• Mary Slusser (1918 – 2017): A Personal Tribute


    We lost a prominent Kathmandu icon during the earthquake of 2015: Kasthamandap, the storied building which was then thought to be about a thousand years old, but is now believed to have existed many centuries earlier in some form. Now we have lost another Kathmandu icon, Dr. Mary Slusser, who has done so much in her long career as an art historian, anthropologist and archaeologist to introduce Kathmandu’s Newa art and culture to the world.

    It was during the initial burst of activity to salvage the ruins of Kasthamandap after the earthquake that I tried to get in touch with Mary Slusser, who had written extensively about Kasthamandap.


    This inquiry was quickly followed by Mary’s response, which set the tone of our friendship and introduced me to the personal, human side of a scholar responsible for such monumental works of Nepali cultural studies as Nepal Mandala and The Antiquity of Nepalese Wood Carving.

    What became clear in the subsequent interactions and collaborations between us was the deep passion she maintained for Nepal, even decades after having left Kathmandu. Specifically for the website where you are reading this, she reinforced, again and again, the importance of Kasthamandap as the very epicenter of Kathmandu culture. Kasthamandap was Kathmandu, and vice versa. For an article published in ECS Nepal, she had this to say about Kasthamandap:

    Kasthamandap is Nepal’s heritage defined, a witness to its history and evolution as a nation for almost a thousand years— and likely more. No other traditional building in Nepal could compete in size, antiquity or cultural impact. It must not be allowed to perish.

    But Mary Slusser had always loved Kathmandu. That much is clear from the level of dedication she put into her research, starting way back when, as the spouse of a US diplomat in Nepal, and armed with a Ph. D. in South American archaeology from Columbia University, she wrote a series of articles for the AWON Bulletin from around 1965 to 1971. This was later “published” as Kathmandu, a typed/ lithographed compendium.

    The writing style here is one of an amateur enthusiast, rather than of the powerhouse of cultural knowledge she was soon going to be: no doubt this is in part due to the nature of her audience, since these articles were intended primarily for the expat community living in Kathmandu. But her enthusiasm for the subject matter comes across loud and clear.  

    The fish of Asan Tol is a small stone relief carved in a shallow, rectangular stone basin now embedded in the macadam street where the unheeding traffic of the busy square rolls over it. Although none [i.e., no scholar] can say who actually placed the curious image here, for what reason or when, the people of the quarter tell a tale of it and include it in their daily round of worship. Like the washya dya, or toothache god, of Bangemudha Tol, it is one of the many divine specialists consulted for aid in curing specific diseases and ailments of the body, with vertigo as its special field of concern. 

    The fish of Asan Tol, so goes its origin tale, commemorates a strange happening in which a son was teacher to his father. For, once upon a time there lived in Kathmandu a renowned astrologer named Barami……

    What followed in subsequent years was a series of rigorously researched publications, first in academic journals (compiled later into a book titled Art and Culture of Nepal: Selected Papers), then in two books which have together become indispensable to studying the rich Newa culture of Kathmandu. First, in the two-volume 1982 magum opus Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Nepal Valley, she masterfully weaves the story of the valley using the twin threads of “Hindu” and Buddhist heritage, while pulling in the ancient colorful strands of the ajimas, matrikas, pitha devatas, serpents, and daemons constituting the original often aniconic, occasionally chthonic deities of Kathmandu valley, while underlying the entire woven quilt with the deeply embedded South Asian notion of Royalty which has permeated Kathmandu culture from the Licchavis through to the Mallas and the Shahs.

    This excerpt from Nepal Mandala about the Kumari cult showcases her writing style:

    To my knowledge, the Licchavi records are silent about Kumari worship. However, the late chronicles assert that Sivadeva I (A.D. 590-604) placed Four Kumaris at the crossroads of “Naubali” or “Navatol” (Deopatan) when he established the city, and that Vasudeva, an undocumented successor, placed “Kumari Gana and Naudurga” near Jayavagisvari…

    That much has been recorded in Kathmandu’s Vamshavalis since medieval times, and known to the world since the 1960s with the publication of English translations. Where Mary can go further, as she does, is in tying this together with her personal knowledge to strengthen the hypothesis that, perhaps, the Kumari cult originated in the fifth-sixth century, rather than in the twelfth century during the reign of Laxmikamadeva as is more widely believed. 

    …Considering that there is, in fact, a very ancient Matrika shrine attached to Jayavagisvari temple, itself unquestionably a Licchavi foundation, the chronicles may be correct, and reveal a previously unimagined antiquity for the Kumari institution in Nepal Mandala.

    Mary’s concern for the heritage of Kathmandu also shines through in the way she documented the (then) contemporary state of the cultural icons in Nepal Mandala. For example, the caption accompanying these pictures, from Vol 2 of Nepal Mandal (Images and Plates) reads (and one can imagine her frustration at encountering the stele lying below the truck wheel- a frustration all Nepalis should share):

    (top) A 7th c. proclamation of Dhruvadeva and Jisnugupta addressed to the citizen of Daksinakoligrama (southern Kathmandu) is ignored by their descendants.

    (bottom) The Dhruvadeva/Jisnugupta inscription, removed for road repairs, is used as a jack.



    In her second book The Antiquity of Nepalese Wood Carving (2010), Mary published stunning revelations about the tunaa’s (struts) of Medieval Kathmandu buildings. Specifically (among similar findings), Mary was able to confirm via radio-carbon dating that he following ethereal Salabhanjika (One who breaks the branch of a Sal tree) gracing one of the figural strut of Uku Baha (Rudravarna Mahavihar) was created between 690-890 AD: i.e., possibly more than 1300 years ago. That the Salabhanjika still shows off the individual strands and curls of her hair, the patterns of her thinly veiling sari, the jewelry on her head, and the details of the foliage above her, are testament to the master craftsman who created her, as was commented on by Mary herself in the book.



    Mary’s contributions are not limited to her own published research. She played an important role in ensuring that the works of Nepali academics were disseminated and recognized worldwide. She did benefit immensely in her early days from the research output of the (now much-maligned, but important) Itihas Samshodhan Mandal associated with Naya Raj Pant and (in the early days) Dhanavajra Vajracharya: that much is clear from the many references to the work of this traditional school in Mary’s publications. However, she more than repaid her debt. If not for her, the rigorously researched body of work from the Samshodhan Mandal might have largely gone unnoticed except among Nepali academics and the few International experts fluent in Nepali and/or Sanskrit. Mary also collaborated and published jointly with Dr. Gautamvajra Vajracharya, Dhanavajra’s nephew and scholar extraordinaire who still writes prolifically about Nepali culture. It was in fact, Mary who put Dr. Vajracharya in touch with Pratapaditya Pal, which resulted in the young Dr. Vajracharya obtaining a position at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  

    When Nepal Mandala was first published, some scholars criticized her for making sweeping generalizations, for loosely shifting between anthropology and art history, and for not communicating anything new in terms of the interplay between Hindu and Buddhist traditions in the Newa civilization of Kathmandu. But when it came out, Nepal Mandala was such a monumental work, so ambitious in its goal, so sweeping in its scope, so vast in having woven together art, culture, history and religion and so inclusive of the ancient motifs of Kathmandu culture (such as Ajimas, Dakinis, daemons, ghosts, etc.), that to find fault with it is to nit-pick. Certainly successive generations of scholars, literally following in her footsteps, have unearthed and modified various cultural and historic aspects of what Mary first presented, but this is a natural process in any field of study. Mary was the pioneer who told the complex, layered story of Kathmandu culture first. To this day, Nepal Mandala stands as a stupendously rich and deep assessment of Kathmandu valley culture: I can think of no later tome that can match its scope and detail.  

