Credit Jung Bahadur For This!

Features Issue 102 Feb, 2011
Text by Amar B. Shrestha / Photo: ECS Media

The Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex, or Durbar Square, was home to the kings of Nepal until 1886. The presence of Malla, Shah and Rana architecture is a unique feature of this site. Its cultural history began with the construction of the Taleju temple by King Mahendra Malla in 1576. Durbar Square is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Monument Zone) and has 61 listed monuments dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

In 1857, the founder of the Rana dynasty, Maharaja Jung Bahadur Rana (1846-1877), returned from his sojourn of England and France, bringing back with him tons of new ideas. He was especially fascinated with European architecture. The following century (1846-1951) of Rana rule thus witnessed a virtual profusion (about 50) of white stucco neoclassical palaces, including the largest, Singha Durbar, in the capital. In Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex, too, there were important changes. In 1908, Maharaja Chandra Shumsere built the neo-classically styled Gaddhi Baithak, complete with Greek columns and white plaster. To say that it stood out conspicuously amongst the graceful surrounding Malla-period architecture would be a gross understatement!

The Durbar Square Monument Zone is still the setting for centuries-old festivals and has always played a significant role in national ceremonies, including the unforgettable coronation of the last Shah King, Gyanendra, on June 4, 2001, conducted in the aftermath of a royal bloodbath and so, amidst high turmoil and ominous tension.