Singha Durbar is Kathmandu’s Lion Palace that was originally constructed during the Rana Dynasty. During its name, this was the largest palace in all of Nepal. The Rana Dynasty is not ancient at all, having ruled the Kingdom of Nepal from 1846 to 1953. The country began to earn international recognition as it opened its arms to international tourism in the 1950s. In a way, this dynasty is a transition period for the country as it was during this time that the monarchy was reduced to just a figurehead. It didn’t wield as much as power as it did during the past dynasties. Rana Dynasty proudly traces its roots to Bhimsen Thapa from 1775 to 1839 who is considered one of Nepal’s national heroes.
Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital city and official seat of power. The city has enjoyed this prominent position even centuries before Singha Durbar was built and decades after Rana Dynasty ended until today. All the important tourist and religious locations are found in the capital city, as well as in the neighboring city of Patan. Both cities are found within the wide, bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley. Tourists from all over the world pass through the capital city en route their final points of destination, which most probably are to ancient temples, forest reserves or mountaintop resorts with a view of Mt. Everest and the Himalayas. These are the top tourist destinations in the country. Nepal does not have a beach or dive sites to boost its tourism industry since it is a landlocked country that is bordered by India and China.
In addition to Singha Durbar, other important structures and major attractions in the capital city are the Garden of Dreams, the huge Swayambhu stupa, Boudha stupa, Narayanhiti Palace Museum, Freak Street which pertains to the 1960 Western hippies who gathered in this street seeking enlightenment by smoking marijuana and practicing all sorts of deviant behaviors, tourist district of Thamel, Nasal Chowk or courtyard, Pashupatinath Temple which is the most important Hindu temple in Nepal, and Kathmandu Durbar Square, which is a huge complex that houses several ancient and sacred structures. Walking along Durbar Square’s ancient streets will surely take visitors to a trip back to Kathmandu’s bygone glory years. There was a time in history when Kathmandu was referred to as the fabled Shangri-La. There are more than a dozen temples and statues within the square alone. Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of Nepal’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Singha Durbar might not have deserved the nod of UNESCO but it remains as an important structure in Kathmandu. Today, it houses the government-owned Radio Nepal and Nepal Television, and the Parliament of Nepal that is composed of the House of Representatives or Pratinidhi Sabha and House of the States or Rashtriya Sabha, as well as other government ministries and offices. In the past, it used to be the residence of just the hereditary Prime Minister of Nepal.
Singha Durbar is a very distinct landmark in Kathmandu’s fast developing cityscape. It features neo-classical architecture that was popular in the 19th century. It was designed by Kishore Narsingh Rana, a respected architect during his time. In 1973, the Lion Palace was significantly damaged by fire but was reconstructed shortly after.