Rani Pokhari is Kathmandu’s beautiful and peaceful pond, which is also known as Lani Pukhu or Queen’s Pond. It is a serene-looking rectangular lake that is interrupted in the middle by a picturesque white Hindu temple that looks like a mosque. Pokhari literally means pool or small lake.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built by King Pratap Malla in 1667, including the artificial pond, as a gift to console his queen after their son died. Their child suffered a painful death after he was accidentally trampled by an elephant. The pond did provide a peaceful solace to the Queen, and thus it was more popularly known then as the Queen’s Pond. It was later opened to the public during the Festival of Tihar, specifically on Bhaitika or Brother’s Day. Since that time, the Rani Pokhari was known to be a pond of consolation for people who have lost their brothers, sisters or members of the family. Every year, people come here to pay tribute to a lost sibling or family member. People who don’t have any sibling at all also come on Brother’s Day to ask for blessings from the priest.
Apparently, this supposedly lovely pond also has a dark history to tell. It used to be the site of public trials during the Malla era and much later had become a popular spot for suicides. Many people have thrown themselves into the water to drown. It seemed that those who wish to die would rather die in a serene pond that was originally built to commemorate the death of the royal son. Today, the iron-barbed gate into the pond and the temple is kept locked throughout the year and opened only during Bhaitika, which is the fifth and final day of the Tihar Festival. This kind of security is observed most probably to prevent more people from committing suicide here. Tourists and visitors may only get a view of the pond from the nearby chowk or courtyard. To maintain the serenity of the place, the chowk was declared a no-blowing-of-horn area.
Rani Pokhari is not far from the city center or the world famous Kathmandu Durbar Square. It is found at the heart of the capital city, near the Bhanubhakta School, formerly known as Durbar School. Kathmandu is the center of Nepal’s tourism and religious activities. The Durbar Square is home to a number of well-preserved ancient streets, shrines, temples, stupas and the old Royal Palace. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kathmandu Durbar Square is easily the most popular tourist site in Kathmandu Valley, drawing in thousands of local, Asian and Western tourists every year. Many of these visitors easily find their way to the Queen’s Pond as well, which is quite famous itself.
Rani Pokhari offers an amazing sight in the evenings when the temple glimmers in bright light as though it is miraculous floating in the middle of the pond. The path leading to the temple also lights up with tiny golden light bulbs that look like stars floating over the lake. The temple is called Matrikeshwor Mahadev.