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The Pujari Matha  



Mathas meaning a hut, also known as cottage, a place where retired people, students, and ascetic people visit, provides some teaching through Brahmans was popular in India during pre-Christian eras. Along with modernization, Mathas were established by Adi Sankaracharya (teacher of the world of eight century had revitalized Hinduism establishing math based on the teaching of Vedanta. One of the orthodox of the Vedic philosophy of philosophic religious doctrine based on the teaching of the Upanishads. Even today Vedanta holds an important place in the philosophy of Hinduism) in the four corners of India to promote Hindu (Vedic) philosophy and thinking along with traditional Vedic education. The system soon became popular in Northern India also. Yaksha Malla (the popular king of Bhaktapur who ruled Kathmandu Valley from 1428 - 1482 A.D. in his period the Kingdom of the Valley expanded as far as Tibetan boarder in the north, the Gangas in the South, Sikkim in the east and Gandaki in the west, constituting the greatest extension of the Nepali empire up to that time) established many Mathas for various sects to provide education and shelter to the students and Sadhus. Nepali Mathas share similar responsibilities to those of Indian Mathas. The Mathas of Nepal, being rich in terms of land; holding (in the form of property trust) served the poor people, welcome guests as well as performs Hindu rituals to support the Sadhus.

According to Wolf Gang korn ,(the German architect Mr. Korn has been making drawing of Nepalese temples, monasteries, maths, palace squares, individual houses and settlement plans of old Newar township in Kathmandu Valley for decay. He was here in Nepal as volunteer with the German volunteer service between 1968-69 A.D.) When Buddhism declined, due to disharmony and divergence from the original dogma, Hinduism had its renaissance mainly through the brilliant exposition of Hindu philosophy by Adi Sankarchaya . The Brahmans (the absolute, the supreme reality of Vedanta Philosophy knowing person is Brahman) who for sometime had been relegated to the background, were able to re-establish and further, improve their influence over the common people by around 8th century A.D. This influence was further extended to the rulers. It was also about this time that rest house for pilgrims were built at eloquent site of well known Hindu centers. These rest house, also serve as meeting place for Gurus and Sadhus and other learned people. In a short time became, these significant centers for Hindu learning. It is still a subject for research regarding when first Mathas in Nepal were constructed. It can be fairly assumed that the basic plan of the still existing Mathas was probably built around the mid fourteen century. Mathas are like the Buddhist education center (monasteries), where Mahanta (chief priest) provide education, shelter for ascetic people and food. Mahanta are also known as Mathadhis. As per the tradition, every Maths has cows so that the daily rituals could be performed, as cow is said to be a holy animal. The cow is also worshipped as an incarnation of goddess Laxmi. Visitors are provided with dairy product as a welcome drink.

Bhaktapur used to be very popular school of Hinduism during early Malla period (10-11th.century) when the other two cities, Kathmandu and Patan were predominantly Buddhist. At present there are about thirty Mathas in Kathmandu Valley. A survey in 1976 A.D shows the existence of seventeen Mathas in Bhaktapur. The popular Mathas of Bhaktapur are Pujari Matha, Sithu Matha, Taja Matha, Datu Matha, Godavari Matha, Chikanphale Matha, Bardali ghar, Purano Choto Matha, and Jangam Matha. Normally the math is fully integrated into a terrace of houses along a street or overlooking an open space and may only be recognized by its superior wood carving and more extravagant decoration. Whereas a monasteries normally consists of one chauks (courtyards). The math may consist of several ghars (houses), whose size number and arrangement may very considerately .The pujahari math ,for example consists of four ghars, the Bardalighar math has two ghars, and the Djalling math has three ghars During the Malla period, (10th-18th century A.D.), these Mathas became centre for teaching and learning of Hindu sciences and liberal arts including medicine, law, theology, philosophy, and also the study of manuscript. Such usage of the Mathas continued during the Rana rulers(1846-1950 A.D.)Period as well.

Pujari Matha, one of the oldest matha, is located at Tachapal Tole in Bhaktapur. This Matha was built as a residence, educational center and office for the Mahants of the Dattatraya(union of three gods-Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswor)temple. This temple is very popular in Bhaktapur .This temple, built by King Yaksha Malla, and was opened to the public around 1486 A.D. The Mahanta of pujari matha holds the title Pir Mahanta. This Matha was widely known as the focal point of Hindu learning, comprehending the study of Indian and Tibetan herb and medicines. According to methodology, this matha was constructed by Sanyasi Gosain Sanyasi Gosain Gurubaksha Giri, from Mahurghar in India. He was on a pilgrimage to Tibet, returned to Nepal with plenty of wealth (in the form of gold and coins), which he spent, on the construction of numerous temples and Mathas. After his death, his followers built a shrine that was later expanded by King Yaksha Malla. Due to it's Tibetan connections, the Matha received an annual donation of one tola (11.6638 gms) of gold, one tola silver, one horse, one woolen carpet, three hundred and sixty-five (walnuts), and two hundred and sixty rupees from the Tibetan Government. Excluding the annual nominal tax of one hundred and fifty rupees, the Mahantas were freely allowed to manage their property and could spend their money according to their wishes.

The Mahanta has to fulfill annually numerous religious and social functions.On Baisakh Purnima (full moon day during April), Goat is sacrificed at the shrine of Ganesh. (Particularly in some Newar culture) On Kumar Sasthi or Sithi Nakha (popular festivals of kathmandu), all Mahanta of Bhaktapur worship their family Diety (kuldevata). On Deepawali festival, all the Mahantas visit Pujari Matha to worship the kuldevi(family goddess) 'Durga'. During the Dashain, nine young girls are worshipped and offered food as the symbol of living Goddess Kumari. During the popular Hindu festival Shivaratri, even the pilgrims stay at these Mathas.

The Mathas complex, carrying of the main four storied Matha has inter connecting structure and rooms through a network of courtyards. The complex measures thirty-four meter (North-South), and twenty-three meters ( East-West) , and has maximum height of eleven meters. The complex is symmetrical laid along both the main axes. These court yards are garnished with richly carved entablature, eave-boards, brackets, doors, doorjambs, lintels, windows, pillars etc. in a symmetrical order. The notable feature of Pujari Matha is the artistic windows. These windows also help to add beauty to the Matha. The design and construction of windows have become an important focus for displaying Nepalese architecture. The windows are made from many prefabricated units of varying shapes and sizes without using any metal nails or glue. The lattice work of the window generally combining three different patterns: the perforated, the serrated and key patterns. Light, ventilation and beautification is the main function of windows but religious importance is also added to it by putting divinities or object of worship as a motif on there. Windows are combinations of grills and frame. The frames may have decorations of auspicious symbols, flowers, mesh styles and geometrical designs, and are in perfect in symmetrical order and always kept in odd numbers. The Sun and the Moon are representation by auspicious symbols. Bird motifs are also popular works that are displayed in this Matha. Pujari Matha 'Peacock Window' is the best example of Nepalese architecture.

With the change in time, so to say, in the beginning of 20th century, the resident Mahantas have been allowed to marry, which rapidly changed their way of life. This is one of the remarkable change on the part of their culture.





  Untitled Document

Nepalese Culture, Society and Tourism
By: Diwas Dhakal

This book is a collection
of essays devoted to the
Nepalese Culture,Society and Tourism. A special
stress on Natural and
cultural Heritage of Nepal has been very carefully emphasised.
Diwas Dhakal, 2000 ISBN 99933-570-0-6,
First Edition 2000
Published by:
Mukta Dhakl
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