indra Jatra and Gai Jatra are important cultural traditions in Nepal. They provide an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate their cultural heritage. The square is a unique and enriching destination for people of all faiths, offering a glimpse into Nepal's culture, history, and traditions.

    How to reach Kathmandu Durbar Square?

    The square is easily accessible from many parts of the city and is convenient to reach by a variety of transportation options.

    On foot:

    If you are staying in a hotel or guesthouse in the Thamel area, you can easily walk to the square. The square is located within walking distance(10-20 minutes)of many popular tourist areas, such as Thamel, Asan Tole, and New Road.

    By car or taxi:

    You can hire a car or taxi from your hotel, guesthouse, or one of the many car rental agencies in the city. Vehicles are not allowed inside the square area so you'll be dropped at one of the many entrances.

    By public transportation:

    Public transportation is readily available in the city and is a cheap and convenient way to get around. Several bus stops and pickup points are located near the square, like RNAC, Ratnapark, Lainchaur, and Sahid Gate. You can take a bus or microbus to get there.

    By bicycle:

    If you prefer to travel by bicycle, you can rent a bike or bring your own and ride to the square. Unlike vehicles, bicycles are allowed inside the square, so you can also join a guided bike tour to visit the square and other popular attractions in the city.

    Best Time of the day to Visit

    If you prefer a more tranquil experience with fewer crowds, visiting the square in the morning is recommended. During this time, the square tends to be less crowded, allowing you to explore the various landmarks and attractions at your leisure.

    However, if you don't mind crowds and want to experience the lively atmosphere of the square, the afternoon is the best time for you to visit. The square tends to be busier in the afternoon as more tourists and locals come to the area. You can also shop for hand-crafted souvenirs at the local stalls.

    The square tends to be less crowded in the evening, offering a peaceful visit after the crowds have dispersed. The square is also beautifully lit in the evening, making it an excellent time for photography. It is a great time to take a break from the city bustle in the peaceful atmosphere of Kathmandu Durbar Square.

    While the square is open to visitors at all times of the day, it tends to be less crowded in the morning and evening. So, it's up to you and your preference. No matter when you choose to go, the square offers a unique cultural and historical experience that is sure to be memorable.

    Opening hours and Entry fees

    Opening hours: The square itself is open 24/7 but some of the places inside are only open between 9 am to 6 pm. The opening time may vary depending on the occasion so it's always a great idea to confirm with the concerned authorities before visiting.

    SAARC National

    NPR 150 Per Person

    Other Nationals

    NPR 1000 Per Person

     

    There is no entrance fee for Nepalese citizens. The residents of SAARC countries other than Nepal have to pay NRs. 150 for a ticket.  Visitors from any other countries will be charged NRs. 1000. Children below 10 years old don't require entry tickets. The ticket usually covers the charge for all attractions except the museums inside the square so you won’t have to pay anything extra after paying the entrance fee upfront.

    kathmandu durbar square tour

    Note: The ticket is only valid for one day. However, you can extend your ticket for free for the duration of your visa directly at the ticket booth.

    Guide and Tips

    If you're planning a visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip:

    • Wear comfortable shoes:  The square is a large area with many landmarks and attractions to explore, so it's a good idea to wear comfortable shoes to ensure you can walk around comfortably.

    • Respect the local culture:  Kathmandu Durbar Square is a place of great cultural and religious significance, so it is important to respect the local culture and customs when visiting. This includes dressing modestly, removing your shoes before entering temples or other religious sites, and behaving respectfully towards others.

    • Hire a guide: A local guide can provide valuable insights and information about the various landmarks and attractions in the square and can help you understand the cultural and historical significance of the area.

    • Bring cash: Some of the smaller vendors and shops in the square may not accept credit cards, so it's a good idea to have some cash on hand.

    • Be aware of your surroundings: The square can get crowded at times, especially during festivals and other events. Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

    • Try local food: Kathmandu Durbar Square is home to a variety of local food stalls and restaurants, offering a chance to try some delicious Nepali cuisine. Be sure to try some of the local dishes and snacks while you're there.

    • Take breaks: The square is a large area with many landmarks and attractions to explore, so it's important to take breaks and rest when needed. There are plenty of benches and shady spots to sit and rest, so be sure to take advantage of them.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Is Durbar Square worth visiting?

      Yes! If you have the time and are interested in learning the cultural and historical aspects of Nepal, Kathmandu Durbar Square is the perfect place to do so. It is truly the melting point of all sorts of cultures from around the country. Even if you don’t have any interest in history and culture, you can simply enjoy the vibrant atmosphere held by the square.

    • Why is Kathmandu Durbar square famous?

      Kathmandu Durbar Square is listed among the UNESCO world heritage sites. It is home to several historical and religious attractions which attract hundreds of visitors every day. Those include Taleju Bhawani Temple, Kasthamandap, Basantapur Palace, Kumari Palace, etc.

    • Is Kathmandu Durbar Square covered in scaffolding?

      Currently, most of the scaffoldings have been removed from Kathmandu Durbar Square as the reconstruction of major sites has already been completed or is in its final phase.

    • When is Indra Jatra celebrated?

      Indra Jatra is celebrated in late August or early September(Bhadra Nepali month) for eight days annually.

    • What are the major attractions of Kathmandu Durbar Square?

      The major attractions of Kathmandu Durbar Square include Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Taleju Temple, Kumari Ghar, Kasthamandap, Nautale Durbar, Gaddi Baithak, Indra Jatra, Gai Jatra, Shiva-Parvati Temple, etc. Local cuisines and culture are additions to the existing attractions.

    • Is Royal Kumari in Basantapur?

      Yes, the Kumari Ghar(palace for the royal Kumari) is situated near the south entrance of Kathmandu Durbar Square. You can catch a glimpse of the Royal Kumari if you visit the Kumari Ghar between 9 am to 11 am and 4 pm to 6 pm. Taking photos and videos of Kumari is prohibited.

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