The Traditional Architecture Of the Kathmandu Valley
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The Traditional Architecture Of the Kathmandu Valley

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Item Code: NAO812
Author: Wolfgang Korn
Publisher: Ratna Pustak Bhandar, Nepal
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9789993306306
Pages: 200 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 11.0 inch X 9.0 inch
Weight 600 gm
About The Book

Standard works on Nepalese traditional architectures are in great demand Some of these studies were begun early this century, and the name of Percy Brown stands out the most distinctly. But these early accounts were of a generalised and impressionistic nature. The interest in this subject has been revied in recent years by both Nepalese and foreign scholars. Some of these studies have even been the subject of docterial dissertations, although most of them have not yet been published. Of late, Nepalese architecture has also been made the subject of study in many articles and papers published in scores of local and foreign journals. The great amount of historical material recently produced on Nepal has given impetus to this study. Another helpful factor has been the attraction of this architecture to tourists and outside visitors to this country. Architecture is one of the many thing which gives Nepal’s past a continuity with the present, because the old and medieval structure of the Valley do not exist merely as empty monuments, but are in fact actively used and inhabited by the present day people of Nepal.

The complexity of the relationship of this architecture with contemporary Nepalese society has also impelled scholar to use new methodologies to study the subject more meaningfully. All these works, aided and abetted by the restoratinal work on Nepalese monuments in recent years, undertaken by different agencies, such as the Guthi Sansthan, the Department of Archaeology, the Nepal-German Bhaktapur conservation Project and Unesco, have succeeded in enchancing our knowledge and appreciation of the traditional archeitecture of Nepal. A Study of this archietecture, based on measurement of monuments and represented in line-drawn sketches, is a archeitect Wolfgang Korn, and gives the subject a new signifience. In fact line drawn sketches, is a complete novelty introducesd so successfully in this book by the young German architect Wolfgang Korn, and gives the subject a new significience. In fact line drawn illustrations can sometimes proves an even better technique than ordinary photographical clichés for the purpose of architectural illustration, for they can show the details of constructional techniques much more clearly than a mere photograph. Mr Korn has been making drawing of Nepelese temples, monasteries, place square individual houses and settlement plans of Newer townships in the Kathmandu Valley for over eight years now. Some of his drawing have appeared in The Physical Development Plan for the Kathmandu Valley Published By the The Department of Housing and Physical Planning Of His Majesty’s Government in 1969. His drawing have been in great demand by scholar engaged in research and writing in this field, to illustrate in their work. It was, therefore, quite natural for Mr. Korn to feel inspired to produce an independent work including his drawing. It would be wrong. However, to assume that the merit of his book lies solely with these drawings.

These is also a good and informative account, formimg the text of the book, culled from drives sources as well as from his keen observation of monuments whilst drawing them. The text is also remarkable for its clarity of expression and its appeal to both lay and specialised readers alike. I have no doubt that this book will make an important contribution to a thorough and competent study of the traditional architecture of Nepal.



The book you are about to read is the product of many visit to Nepal over a period of several years as well as being a witness to the transformation of a hobby into a serious and totally involving enterprise. After my original contract expired, favourable circumstance enabled me to extend my stay in Nepal from the original two to six years.

Inspiration to produce this book, however, stemmed from some ten years ago when, as an architectural student, I was forced under the guidance of Professor ‘Jupp’ Ehran to measurement as well as the compilation of a list of the temples of the Kathmandu Valley, which brought me into close contact with the traditional architecture.

As a volunteer with the German Volunteer Service between 1968/69, I was able to help with the preparation of the Kathmandu Report and I was involved in the measurement as well as the compilation of a list of the temples of the Kathmandu Valley, which brought me into close contact with the traditional architecture.