    When I met her in the winter of 2015, she had lost a lot of hearing and could only read large text. But her mind was as sharp as ever and she remembered details about specific aspects of Kathmandu culture as if she had just done the field work yesterday. And she still walked the 40 minutes back and forth between her modest home and the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, DC (where she was Research Associate to the end).   

    In many ways, this entire website has been made possible due to the work of Mary. Her initial scholarly study of Kasthamandap (published in collaboration with Gautamavajra Vajracharya in 1974), the detailed elevation and plans funded by Mary’s research and drawn by Wolfgang Korn, and the layers upon layers of history, religion and culture which surround Kasthamandap as explored in luxurious detail in Nepal Mandala, were the inspiration for this website.

    So thank you, Mary, for inspiring me to delve deep into the culture and history of Nepal. Thank you for making me fall in love with Kathmandu all over again. And finally, thank you for being my unofficial Guru Aama for the all-too-brief period of two years (and for kindly calling me a “friend and colleague”). Nepal will forever remember you for the light you shone on its rich culture and heritage.



    Here is the complete bibliography of Mary Slusser, compiled by Mary herself in 2015. It serves as a final testament to her longstanding and steadfast love of Nepal and Newa culture.



    Mary Shepherd Slusser


    1. The Antiquity of Nepalese Wood Carving: A Reassessment. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.


    1.  “Seeing, Rather than Looking at. Nepalese Art,” Asian Art http://www.asianart.com/articles, December 18, 2009.


    1. “Goddess or God? A Case of Stolen Identity,” Orientations 37:4 (May 2006), pp. 55-59.


    1. “The Lhasa gTsug lag khang (“Jokhang”), Further Observations on the Ancient Wood Carvings,” Asian Art http://www.asianart.com/articles/jokhang


    1. “More on Turning a Blind Eye,” Orientations 36:4 (May 2005), pp. 73-74.


    1. Art and Culture of Nepal: Selected Papers. Kathmandu: Mandala Publications.


    1. “Steaming down the Mekong,” Asian Art (http://www.asianart.com/articles/mekong/index.html).


    1. “Richesse et diversité de la sculpture Népalaise,” in Dossiers d ’Archéologie, no. 293, May 2004, pp. 46-57.


    1. “Conservation Notes on Some Nepalese Paintings,” Asian Art (http://www.asianart.com/articles/paubhas/index.html).


    1. “Treasures Beyond the Golden Door,” in Goetz Hagmiiller, Patan Museum, The Transformation of a Royal Palace in Nepal (London: Serindia Publications, 2003), pp. 103-05.


    1. “Traditional Metal Crafts of Nepal,” in Goetz Hagmiiller, Patan Museum, The Transformation of a Royal Palace in Nepal (London: Serindia Publications, 2003), pp. 118-21.


    1. “The Exhibition Galleries,” Patan Museum Guide, (Lalitpur, Nepal: Patan Museum, 2002).


    1. “Nepalese Unfired Clay Sculpture: A Case Study,” Orientations 32:7 (September 2001), pp. 71-80.


    1. Co-author James A. Giambrone. “Kuber Singh Shakya: A Master Craftsman of Nepal,” Asian Art http://www.asianart.com/articles/kubersing/index.html, April 19, 2001.


    1. Co-author Lila Bishop, “Another Luri, A Newly Discovered Cave Chorten in Mustang,” Orientations 30:2 (February 1999), pp. 18-27.


    1. Co-authors Nutan Sharma and James A. Giambrone, “Metamorphosis: Sheet Metal to Sacred Image in Nepal,” Artibus Asiae vol. 58, nos. 3/4, pp. 21-51.


    1. Contributor to Vidya Dehejia, Devi, The Great Goddess (Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery}, pp. 224-29, 232-34, 253-55, 214-15.


    1. Review of Niels Gutschow, The Nepalese Caitya: 1500 Years of Buddhist Votive Architecture in the Kathmandu Valley, with drawings by Bijay Basukala and an essay by David Gellner  (Lumbini International Research Institute Monograph Series 1). Stuttgart/London, Edition Axel Menges, 1997. 328 pp.: 593 illustrations.  In Artibus Asiae 58:1/2, pp 154-58.


    1. Review of Masahide Mori and Yoshiko Mori, trans. Rolf W. Giebel, The Devimahatmya Paintings Preserved at the National Archives, Kathmandu, (Bibliotheca Codicum Asiaticorum 9), Tokyo, The Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies for Unesco, The Toyo Bunko, 1995, in Artibus Asiae 57:3/4 (1997), pp. 363~64.


    1. “The Museum Behind the Golden Door,” Orientations 28:10 (November 1997), pp. 53-56.


    1. “Dry-Lacquer or Clay? Preliminary Notes on a Neglected Nepalese Sculptural Medium,” Contributions to Nepalese Studies, vol. 23, no. 1 (January 1966), pp. 11-33.


    1. “Vishnu and the Kings of Nepal,” Asian Art and Culture, vol. 9, no. 3 (Fall 1996) pp. 8-29.


    1. “The Purandi Hoard: Eleventh-century Metalwork from Nepal,” Artibus Asiae, vol. LVI, no. 1/2 (1996), pp. 95-143.


    1. Review of Raimund O.A. Becker-Ritterspach, Water Conduits in the Kathmandu Valley, New Delhi, 1995 in Artibus Asiae, vol. LVI, 1/2, pp. 177-81.


    1. “The Art of East Asian Lacquer Sculpture,” Orientations, vol. 27, no. 1 (January 1996), 16-30.


    1. “Paubha: Nepalese Painting on Cloth 1200-1600,” The Dictionary of Art (London, Macmillan).


    1. “Nepalese Architecture A.D. 300-1200,” in The Dictionary of Art (London, Macmillan).


    1. “The Art of Nepalese Woodcarving,” The Dictionary of Art (London, Macmillan).


    1. “Preliminary Notes on an India-import Scroll from Nepal,” 431-44, in Siegfried Lienhard ed., Change and Continuity; Studies in the Nepalese Culture of the Kathmandu Valley (Alessandria: Edizioni Dell’Orso, 1996).


    1. “Mustang: An Exhibition of Paintings and Photographs in Nepal,” Asian Art (http://webart.com/asianart/mustang).


    1. “The ‘Spice Goddesses:’ Notes on a Tibetan Painting,” Archives of Asian Art. vol. XLVI, pp. 53-62.


    1. “A Document on Himalayan Painting,” Artibus Asiae vol. 52, nos. 1/2 (1992), pp. 119-30.


    1. “An India-import Devi Mahisasura-Mardini Scroll from Nepal,” South Asian Studies 6, pp. 43-69.


    1988a. “Religious Syncretism in Nepal: Art and Belief,” in The Countries of South Asia: Boundaries, Extensions and Interrelations, Proceedings of the South Asia Seminar, University of Pennsylvania 1982-1983 111, pp. 63-67.


    1988b. “Bodhgaya and Nepal,” in Bodhgaya, Site of Enlightenment, ed. J. Leoshko, Bombay/ Marg Publications, pp. 126-42.


    1987 “The Cultural Aspects of Newar Painting,” Heritage of the Kathmandu Valley, Proceedings of an International Conference in Liibeck, June 1985, eds. N. Gutschow and A. Michaels, Nepalica vol. 4, pp. 1-15.


    1985a. “On a Sixteenth-century Pictorial Pilgrim’s Guide from Nepal,” Archives of Asian Art, vol. 38, pp. 6-36.


    1985b. “The Nepalese Collections [of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art],” Arts of Asia (Nov-Dec), pp. 90-101.


