Monday, August 30, 2010

Hanuman Dhoka (Old Royal Palace)

Hanuman Dhoka is the former Royal Palace of the Malla kings and sequentially of the Shah dynasty. It is several complexes connected together taking up about five acres. The eastern wing of the palace was built in the mid-16th century, and is the oldest part of the palace. It has ten courtyards. King Pratap Malla enlarged the original building in the 17th century, adding many of the temples. The oldest part of the palace is Sundari Chowk and Mohan Chowk in the north part of the palace, which are both closed. In 1768, after Prithvi Narayan Shah took over the valley he built four lookout towers in the southeast part of the palace.
The palace was last lived in by the royal family until1886, when the royal residence was moved to the Narayan Hitti Palace, in the northern part of Kathmandu. The old palace still has its ritual and ceremonial importance and the King of Nepal is crowned and other ceremonies enacted here.
Outside the palace is a stone inscription put there by Pratap Malla in 15 different languages. It is said that someone can read that milk with gush out from the middle of it.
The entrance is on the west side of the palace. Open daily except Tuesday, 10.30 am to 3 pm, 4 pm in the summer; Friday 10.30 am to 2 pm. Admission Rs 250.
Palace Entrance
You enter the palace through the Hanuman Dhoka (Hanuman Gate), on the east side of north Durbar Square. To the left of the palace entrance is a 17th century statue of Hanuman. Hanuman service to Rama as depicted in the Ramayana has led to Hanuman standing by the entrance (dhoka) of the palace guarding it. Hanuman is covered in a red cloth and has an umbrella over his head. The image of Hanuman dates from 1672. His face is covered by a red paste put on by visitors. On the left is an interesting sculpture of Lord Narasimha, the half-man, half-lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu, tearing apart the demon Hiranyakasipu.
Past the doorway is a black stone statue of Lord Narasimha, the half man-lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu, killing a the demon Hiranyakasipu, inlaid with silver on the left of the lobby. Lord Narasimha was placed here in 1673 by Pratap Malla and there is an inscription of the pedestal that state they it was put here because he feared that he had offended Lord Vishnu because he danced in a Narasimha costume.
Nasal Chowk
After entering the main entrance to the Durbar (palace) next to the Hanuman Temple, you come to Nassal Chowk courtyard. Nasal means “dancing one.” The courtyard gets its name from the image of Dancing Siva, on the east side of the square. The square is used for the coronation of the king. King Birendra was crowned as king in 1975 on the platform in the middle of the courtyard.
The nine storey Basantapur Tower is in at the south side of the courtyard. The building in the south and east sides of the square have intricately carved doorways, windows, and struts.
The courtyard was made during the Malla period, but many of the building around the square were built during by the Ranas. The rectangular square runs north–south. The entrance is in the northwest corner. Near the entrance is an intricately carved doorway, which was the entrance to the Malla’s king private apartments. There are images of four gods on the panels.
There is a golden image of Maha-Vishnu in an open veranda on the eastern wall. It was originally in the Maha-Vishnu Temple in the square, but after the 1934 earthquake was moved to this location. In the northeast corner of the courtyard is the Audience Chamber of the Malla kings. In this open veranda is the throne of the Malla kings and portraits of the Shah Kings.
Panch Mukhi Hanuman Temple
This temple dedicated to Hanuman is in the northeast corner of the Nasal Chowk courtyard. It has five circular roofs. Each city of the valley has a five roofed temple, the most famous being the Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur. Only the temple priest may enter this temple.
Basantapur Tower
South of Nassal Chowk is the huge nine-storey Basantapur Tower. You can climb the tower and get a great view of the palace and city. If it is clear you can also see the Himalaya Mountains. The struts on the facade of the tower, especially those facing Basantapur Tower have erotic carvings on them. Basantapur means “place of Spring,” and refers to Kathmandu.
King Prithvi Narayan Shah constructed the four red towers around Lohan Chowk. The towers represent the four old cities of the Kathmandu Valley. There is the Kathmandu or Basantapur Tower, the Kirtipur Tower, the Bhaktapur Tower or Lakshmi Bilas, and the Patan or Lalitpur Tower.
The tower was restored before King Birandra’s coronation.
Mul Chowk
The courtyard is surrounded by a two storey building and was dedicated to religious activities. Mul Chowk is dedicated to Taleju Bhawani, the goddess of the royal Malla family, and during the Dasain festival sacrifices are performed in the center of the courtyard. This courtyard can be seen from the doorway off Nassal Chowk.
There is a small Talegu Temple with a golden torana in the south side of the courtyard. The deity of Talegu is moved to this temple during the Dasain festival. There are images of the river goddesses Ganga and Yamanu on either side of the entrance.
From the Bhaktapur Tower, from where visitors usually view the courtyard, the view is not very good and the temple can not be viewed at all.
Degu Taleju Temple
This triple roofed temple dedicated to Taleju, the family deity of the Mallas, was built by Shiva Singh Malla.
Mohan Chowk
Mohan Chowk, north of Nasal Chowk is the residential courtyard of the Malla kings. It was built in 1649. In the past a Malla king had to be born here to be able to become king. It is believed Jaya Prakash Malla, the last Malla king, had problems because he was not born here. This courtyard can not be entered.
The golden waterspout, called Sun Dhara, in the center of the courtyard, is believed to have the water from Budhanilkantha in the north part of valley, come from it. The ornately carved spout is several metres below the level of the courtyard. The Malla kings would bathe from it each morning.
There are towers in its four corners.
The small Sundari Chowk is north of Mohan Chowk.
Tribhuwan Museum
On the west side of Nassal Chowk is the Tribhuwan Museum, which contains an exhibit of items of the grandfather of the present king. It has excellent stone carvings, several spectacular thrones, jewel-studded ornaments used for coronations, weapons, furniture, wooden temple carvings, and a coin collection.
There is a re-creation of the king’s bedroom and study, which contain the king’s personal effects. King Tribhuwan was responsible for overthrowing the Rana’s rule in 1951. There are many photos and newspaper clipping that depict he escape and then his successful taking back of the throne.
This part of the palace, next to Durbar Square, was built by the Ranas in the mid to late 19th century. You enter the museum from Nasal Chowk. Cameras have to be deposited at the door.
In the southeast corner of the courtyard is King Mahendra Memorial Museum, which has exhibits in relation to the present king’s father. It has two thrones.

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