New City, Kathmandu
In addition to the Old City and Lower City, in more recent times areas to the east and north have been developed which here are called the "New City". Here the sights are very spread out.
Durbar Marg, constructed during the city's period of expansion under the Ranas, is the expensive face of Kathmandu. Here all the trappings of tourism are found: luxury hotels, restaurants serving international cuisine, pricey boutiques, travel agencies and airline offices.A statue of King Mahendra, father of the previous King, stands in the center of the roundabout at the junction of Durbar Marg with Jamal. The ancient settlement of Jamal was a victim of the Ranas' enthusiasm for building. The none too scrupulous rulers seized land from farmers and monasteries, demolishing an old bahal to make way for the new road. The bahal, one time abode of the White (Sveta) Matsyendranath, stood where the god's image had been found in a field, an event commemorated every year at the Matsyendranath Jatra. Shveta Matsyendranath's chariot is assembled and driven three times round the spot over which the statue of King Mahendra now presides.Also on Durbar Marg, the greater part of which was built during the Rana era, are the campus of Tri Chandra College and a mosque used by the Valley's Muslim minority.
The Singha Durbar was built in record time (one year) in 1903 by the then Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher Rana at a cost of 2.5 million rupees. When completed it was the largest private residence in Asia, a vast palace comprising 17 courts and 1700 rooms.The Durbar's monumental façade echoed the style of European Historicism, its outward magnificence matched by the sumptuous furnishings within. The reception rooms, so a visitor recalled, were "as full of stuffed animals as a natural history museum" and the large audience chamber glittered with light from a distorting mirror brought from England by Jung Bahadur. The last of the Ranas is said to have employed a staff of 1500 to maintain the palace.In 1951 Singha Durbar became the seat of Nepal's new government but in 1973 the rear of the palace was set on fire by political opponents. With the blaze fanned by a monsoon storm and flames spreading rapidly, a decision was made to blow up the middle section to safeguard the façade. The imposing front seen today is thus no more than a decorative veneer, a mere glimmer of the former splendor of the Rana dynasty.
Tham Bahal is an early Buddhist monastery in central Kathmandu. The open courtyard on the ground level is overlooked by balconies, a traditional layout for many shrines.
Mahakala Bhairava Mandir
The shrine to Mahakala Bhairava on the west side of Tundikhel was founded by King Gunakama Deva, who wished to install a guardian deity on the outskirts of his city. Hindus worship Mahakala as a form of Bhairava, while to Buddhists he is the deity invoked by the Indian sage Nagarjuna, the guardian deity of the Swayambhu Stupa and of all bahals (which often have an image of the god above the entrance). It is said that Manjuvajra, an important Tantric priest, once saw Mahakala fly over the valley. Impressed by the powerful apparition he resolved to bring the deity to Kathmandu. He erected a devotional image and charmed the god into it with a mantra. But Mahakala begged to be let free, promising to return every Saturday - which is why most devotees visit the temple on that day.Dharamsalas built as recently as 1934 encircle the three-storied temple on its platform. The devotional image, believed to be very old, is of black stone. The god wears a tall silver crown, long, discus-shaped earrings and a serpentine silver chain. He carries an axe in his right hand and a skull-topped scepter in his left. Mahakala is considered to be especially powerful and to help those who are injured or in pain.Across the street from the temple are several small votive stupas, one of which dates from the Licchavi period. They probably stood at one time within the confines of the Mahakala Bahal, the rest of which fell victim to road-building in the Rana period.
The new royal palace takes it name from the Narayanhiti Dhara, the fountain to the east of the main entrance. Steps opposite the fountain lead into the courtyard of the Narayan Mandir, a shikhara-style temple built in 1793. Although inside the palace walls, the courtyard is open to visitors. Note in particular the standing figure of Garuda, thought to have been endowed by Pratapa Malla in the 17th c.During their period in power the Ranas built several large palace complexes in the vicinity of the Narayanhiti Durbar. These are now occupied by government departments or used as offices. The massive Phora Durbar stretches across part of what is now the American Recreational Compound (for U.S. citizens as well as embassy staff) to the Yak Palace and Yeti Lal Durbar. Sections of the façade are visible above the buildings on Durbar Marg.
The large maidan or parade ground known as Tundikhel once marked the eastern boundary of the old city. It was inhabited, if legend is to be believed, by the demon Tundi, who kept the citizens of Kathmandu in a permanent state of fear. On the day of his death the townsfolk rode their horses over the gigantic corpse, an event commemorated every year in the Ghora Jatra or Horse Festival. The demon's evil spirit is said to be kept subdued by the trampling hooves. At one time both the king and the Royal Kumari would worship during the festival at the Bhadra Kali Shrine, but nowadays the Ghora Jatra has a more popular character.
The palace, Kaisher Mahal, stands at the corner of Tridevi Marg and Kantipath in the middle of a public park, "Garden of Dreams". First built in 1895 it was enlarged in 1908 by Field Marshal Kaisher, brother-in-law of King Tribhuvan, for use as a private residence. The Field Marshal's library rivaled any in private hands in Asia. Now government owned, the palace houses the Ministry of Education and Culture. There is public access to the reading rooms containing the library's collection of 35,000 old books (reference only).
Durbar Marg begins at Kathmandu's newest royal residence, Narayanhiti Durbar, a much-extended palace of the Rana period and seat of the Shah kings from 1908. The enlarged palace was consecrated in 1970 on the occasion of the then Crown Prince Birendra's marriage. Soldiers guard the gates in the high wall encircling the extensive grounds, discouraging tourists and the idly curious. The palace is open to the public once a year on the tenth day of the Dasain Festival, when the King and Queen distribute tikas to their subjects.
The Rani Pokhari or Queen's Bath was constructed by Pratapa Malla in 1670 at the junction of Bazaar Street with the boundary of old Kathmandu. Water brought from 51 sacred sources was used to consecrate the tank. On the south side the founder himself, riding on an elephant, is immortalized. A 19th c. shrine to Shiva graces the stepped platform in the center of the tank, the original temple having been demolished at the time of Jung Bahadur Rana. East and west of the Rani Pokhari stand more buildings dating from the Rana period, now in educational use.
Bahadur Bhavan was built in 1889 by Bir Shamsher, in the style of a Rana palace but with echoes of Islam. Here, in the 1950s, Boris Lissanevich opened the Hotel Royal, Kathmandu's first western-style hotel. Lissanevich, one of the first foreigners to live in Kathmandu, became well-known as a result of Michael Peissel's book "Tiger for Breakfast". The building is now occupied by the Electoral Commission.
Bhadra Kali Shrine
On the top of a small rise between Trundikhel and the Singha Durbar lies the Bhadra Kali Shrine, one of several shrines to the Nava Durgas which Gunakama Deva installed outside his city as guardian deities. This open Vaishnavite shrine stands in a small courtyard. In the grounds frequent political protest meetings and hunger strikes take place.
Tundikhel - Ghora Jatra Festival
Officially designated a Day of Sport, equestrian games and parades are held on Tundikhel, watched by the king from a platform. Bronze equestrian figures of the Ranas adorn the four corners of the parade ground. The 4000lb statues were cast in Europe and had to be brought to the valley over the mountains from India. On weekdays the square is used for sporting activities and political announcements.
A sizeable palace, the Singha Mahal, stands on a hill to the south of the Singha Durbar. Once enjoying a fine view over the Bagmati, the palace was built in 1919 by Kishor Narshing and later enlarged.
The Sundhara or Golden Fountain facing the Dharahara Tower was endowed by Queen Tripurasundari in 1832. The tower collapsed during the 1934 earthquake and was rebuilt in truncated form.