Nepal, Then and Now

Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art has deep institutional and personal connections with Nepal, its people, traditions, and material culture. The Museum’s collection of art, for example, includes almost 600 works of Nepalese origin. The Rubin Museum’s mission is rooted in forging sustained connections, through art and ideas, to the Himalayan region. This online exhibition continues to highlight the art objects and traditions from Nepal that are core to the museum's collection.

Nepal is at the heart of the Himalayan mountain range and is home to the famous Mt. Everest. This majestic and culturally rich region holds a special place in the Rubin Museum of Art's core collection. Many of the Museum's finest artworks were created in Nepal or inspired by Nepalese artistic styles.
Birthplace of the Buddha
Buddha Shakyamuni, the historical figure who established Buddhism more than 2500 years ago, was born in Lumbini, located in the western part of present day Nepal. He attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya, India and became a major religious teacher. This revered figure is the subject of many exquisite works of art.
Nepalese Monuments
In the Rubin Museum's collection, there are many representations of temples and sacred architecture in Nepal. Many Nepalese temples have been damaged by the recent earthquakes and some have been completely destroyed. Since such monuments have been well documented in photos and film, it is possible for us to view contemporary photographs alongside artistic representations. In this section, we've selected three important monuments to pair with related objects from the Museum.
Baudhanath Stupa
Baudhanath Stupa is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, who flock there from across the Himalayas and indeed from across the world. This ancient monument was renovated by Tibetans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and is still a vibrant center for religious devotion as well as a community gathering site and an active marketplace in Kathmandu. 

A Tibetan inscription on the back of this embroidered silk references the Baudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu. Other aspects of the image suggest it might represent another stupa in Nepal.

Swayambhunath Stupa
This major pilgrimage site is colloquially called the "monkey temple" since it's home to the majority of Kathmandu's sizable monkey population. A recent earthquake damaged one of the pillars flanking the main monument, and many nearby residents lost their homes entirely. Fortunately the stupa itself was not damaged significantly.

The presence of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, at middle left and a monkey at the bottom left identify this stupa as likely representing a specific site, the famous Swayambhunath Stupa of Kathmandu.

Rato Mccendranath Temple
This temple, located in the village of Bungamati in Kathmandu Valley, is one of the two homes of the red colored deity known in Nepal as Rato Mccendranath. This deity is worshiped by Hindus and Buddhists alike. In a yearly festival associated with monsoon, the statue of the red deity is carried from a temple in the city of Patan to this temple in Bungamati in an exciting and festive communal procession. 

This monumental work depicts the temple of Rato Macchendranath in the ancient kingdom of Patan in the Kathmandu Valley. This is one of the largest Nepalese scroll paintings in existence.

Rato Macchendranath
Nepalese Paintings
Nepalese artists, and particularly artists from the Newar group who are native to Kathmandu, are famous across Asia. The Rubin Museum collection is graced by many Nepalese paintings that represent both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Nepalese paintings characteristically employ strong red colors and often depict the patron of the artwork in the lower left corner. This painting of the Hindu deity Shiva in union with his female counterpart Shakti is a masterpiece in the Rubin Museum's collection.
Nepalese Sculpture
Nepalese artists, especially the Newar peoples of the Kathmandu Valley, are famously skilled in the arts. Newar artists are particularly renowned for their fine metalwork, as demonstrated in the sculptures selected for this section.
The Monumental Quality of Durga
The Rubin Museum of Art
Credits: Story

Produced by the Rubin Museum of Art

Narration by Gautama Vajracharya

For more information about the Rubin Museum of Art, including our Honoring Nepal installation and gallery programs, please visit

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