    1982a. Nepal Mandala; A Cultural History of the Kathmandu Valley, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 2 vols.


    1982b. “More on the Nepali Cultural Heritage,” The Rising Nepal, Kathmandu, June 4.


    1. “Nepalese Caityas as Mirrors of Medieval Architecture,” in The Stupa its Religious, Historical and Architectural Significance, eds. A. Dallapiccola and S. Zengel-Avé Lallemant, Wiesbaden.


    1979a. “Indresvara Mahadeva: A Thirteenth-century Nepalese Shrine,” Artibus Asiae vol. 41, nos. 2/3, pp. 185-225.


    1979b. “Serpents, Sages, and Sorcerers in Cleveland,” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. LXVI, no. 2 (February), pp. 67-82.


    1975-6. “On the Antiquity of Nepalese Metalcraft,” Archives of Asian Art, vol. 29 (1975-1976), pp. 80-95.


    1. “The Saugal-tol Temple: Further Notes on the Shrine and its Sculptures,” Contributions to Nepalese Studies, vol. 2, no. 1 (February), pp. 39-45.


    1. “Jogini of the Sword, A Visit to Her Shrine,” Vasudha, vol. 15, no. 2 (April-May), pp. 20-27.


    1. “The Wooden Sculptures of Nepal,” Arts of Asia, vol. 4, no. 5 (September-October), pp. 51-57.


    1. “Nepali Sculptures – New Discoveries,” in Aspects of Indian Art, ed. P. Pal, Leiden, pp. 93-104.


    1. 1972. Kathmandu: A Collection of Articles (Reprinted from AWON Bulletin), Kirtipur, Tribhuvan University Press, Nepal.


    1. “An Introduction to the Languages and Scripts of the Kathmandu Valley,” Nepal Review, vol. 2, no. 10, pp. 459-62.


    1. “Itum-bahal: A Famous Vihara of Kathmandu,” Swatantra-visva, vol. 7, no. 7, pp. 38-42.


    Jointly with Gautama Vajracharya


    1974a. “A Newly Discovered Garuda Image, Kathmandu, Nepal,” Artibus Asiae, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 292-294.


    1974b. “Two Medieval Nepalese Buildings: An Architectural and Cultural Study,” Artibus Asiae, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 169-218.


    1973a. “Some Nepalese Stone Sculptures: A Reappraisal Within Their Cultural and Historical Context,” Artibus Asiae, vol. 35, nos. 1/2, pp. 79-138.


    1973b. “Some Nepalese Stone Sculptures: Further Notes,” Artibus Asiae, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 269-270.


    All images (except for the cover of Kathmandu: A Collection of Articles by Mary Slusser”) from The Antiquity of Nepalese Wood Carving:  A Reassessment by Mary Shepherd Slusser, Fig 40 (p. 47). Available here.

  • Day 730: A Status Check

    Kasthamandap fell two years ago. There has recently been a groundswell of enthusiasm from local residents to rebuild this iconic monument. But there are no concrete plans, engineering-vetted architectural drawings, or timelines yet. Meanwhile, the Government (Department of Archaeology and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office) is shamefully absent from the scene, after some disastrous, abortive plans towards reconstruction last year, which was loudly and rightfully criticized by locals, as well as national and international experts. We sincerely hope that the enthusiasm generated by recent local efforts leads to a speedy reconstruction of Kasthamandap, a world heritage site that should rightfully be a symbol of the locality, of the Kathmandu valley, and indeed, of all Nepal. 

    To mourn the second anniversary of the fall of Kasthamandap, we present a poignant sketch of the monument drawn by Desmond Doig in the 1970s.




    Image from “Down History’s Narrow Lanes: Sketches and Myths of the Kathmandu Valley” by Desmond Doig and Dubby Bhagat, Braaten Books, 2009.

  • First Documented Mention: 1135 CE (Major Update)

    In Artibus Asiae Vol. 70, No. 2 (2010), Jinah Kim writes about a Pancharakshya manuscript copied in Kathmandu in the year 1135 CE. In her article, and in a stellar follow-up 2013 book titled “Receptacle of the Sacred” (a must-read for any scholar or amateur interested in the South Asian cult of manuscripts), Ms. Kim writes about the colophon of the manuscript, which contains the phrase “Kasthamandap”. However, a clear picture of the colophon page, as well as a complete transcription/ translation of the colophon, has been unavailable to date.

    The manuscript in question is in the collection of the San Diego Museum of Art in the United States. We have been fortunate enough to locate and photograph this manuscript (Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, Catalog number 1990.156, where it is cataloged as being copied in 1138 CE, but we have reason to believe 1135 CE is the correct dating based on two of Ms. Kim’s writings).  We present here a high resolution image of the colophon page (Folio 102 verso). This is followed by a transcription and translation of the colophon, kindly provided by eminent Newa scholar Mr. Kashinath Tamot.

    Folio 102 verso of the Pancharakshya manuscript, 1135 CE

    Detail of the folio containing the mention of Kasthamandap



    iti tatra buddhānāṃ buddhānubhāvena devatānāṃ ca devatānubhavena mahatī iti vyupaśānteti ||

    [[āryamahāmantrānusārinīmahāvidyārājñī samāptā]] ||

    ? deya dharmoyaṃ pravaramahāyāyinaḥ śrīkāṣṭhamaṇḍape |

    paścimarathyāyāṃ śrīkṛ(4)ṣṇaguptamahāvihārādhivāsī |

    śākyabhikṣu śrīānandabuddhināmnā yadatra puṇyan

    tad bhavatvācāryopādhyāyamātāpitāpūrvaṅgamaṃ

    kṛtvā sakalasatvarāser anuttarajñānaphalāptaya iti ||

    samvat ā lṛ hṛ pauṣakṛṣṇapratipadi puṣyanakṣetre budhadine |


    śrīmad indridevasya vijayarājye likhitam idaṃ pañcarakṣāpustakam iti ||



    This Pañcarakṣā is donated by Ānandabuddhi Śākyabhikṣu, the follower of Mahāyāna, residing Kṛṣṇagupta Mahāvihāra at Paścimarathyā in Kāṣṭhamaṇḍapa. It was scribed during the reign of the king Indradeva [text reads “Indrideva”] on Wednesday, first lunar day of waning moon of (the month of) Pauṣa, in puṣya constellation, (in the era) ā (200) lṛ (50) hṛ (5), that is, in NS 255 (1135 CE).

    Hitherto, historians have recognized that the iconic tiered structure of Kasthamandap (Maru Sattal) existed as far back at 1143 CE, based on a mention of the name in a Namasangiti manuscript stored in Tibet’s Saskya Monastery  (discussed here).

    With the evidence of the San Diego manuscript in hand, the documented existence of Kasthamandap can now be pushed back a further eight years, to 1135 CE.

    Even more tantalizing is the possibility that Kasthamandap existed as far back as 1090 CE, as reported by Mary Slusser and Gautam Vajracharya in a 1974 journal paper (also discussed here). Unfortunately, this possibility has not been substantiated yet, due to lack of access to the Astasahasrika-Pragyaparamita manuscript reportedly copied in 1090 CE. But until the day we locate the elusive Pragyaparamita manuscript, we can pause and marvel at the fact that the venerable Kasthamandap existed at least 881 years ago in 1135 CE, and maybe more.

    The colophon is also valuable in that it identifies a hitherto unknown Buddhist monastery, the “Krishnagupta Mahavihar” which was apparently in the vicinity of Kasthamandap, besides a road named “Pascimarathya” (Western wide road for chariots). Neither the monastery, nor the road has been identified elsewhere in the corpus of Nepali historic material to date. Mr. Tamot does mention that the Western wide road could have been used for Pachali Jatra or Upaku Wanegu (the annual funeral procession around Kathmandu). This is an area ripe for future academic research.

