Kathmandu Newari Art And Aftermath

It is not born, and It does not die; nor is it ever that this One having been nonexistent becomes existent again. This One is birthless, eternal, undecaying, ancient; It is not killed when the body is killed. -Gita

Once in a while a longing for a spiritual richness only satisfied by natural earthly creations takes over. There have been many places in America where people have claimed the area to be the “God’s country”. With the vast valleys and immeasurable mountains that offer breathtaking views, I would think that the citizens of Kathmandu feel the same about their valley located near the Himalayan Mountains.

Kathmandu is land so exquisite that it has inspired many different religious legends, Such as, the Buddhist story of the birth of the god Swayambhu from the beam of a lotus being planted into the lake, and the Hindu version of the god Shiva, where Kathmandu valley was declared a “holy land of many holly places”. (Bell p235)

According to Thomas bell, “The moderate climate and rich soils made Kathmandu the greatest cradle of urban civilization in the Himalaya.” Currently Nepal has over thirty-six ethnic groups and fifty languages. ( Countries and Their Cultures)

The earliest inhabitants of Nepal, the Newari (people of Nepal), are responsible for the intricate architecture of Durbar square. They are most known for the multi-tiered pagoda design element. Each pagoda’s architecture is decorated with meticulous wood carvings and sculptures designed to pay homage to the gods.(Bell) The Newari chose only the fresh cuts of wood to carve as it was a valued part of their belief system. According to Vajracharya, “The use of old wood is unlikely because its use, for many reasons, would be inconsistent with Nepalese culture. Old things are not valued for their oldness, new is always better. Thus, to offer a deity something made of old wood would be thought as inappropriate as offering faded flowers. (p. 289)”

"torana is a Sanskrit word for arched doorway or portal, in Newar architecture it is used for the main entrance of a shrine"(Vajracharya)

Religious symbolism from both Hindu and Buddhist belief systems are included throughout every part of the architecture and as the key element of design in the ancient wood carvings. Design components include the Hindu swastika, Shiva's trident, Nepal’s national flower and bird. Even Political elements of the Sun, Trees, and plows and symbols for national unity the rhododendron, plumed crowns, and Knives . (Countries and Their Cultures)


On April 25, 2015 a massive earthquake nearly leveled Durbar Square in Kathmandu. According to Britannica.com, “About 9,000 people were killed, many thousands more were injured, and more than 600,000 structures in Kathmandu and other nearby towns were either damaged or destroyed.” A tragedy that took not only many beloved friends, family, and visitors of Nepal but also one of their most cherished sanctuaries.

Sometimes the things in life that contain the most beauty and spirit can be the most shattered. Although Kathmandu will need some love and care, its beauty will remain in its story, in its people, and most of all in the cracks and shards of its existence. Durbar Square’s spiritual magnificence will live on in hearts of those who choose to remember and with a bit of hope and prayer may this be a time of reincarnation for all in Kathmandu.

Works Cited

Bell, Thomas. Kathmandu. London: Haus, 2016. Print.

Ember, Carol R., and Melvin Ember, editors. Countries and Their Cultures. Vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Web. 2 Dec. 2016

Moran, Peter Kevin. Buddhism Observed : Travellers, Exiles And Tibetan Dharma In Kathmandu. London: Routledge, 2004. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 2 Dec. 2016

"Nepal Earthquake of 2016." Britannica.com. Encyclopedia Britannica, inc. Web 2 Dec. 2016

Vajracharya, Gautama. "Newari Woodcarvings." Marg, A Magazine of the Arts, Sept. 2012, p. 88+. Literature Resource Center, go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.csn.edu/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=las55353&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA307414811&asid=82d09a02ca6832b18acb70750954302c. Accessed 07 Dec. 2016

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Ann Marie Gerena

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