The Garuda is a giant mythical bird or bird-like creature. It could be a man with wings or a half-man, half-bird creature. The Garuda is very important in Indonesia and is most popularly known to be Indonesian in nature, but it also takes considerable prominence in India and Nepal. There are several images of this mythical bird scattered all over Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, but perhaps the most well known is the Statue of Garuda inside Kathmandu Durbar Square.
There are three Durbar Squares or palace squares in Kathmandu Valley, and clearly the one in the capital city of Kathmandu is the largest and most important. The other two located in the nearby cities of Patan and Bhaktapur may be smaller but definitely not of lesser beauty and significance to the Nepali people. All three palace squares have been declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. This means Nepal must protect these landmarks to make sure the world’s future generations will get a chance to someday, somehow see and be amazed at their beauty.
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Kathmandu Durbar Square is home to more than 50 temples, shrines and statues that are not very far from each other and may be visited by tourists on foot. Some of the most frequently visited temples here are the Taleju Temple, Ashol Binayak Temple, Shiva Temple, Vishnu Temple and Narayan Temple. The streets inside the square are also centuries-old, which allow tourists to imagine how it was strolling along Kathmandu many centuries earlier.
According to inscriptions found within the valley, the city of Kathmandu may be more than 2,000 years old. It became an independent city only during the reign of King Ratna Malla in the late 1940s. The king began constructing several temples within Durbar Square, which included the Taleju Temple near the king’s palace. The palace and temple soon expanded and were flanked by other important religious and political structures. Two other temples built by the Malla king were the Mahendreshvara Mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva and Jagannath Mandir dedicated originally to Vishnu but later renamed to honor Jagannath.
After a century, King Pratapa Malla constructed a few more landmarks within the square such as the Mohan Chowk or courtyard and several gardens to the east of the royal palace. The other dynasties of the Shahs and Ranas all had their share of beatifying the city and constructing temples and buildings. The Shahs built Islamic-looking structures, while the Ranas’ greatest contribution was the Throne Room outside Durbar Square. It was built in 1908 after the ruling Nepali monarch visited England.
Both of Durbar Square’s Shiva and Vishnu Temples have images of Garuda. In Narayan Temple, the Garuda appears at the entrance of the temple perched on a high pillar. It is planked by the sankha and chakra symbols of Vishnu. Many of the Garuda images scattered in Nepal’s hundreds of temples and shrines are tiny and almost unrecognizable.
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Clearly, the Statue of Garuda that stands proudly in one of the busy streets in Durbar Square is the biggest of them all. The statue shows a kneeling winged man with arms in Namaste position.