Greatly appreciated financial assistance from the Rockfeller Foundation made it possible for me to extend my studies with Dr. Mary S. Slusser in the spring of 1970. For us both these were month of successful exchange of ideas concerning Nepali architecture. In January 1972, I was able to return to Nepal to work with the German team restoring the Pujahari Math in Bhadgaun, which enabled me to further develop my hobby. As I was uncertain of the duration of my stay in Kathmandu I decided to restrict my spare time studies to the group of building best described as the ‘traditional Nepali Style’ omitting for practical reasons Stupas/Chaityas and temples of the Shikara style from the book but nevertheless hoping to find the time to measure and represent them in a later study. Despite these limitations the possibilities for diversion were still immense, and time and again new discoveries were made. Work on this new material, however, had to be confined to after-working hours, and the rare free day.

After a short stay in Germany I returned once again to Nepal in July 1973, this time to assist in the HMG/UNESCO Project for the Conservation of the Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace in Kathmandu.

In the meantime, the concept of this book had been establishe and final corrections and additions made after seeking advice and assistance from various people. The work can be criticized for lack of depth and for not being complete but it is, after all, the result of a hobby. It was intended as the basis for more research and, at present, merely outlines the existing possibilities and leaves scope for expansionat a later date. If the book has only achieved this aim, it has fulfilled its purpose.

Had it not been for the help and assistance from the very beginning of my Nepali Freind, Madan Man Singh Tamrakar, I must admit that I would never havae reached this stage in my efforts. To him I must attribute my meeting many measure interesting people, finding information and being given the opportunity to measure many buildings. He assisted me constantly at each developing stage as well as the critical period before going to press.

I cannot attempt to mention by name everyone who helped me in the preparation of the book. Nevertheless to each and everyone of them I would like to convey my gratitude. However, I must single out the following without whose particular advice and encouragement the book would never have been achieved: Mr Gautam Vajracharaya and Mr. Danavajra Vajracharya who gave very valuable advice concerning building history and dates; Mr. Nirmal Man Tuladhar who, together with Mr. Danavajra Vajarcharya, prepared the transcription of local terms; Prof. Ram Niwas Pandey who advised me on the history and development of the religions; and Dr. Michael Witzal and Dr. Prayag Raj Sharma who read through the text and gave much valuable advice.

As the original text was written in German I must thank Mr. Robert Riffel, Miss Gudrun Meyering, Mr. Detlev Gross and Mrs. Erika Drucker who helped me with the English version and Mrs. Suman Ranjitkar who has typed the drafts. My special thanks to Mr. John Sanday who had advised me on the overall content of the book and had prepared the final English version.

Lastly, I should mention HM Government Of Nepal and give my thanks to the Housing and Physical Planning Department especially for permitting me to use the plans of the three Darbar Squares, as well thanking the Department of Archaeology for Giving me permission to measure and draw the Kashthamandapa.



The Kathmandu Valley, often referred to as the Nepal Valley, has over the past two thousand years sheltered the dominating power of the central part of the Himalayas. It maintained an independent existence and exerted a major influence on the surrounding hills and the southern plains until the 18th century, when the valley was conquered and united with other smaller kingdoms to form present day Nepal.

Unlike the other smaller states, the Kathmandu Valley has enjoyed a relatively continous development, despite experiencing different waves of immigrants and devastating invasions.

Because of its unique location the Valley has many reasons for attaracting immigrants and the interest of neighbouring rulers. Firstly, the Valley contains some of the most important Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries and monuments in Nepal, and still attracts large groups of pilgrim from far away places. Secondly, its shape and size distinguish it from the other mainly north-south oriented narrow river valleys of the midlands of Nepal. The Valley measured about 20km by 25 km, at an elevation of about 1350 metres. It is a high plateau surrounded by step by step and wooded mountains up to 3000 metres high. The floor of the Valley is relatively level, interrupted only by shallow streams. Furthermore, the Valley lies in the temperate warm zone of the Himalayas with a well balanced climate and is very fertile. Thirdly north of the Valley are two of the most accessible passes (Kurti and Kerung) over the Himalayas to Tibet, thus giving the rulers of the Valley the benefit of controlling and organising the trade between and with both Tibet and India. However, the extreme topographic and climate conditions of this area have nevertheless been a controlling influence, keeping the influx of immigrants and invaders at an acceptable level.

