Kathmandu, the Himalayan kingdom’s epicenter, is famous for its mixture of historical landmarks and monuments. The city’s highlights are its temples and impressive architectural monuments and landmarks, which profoundly dot every corner and nooks of the city. It sits at the height of 1400 meters and has a bowl shape- with mountains in its edges. Because of this beautiful formation, Kathmandu was traditionally known as “Nepal Proper,” filled with various exciting and unique cultures. Visitors sightseeing the Kathmandu city can experience diverse cultures coming from different parts of the country. Not to forget the old to modern traditions the city is jostling with modern technology. Thus, with a tour of the city, travelers are sure to have a fantastic experience.
Moreover, Kathmandu is a contemporary city that adorns impressive architecture and culturally rich heritage sites from ancient times.
The city of Kathmandu is a continually developing metropolitan nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. The valley was once ruled by various royal dynasties. Thus, the town preserves the palaces as the memorabilia of the royal families of the different periods. Similarly, Kathmandu valley houses many monarchical and historic structures on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. Thus, the city not only offers historical insight but is also a sanctuary for spiritual travelers. With countless temples hiding in the corners of the city, the city reverberates a solid spiritual ambiance.
A brief history of Kathmandu
When looking into the history of Kathmandu, several mythological facts about the valley pop up on the internet. Kathmandu’s cultural and heritage past sounds epic, with countless momentous events and revolutionary reforms. From the time the valley was discovered, the land has been ruled by several rulers and invaders. The city ground displays immense structures, temples, inscriptions, statues, and other artifacts that reflect Kathmandu’s growth over time. These structures harken back to Kathmandu’s illustrious past.
The history of Nepal is categorically put in three different periods: ancient, modern, and current. The study done by archaeologist’s excavations points that Kathmandu was discovered from 167 BC to 1 AD. On the same note, as per the myths, there are various notions regarding the origin of Kathmandu. Nevertheless, the most profound is the Swayambhu Purana. Legends suggest that the city was originally a Nagdaha, a deep lake, according to the Swayambhu Purana. Manjushree is said to have created Kathmandu by draining the Lake. Later, when experts researched Kathmandu, they discovered that the valley was submerged.
Various dynasties of kings and monarchs have ruled the area throughout history. Of all the eras, the Licchavi holds the greatest credit for contemporary Kathmandu. Inscriptions, sculptures, and carving are some of the Licchavi period’s contributions. It was around this time, architectural wonders thrived in the country. Alongside architectural progress, the state also saw an economic boost making the Licchavi period the golden age of Nepal. The arrival of Newars and the formation of Buddhist monasteries were also noted in this era. Newars were quite well-known figures throughout Asia because of their artistic talents. Similarly, it was in this period, Nepal successfully built a trading relationship with India and Tibet.
After the incredible period of the Licchavi era came the Malla period in Nepal. The Kathmandu Valley was split into 4 fortified cities during the Malla era: Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and Kirtipur. These were the capitals of the Nepalese Malla confederation. These states competed in the arts, architecture, and trade, which resulted in enormous growth. Since these cities were constantly in competition regarding arts and architecture, there is direct or indirect involvement of then rulers in constructing these historical landmarks. This era perceived public structures, squares, temples, waterspouts, guthis, legal systematization, plays, and performances. Additionally, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Krishna temples, and other notable architectural structures of the Malla period.
The natural topography of Kathmandu
Kathmandu is roughly oval, with a maximum width of 19 kilometers and 25 kilometers along its east-west axis. It is located in the lower Himalayas of central Nepal, surrounded by huge mountains. In its north is the famous hiking spot Shivapuri, and its east is Nagarkot- a popular hill station to view sunrise and sunset amidst the massive Himalayas of Nepal. Phulchowki Hill station is in the south, and Chandragiri Ridge in the west are surrounding hills with over 2000 meters. Kathmandu has a subtropical, continental, and semi-humid climate. Thus, due to its diverse climatic zones, Kathmandu has one of Nepal’s beautiful climates.
Arts and Architecture of Kathmandu
Kathmandu has a thriving art scene. It exemplifies a mix of traditionalism and modern art, influenced by a wide range of national, Asian, and international influences. The valley is often referred to as “a vast treasure trove of art and sculptures.” The valley’s architectural integrity is profound because of its incredible monuments and landmarks. The city thrives with temples, shrines, stupas, Gompas, chaityas, and palaces made of wood, stone, metal, and terracotta. Kathmandu is Nepal’s cultural capital, with galleries showcasing current artisans’ work and ancient art collections.