    The San Diego manuscript described above is stored with two elegant painted book covers (see below). The story of the book covers, with their curious history, must be saved for another blog post in the future.



    We thank Mr. Kashinath Tamot for the transcription and translation of the 1135 CE Pancharakshya manuscript colophon. We thank Ms. Marika Sardar, Associate Curator for Southern Asian and Islamic Art, for generously providing access to the Pancharakshya manuscript.


  • Day 365: A Status Check

    April 25, 2016 marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating first earthquake of 2015 that caused the complete and total collapse of Kasthamandap. An article in the latest issue of ECS Nepal (here) summarizes all efforts and plans aimed at rebuilding the landmark Kathmandu monument.

    The bottom line: no concrete plans, no timelines, no official response to the alarming UNESCO report highlighting the need for sub-surface archaeology at the site, no published budget, no professionally executed architectural plan that ensures earthquake resilience and respects local building traditions, no earthquake modeling/simulation studies, and no commitment from national or international agencies toward funding the project.

  • Historic Record

    Kasthamandap is no more. What is perhaps almost as unfortunate is that a majority of Nepalis believe Kasthamandap was build many centuries after its actual construction. For this reason experts, journalists, and city-dwellers have not lamented Kasthamandap’s loss to a great extent, even as we approach the two months mark of the great 2015 earthquakes (Michael Hutt is the exception, here and here). But the fact remains: Kasthamandap was easily the oldest standing public structure of any kind (temple, sattal, darbar, pati, etc.) in the valley, dating back to at least 1143 AD. While much of the building interior and facade was no doubt renovated over the intervening centuries, experts believe the large platform (mandap) and the enormous four wooden columns most likely date back to the original construction. 

    That makes Kasthamandap around 900 years old at the time of the 2015 earthquakes. If we do not restore Kasthamandap, and search for the historic treasures within, we will lose a part of our heritage and a part of our identity, forever.

    The mis-information about Kasthamandap’s much younger age stems from 19th century Kathmandu vamsavalis, which without fail, and for some inexplicable reason, credit Laxmi Narsingh Malla (ruled 1621-1641)  for the establishment of this monument. The rigorous Samsodhan Mandal had correctly established the antiquity of Kasthamandap more than 25 years ago in the book इतिहास सम्सोधनको प्रमाण प्रमेय (जगदम्बा प्रकाशनमाला २७) [Hyoptheses and Proofs from Historical Research, Jagadamba Publication Series 27, out of print].  However, the incorrect, later dating has unfortunately been cited and perpetuated in most Nepali and Western publications, unfairly denying Kasthamandap the fame it deserves because it is “only about 400 years old.”

    There is now talk about restoration of the more popular structures in Kathmandu Darbar Square (Upper floors of Basantapur tower, a devastating loss in itself, Trailokya Mohan, build at least 537 years later, and the iconic Maju Dewal, build at least 549 years later). But nobody seems too concerned about Kasthamandap’s fall, or about the makeshift tents build right atop the uncleared and unsorted rubble more than a month after the devastating earthquakes.

    Let us, then, recollect the established historic evidence of Kasthamandap’s antiquity and act immediately to seek out what remains, and to restore this pavilion back to its magnificence.

    First undocumented mention of the Kasthamandap pavilion: 1090 AD (Nepal Sambat 210)

    Luciano Petech in Mediaeval History of Nepal mentions an unpublished manuscript account, according to which the Kasthamandap sattal existed already in 1090 AD, in the reign of Harsadeva (ruled about 1085 – 1099 AD). But Petech gives no reference or evidence. The manuscript in question is perhaps the same as Astasahasrika-Pragyaparamita, another manuscript dated to 1090 AD, and (as of 1974) in possession of a guthi associated with Kasthamandap (Slusser and Vajracharya, 1974). This manuscript apparently contains details of the 1090 AD date, but was not made available for study.

    Could the guthi manuscript have survived the earthquake by being housed elsewhere? If so, can we confirm the Kasthamandap reference in it now?

    First confirmed mention of the name Kasthamandap: 1143 AD (N.S. 263)

    The polymath Rahul Sankrityayan, traveling under great duress to Tibet in 1936, found in the Saskya Monastery a worn-out palm-leaf copy of a manuscript called Namasangiti. The colophon of this manuscript contains the word SriKasthamandape and is the first confirmed record of the name “Kasthamandap” to date.  According to Petech, this colophon and transcription was completed in Brahma Tol, Kathmandu in “the last hours of Friday, September 24th, 1143” during the reign of Narendra Deva and somehow made its way into Tibet.

    देयधर्मोय यानयायिन्या परमोपासिका श्रीकाष्टमण्डपे केलाच्छच्छे मल्लनर्सिंहस्य।।०।।
    महाराजाधिराजपरमेश्वरपरमभटारकश्री नरेन्द्र देवस्य विजयराज्ये ।।

    सम्वत् आचू ३ अश्वनि शुक्ल पूर्णमासायां शुक्रदिने मल्हनर्सिंहस्य नामसंगीति पुस्तक सम्पूर्णमिति।।
    श्री स्यं ब्रम्हामायामातीकी ग्वल पूर्ववत विध्यमस्थानाद्धि वासी वनिकपुत्र विसुध्रजीयेन  लिखितं।।

    It is not illogical to assume that the place name Kasthamandap (literally, “wooden pavilion”) was derived from the large sattal of the same name that dominated the Maru Tole area of Kathmandu. It is also not illogical to claim that the construction of the building itself preceded the first recorded mention in 1143 AD by many years. The geographic extent of Kasthamandap was originally limited to the area around the sattal, but eventually grew to cover the entire northern city (Yambu), and by the fourteenth century, the unified Kathmandu city.

    Oldest copper-plate inscription attached to Kasthamandap: 1333 AD (N.S. 454)

    This copper-plate inscription, affixed to the high struts of Kasthamandap, is the oldest physical record that directly links the name with the pavilion.

    ॐ स्वस्ति श्रीयोस्तु सम्बत् ४५४ मार्गशिर बधि ११ यंगल श्रीतृभयछयं पांचालि
    भह्नाह्नस सुदिस श्रीत्याछ तवतवमी संमतन जुर उदैशन थितिलोपन
    याङ थाक्र थितिथिरा रपरंगा भाष थ्वते जुर् वं।
    श्रीपांचालि भह्नाह्नस श्रीगछे त…

    Yangal is the old Nepal Bhasa (Newari) name for the southern half of Kathmandu. Tribhaya chem translates to “building of the three royal families” and probably points to use of the sattal as a royal council hall by all three contemporary states: Yangal, Yambu and a third that is obscure (possibly Vaidyagram or Vaid). Panchali is a reference to Lord Pacali, who is “petitioned as the divine witness to a political pact and made guardian of certainfunds deposited as a gage in his temple, the sattal” (Slusser and Vajracharya, 1974). In typical Kathmandu style, the building was probably both a shrine and a public pavilion in the early days. Pachali Bhairav is a much revered deity particular to the southern half of Kathmandu to this day.

    This copper-plate is valuable not only because of its antiquity.  It is also one of the first records of the use of Nepal Bhasa (along with Sanskrit) in court-sponsored writing, and captures a medieval Kathmandu transition during which manuscripts and inscriptions slowly changed from being fully in Sanskrit (Licchavi era) to being mostly in Nepal Bhasa (end of the 15th century).

