The Golden Age of Nepal

The Malla period was when the Malla family governed the Kathmandu Valley, known first as the golden age. From 1201 until 1779, the Malla dynasty ruled the Himalayan Kathmandu Valley of Nepalese as the dominant Kshatriya monarchy.

This period of Nepal’s history they have started with the rule of Abhir Malla in the 12th century who slowly started to build an empire. The Malla line was of Newari descent and the family was able to rule Nepal between the 12th century and the 17th century. The period was characterized mainly by growth and development as many Malla kings took it upon themselves to develop new systems, establish great cities, and institute new methods of government.

During the Malla Dynasty, the kingdom now known as Nepal truly became a great empire. During this dynasty, the foundations for the great city of Kantipur, which later became Kathmandu, were laid. Over the course of five centuries, only certain Malla kings are accredited with significant achievements during the Malla reign.

The Malla dynasty remained in existence for about six centuries (1200-1769 A.D) after the Lichhavi era and prior to the Shah dynasty is considered to be the golden era in the history of Nepal. Kathmandu (Nepal) sought great achievements during this reign that includes most prominently in trade, commerce, culture, traditions, architectural monuments, temples, and palaces. Many such historic monuments were built, it was, therefore, Kathmandu entitled to “The City of Gods” during their period.

The City of Gods

Whether you are a visitor or native, below I have compiled nine of the historic monuments that were built during the Malla dynasty. The amazing fact is the perfection and the architecture behind these were built, in a time when engineering tools were limited. Some are connected with the myth but so far I would personally recommend each individual to visit these monumental architectural feats.

Rani Pokhari

Rani Pokhari which literally means Queen’s Pond in English was built in 1670 A.D. is the famous landscape situated at the heart of Kathmandu sandwiched between Durbar High School and Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower).

It is said that Pratap Malla built this to praise his wife who was completely in devastating grief after their son was crushed to death by an elephant. Water in this historic artificial pond is believed to be collected through various holy rivers per the Hindu religion from Nepal and India as such Gosaikund, Muktinath, Badrinath, and Kedarnath to sanctify it.

In the middle of the pond, a temple dedicated to Matrikeshwor Mahadev, a form of the Hindu deity Shiva stands out surrounded by four other small temples at every corner- two Bhairav mandirs in the northwest and northeast, Ganesh mandir in the southwest and Mahalaxmi mandir in the southeast. A large stone statue of the elephant where Pratap Malla and his two sons Chakravartendra Malla and Mahipatendra Malla ride is also situated on the southern embankment.

Unfortunately, the earthquake that hit Kathmandu on April 2015 demolished part of the temple and was rebuilt again. Although the original design has been modified by using recent engineering tools, it is a place that holds a major attraction. At the time of building, King Pratap Malla had said,” From 500 years of now I will build such a historic place that people will look at it and say how did he do it”. This is in fact true to the core. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has opened the historical Ranipokhari for everyone from 6 am to 8 am. After the reconstruction, Ranipokhari was opened for the first time free of charge.

Krishna Mandir(Temple)

Krishna Mandir is the dedicated temple for Krishna, one of the popular deities in Hindu religion which is also considered as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It was built by King Siddhi Narasimha Malla in 1637 in Shikhara style which is ideally an Indian architectural style but it is unique in its own style and considered to be the joint fusion of two different styles- aka southern Gupta Shikhara style and open multi-storied Moghul style.

The ancient tale depicts that the major reason for its construction came from a dream, where the king saw Krishna and his wife Radha at the King’s palace and ordered him to build the temple at the same spot where it stands today. It has 21 pinnacles underneath of which 3 storied temple stands out. The first floor is dedicated to Lord Krishna that consists of various stone statues of him and his two consorts Radha and Rukmani, the second for Lord Shiva and the third one to the Buddha also called Lokeshwor.

It is located at the heart of the Patan Durbar Square and is usually open for the whole year but during Krishna Janmashtami, this place is crowded with thousands of worshippers and pilgrims locally and internationally.

Typically, it is famous for the belief that it was constructed with a single piece of stone and the outstanding artistic carvings on them that recite the part of Mahabharat in Newari.

Nyatapola Temple

Nyatapola, which means 5-storey temple in Newari (the local language in Bhaktapur) is considered to be the tallest temple in Nepal was built in pagoda style by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1702 A.D. and is dedicated to the Goddess Sidhha Laxmi which is considered to be the bloodthirsty violent incarnation of Lord Durga (Parvati).

It stands about 30m high and is located at the Taumadhi Tole in Bhaktapur. The strange matter of fact is that it is still standing taller while surviving the two great earthquakes in 1933 and 2015 of the magnitude of 8.3 and 7.8 respectively with only minor destruction.

