Depiction in Art

In 1565 AD (Nepal Sambat 685), Kathmandu’s venerable Swayambhu chaitya was renovated by the Patan Mahapartra (noble) and his brothers. This was in keeping with a longstanding Kathmandu tradition of affluent citizen sponsoring such renovations.  The renovation in question, now 450 years ago, was not a massive undertaking. It was probably limited to replacing the crowning umbrella (छत्र) atop the famous chaitya. But the re-consecration of Swayambhu was important enough to be commemorated in a banner painting (पौभा) created in Yampi Vihar, Patan. This banner painting has survived the intervening 450 years more or less intact, ignoring some rat gnawings along one side. 

On this banner painting can be seen what may be the earliest artistic depiction of Kasthamandap. The pavilion had become such an icon by 1565 AD that the entire Yangal Desh (South Kathmandu) was represented symbolically by Kasthamandap in the painting (detail in images below). One can see that the Kasthamandap of that time was also an open pavilion, with local residents happily walking about and enjoying the view from its upper, open balconies. Let us hope our future generations also have the pleasure of walking the upper pavilions of Kasthamandap. And since hope is never enough, let us make it happen.

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Sources

  1. M. S. Slusser. On a Sixteenth-Century Pictorial Pilgrim’s Guide from Nepal Archives of Asian Art Vol. 38 (1985) 6-36
  2. J. C. Huntington, D. Bangdel and R. A. F. Thurman. Reconsecration of Svayambhu Mahachaitya in The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art (2003). 112-115
  3. A. V. Rospatt. The Past Renovations of the Svayambhucaitya in Light of the Valley: Renewing the Sacret Art and Traditions of Svayambhu (2011). 156-206
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