Nepal is roughly 800 km in length and 170km in width and contains most of the Himalayas stretching between Assam, Bhutan and Sikkim in the east, to Kashmir and Jammu in the west. It not only incorporates the highest mountain in the world, but also a 40km wide strip of lowland belonging to the Gangetic plain.

From the geographical point of view, it is not only a buffer state between its neighbours, Buddhist Tibet and mainly Hindu India, But also the meeting Place of many different races, In the south the Indo-Aryan races are predominant; in the north the Tibtan speaking groups.

Prevail and in the midlands one finds a mixture of Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan groups. Since the ascendancy of Moselems in northern India in the 12th century, Indo-Aryans have emigrated to Nepal to find protections in the mountains. These pure Hindu groups, mainly Brahmans and Kshetris, have spread quite evenly over the whole midland area whereas the Tibeto-Burman tribes have settled and remained in their own areas.

The Kathmandu Valley, as a center of attraction, forms a good sample of such ‘tribal areas’ mixed with immigrants. The Newers are dominant not only in number, but also in their high cultural development. With their types of settlement in established towns and villages, their architecture and artistry, together with their business sense, they have usually outshone other ethnic groups in the Valley. It will be seen throughout this book that the Kathmandu Valley, with the Changing influence of surrounding areas, estlablished its own general history, as well as its architectural history. Different architectural styles and developments took place in other parts of present day Nepal, the Sherpas and thakalis, which were both heavily influenced by Tibet. All the other tribes or castes, such as the Gurungs, Magars, Kshetaris Brahmans and Tharus, for Example, Developed their own domestic architecture but the standard was not comparable with that of the correct, to talk about a Nepali-style’ of architecture. Each style within the county has to be presented in its own right.

History shows that generally the indigenous population was not driven away or unduly suppressed by the arrival of immigrants. A superimposition resulted, placing resulted, placing the immigrants in a somewhat superior or even ruling position, but tribal integrity was kept intact. The reduction of the tribes to a single population group by brutual force or religious power was never attempted. The bonds of religious grouping. The latter is an important features, for Western observers to note, as different religious beliefs in Nepal Usually gave no resons for open quarrelling among the populace even if certain beliefs, sects or even gods lost their role or high value within the religious life for less important one.

A similar, but not such a peaceful development happened among the rulers of the country. Migrant groups, tribes or dynasties moved into the Valley, ruled for a certains period and were then either driven out or absorbed into its population.

Legends of Prehistorics times exists about dynasties such as the Gopalas and The Kirantis living in the Valley. The Kirantis, at least, are said to have had direct contact with Buddhism, as Buddha himself is Said to have visited the Kathmandu Valley, later followed in about 250 B.C. by the Indian Emperor Ashoka. Ashoka is credited with building the stupas of Paten, with giving his daughter charumurti to the Nepali prince Deva pala and with having established Buddhism in the Valley through his Buddhist missionaries on a broad and popular basis.

The Valley has always been one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the Hindus in the central Himalayas. Similar importance was given to Janakpur and Balmikinagara for the Puranic religion in eastern Nepal, Muktimatha- kshetra and Vaishnavara Jvala-kshetra for the Hindu religion in western Nepal and Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, for Buddhist in Eastern Nepal.




Publisher's Note xi
Foreword xiii
Preface xv
Transcription xvii
Introduction xix
1. The Urban Settlement 1
2. The Fortification 17
3. The Newar House 29
4. The Buddhist Monastery 41
5. The Hindu Priest House 59
6. The Royal Place 71
7. The Temple 97
8. The Public Resthouse 125
9. Building Details 147
Biblography 159
Index 161
Sample Pages

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