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A Guest Post by Natasha from The Boho Chica:
There is something I absolutely love about old towns. Maybe it’s the fascinating tales of history in the crumbling walls of the buildings and occasionally in the eyes of those who still live in them. For me, there is romance in the decadence. So within a few hours of arriving in the city, I found myself in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, map in hand, eventually deciding to put it away and simply wander as I pleased.
‘Durbar’, is literally translated as palace and it was not hard to imagine the grandeur of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square in its former days of glory. Within walking distance of Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist district, the square is a good place to wander about in or sit at one of the terraced viewpoints of the tiered structures and watch how crowds of tourists, guides and locals move through the square throughout the day. The original structures date from the 17th and 18th centuries but many of these were rebuilt after a severe earthquake in 1934. The square was awarded World Heritage Site status by the UN and so attracts a lot of tourists and tour groups.
Kumari Bahal is a red brick three storey building home to the Kumari, a young girl who becomes the living goddess and presides over religious ceremonies until she reaches puberty, after which she goes back to living as a mortal and a new Kumari is chosen. The Kumari Chowk, a three storey courtyard is strikingly beautiful with its intricately carved wooden balconies and windows. It is forbidden to photograph the Kumari who makes an appearance at her window only on important religious days for the crowds that gather for a glimpse. Only Hindus are allowed beyond the courtyard. As I wandered about in the rather silent courtyard, I noticed this little drawing on one of the walls and wondered if the Kumari had drawn this, or perhaps one of her siblings or friends? Was she allowed to have friends? Life must be pretty restrictive for a young child to be treated like a goddess and kept away from modern society.
To the northeast of the square is the entrance to the Hanuman Dhoka, the royal palace of King Pratap Malla and a compound of temples. The monkey god Hanuman can be seen guarding many importance entrances in traditional structures, hence the name Hanuman Dhoka, ‘dhoka’ meaning entrance.
The Nasal Chowk is a courtyard which follows the main entrance and consists of the coronation platform in the center. Important buildings here are the private quarters of the kings, the Audience Chamber and the five storey Panch Mukhi Hanuman temple. To the southern end of Nasal Chowk is the nine storey Basantapur Tower, adorned with erotic carvings on its facade and offers fantastic views of the palace, square and the Old Town from the top.
Apart from the important buildings mentioned in most guides as well as the information booklet that you receive at the entrance while buying your entrance ticket, the lanes and streets around the area in Kathmandu’s Old Town are a treasure trove of beautiful temples, stone and wooden carvings, shrines and sculptures. Sometimes you turn around a corner to find a bright eyed deity looking at you or Hanuman standing guard wrapped in orange. Finding one of these unexpectedly in an alley is like finding your own little piece of Nepali history.
Natasha Amar is a Dubai based travel blogger happily infected by wanderlust. On her blog The Boho Chica, she shares entertaining stories of things that shock, amaze and inspire her even as she tries to challenge herself and seek deeper cultural experiences on her travels. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+