    Is this copper-plate, a priceless capsule that records so much of Kathmandu’s rich history, still buried under the rubble of Kasthamandap? Will it suddenly appear in the international black market for antiques many years from now and fetch an astounding price? By then, would the Nepal Earthquakes themselves have faded into the recesses of our collective memory as yet another episode of Kathmandu’s history? Should we care more about the disappearance of this piece of history?

    In addition to the royal family, Pachali and public resthouse connections, Kasthamandap also has long-standing Buddhist associations. As of 1974, a Buddhist guthi still performed Panchadana [five givings] during Bhadra Chaturdasi at the site, during which is displayed, among other things, the Astasahasrika-Pragyaparamita manuscript from 1090 AD mentioned above.

    Will there be a Panchadana at Kasthamandap during this year’s Bhadra Chaturdasi (August, 2015)? If so, will the manuscript be on display again?

    Kasthamandap Copper-plate inscription of 1379 AD (N.S. 499)

    This copper-plate inscription was nailed to Kasthamandap high overhead in an almost inaccessible place on the beams. According to M. Slusser, by 1974 the actual copper-plate was blackened and warped but she provides an english translation which is reproduced below (the incomplete original was published in Sanskrit Sandesh Vol 1, No. 6 but is unavailable to us at present):

    In N.S. 499…the Hariganas [followers of Hari (= Siva), i.e., the Kapalikas] received this building of Yamgala by order of Jayasthiti Malla…from this day it was theirs…It is given by the king.”                (Slusser and Vajracharya, 1974)

    In 1379, then, King Jayasthiti Malla had gifted the Kasthamandap sattal to Guru Gorakshyanath and his Nath followers. The Nath cult originated in ancient times and worshipped Shiva, and was an extremist branch of Pashupat ascetics called Kapalikas. The Nath cult, and veneration of Gorakshyanath, flourished in the Kathmandu valley between 1367 AD and early sixteenth century.

    Gorakshyanath is believed to have traveled to Kathmandu himself. There is no doubt that his arrival was warmly received by valley dwellers who always had a soft spot for Shiva, who had decided to patronize their enchanted little valley in the form of Lord Pashupatinath. On a side note, a small and then-insignificant hill state to the west of the Kathmandu valley (Gorkha) had also incorporated Gorakshyanath as their patron saint.

    Descendants of the Nath yogis, popularly called kanphatta, still lived within Kasthamandap as of 1966, when they were evicted for renovations. The Kusale caste of Kathmandu also trace their origins to the Nath sect.

    In keeping with  another Kathmandu theme, Gorakshyanath himself is considered a disciple of Matsyendranath, who is associated as closely with the Buddhist pantheon as he is with the Hindu one, and plays such a monumental role in Kathmandu history and culture, that the subject cannot be done justice to in these pages.

    The stone statue of Guru Gorakshyanath that adorned the center of the main floor of Kasthamandap was probably a gift from Jayasthiti Malla dating to the same occasion. Gorakshyanath is usually represented only in symbolic form, with his paduka (imprint of feet). The stone statue therefore is extremely rare, and is one of only two such images in the Kathmandu valley.  The signature slit ear of kanphata yogis is clearly evident in the statue.

    The post-earthquake status of this rare and precious historic statue is unknown. Did it survive for being made of stone and not delicate copper?

    As for the 1379 AD copper-plate itself, it was already significantly damaged pre-earthquake, and  is now probably lost forever amidst the ruins of Kasthamandap.

    Inscription on a copper pot hanging in Kasthamandap, 1417 AD (N.S. 537): 

    श्रीयंग्रमंन्दोसं निरकंथवंको जोगिभरादत्वं…
    थ्व कोणेन फलके कुरछे धारे…सम्बत् ५३७ आषाढ कृष्ण।।
    आमावस्याया तिथ्व।। प्वक्ष नक्षत्र।।
    …जोगे सनिचरवासरे।। 

    In the mandap of Sri Yangal, fill this pot and give two maanas of chiura [beaten rice] to the jogis who have pilgrimaged to Gosainkunda…

    This inscription, in an interesting but utilitarian location, emphasizes the continued importance of the Kanphatta Yogi cult in contemporary Yangal [Southern Kathmandu]. The pilgrimage to Gosainkunda, still very important in the lives of many valley dwellers, is respected here by arranging food for pilgrims upon return form the arduous journey.

    Kasthamandap Copper-plate inscription of 1423 AD (N.S. 543):

    शुभ।। स्वस्ति।। श्रीश्रीश्रीपशुपति भट्टारकस्य पादपंकजपराग बहुलकीर्ति: तस्यपाद पद्मोपजीविन: रघुवंशावतार
    अन्धकार कलजगर्जति: श्रीमत श्रीश्रीमनेश्र्वावरलब्ध प्रसाद विराजमान: श्रीश्रीराघव कुल कमल प्रकाशितस्य श्री…
    [four more Sanskrit lines of titles attesting the ruling king Jayajyoti Malla’s devotion to Pashupati and Maneswari]

    यकं जाव तव दाक मदेतीप हख तोते तावत थिर याङ लोपा लोपी मयक थ्वविक्षेप पत्र थिर काल ला
    याङा दुन्त (ध)थत चोसत भया जुरो ह(त)त पत्र केन कश्र्चित लोपयित्वा महारौरव नरके प्रतिप्रतयेत: कदाचि…

    [three more lines of mixed Nepal Bhasa and Sanskrit]

    This copper-plate inscription was also attached to front wall of Kasthamandap in the reign of Jyotir Malla. Petech notes that the plate was written in Patan, then brought to Kathmandu, and that the date was verified for Friday, June 18, 1423. When Kasthamandap fell, this copper-plate was 592 years old.

    Kasthamandap Copper-plate inscription of 1465 AD (N.S. 585):

    ॐ नम: श्रीगोरक्षनाथाय।।
    अनादि परमंब्रम्ह निष्कलं स चराचरं।।
    ध्यायन्ते योगि नोनित्यं गोरक्षं प्रणामाम्यहं ।।
    प्रासादकाष्ठ…स्वर्णध्वजालंकृत मण्ड
    पोयं योगीश्वराणां निवसन्ति नित्यं, श्रीयक्षमल्ल: प्रभुराजते∫सौ।।

    …[six lines in Sanskrit]…

    अथ नेपाल भाषा लिववुरोव़ ९ थ्वछुया वरसा नन गुठिस्यं वशवे जुरो।
    जाके फं ४० थ्व केफं ६० माष फं ४ चि चेकन हलडि यालो फं १६ थ्वति प्यन्त ५ के फं २ खा व्याय फं ३
    …प्यंवा श्र्वंशीन भाखा ग च्छिवोन गुठियात जुरो।
    सम्वत् ५८५ आषाढ कृष्ण आमावाश्या कोन्हु जुरो थ्वकुन्हु प्रतिवष पूजा विय जुरो।।
    शुभमस्तु सब्वर्दा सब्वर्दा।।

    This copper-plate inscription was created during the long and prosperous rule of Jayayakshya Malla and was attached to the front wall of Kasthamandap. It invokes Gorakshyanath and names the pavilion as a residence of yogis who are entrusted with its care. Petech give the date as July 23, 1465.

    Also of interest is that the switch to the vernacular is indicated with “Nepal Bhasa” (and not with “Newari” or something else) directly in the inscription.

