Man is tiny and insignificant before the gigantic
creation. He finds himself surrounded by a world which is
too difficult to comprehend with his tiny intelligence. Man's
sojourn in this complex world has a definite purpose. That
purpose is to understand his predicament in this temporary
world and discover his original nature. Learning to live in
harmony with the laws, gross and subtle, of material nature
facilitates this. As long as he continues to violate the laws
of material nature, there will be no progress towards the
ultimate goal. Knowledge provides direction for man to reach
his goal. The Vedas, the enternal source of knowledge, provide
specific guidance on how man can conduct himself successfully
in various aspects of life1 .
Most of the temples of the Kathmandu valley,
which have layers of the roofs
are called Pagoda. In such temples or Pagodas the high roofs
are smaller than the roof below. Dr. N. R. Banerjee, an well
known archaeologist and art-historian describing the term
"the word Pagoda" is clearly misnomer when applied
to a temple, for it is derived from the word Dagaba applied
to Buddhist Stupa in Sri Lanka as derived from the word Dhatugarbha
or the monument containing the essence of the Buddha. The
Stupa in Burma came to be called Pagodas which was apparently
a phonetic transformation of the word Dagaba. In course of
time the Chinese tower-like storied temples came to be called
Pagodas. The earliest tower in existence in China is the multiple
storied Pagoda at Sung Shan, Honan, built of bricks and dated
to A.D. 523. The multiple-roofed temples of Nepal came to
be called by the westerners as of the Pagoda-style in view
of adoption of the storied or multi-roofed motif in the particular
variety of temples in Nepal "2.
D. J. Snellgrove suggests the Shrines and Temples of Nepal
that the westerner adopted the word from an Indo-Persian word
such as 'But-kada' or the Sanskrit word 'Bhagavat' meaning
'idol temple' of any kind and gradually extended to mean a
temple 'with tailored roofs' and that the word was picked
up by the Portuguese as a corruption of some Indian term in
the sixteenth century3 .
Sylvan Levi, a French Scholar, at the beginning of this century
describes the Pagoda of Nepal as "In the centre the houses
of the god, a storied building raised on a terrace of stone,
the sanctuary in the lower storey, a rectangle of brick and
wood sheltered by a slanting roof, covered with tiles or copper
with corners bend upwards, beams running counter to the slope
of the roof and bearing it up. Over this agreeing with he
fundamental principle of all Indian architecture, the ensemble
(on outfit) is repeated from storey to storey, but gradually
diminishing each of the upper roofs being drawn back a little
more than lower one, a bell turret of metal crown on the summit
The noted scholar and an art critique Percy Brown describes
the style of the temple, " As a comparatively simple
design. The plan is ordinarily square and the ground floor
is generally the only one put to any practical use, the upper
floors, which may be several in number, being often blind
storeys. The lower room built on a stone plinth, is the chamber
of the temple or sanctuary of the deity, and contains little
but idol, and a few religious accessories..... Above this
arises the red tiled roof of the sanctuary , and surmounting
this are progressive storeys, which go up to make the pagoda.
The roof of the highest of these is plated with copper gilt.....
A very attractive addition to the gilder roof of the Pagoda
is a kind pendant escutcheon of embossed metal hanging from
the pinnacle over the lane "5.
In Nepal, we find that there were several famous buildings,
temples and palaces during the Lichchhavi period. Mangriha,
Kailashkut Bhawan and Bhadradiwas Bhavan were the famous palaces
of the period. Many icons of Lichhavi period have come to
light and published. Some temples of the Lichhavi period we
have today also are not in their original shape. They are
either enlarged or altered while carrying repair works. Now
the time has come that the scholars have to find the reasons
of the disappearance of Kailashkut Bhawan, Mangriha, Bhadradiwas
Bhavan and other Lichchhavi monuments and their sites.
The Changnnarayan inscription of King Manadeva I starts by
invoking the Hari of Doladri6 . The
Gopal Raja Vamsavali (hereafter GRV) credits King Supaspa
for the construction of the gold roofed temple of Pasupatinath
7. It is hard to say that the Pasupatinatha
, Bhringareshwor and Ananta Lingeshower temples of the Lichhhavi
era are in the same shape today as they were in the Lichhavi
Pashupati coins and epithet of Pashupati Bhattarak Padanugrihita
by Ansuvarma indicate the importance of Pashupatinath. Most
probably all the important buildings of Lichhavi period were
destroyed by the frequent earthquakes in the Kathmandu Valley.
