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The Nepalese Caitya (1500 Years of Buddhist Votive Architecture in the Kathmandu)

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Item Code: HAN983
Author: Niels Gutschow
Publisher: Vajra Books, Nepal
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9789937733311
Pages: 327 (B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 13x10.5 inch
Weight 2.13 kg
Book Description
About the Book

I have been acquainted with the activities of Niels Gutschow for almost rwenty years now, and greatly admire the energetic field work which forms the basis for all his publications. This volume is no exception. It contains hundreds of beautifully executed measured drawings and finely printed photographs of nevet. or hardly ever studied monuments in the Kathmandu Valley. The attention to smaller features, usually overlooked in larger architectural complexes, is particularly striking. Though the Kathmandu Valley is well known to scholars and interested visitors, few have taken such pains to document the architectural heritage.

The volume is, however, much more than a mere compilation of architectural evidence. The text reveals a profound understanding of the cultural context of the caityas, their forms and sculptural decoration. The comprehensive, yet approachable treatment of the Mahayana Buddhist background of the monuments details the religious meaning of the caityas, without in any way shrouding them in fashionable esoteric mystery. The chapter on ritual is of particular interest, since it gives an ethnographic dimension to the study, with its detailed observations of daily life and urban festivals. Further chapters present a typological classification of the caityas illustrated with carefully chosen drawings and photographs. The historical progression of forms is well argued.

There is no doubt that this publication will be the definitive study on the subject for many years to come. The generous assortment of drawings and photographs will surely be invaluable for architects, archacologists, art historians and historians of religions. Since so many of the smaller and more obscure caityas are now being threatened by modern development, the appearance of this work is timely.<< (George Michell)

Niels Gutschow started his long journey into Asia as a Buddhist monk in Burma in 1962. He studied architecture in Darmstadt, Germany, and wrote his dissertation about Japanese castle towns. Since 1971 he worked in Nepal and India as a conservation architect and as a researcher, inquiring into the relationship of urban space and ritual. In Germany he works as an expert in war-time and postwar architecture and planning.


In the autumn of 1985, as part of the German Research Council's (Deutsche Forschungsge gan to beft) Focus Programme on Nepal an inventory of objects of 1:20 by sade. The work started with a plane table survey of the Sayambhunath Hill be of 1986 Re Surendra Jost and the surveyor Rem Ratna Bajracatya and his hanya taate arch 86 Rem Ratna Bajracarya and Gyanendra Josi produced a general site plan to the spring mapparound the Svayambhucaitya at a scale of 1:100. Along with an inventory of fate mapping of the votive caityas in the immediate vicinity of the Svayambhucaitya commenced. 382 Grad this was supplemented by further measurements of Licchavicaityas taken by Ada 360 Canench-Wilson and Bijay Basukala (Tebaha A. B: Sighabbaha B: Dhvakhabana and Sa 309 yambhunath/Sabyāgubahä).

athestond focus of the work began in the summer of 1986 with the making of a site plan of Sighhutbahacaitya (which is regarded as a replica of the Sh the of site of 374 Sighabbaha at a scale of 1:100. Aspects of the meaning of the cattya untolded in repedted d bore boy with Bernhard Kölver that were devoted to the history of the Svayambhucaitys, and both on the continuity and the changes in the structures es composing it. and tyer, the basis was created for extending the area of research to encompass a chronology typology of the votive caityas of the entire Kathmandu Valley.


Most of those who practise, study or read about Buddhism in the West today know little or nothing about the Buddhism of the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The many tourists who visit the Valley, including the many Westerners who come for spiritual reasons are usually unaware that there are Buddhist Newars. They assume that all Nepalese are Hin- dus, and that Buddhism in Nepal is exclusively the domain of people of Tibetan culture. Thus from a Western point of view, Newar Buddhism is an unimportant backwater (for Asians by contrast, including Japanese, this is less true, since the modern state of Nepal boasts the Buddha's birthplace as one of its holy sites).