As the heart of Nepal’s history, art, culture, and economy, Kathmandu is teeming with multiethnic residents, most of whom practice Hinduism and Buddhism. Religious and cultural festivals play an essential role in the life of Kathmandu residents. Furthermore, Kathmandu has a strong hand in tourism because the valley serves as a gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas. The disastrous earthquake of 2015 ruined most historical landmarks of the city. But, they were able to retain their former glory after years of rehabilitation and reimbursement work in the heritage sites.
UNESCO world heritage sites of Kathmandu
The old trade route that went through Kathmandu between India and Tibet allowed merging creative and architectural traditions from various countries with local art and architecture. In addition, Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions have affected Kathmandu City’s monuments over the years. In 2006, UNESCO designated seven historical landmarks in and around Kathmandu as World Heritage Sites. The following is a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu city:
Pashupatinath is one of the most prominent Hindu God Shiva sanctuaries, located on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. During the famous Hindu holidays, the temple attracts thousands of worshipers from Nepal and India. Various minor and significant temples decorate the holy place and welcome throngs of tourists every day. Aryaghat of Pashupatinath is another attraction that is quite soulful to observe. Tourists visit Pashupatinath to witness cremations at Aryaghat, where Nepali people perform funeral rites for the deceased. Sadhus, Shiva’s disciples, are also a popular tourist attraction of Pashupatinath temple. Their unique appearance attracts tourist’s interest a lot.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
The historic and iconic Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. The precise translation of the term “Durbar Square” is “Place of Palaces.” In the palace complex, there are two quadrangles of the Durbar Square and has 50 temples. The Kasthamandap, Kumari Ghar, and Shiva-Parvati Temple are located in the outer quadrangle, while the Hanuman Dhoka Palace is located in the inner courtyard. Around the palace area, visitors can observe the centuries-old artworks and craftsmanship of Newar artisans. At the entrance of durbar square, there is a giant statue of Lord Hanuman, a monkey devotee of Lord Ram. The figure has a tremendous influence on locals. Thus, many call the Kathmandu Durbar Square Hanuman Dhokha as well.
A sacred site for Buddhist pilgrims, Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in the world. House stores, cafes, restaurants, and motels completely encircle the pilgrimage site. There are few monasteries near Bouddhanath stupa, where they teach Buddha’s wisdom to young monks. Also, people circumambulate the stupa chanting Buddhist mantras at all hours of the day, which is quite a nice scene to witness. Similarly, youths gather to spend quality time with their friends. Overall, it is a perfect place in Nepal to observe locals residing in Kathmandu.
Swoyambhunath, located on a mountaintop west of Kathmandu, is one of Nepal’s oldest stupas. Local devotees assemble every morning for puja and circumambulation. This is quite an exciting sight to observe for visitors. The hilltop offers a panoramic view of Kathmandu, and a trip to the Manjushree Chaityas on the next hill is worthwhile. The stupa complex is home to swarms of rhesus monkeys, earning it the nickname “Monkey Temple” by early visitors. For both Newar and Tibetan Buddhists, Swoyambhu is one of the most prominent Buddhist pilgrimage places. If you’re in the vicinity, the Natural History Museum on the outskirt of the stupa is well worth a visit.
The weather in Kathmandu
In Nepal, there are five major climate zones. The climate of Kathmandu is generally temperate and atypical, as it resides in the elevation range of 1,200 to 2,300 meters. The typical summer temperature in Kathmandu ranges between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius (82 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit). The average winter temperature is 10.1 degrees Celsius (50.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
Kathmandu has one of the favorable weather conditions in all of Nepal. Days are moderately warm whereas, nights and mornings remain mildly chill. However, temperatures might drop to 1 °C (34 °F) or below during the winter, resulting in very chilly weather conditions.
Kathmandu has suitable weather for sightseeing tours all year round. One should visit Kathmandu once and taste its timeless arts, culture, history, and architecture. Its excellent world heritage sites are must-see destination sites in Nepal. One will indeed have a splendid time exploring the epicenter of the Himalayan kingdom.