Kathmandu valley has been suffering from earthquakes for centuries.
Those Lichhavi temple we have today must have been changed
due to the frequent renovation and repair works. Unless we
find the ruins of the temples of Lichhavi period we are not
in a position to draw a conclusion that the temples of Lichhavi
period were made in Pagoda style. However, an inscription
of Amsuvarrma dated Sambat 34 equivalent to of Christian Era
7th century A.D. located at Sundhara of Patan indicates about
Pagoda temples in existence during the period.. Mating Devkula,
a temple was damaged by rodents, rats and windows and doors
destroyed by white ants and turmoits were carefully repaired
This inscription provides a clue that it was a Pagoda temple.
If it was under such bad condition during the period of Anshuvarma
this might have been raised at least 200 years earlier. It
might have taken that much time for a temple of brick and
wood to be so badly damaged.
Wang Huen T'se , who visited Nepal, describes about the Nepalese
buildings made of wood with various kinds of paintings on
To quote the Chinese traveller - "The walls of their
wooden houses are sculpture and painted... They sculpture
images on stone." Wang Huen T'se describes the immense
palace of Nepal. According to him, the Royal palace had seven
storeys, and copper roof. The upper part was smaller than
the lower part. There was a chowk (yard) in the centre where
as the place covered all four directions and the upper 'Burja'
has the capacity to hold thousands of people. There were several
idols made of precious stone and covered by artistic pillars.
The above description must be of Kailashkut palace because
the inscriptions from the time available describe the beauty
of Kailashkut. On the basis of both the Chinese account and
Nepalese inscription historians have reached to the conclusion
that Pagoda temples were popular even during the Lichchari
period. Dr. D. R. Regime is the first of foremost scholar
of this view. He claims that Pagoda temple to be prudent of
Nepal. His view is mainly based on the emphasis of the Chinese
account to support his claim. In fact, high sounding description
of Chinese traveller have stated," there are sculptures
to astonish you". This phrase also has to be studied
properly and reach to the conclusion whether he was astonished
by the palace or sculptures there.
Dr Regmi opines that the Chinese traveller has never seem
a Pagoda temple in China on the ground that he describes the
Nepali pagoda to be astonishing. Criticising Fergusson's claim
in his history of Indian and Eastern Architecture Dr. Regmi
opines "the possibility, therefore of the style to have
travel Nepal to China and other countries is more acceptable.
It was during the seventh century that the advent was made
by this style into Tibet mainly through Nepalese efforts.
All credit goes to those who not only produced a new masterly
style of architecture but also gave expression to the same
the way, such as, was gladly copied by other "10.
Probably the Pagoda system did spread to the other countries
from Nepal via China. It might happened in the seventh century
due to the efforts of Nepalese who went to Tibet.
Man Bajra Bajracharya who is professionally a physician but
a well known figure of Nepalese culture and history opines
that Pagoda are the creation of Nepalese. His argument is
based on the then ecology and views that Nepalese made such
temples or buildings after the coniferous trees. He is of
the opinion that Pagoda was developed by Nepalese being influenced
by Himalayan coniferous tree.
Percival Landon, who came to Nepal at the first quarter of
this century argue that Pagodas style to have originated from
Nepal. He claims that those things belonged there where they
are in great quantity.
Dr. D. R. Regmi thinks Pagoda style is a gift to Asia by
the Nepalese architects. He on his book Ancient Nepal writes
a special sub-chapter under this heading11
Thus some historians believe Nepal to be the original place
of Pagoda style whereas other believes it to have started
either from India or China. Now we have three hypothesis about
Pagodas:- it is emerged in Nepal, it is developed in China
and it is originated in India. So now question is from where
Pagoda style started ? This is the first question to be studied
and solved. Furgussion believes Pagoda to have been developed
in China whereas D. J. Snellgrove, Hermann Goetz, N. R. Banarjee
and other Indian historian as well as Precy Brown believe
India to be first home of Pagodas. However, Nepalese historians
and some foreign intellectuals believe Pagodas were the outcome
of the Nepali genius.
A group of scholars headed by Furgussion opine that Pagodas
were first designed in China and then spread to Nepal and
India as in China the Pagodas are ancient and popular.
The people who believe Pagodas to be developed in India have
their own arguments. Indians have, through excavations, in
Kashmir, Kathiyabad, etc. found the foundation of Pagoda temples.