    Kasthamandap Copper-plate inscription of 1485 AD (N.S. 605):

    ॐ शुभ स्वस्ति श्रीश्रीजयरत्नमल्ल श्रीश्रीजयअरिमल्ल देवस्य विजयराज्ये ।।
    अद्य वाराहकल्पे, वैवश्र्वतमन्वन्तरे, श्रीकलिजुगे, जम्बुदीपे।
    भरतखण्डे हिमवत्पादे वासुकिक्षेत्रे, श्रीनेपालदेशे, पशुपति सन्निधाने, वाग्मत्या:
    पश्चिम्कूले विष्णुमत्या पूर्वकूले, इहैव स्थाने, श्रीकाष्ठमण्डपनगरे,
    श्रेयो∫स्तु सम्वत् ६०५ अश्विनिशुक्लचतुर्थ्यायान्तिथौ। अंगारवासरे।
    भाषा सिवलितिन लिलावरङाव जोगी भलादत्वंसकल लिथ्यनङाव,
    चक्र बिययातं किटनद्वंबू रोव ४ तलपतिसमत। थ्व बूया वाससन द्वथ्यम्
    ब्रषम्प्रत्ते बसवम् चक्र बिम्य निस्त्रप निर्ब्वाहरप यन्जमाल।

    Yet another copper-plate inscription attached to front wall of Kasthamandap. The opening line suggests two of Yakshya Malla’s sons, JayaRatna and JayaAri Malla, were joint rulers of Kasthamandap at that time. Then follows an expansive and eloquent description of the location of Kasthamandap, the city: one can see that the Kasthamandap-nagar of the period was bounded by the western banks of Bagmati and the eastern banks of Bishnumati. By 1485, then, the prior Yangala/Yambu sectors had morphed into a single city-state and had adopted the sattal’s name as its own.

    The inscription further describes arrangements for a talapati to use money from guthi land to feed Natha yogis who had returned from the arduous pilgrimage to Gosaikunda, and were living in Kasthamandap as described in an earlier section. Talapati is a Licchavi-era term for a district-level governor, and the title seems to have survived many centuries into the Malla era, perhaps losing some of its authority along the way (per D. Vajracharya, 1965).

    All of this rich, multi-faceted history of our precious little valley is captured in a 530 year old copperplate inscription that is now crushed and lost in the rubble of Kasthamandap. Should we search for it?

    Kasthamandap gold-plated Copper inscription of 1512 AD (N.S. 632):

    ॐ स्वस्ति ॐ नम: ॐ नम: गोरक्षनाथाय।।
    स्वस्ति श्रीनेपालेश्वर श्रीश्रीजयरत्नमल्ल देवस्य विजयराज्ये
    काष्टमण्डपस्थानस प्रतिबर्ष जोगिचक्र दयके यातं दानयाङा भाख थ्वते।।
    … सुवर्णद्वयकर्षाधिक चतु:प लांकित चूर्णकालालुँ प्लक्रख  [should be कर्ष?]२ थ्वतेया व्याजन वर्षम्प्रत्ते…

    This gold-plated inscription in copper was also attached to the front wall of Kasthamandap, in the reign of Ratna Malla. This inscription refers to pla and karsha (“four pla plus two karsha of gold dust…”). This is significant as these coinage denominations (pla and karshapana, respectively) originated in the Licchavi era many centuries ago. Petech suggests the latter Malla use was one of weights, not coin denominations. Also interesting is the fact that 133 years after the first gifting of Kasthamandap to Gorakshyanath and his Kanphatta disciples, the cult was still strong, judging by the opening homage to Gorakshyanath in the inscription.

    In Summary:

    1. Kasthamandap was a public pavilion that gave Kathamandu its name and its very identity.
    2. Kasthamandap was at least 900 years old, and possibly more than a 1000 years old, at the time of the 2015 earthquakes. It was therefore the oldest public building anywhere in Kathmandu, by far. It was also the largest traditional building in Kathmandu.
    3. With the fall of Kasthamandap, we have lost six copper-plate inscriptions, an extremely rare Gorakshyanath statue, and one storied copper pot: these are individually anywhere between 682 and 503 years old.  In addition, some of the bricks and other building material lost could possibly be  900 years old, if not older. Where are all these important historic treasures now?
    4. Kasthamandap was a time-capsule of old Kathmandu, capturing within its inscriptions, statues and enormous pillars the existence of the two (three?) townships of Yangla/ Yambu, the association with Pachali Bhairav, the rise and longevity of the Gorakshyanath cult, the gradual merging of local townships into the unified city-state of Kasthamandap (which is now Kathmandu), the rise of Nepal Bhasa as a state language, the long-standing Buddhist connections, the dual-kingship sometimes in effect during the Malla era, the continuation of centuries-old Licchavi system of coinage/weights, and the importance of guthi associations still so very relevant in Kathmandu.

    Let us locate the treasures lost in the debris of Kasthamandap, and let us rebuild it back to its original magnificence. If we do not act, a part of our shared heritage and our very identity will disappear with the rubble.


    Sources cited:

    1. L. Petech, Mediaeval History of Nepal, Rome (1958)
    2. M. S. Slusser, Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley, Princeton (1982). Two Volumes. [Buy]
    3. M. S. Slusser and G. Vajracharya, Two Medieval Nepalese Buildings: An Architectural and Cultural Study, Artibus Asiae Vol. 36, No. 3 (1974), pp. 169-218
    4. D. Vajracharya, Itihas Samshodhanko Praman Prameya, Part I, Patan, V.S. 2019
    5. G. Bajracarya , Yangala, Yambu, Contributions to Nepalese Studies I:2, 90-98 (1974)
    6. D. R. Regmi, Medieval Nepal, 2nd Ed., Vol I, New Delhi (2007)
    7. R. Sankrityayan, Sanskrit palm-leaf manuscripts in TibetJBORS 23 (1937), 1-57
    8. B. J. Hasrat, History of Nepal, As Told by Its Own and Contemporary Chroniclers, Panjab (1971)
    9. D. Vajracharya, Licchavikalka Shaasan Sambandhi Paaribhasik Shabdako Byakhya, Purnima vol. 3, no. 2, issue 10 (1965), 9-17
    10. H. Sakya and T. Vaidya, Medieval Nepal: Colophons and Inscriptions, Kathmandu (1970)
  • दैबलाई नि नछोड्ने यो कस्तो दैबी प्रकोप?


    अतिथि पोष्ट: सुशील ताम्राकार  

    विनाशकारी महा भूकम्पले खण्डहर बनाएको मेरो देश, सहर अनि टोल वस्तीबारे आज धेरै दिन पछी मात्र केही शब्द कोर्ने हिम्मत जुटाएको छु | देशको माटो बाटो कांपीरहंदा की-बोर्ड माथि हातका औम्ला पनि काँपिदो रहेछ | देश दुख्दा परदेशीको मन पनि त्यतिकै दुख्छ, त्यतिकै छटपटाहट हुन्छ| परदेशी नेपाली मनहरु अझ अनिदोमा आफन्त खोज्छ| जिन्दगीको सारा हिस्सा र किस्सा काष्ठामंड़प वरिपरि बित्यो | हनुमान ढोका, वसन्तपुर, मरु , चिकं मुगल, भीमसेन स्थानका हरेक गल्ली बाटाहरुमा मेरा लाखौँ डोबहरू छन् , अहिले भग्नावशेषहरुमा थिचिएका छन् , पुरिएका छन् | त्यसैले पनि हजारौं माइल पर पनि दुखिरहेको छु |

    सानो छंदा मरु डबलीमा बसेर दिन भरि गाडी गुडेको हिसाब छेउमा राखिएका मत्तितेलका ड्रमहरुमा धर्सा कोरेर जतनका साथ् राख्थ्यौं | हिसाबको पहिलो पाठशाला थियो त्यो | काष्ठमण्डप जसलाई मरु सत: ( सत्तल , पाटी ) भनिन्छ, जो एउटा बिशेत नामक रुख रुपी राक्षसको काठबाट बनेको बिशाल मन्दिरको कुनै नामो निशान रहेन | किंबदन्ती सुनेर उहिले जिब्रो टोक्थ्यों अहिले माटोको ढिस्कोमा बिशेतका अवशेषहरु खोजीरहेछु |

