Kathmandu Valley: Attractions and History in Brief
7 Monuments Listed as World Heritage Property
Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage property is inscribed as seven Monument Zones. These monument zones are the Durbar squares or urban centers with their palaces, temples and public spaces of the three cities of Kathmandu (Hanuman Dhoka), Patan and Bhaktapur, and the religious ensembles of Swayambhu, Bauddhanath, Pashupati and Changu Narayan. The religious ensemble of Swayambhu includes the oldest Buddhist monument (a stupa) in the Valley; that of Bauddhanath includes the largest stupa in Nepal; Pashupati has an extensive Hindu temple precinct, and Changu Narayan comprises traditional Newari settlement and a Hindu temple complex with one of the earliest inscriptions in the Valley from the fifth century AD. The unique tiered temples are mostly made of fired brick with mud mortar and timber structures. The roofs are covered with small overlapping terracotta tiles, with gilded brass ornamentation. The windows, doorways and roof struts have rich decorative carvings. The stupas have simple but powerful forms with massive, whitewashed hemispheres supporting gilded cubes with the all-seeing eternal Buddha eyes.
Hinduism and Buddhism co-existence in Harmony
As Buddhism and Hinduism developed and changed over the centuries throughout Asia, both religions prospered in Nepal and produced a powerful artistic and architectural fusion beginning at least from the 5th century AD, but truly coming into its own in the three hundred year period between 1500 and 1800 AD. These monuments were defined by the outstanding cultural traditions of the Newars, manifested in their unique urban settlements, buildings, and structures with intricate ornamentation displaying outstanding craftsmanship in brick, stone, timber, and bronze that are some of the most highly developed in the world.
Watch how the people of the valley still use their temples to practice rituals that have been passed from generation to generation. Enjoy the colorful festivals of the valley that involve Gods and Goddesses including the Living Goddess Kumari on several occasions. Follow the chariot processions that negotiate the narrow streets of old Kathmandu.
Visit the 7 monuments designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites around Kathmandu in 48 hours.
There is a famous folk story that narrates the establishment of the Kathmandu Valley. Long ago, during the Pleistocene era, Kathmandu Valley was a vast lake – a beautiful exhibition of aquatic flora and fauna. Around the same era, when Manjushree, a holy Buddhist Saint from Tibet, saw a beautiful lotus flower floating in the center of the lake, boundless admiration started to flame inside his heart, which evoked his devotion to hold and worship the flower.
He, then, cut the Chobar Hill which now can be seen as a deep gorge, letting the lake water drain out, leaving a fertile valley for human settlement. Later the settlement became a well-known terminal for diverse people; for devotees (both Hindus and Buddhists), Tibetan and Indian merchants, artisans, emperors, explorers, historians, hippies, according to the respective era, and – now - for tourists from around the world.
History of Culture, Religion, Arts, and Crafts
The Kathmandu Valley has always been a melting pot of diverse cultures, religions, arts, and crafts. The Gopala and Kirat dynasties ruled at the earliest periods, followed by the Licchavi (300-879 AD), who, correspondingly, developed the city with a passion, traditional art, and religious belief.
The many dynasties that ruled the valley have left a rich legacy in the form of cultural and religious harmony; the varieties of temples of Hinduism and Buddhism that are standing next to each other for centuries, diverse ethnicities, colorful festivals, and celebrations. All these can be seen within walking distance from your hotel in Kathmandu.
The Kathmandu Valley comprises three historic cities - Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur, which were once independent states ruled by Malla kings, who ruled the cities from the 12th to the 18th centuries and competed with each other to glorify their reign by building monuments and temples that showcased the craftsmanship and architectural skills of Newar artisans. It was a time when even the mighty Mongol Emporers like Kublai Khan hired exceptional craftsmen from the Kathmandu Valley to glorify their empire.
The famous Pagoda style architecture is a gift from the Kathmandu Valley to China. Now the Kathmandu Valley is home to seven sites which make the valley a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site, a reminder of the golden era in Nepali architecture.