If these foundation reconstructed the plain would be of Pagoda.
In this way Pagodas seemed to developed during Gupta period.
Citing these examples, Indians argue that even Pagodas were
developed in India, but Indians, later started making stone
temple due to the hot climate of soil destroy the wood or
wood was not suitable for the climate12
N.R. Banarjee pointing the different classical descriptions
of Bhadrapith in different books on Indian cannons of architecture
claims that Nepalese Pagoda are the imitation of Indian. Bhadrapith
were told to be those temples which have multi-roofs that
become smaller as the height of the temple building increases.
He presents temples found in various parts of India, Kerala,
Karnatak, Kathiawar (Gujrat) as examples. He argues that Pagodas
in Nepal are found only after the begining of Nepal Sambat.
According to chronology, Nepal Sambat (started in 20th Oct
879). The new Era started after offering an immense worship
to Pashupatinath to prevent frequent earthquakes and other
natural calamities. The present Pagoda style of the Pashupatinath
was made then13 . However, the description
about the importance of Pashupatinath is found even during
Lichhavi period. The studies have shown that Pashupatinath
has been venerated and temple existed long before the beginning
of Nepal Sambat. GRV notes that King Raghav Dev started Nepal
Sambat after a special worship to the Pashupatinath. The same
GRV mentiones that King Shupuspa made the three storied temple
of Pashupatinath offering gold roofings.
Mention of 'Pashupati Bhattarak' by Lichhavi King on their
inscriptions and Pasupati coins also indicate the importance
of Pashupatinath during the period So as indicated above Pashupatinath
was immensely popular then. The Hindus hardly destroy their
temples, the centres of their faith, one can not easily agree
that the ancient Pashupatinath temple was pulled down and
made in a new style, the pagoda style as argued by N.R. Banarjee.
Percy Brown is of the opinion that Pagoda was developed as
the imitation of 'Yaggyamandap' covered by mat in ancient
India and the same was introduced in Nepal in due course of
Dr. Regmi a well reputed Nepalese scholar and historian strongly
believes Pagodas to be the creation of Nepal. He calls it
multi-roofed-style instead of Pagoda. His arguments are based
on the description of Wang Huen T'se. "In the middle
of the palace there is a tower of seven storeys roofed with
copper tiles. Its balustrade grilles, columns, beams and every
thing therein are set with fine and even precious stones.
At each of the four corners of the tower these projects a
water pipe of copper. At the base there are golden dragons
which spout forth water is poured through runnels which finds
its way down below, streaming like a fountain from the mouth
of the golden Makara15 ." In
the capital of Nepal there is a construction is storeys which
has more than 200 tch'eu of height and 80 peu (400 ft.) of
circumference. Ten thousand man can find place in its upper
part. It is divided it three terraces and each terrace is
divided in seven storeys. In the pavilions, there are sculptures
to make you marvel. Stones and pearls decorate them16
Citing the above quote of the Chinese Traveller Dr. Regmi
claims that had he seen these pagoda temples in China, he
would not have certainly praised them in such a manner. Such
description clearly indicates that he had not seen such Pagodas
He might be right but it is not sure whether his saying "there
are sculpture to astonish you" or "there are sculpture
to make you marvel" are the outcome of the temples or
the icon styles. It needs further research to reach to a conclusion.
GRV the earliest known chronicle from 15th century A.D. describes
that King Supuspa constructed the multi-storeys Pashupatinath
temple. However, the construction of Pashupatinath temple
about 1500 years before Jayastyiti Malla seems doubtful until
further research so it would not be wise to reach to any conclusion..
The description of Chinese traveller is from the 7th century
and further testified by the Patan inscription it seems that
the Pagodas were already in developed stage .
Ranipokhari was made in Pagoda style by Pratap Malla. The
frequent earthquakes are responsible for its present shape
One can doubt whether the Pagodas of Lichhavi period might
have damaged with the collapse of Lichhavi period civilisation
due to earthquake, natural calamities and plagues. Nepal is
a place where powerful earthquakes have been occurring in
every 100 years plus, minus few years. Thus people made Pagodas
of wood and bricks so that they can be reused after the earthquakes
damage them. May be it is for the reason we find the number
provided in few struts ?
