Kathmandu, Nepal: Durbar Square
Ever since the massive earthquake shook Kathmandu some months ago, I can’t stop thinking about the people of Nepal and the experiences that I had there. Nepal is one of those countries that if I had the chance and the time to go again, I would without question. Not every place that I have been gains that distinction, but there was just something about Nepal and the people there. This week, my blog will be devoted to the sites that I visited in Nepal on my trip in the autumn of 2009 and each post will end with a group, organization or charity that is working in Nepal that you can choose to help out if you feel so inclined.
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Kathmandu, Nepal is a bustling city with so many sights to see and amazing places to be.
From my travel journal on September 14, 2009:
Landed in Kathmandu airport last night. Walked off the plane to a bus that took us to a one room airport. They checked us for H1N1, I got my visa and was greeted by Rhiannon [my travel partner] with our hotel owner and a necklace of flowers.
On this hot sunny morning, we ate breakfast with our hotel owner Khem, who speaks English with an Australian accent, before we headed out to see Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, formerly known as Hanuman-khoka Durbar Square.
This square is one of three Durbar (royal palace) Squares in Kathmandu. The buildings in the square were built from the time of King Ratna Malla, 1484AD to 1520AD, to King Prithi Bir Bikram Shah, 1881AD – 1911AD. This is the largest of the royal palace complexes from the medieval period in Nepal. Unfortunately, several of the buildings in this square collapsed due to the earthquake that shook the city in April.
We met a man that offered to be our guide and I eagerly accepted to learn something about this busy fun area. First, we saw Kumari Bahal, a traditional 18th century Newari palace built by King Jaya Prakesh Malla. It was small when compared with what I pictured as a “palace” in my mind. It houses the living, earthly human goddess Kumari who was just chosen last year. She came to the window and looked down on us, we waved but she showed no reaction… she is only four. Kumari is chosen at the age of four or five from the Newari Shakya, or goldsmith, caste. She must meet 32 requirements such as having thighs like a deer, a chest like a lion, eye lashes like a cow and a body like a banyan tree. She must remain calm in a dark room filled with buffalo heads, frightening masks and loud noises. She must also have an astrological chart that does not conflict with the King’s. After these things are met, she is placed in this palace until she reaches puberty. Her feet must never touch the ground. Once she begins to menstruate or shed blood in any way, her goddess spirit leaves her body and she is placed in her parents’ home where the transition is usually difficult going back to mere mortality.
If you’re heading to Kathmandu, there are some truly amazing places to stay. Check out Kantipur Temple House an eco-boutique hotel set in a historic building allowing guests to be immersed in Nepalese culture and comfort. The Dwarika’s Resort offers amazing views from this zen inspired retreat and allows guests to see the sites while also giving them the perfect place to unwind. Last but not least, Hotel Yak & Yeti is a five star hotel that will make you feel as though you’re staying on palace grounds. Where would you want to stay?
The area was bustling with Nepalis selling everything from linens and flowers to seeds and necklaces. There were cows that were roaming or sleeping in the shade having been released by their owners when they stopped giving milk and they are now fed by the helpful hands of those in the vicinity. There were so many temples each dedicated to a different God or Goddess in this vibrantly colored town center. It was a lot to take in on our first adventure out but we were so excited to see more. It was difficult keeping all of the Gods and Goddesses straight but it became more intriguing listening to our guide explain why the Nepalis people worship each one and what they each represented…
Kathmandu’s Durbar Square was used as the royal Nepalese residences up until the 19th century and though the royal family no longer resides there, it is still used for coronations and other royal ceremonies.
Donate to Hope Worldwide and designate Nepal as the beneficiary to help with disaster relief.
Thank you for supporting HOPE worldwide‘s disaster response efforts around the world, including our current work in Nepal. With your help, we are poised to meet the critical needs of families and communities impacted by the recent earthquake. Natural and man-made disasters are affecting more and more people every year, and we strive to do all we can to help respond and rebuild in the wake of tragedy. Your gift will allow us to provide immediate relief to Nepal and to respond to future disasters across the globe.