    सानोमा आमाले मरमसला किन्न पठाउँदा केही क्षण भए नि त्यै सत्तलमा ह्वाग्रा खेलिराखेका दौतारीहरु संग भलाकुसारी गर्थ्येम| कहिले एकै छिन गाब: दोब: खेलेरै मात्र घर जान्थें ( ह्वाग्रा र गाब: दोब – गुच्चा खेल बिशेष ) | गोरखनाथको मुर्ति अघिल्तिर झुन्ड्याईएको घण्टा सकिनसकी उफ्री उफ्री बजाउँथेम| अकस्मात झरी पर्दा धेरैअन्जान बटुवाको लागि ओत लाग्ने छत थियो त्यो |

    त्यो भन्दा नि काष्ठमण्डप, त्यै वरिपरि बस्ने ताम्राकार, बज्राचार्य, मानन्धर अनि किसानहरुको आदिम वस्ती भएको जीवन्त प्रमाण थियो | घ्यो चाकु सल्हूँ अर्थात माघे संक्रान्तिमा काष्ठमण्डपको बिशेष पूजागरी गजुरमा नयाँ ध्वाँये (ध्वजा) फहराउने चलनको निरन्तरता कसरी दिने अब ? पुजा गर्ने पुजारीलाई एक चुनांचा ( त्यतिबेलाको न्यूनतम मुद्रा इकाई, एक पैसाको १/४ खण्ड ) अनि ध्वजा फहराउने ज्यापु दाईलाई २० मुरी धान कसले दिन्छ अब ? मन्दिर रहेन, हाम्रो पुर्खाको धरोहर धरहरा संगै खण्डहर भएको छ |

    काष्ठमण्डप छेवैको हजाम देग : ( सस्तो दरमा कपाल काट्ने नाइँहरु बस्ने मन्दिर ) पनि बाँकी रहेन | निम्न आय भएका मजदूर किसानहरूको सेवा गर्ने थलो पनि गयो | माजु देग:, दश अबतार देग लागायत धेरै विश्व सम्पदा सूचीमा रहेका मन्दिरहरु जग मात्र शेष रह्यो | यस्तो लाग्छ, मेरो वस्ती वरिपरी मान्छे भन्दा बढी देबी देवता पुरिए | दैबलाई नि न छोड्ने यस्तो दैबी प्रकोप ? पुरिएका मान्छेहरु धेरैलाई जिउंदै निकाले, केहीको लाश निस्कियो | मलाइ बचाउ, म पुरिएँ भन्न पनि नसक्ने वा भनेको भए नि यो प्रकोपको कोलाहलमा नसुनिएका देबी देवताहरु अझै “रेस्क्यु”को आशमा बसेका छन् |

    म सम्झिन्छु, एक पल्ट २०३१ सालमा राजा बीरेन्द्रको राज्यभिषेकमा सजिएको हनुमान ढोका प्रांगण र मन्दिरहरु | चिटिक्क बेहुली झैँ शृंगारमा सजिसजाउ भएका ती मन्दिरहरुले साँच्चै नै देबभूमि जस्तो लाग्थ्यो | दोस्रो पल्ट २०४२ फागुण तिर बेलायतकी महारानी एलिजाबेथको भ्रमणमा काठमाडौ सहरको साँचो चढाई स्वागतको गरेको इतिहास बोकेको त्यो मरु सत: त्यसपछि हजारौं रकत्दान शिबिरको भरपर्दो आश्रयस्थल थियो | दुर्भाग्यबस बैसाख १२ गते १२ बजे पनि रक्तदान शिबिर थियो | गर्लाम्यै ढलेको मन्दिरले अरुको जीवन जोगाउछु भनेर शुद्ध मनले रक्तदान गर्न आएका रक्तदाता एवं रक्त संकलन गर्न आएका निष्कलंक स्वयम् सेवीहरुले जीवनगुमाएको खबर अझ कहाली लाग्दोछ |

    भाग्नाबशेष पन्छाइदै छ | पुरिएका चार बिनायक (गणेश) र गोरखनाथलाई सकुशल राखिएला | पुनर्निमार्णको पाइला चालिएला | फेरी जस्ताको तस्तै मन्दिर बनिएला | तर मा कहाँ खोज्न जाउँ बिशेत राक्षस? त्यसको शरीरको बडेमानको पुरानै काठको खम्बा ? इँटा इँटामा खोपिएका हजार स्मृतिहरू आउने बर्षाले बगाई सक्ने छ | कहाँ खोज्न जाउँ मेरो बाल्यकालको ती अमुल्य क्षणहरु ?

    भाद्र महिनाको चतुर्दशीको दिन मनाइने पंचदान पर्ब ( बुबाको मुख हेर्ने दिनको दुइ दिन अगाडी, बौद्धमार्गीहरुले बौद्ध गुरुजु { बज्राचार्य र शाक्य समुदाय}लाई दान दक्षिणा दिने पबित्र दिन ) दिनमा त्यै मन्दिरको दक्षिण चोकमा लामा लामा चार वटा काठको चारकुने मण्डप बनाई, पूजा अर्चना गरी दिनभरी फू बारे नआउन्जेल ( अन्तिममा पाल्नु हुने शाक्य बज्राचार्य) आएका जति शाक्य बज्राच्रार्य गुरुजुहरुलाई दान दक्षिणा दिने परम्परा ताम्राकार समुदायले काष्ठमण्डप बने देखि नै चलाउँदै आएको प्रमाणिक इतिहास छ | सम्भवत त त्यही चारवटा काठको मण्डप नै काष्ठमण्डप हो र कालन्तरमा त्यो सत: नाम नै काष्ठमण्डप रहन गएको हो | यसपालीको पन्चदानमा दान दिन भीमकाय खासी (भाँडो)मा चुलो कहाँ बाल्छ होला ? त्यो ६ सय बर्ष भन्दा पुरानो काठ अझै बाँकी छ वा खण्डहरमा मिसिए ? मन भित्र यस्ता धेरै प्रश्नहरु छन् | चिन्ता मेरो घर चर्किएको र भत्काउनु पर्ने अवस्थामा रहेको भन्दा नि मेरो अस्तित्वको छ , मेरो जीवनको हरेक हिस्सा संग गाँसिएको किस्साको छ | हे दैब, दैबलाई नि न छोड्ने यो कस्तो दैबी प्रकोप ??


  • “Good news” about Rebuilding Kasthamandap

    The February 7, 2016 edition of the Nepali-language newspaper Annapurna Post carried the first-ever news story on the reconstruction plans for Kasthamandap.

    Some salient details:

    • To be rebuild by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), using the design, drawings, cost estimates and guidance of the Department of Archaeology (DofA)
    • Cost estimate: approximately USD 1.4 Million (NRS 154,200,000) over three years
    • To be made out of saal wood (Shorea robusta), the same material used in the original construction
    • “Fiber” (fiber-glass?) to be used in conjunction, to make the structure earthquake-proof
    • The Durham University team (involved in a recently-completed UNESCO-sponsored assessment of damage to heritage sites) has hinted that the original construction could be from the seventh century CE, which, if verified, would push back the date of construction to over 300 years, and squarely during the heydays of the Licchavi era. This is a sensational finding, if confirmed.