It is often praised for its construction that came along with the lack of knowledge and technologies as such this architectural monument exemplifies the extreme workmanship of Nepalese artists of that period. The other astonishing fact is that it was only constructed within a very short 5 months of duration. So, this artistically challenging historical monument enriches the cultural and traditional values of the whole nation.

In total, there are 5 levels up to the temple. As you climb up, you will see a pair of statues on either side, the first level comprises two brave men of Bhaktapur at that time Jayamal and Patta, next is two elephants, followed by two lions, two griffins and lastly Baghini and Shinghini that means tiger and lion respectively.

55 Windowed Palace

From its name, this artistic monument comprises 55 windows. This is popular for its exotic wooden artistic craft and craftsmanship, was built by King Yaksha Malla in 1427 A.D and renovated by King Bhupatindra Malla later in the 17th century.

During the ancient period, it was home to the Bhaktapur Royal family. At present, this palace has been converted into National Art Gallery and is home to several arts and artifacts.

Kasthamandap

Kasthamandap also known as Maru Sattal in Newari is derived terminology from Sanskrit that literally means “Wood Covered Shelter”. This temple was the dedication to Gorakhnath. It is also believed that the name of the capital city Kathmandu remained after this temple.

But the bitter truth is that the whole monument collapsed to rubble when Nepal was hit by the extreme earthquake in 2015 measuring 7.8 in magnitude. Now, It has been rebuilt using the same architecture, yet the vibe of the original structure is somehow missing. Yet, it is a structure that is a must-visit for the visitors.

It was a three-storied temple, situated at Maru near Basantapur, and was the largest pagoda-style monument over Kathmandu Valley with the belief that it was constructed from a single tree’s wood. The original structure had not a single metal being used for the whole temple.

Bhimsen Temple

Bhimsen(also called Bhim) is considered to be one of the leading heroes and characters in Mahabharat and is renowned for his supernatural power and bravery.  This temple is dedicated to him, who is worshipped as Lord of trade and business by Newar locals and was built under King Shree Nivasa Malla reign in 1680 A.D.  It is considered to be a Hindu shrine, and non-Hindu are not allowed to visit. It is popular for its three interconnected golden windows.

Golden Gate of Bhaktapur

The Golden Gate also recognized by Sun Dhoka (in Nepali) is the immense masterpiece in art and architecture of its kind globally. It is decorated with such beauty that any visitor will then realize the handsomeness of Nepali arts and architecture. It was erected by Ranjit Malla and is located under Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

“Lu Dhowka (The Golden Gate)” is said to be the most beautiful and richly molded specimen of its kind in the entire world. The door is surmounted by a figure of the Hindu goddess Kali and Garuda (mythical griffin) and attended by two heavenly nymphs. It is embellished with monsters and other Hindu mythical creatures of marvelous intricacy

It is in fact, the main gateway to the 55-window palace and is decorated very artistically comprising various elements like Garuda (mythical griffins), Goddess Kali, and various other Hindu deities supported by two heavenly nymphs, monsters, and other mythical creatures.

Percy Brown, an eminent English art critic, and historian, described the Golden Gate as “the most lovely piece of art in the whole Kingdom; it is placed like a jewel, flashing innumerable facets in the handsome setting of its surroundings.” 

Dattatreya Temple

It is three storied pagoda-styled temple and the oldest Hindu shrine in Bhaktapur Durbar Square believed to be built with the woods of a single tree.

Located at Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Dattatreya Temple is rich in its own myth and cultural value. It is the only temple in Nepal that is dedicated to Lord Dattatreya, which is considered to be the combined incarnation of all three main gods of Hindu- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. This historically rich monument was built by King Yakshya Malla in 1427 A.D.

The erotic carvings in the temple are not only counted as important because of their religious status but also because of the reflections of the ancient arts and architecture. Anyhow, that is knocked up in erotic ways. How could anyone explain these kinds of carvings? Could it be just the imagination or there was such a civil society back there in Nepal? Just like that, there are numerous things to ponder around Dattatraya temple.

Kumari Ghar(house) of Kathmandu

Just beside the Kathmandu Durbar Square, there stands big 3 storied  Kumari Ghar which is home to the kumaris “The Living Goddess of Nepal”. It is, therefore, the holy monument for all the Nepalese that exemplify ornate craftsmanship. Typically, it is popular for extraordinarily carved wooden balconies and windows comprising gold-crafted windows as well which was built by King Jaya Prakash Malla in 1727 A.D.

Tourists may enter through the courtyard and are allowed to take pictures where they will find the immense masterful traditional carving of gods and the symbols over doors, pillars, and windows but they are strictly prohibited to take pictures of kumari who sometimes appear at any of the windows of the first floor.

Inside the Kumari courtyard, there are numerous architects to ponder upon but they are strictly prohibited to take pictures of Kumari who sometimes appear at any of the windows of the first floor.

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