Kathmandu, Nepal

Were you to visit the Kathmandu Valley today, it would not look like what you are about to see.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners and AirPano, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Nepal Tiger Tops (1972) by George SilkLIFE Photo Collection

This Expedition will allow you to explore a visual historic record of a part of the world with very deep roots in the past.

Kathmandu Valley

Nepal's Kathmandu Valley lies in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. 

In April, 2015, a series of earthquakes shook the valley, tragically claiming thousands of lives, destroying homes, and devastating many historically significant sites, including all of the structures shown in this expedition. Rebuilding efforts are underway in the region.

UNESCO's Seven Monument Zones

In 1979, UNESCO designated the Kathmandu Valley as a World Heritage Site, dividing it into seven "Monument Zones." Each of these zones consists of a public square that contains historically significant buildings, such as temples and palaces. 

The structures have their roots in the area's predominant religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the traditional settlements of the native Newar people. 

Mount Everest

Towering over the Kathmandu Valley is Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. Everest is infamous for the difficulties it presents to climbers, including high winds, severe weather, and altitude sickness. 

Three Major Cities.

The Kathmandu Valley encompasses three major cities, Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, is over 2,000 years old and is home to close to a million people. 

Many of the region's historic structures were located in Kathmandu, and, unfortunately, due to their advanced age, these structures were extremely vulnerable to destruction during the 2015 earthquake.

Above the Swayambhunath Stupa

This Tibetan Buddhist Stupa (dome-shaped temple) is the largest in Nepal. It is a visited by thousands of people daily who come to take a ritual walk around the temple, known as a kora.

Structure

Feel free to appreciate this temple for its beautiful aesthetic, but don't miss its deep symbolic meaning. The structure symbolizes Buddhist beliefs about the human quest for enlightenment or "nirvana."  

The white dome represents Earth. The vertical golden structure that reaches toward the heavens is divided into 13-tiers to represent the 13 stages that humans must go through on their path toward enlightenment.

Buddha's Face

Look up at the golden rectangular landing that lies between the white dome and the 13-tiered structure. Do you see a face? Each of the four sides contains Buddha's face. 

The squiggle-like symbol used for Buddha's nose is the Nepali number 1 and signifies the principle of unity. The red dot on Buddha's forehead, known as a "bindi," represents the "third eye," and is a symbol of intuition.

Prayer Wheels and Prayer Flags

The base of the central dome is surrounded by prayer wheels that are inscribed with sacred mantras or prayers. As pilgrims circle the Stupa on their ritual walk, they reach over to spin the prayer wheels. 

The colorful prayer flags hanging around the temple are also inscribed with sacred mantras.

Jagannath Temple

Located in Hanuman Durbar square, in the heart of Kathmandu, the three-tiered Jagannath temple was built in the 16th century and became known for erotic carvings in its roof eaves.

Hanuman Durbar Square

Durbar Square is one of UNESCO's seven monument zones. It is named for Hanuman, the Hindu deity who appears in the form of a monkey. Hanuman is revered for his strength, wisdom and eternal life. The square is one of Kathmandu's main gathering places and is replete with palaces, temples, and courtyards.

Is that a cow?

It's not unusual to see a cow wandering through the streets of Nepal. According to Hinduism, cows are sacred. That's why Hindus do not eat beef and use milk in many of their religious rituals. 

The origins of this belief are unclear; however, they are sometimes traced back to one of Hinduism's most prominent figures, Lord Krishna. Krishna was also called Govinda which means "one who brings satisfaction to cows.”

On the Stairs of Maju Deval Pagoda

The stairs of Maju Deval Pagoda are the perfect place to take a rest and soak in the culture and color of Kathmandu. Located in Hanuman Durbar Square, these steps are among the most popular meeting places in the city.

A Bustling Square

From your perch on the stairs, enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling public square. Watch tourists purchase marigolds, vegetables, fruits, and souvenirs from street vendors. Consider riding in one of the many rickshaws to get to your next destination.

Garuda Statue

Your perch on the steps is a perfect place to contemplate the monument to Garuda, an emerald colored bird from Hindu mythology. 

Garuda, who has a kite-shaped beak, golden wings, and four arms, rescued his mother from serpents by providing them with an elixir of immortality. The elixir allowed the serpents to slough off their old skin and grow a new one.

Sadhu by AirPano

Sadhu

Sadhus who frequent Durbar square are easily recognized by their bright yellow or orange robes. In Hinduism, a "Sadhu" is a holy person who is dedicated solely to meditation and contemplation. A Sadhu generally takes a vow of poverty and celibacy as part of his pursuit toward liberation.

Changu Narayan

Located east of Kathmandu, Changu Narayan sits atop a hill and is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was built around the 5th century AD and is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Nepal. 

This temple, though revered for its unusual architecture, does not receive many visitors.

Architecture

Notice the three stories and two roofs of this unique structure. The lower roof is made of tile and the upper roof, of gilded copper. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Narayan. According to Hindu Mythology, Narayan is one of several incarnations of the Lord Vishnu. 

Art

The temple contains many artistic carvings. They include carvings of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; representations of scenes from Hindu mythology, snakes, goddesses, and other Hindu symbols. 

The courtyard contains stone, wood and metal carvings from the 4th-9th centuries when the Lichhavai ruled the region.

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