    Some comments:

    • In general, this is very exciting news!
    • We commend the swiftness with which the DofA and KMC have created a plan, which was no doubt a challenge given Nepal’s current situation
    • More details on the design selection process and reconstruction plans would be welcome: may we suggest public sharing of these details in an online forum (official web-site/ blog) ?
    • A breakdown of the reconstruction budget, perhaps shared online, would be welcome
    • The use of fiber-glass is intriguing. Why not traditional wood reinforced (when only absolutely needed) with completely concealed metal?
    • We look forward to more announcements/ scholarly publications from UNESCO Professor Robin Coningham of Durham University about the tantalizing hints of an 700-800CE original construction date for Kasthamandap.
  • Remains of Kasthamandap

    What remains of the treasures of Kasthamandap has been safely stored for now. Here is a pictorial account.

  • A Copper Plate Inscription of Kāṣṭhamaṇḍap – 1422 AD (NS 543)

    Location: Kāṣṭhamaṇḍap, Kathmandu.

    Inscription at: Attached to front wall of the temple.

    Ruler: Jyoti Malla

    Date: 1422 AD (NS 543 Āṣāḍha Śukla Daśamī, BS 1479)

    Also published in Sanskrit Sandesha, 1.6. pp. 6-7.

    LII – A copper plate attached to the front wall of Kāṣṭamaṇḍap in Kathmandu. Date NS 543.


    1. शुभ ।। स्वस्ति ।। श्रीश्रीश्रीपशुपति भट्टारकस्य पादपंकजपराग बहुलकीर्तिः तस्यपाद पद्मोपजीविनः रघुवंशावतार

    2. अन्धकार क्कलजगर्जतिः श्रीमत श्रीश्रीमानेश्वावरलब्ध प्रसाद विराजमानः श्रीश्रीराघव कुल कमल प्रकाशितस्य श्री

    3. श्रीरघुवंश तिलकायमानः समस्त प्रक्रिया विराजमानः … महाराजाधिराज प्रमेश्वाप्रम भट्टारकः श्रीशीजयजोतिम

    4. लदेवस्य विजयराजेः ।। ततः श्रीमानिगलः श्रीश्रीशीमनीकृष्णारचणांवुज सेवितः श्रीतृभय महापात्र प्रमुखादिः

    5. श्रीदक्षिणविहार प्रधान…महापात्र सहानुमतेनः स्वप्त कुतुं वज्र महापात्र शुद्धि गच्चछये नमः थ्वतेश्री

    6. श्रीराजकुल श्रीमनीगलः । तवतवमीफे शुद्धि भीममेतस्य पुत्रेन श्रीयंगलः श्रीगुरुः श्रीहमसयावमते

    7. यकं जाव तव दाक मदेतीप हख तोते तावत थिर याङ लोपा लोपी मयक थ्वविक्षेप पत्र थिर काल ला

    8. याङा दुन्त (ध)थत चोसत भया जुरो ह(त)त पत्र केन कश्चित् लोपयित्वा महाराैरव नरके प्रतिपतयेत कदाचि

    9. त् थ्व भाषा सुता लोप परद्रोस (ह)गाहेत्या स्त्रीहत्या ब्रह्महत्या निसाख निर्मूलदंडमाल्व जुरो

    10. श्रीश्रेयोSस्तु संवत् ५४३ अाषाढ शुक्ल दशम्यायां तिथाै स्वाति नक्षत्र सिद्धियोगे शुक्रवासरे

    11. ध संवत्सर वंगाया हंगा य(या)ति पाच माल मखो ङाङा काले अकर्ण जुरो शुभं मङ्गलं भवतु सर्वजगतः ।

    Regmi, Dilli Raman. (1966). Medieval Nepal: Part III. (Source Materials for the History and Culture of Nepal 740 – 1768 AD : Inscriptions, Chronicles and Diaries etc.). Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay. pp. 15-16.

    रेग्मी, डिल्ली रमण । (२०२३) । मिडिभियल नेपाल : भाग ३ । (वि.सं. ७९७ देखि १८२५ सम्म नेपालको इतिहास र संस्कृतिको सन्दर्भ सामग्री : अभिलेख, वंशावली र डायरी अादि । कल्कत्ता : फर्मा के. एल. मुखोपाध्याय । पृ. १५-१६ ।

    Also available at: http://inscriptionsofnepal.blogspot.com/2015/10/copper-plate-at-kasthamandap-1422.html

  • Labor of Love, Model of Devotion


    Late May, 2015. A few close friends gathered for their usual afternoon meeting at the house of Surya Bahadur Shrestha behind Kasthamandap … Rather, behind the pile of rubble that was formerly Kasthamandap. They sat around on the carpet, un-sattaled by the bright light pouring in through the window, now that Kasthamandap’s giant roofs were no longer blocking the view. For as long as they could remember, Maru Sattal had been back there, sitting majestic, a benevolent guardian sheltering Maru Tol…no, the entire city. The memory of Kasthamandap lay heavy on their souls. The grief was heaviest for one friend whose father was inside Kasthamandap when the earthquake struck: he lost his life in the collapse of Kasthamandap that day.

    Juju Tuladhar sifted through the morning papers and read out sections of Suresh Kiran’s article to his friends. “Big businessmen and celebrities are clamoring to get ordinary citizen involved in the restoration of Dharahara tower. Some bankers have even announced that they will ‘invest’ in Dharahara. The media has made the Dharahara stump the de facto ‘earthquake symbol’. But why?”

    Juju continued further down, “On Jeth 6, the two main national dailies Kantipur and Nagarik printed a photo of a mural being painted on a wall in the Babarmahal area. Both papers had this as the caption: Painting of a temple being created. Neither newspaper were aware that that was not a temple, but Kasthamandap. Kantipur’s logo itself is Kasthamandap: should they not know the name of their own logo? Those who made Dharahara a symbol of our fallen cultural heritage do not know about Kasthamandap. How did this happen? What is the reason for this?…”

    Juju looked up. All his friends were looking down into the carpet, as we Nepalis always do when deep in thought and in agreement. “It still amazes me that only a few historians and scholars know the true value of Kasthamandap”, Juju said slowly. They all knew, as Suresh Kiran himself wrote later on in the same article, that in today’s Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, any such talk is quickly labelled “cultural prejudice.” But their beloved Maru Sattal had fallen. The void and the pain were real.

    Surya Bahadur Shrestha spoke up, “There has been a lot of talk, friends. Let us now do something.” Saroj Ratna Shakya joined in, “We could start raising funds locally. But without official government blessing and strict oversight, we know how funds end up in Nepal. I favor a small and symbolic step.” Surya now: “You know, I have actually been thinking about this for some time. How about making an exact replica of Kasthamandap, down to the last detail. It might spur others to more action. We do know an expert who can do this.”

    All eyes turned to Hira Ratna Brahmacharya, an expert wood carver who had come all the way from Bungmati to join his friends. Hira was silent for a while. “We will need accurate measurements, and I will need to cost out the project…but yes, I think I can do it.”

    A smile inadvertently broke from everyone.

    “La, la, I have the book that was published during the 1966 renovations.”

    “And I have access to the recent scale drawings of Wolfgang Korn.”

    “OK, how about we bring all this and meet at Hira’s house next week.”

    And that is how the model was born. After a month of work. A labor of love. A model of devotion.


    The making of the model:



    Editor’s Note:  During the making of this article, we did not ask who was Newa and who was Bahun. Or who was Buddhist and who was Hindu. Or who lived in Kathmandu and who lived outside (Bungmati). We just wanted to come together to celebrate Kasthamandap, a bond that we all share.

    A very small gesture, no doubt, in the grand scheme of things. But perhaps something could be learned from this humble social exercise during Nepal’s continuing days of ethnic turmoil and constitution-making angst. 



  • Commercial use as Icons

    Some of the Kathmandu businesses that have used Kasthamandap as part of their logos. Should the businesses be more involved in the rebuilding of their namesake?