Nature to Architecture in Himalaya


People walking the streets of Kathmandu cannot fail to notice the abundance of religious buildings in the city. Temples exist near or around royal palaces, as well as at important geographical locations including the top of hills, river banks or near wells. Private temples were built anywhere and can be found in almost every neighbourhood.

The temples are sites of magnificent stone and wood carvings. Most of the stone carvings are from the eleventh and twelfth centuries and reflect the influence of Indian art from the Gupta (5 and 6th century A.D.) and the Palasena (10th to 12th century AD.) periods. Wood carvings are predominantly from the eighteenth century used to decorate pillars, door and window frames, cornices and supporting struts. Struts of Hindu temples usually contain an erotic scene which attracts speculation from visitors. The motivation for such motifs are natural; in countries where death is predominant, procreation is sacred in some respects as the embodiment of life-giving energies and fertility. Sexual union also represents the union of the individual with the universe in the Vedas which are Hindu texts.

Temples are usually one of three types; pagodas, shikaras or stupas. Stupas are exclusively a Buddhist temple, but pagodas and shikaras may be Hindu or Buddhist. Buddhist temples are almost always surrounded by a wall with a defined entrance way. A wall of prayer wheels often surrounds the temple. Whether Hindu or Buddhist, these temples are not places of religious gatherings popular within Christianity and Muslim religions but are sites of individual worship.

Pagodas (devala in Nepali) are usually square or rectangular with a simple geometric design. The base of the temple holds an image of the god honored by the presence of the temple. The temple has several roofs which get proportionately smaller with height. The number of roofs is usually odd, since odd numbers are more auspicious than even numbers. Many scholars believe that the pagoda style of roofing mimics the multi-tiered style of umbrellas held over royalty or images of deities during processions. The building is usually brick, although the foundation may consist of stone blocks. The doors and windows are wood with latticed patterns for adornment. A torana sits above the door, also of wood or bronze-plated wood, depicting the triumph of good over evil with the image of a gryphon holding in its grip a naga or kirtimukha. The struts of the temple (tunal in Nepali), carved wooden brackets which support the projecting roof eaves at a 45 degree angle, consist of a deity standing upon a lotus flower above a decorative scene, often erotic, carved upon the lower part of the strut. The struts in the corners of the pagoda often depict a roaring lion or mythical animal which conveys power. The roofs are plated with copper or gilded bronze and the corners of the roofs always turn upward. These corners end in a human or animal's head facing downward and a bird in flight on the upward slant. A metal ribbon hangs from the topmost point almost to the ground, symbolizing the path for the deity to descend to earth and people to rise to the divine. Kinkinimala adorn the edge of the roofs; unmoving bells with a thin metal clapper which tinkles against the bell in the wind. One or two bronze bells also stand near the entrance of the pagoda. Protecting this entrance are bronze or stone images of dragons or lions. Mirrors often hang from a temple wall; these are a modern addition to ensure that a woman's tika is neatly placed in the center of her forehead. Examples of pagoda style temples are the Taleju Mandir in Kathmandu's Durbar Square, the Golden Temple in Patan and the Nyatapola in Bhaktapur.

Shikaras are similar in design to Indian temples, best recognized by a majestic dome roof. Some describe the dome as an unopened lotus flower or a folder royal umbrella. The base of the temple is square with many stories of balconies. Two famous shikaras are the Krishna Mandir and the Mahabuddha, both located in Patan.

Stupas, designed as funeral mounds, usually have a cubic base with a spherical body and a towered roof. This design mimics the mandala design, a cosmic representation of the universe

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