It was not always t thus scripts back from Nepal to Europe which enabled Burnouf to initiate the modern Orientalist study of Mahayana Buddhism. Hodgson, though no Sanskritist himself, was, thanks to his twenty-one years in Nepal (1820-1841) and the collaboration of his Buddhist pandita Amrtananda, an authority on Newar Buddhism. Unwisely as it turned out, Hodgson attempt- ed to maintain that Sanskrit Buddhist texts originating in Nepal were as ancient as the Pali texts coming mainly from Sri Lanka, a controversy in which he was roundly beaten (Hodgson 1972: 1 121-3). With this defeat. Hodgson's awareness that Newar Buddhism was an authen- tie-and indeed the only-survival of north Indian Mahayana Buddhism was lost. Newar Bud- dhism came to be seen as a source of manuscripts, and nothing more, it was dismissed as a de- generate leftover, too Hinduized to teach us anything about Buddhist history or about how Mahayana Buddhism works. Later British visitors to Nepal tended to recycle Hodgson's con- clusions without adding materially to them, with the exception of the important Buddhist chronicle published by Daniel Wright in an unreliable English translation. Insofar as Buddhist scholars in the West paid attention to the specifics of Newar Buddhism. Hodgson's attempt to reconstruct Buddhist philosophical schools of the past was often mistakenly taken to be a de- scription of contemporary Newar Buddhism (Gellner 1989).

To some extent Newar Buddhism suffered from a general trend in the description of Bud- dhism. European and North American observers in the 19th century, whether they encoun tered Buddhism in Japan, Tibet, South-East Asia. Sri Lanka or Nepal, almost always dis- missed what they saw as a sad degeneration from a glorious past. Their own model of religion, whatever their formal attachments, was usually that of rationalistic Protestantism; almost in- evitably they saw living Buddhism as ritualistic, superstitious and priest-ridden, because they imagined that in its origin Buddhism must have been, as they firmly believed Christianity also to have been, a simple, moral and spiritual movement of equals.


Every complex Buddhist ritual incorporates a vow (samkalpa), in the course of which the Bajracarya priest recites on behalf of the parishioner, in Sanskrit, the following text that is called "And now the great gift" (adya mahadana).

"OM, now in the period of the Attained One, the Lion of the Sakyas (the Buddha), in the auspicious time, the world system called Saha, in the Manu-age called Sunborn, in the Kali first section, in the world era that comes after Satya, Tretă and Dvapara world cras, in its northern Pancala country of the Bharata continent, in the Himalayas, in the region of Vasuki (the holy serpent), in the Power-Place (pitha) called Upachandoha, in the holy land of South Asia, in the home of Karkotaka, king of serpents, in the great lake called "dwelling of the holy serpents", in the place of the caitya Sri Svayambhū, which is presided over by Sri Guhyesvarı Prajnaparamita, in the land presided over by Sri Manjusri, in the land (or mandala) of Nepal, which has the form of the mandala of Sri Samvara, which is t the same as the land of Sudurjaya. adorned with the Eight Passionless Ones, (namely) Manilingesvara. Gokarnesvara, Kilesvara. Kumbhesvara, Gartesvara (or Gopalesvara), Phanikesvara, Gandhesvara and Vikramesvara (or Adisvara), flowing with the four great rivers, (namely) Bagmati, Kesavati, Manirohini, and Prabhavatı, adorned with the twelve holy Bathing-places (tirtha), (namely) Punyatirtha (1). Sá- Matirtha (2), Sankaratırtha (3). Rajatirtha (4). Manorathatirtha (5), Nirmalatirtha (6). Nidhanatirtha (7), Juanatirtha (8), Cintamänitirtha (9). Pramodatirtha (10). Sulaksanatirtha (11) and Jayatirtha (12), surrounded by the mountains Jätamatra Height (or Jämäeva). Sankha Height (or Sipücva), Phala Height (or Pücva), and Dhyana Height (or Dhiläeva), adorned with Vajrayogini, with the Eight Mothers, the Eight Bhairavas, Simhini, Vyaghrini. Ganesa. Kumara, Mahakala, Häriti. Hanuman, and the troupe of the Ten Wrathful Ones (dasakrodha); on the south bank of the Bagmati, on the east bank of the Kesavati, on the west bank of the Manirohini, on the north bank of the Prabhavati, here, within Nepal Mandala, in the city of Lalitapattana, in the kingdom of Aryavalokitesvara.

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