In Nepal, any and all plazas located in front of an ancient royal palace is called durbar square, which literally means place of palaces. There are three ancient squares in the Kathmandu Valley today, each representing an ancient kingdom. They are Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square, all of which are included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. A fourth square is located in Kirtipur, but it was not preserved.
Today, the most important town square is the Kathmandu Durbar Square, which is found in the old city of Kathmandu. With its perimeters are ancient buildings that represent four ancient kingdoms, which are Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur. The oldest of these structures was built during the Licchavi dynasty, which ruled Nepal in the 4th century, and refurbished in the 9th century during the reign of the Mallas and the Ranas. This ancient town square or complex in Kathmandu is so huge it actually contains 50 temples scattered in two quadrangles. The most important structures in the outer quadrangle are the Shiva-Parvati, Kasthamandap and Kumari Ghar temples, while those in the inner quadrangle are the Hanuman dhoka and the main royal palace, which was originally constructed at Dattaraya square.
Also found inside are the centuries-old palaces of the Malla and Shah kings, and a statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, standing by the palace entrance. Some of the palaces inside are believed to have been built by King Gunakamadev during the late 10th century. Through the years, important royal celebrations including royal coronations were held in the main palace, until King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah’s coronation in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah’s coronation in 2001.
Not much has been written about this important complex, which is why its dates of construction remain undetermined. However, already identified are the oldest temples, which are those that were constructed by Mahendra Malla who ruled Nepal from 1560 to1574. The four temples he built sometime in 1564 are the Jagannath, Kotilingeswara Mahadev, Mahendreswara and Taleju temples. The Taleju Temple has a very distinct Newari kind of architecture; it has elevated platforms, making it look like a pyramid. Legends say that King Mahendra reconstructed this temple based on what he saw in a vision. The temple goddess was pleased with the king’s work as she entered the temple in the form of a bee. The temple was only again refurbished after three Malla kings, under King Pratap Malla. He was a passionate builder, which was why he built new temples, shrines and stupas all over his kingdom. Historical records claim that King Pratap Malla was a religious and intelligent poet who spoke 15 different languages.
Tourists are fascinated not only at what they see inside the complex but also by the surrounding structures. The ancient architecture vividly displays the creativity and unique skills of ancient Newari builders, artists and craftsmen that were displayed through a number of centuries. Through the years, more and more structures, palaces, shrines, temples and stupas were added and constructed inside and outside Kathmandu Durbar Square. The latest improvements and additions were made from 1846 to 1951. Today, some of these structures are off-limits to tourists