Taumadhi Tole, Bhaktapur
From Durbar Square a narrow alleyway runs through to Taumadhi Tole (Temple Square) which, unlike Durbar Square, suffered relatively little damage in the 1934 earthquake. The square, the real center of Bhaktapur today, lies on the city's main east-west axis, which cuts across it diagonally.Taumadhi Tole is dominated by two large buildings, the Bhairava and Nyatapola Temples. Both were erected in the early 1700s by Bhupatindra Malla. According to legend the Bhairava Temple was built to protect the city and its people. But the god proved temperamental and the shrine brought nothing but unrest. Bhupatindra sought the advice of priests who prescribed the building of a second "opposing" temple dedicated to a powerful Tantric goddess. With hope restored the king laid the foundation stone of the new temple in 1702, carrying bricks to the building site with his own hands to spur the work on to a speedy completion. No sooner was the religious symbol installed than Bhairava became pacified.History, however, tells a different story: the Nyatapola Temple was built first, in 1703, and the Bhairava Temple later, in 1717. So a more plausible legend is that Bhairava's ill-humor was prompted by the size of the mother deity's shrine and could only be assuaged by the enlargement of his own.
Since the name of the Tantric goddess remains unknown the temple is called Nyatapola (Five Storied), making it unique in the Kathmandu valley where temples are always named after their deities.Nyatapola Mandir is the tallest in the valley, rising to a height of 50 m (164 ft) on a five-tiered platform which further enhances its monumental effect. The foot of the stairway is flanked by the so-called Dvara Pallas, two legendary wrestlers Jayamel and Phattu, credited with the strength of ten men. Above them in turn come two elephants, two lions, two griffins and at the top the Tantric goddesses Baghini in the shape of a tiger and Simhini as a lion - a hierarchy of beings each ten times more powerful than the one below. Surpassing all in strength is the Tantric goddess of the temple on whose image only Brahmins can set eyes.The temple is distinguished not only by its size but also its perfect proportions and ornamental detail. The 20 columns of the veranda appear at once slender yet strong, all being beautifully carved, as are the door frames. Even more breathtaking is the carving on the 108 struts supporting the five roofs. The various forms of the Bhagawati Mahishamardini and other deities are portrayed with great artistry.
Unlike other temples, which are almost always square, the Bhairava Temple in Taumadhi Tole has the typical rectangular plan of a Bhairava or Bhimsen shrine. These are built in the style of a house, as is clearly seen from the Akasha Bhairava Mandir in Kathmandu. The worship room is accordingly not on the ground floor.The history of the Kasi Biswanath Mandir can be traced back to the 16th c. The original single-story building was enlarged by Bhupatindra Malla in 1717. After the 1934 earthquake it was completely rebuilt in the traditional style incorporating some of the old temple, a third story being added at the same time.Access to the temple is via a small shrine dedicated to Bhairava's bearer Betal. Every year Betal accompanies the god in the Bisket Jatra Festival and is accorded a brief moment of adoration. Thereafter he remains bound face-downwards to the beams of his temple, being considered an evil spirit who brings ill fortune.The 56 carved roof struts portray Bhagmati and the mother deities. In contrast to the lower roofs which are tiled, the upper is gilded and crowned by seven magnificent toranas (doors surrounded by figural decoration). Bhairava's image is located on the first floor, from where the god can look out of five gilded windows onto the square. The god's mask also appears at a window between the middle and lower roofs. During the Bisket Jatra Festival Bhairava is borne through the streets in a chariot procession.
Til Mahadev Marayan Mandir
Hidden behind the buildings on the south side of the square stands another important temple, the entrance to which is through an arch on the west side. The two-storied building is dedicated to Vishnu in the guise of Narayan. Vishnu's bearer Garuda kneels on a column in front flanked by the god's attributes, a conch and chakra.The image is noteworthy, dating from 1170. The name of the temple derives from a legend according to which the image was once buried beneath a pile of sesame seeds (til). No matter how many seeds were sold, the pile never grew any smaller. In honor of this event the statue is rubbed every year with ghee (liquid butter) and showered with sweets made from sesame seeds.On certain days the temple, which an inscription claims to be 800 years old, is the setting for the Ihi ceremony, when beautifully decked out young girls are "married" to the god. This ceremony protects women from widowhood, Narayan being immortal. A woman wedded to Narayan is in theory entitled to leave her earthly husband and to enter into another marriage should he die.
The middle of the square is graced by an old pagoda which was restored in 1978 as part of the Bhaktapur Development Project. The former shrine now houses the Café Nayatapola, from the upper floor of which the bustling square can be observed.The menu features the Nepali, Chinese, Continental standards and a portion of the profits support a local hospital.