Dr. Regmi argues in length it is not appropriate to mention
such multi roofed temples as Pagodas. "It is mistake
to take the temple style in Nepal as one deriving from the
pagoda style, since temples of the style existed in Nepal
earlier than elsewhere. It is therefore not proper to consider
the temples as derivatives and to call them Pagodas. They
should enjoy in all justice a name which is attached to the
place of their birth, and the style should be named as the
Nepalese style17 ."
In fact Nepalese Pagodas have its their own features. Pasupatinath,
Changunarayan, Jaisidewal, Shiva temple of Kathmandu Durbar
square, Taleju temples of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur,
Bhimsen temple of Kathmandu and Patan, Macchindranath, Bishweshor
temple of Patan Durbar square, Yakshaswor temple of Bhaktapur,
Akashbhairav, Dattatraya, Bramhayani, Nyatapol, Bajrayogini
of Sankhu, Harishidhi, Bhagawati of Nala, Chandesori of Banepa,
Bajrabarahi of Chapagaun, Indreshowor of Panauti, Mahadev
of Tripureshowor, Bhairav of Nuwakot, Kumbheshowor of Patan,
etc. are some of the famous temples of made in Nepali style.
There are mainly four kinds of plan in Nepalese Pagoda temples:
rectangular, square, circular and octagonal.
Rectangular: Akash Bhairav of Bhaktapur,
Bagh Bairav of Kritipur, Bhimsen temple of Patan and Kathmandu
are rectangular whereas others are square. In this way, temples
of Bhimsen, Bhairav and Nawadurga temples made in group seem
to be rectangular. In rectangular temple, the idol of Gods
are kept in the first floor not on the ground floor. As the
room of these temples are large, there are enough space to
chant hymens, to perform worship, etc. The ground floor does
not come into use. However, objects related to Gods can be
kept in the ground floor. In some rectangular temples we can
see shops in Kathmandu as to the case of Bhimsen, Bairave
Square: In the Nepalese square temple, the
sanctum (Garvagriha) is in the ground floor. So the first,
second and third storeys rarely come into use or in other
words, they are beautiful and high in appearance but lack
Circular: It is circular round. Hanuman
Mandir of Hanumandoka, Shiva temple of Pashupatinath, etc.
are circular temples in Nepal.
Octagonal: It has eight corners. The octagonal
temples are in front of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar
squares with enough rooms for may people to stay at the same
There are certain differences in the pagodas in every country.
A typical pagadas has three to fifteen storeys of decreasing
size from bottom to top. Each storey has an ornate tile roofing
that curbs up wards at the corner. In most of the cases carved
wooden beams and post support the structure. Chinese pagoda
are mostly octagonal in plan and odd number of storeys. The
Japanese pagoda developed after Chinese model are made of
wood. The ground floor contained, images and the upper storeys
are used to view the surrounding area. In Tai-wan the pagodas
house the ashes of cremated Buddhist. In Nepal the pagodas
in rare case are octagonal. They have the supportive elements
the struts turn into decorative element very smartly. Thus
the function of pagodas in every where is different so made
differently. The function of Nepalese pagodas is to meditate,
to pay homage to the God to chant. That is the reason many
pagodas of are raised on diminishing plinths for the use of
circumbulation as well as to pray for hours and hours. For
this reason the Nepalese pagoda has more aesthetic value.
People do not go to second storeys. This idea is found in
Chinese pagoda too. So very smartly they have place the God
in the ground floor in such a way that nobody can step right
above the God. The balconies of the upper storeys are used
for site scene.
There are different versions by scholars about the originality
of Pagoda. Some scholar opinion that Pagoda is imported feature
and indigenous origin of Nepal. Writer believes that Nepalese
Pagoda has own feature and unique type which is not found
in world - it is real one. So all the hosting evidences indicate
that Nepal is the home of the so called Pagoda style architecture
in the world.
Main Features of Nepalese Style Temple
1. Unseen/unnoticed base
2. These temples have multi plinths - for examples Kumbheshowor
of Patan has only one plinth but the Nyatapol has six plinths.
3. The stairs are made cutting the plinths. The stairs of
Pashupatinath temple has three stairs whereas the stairs of
Nyatapol has many steps.
4. Important and big squares temples have either a door or
four in each direction for example Pashupatinath, Changunarayan
and Kumveshowor have four doors. Nakshal Bhagwati, Mahankal
and many others have only one door.
5. Pagodas are often made by raising of wooden pillar from
the sanctum and making space to circumbulate the temple.
6. The four door temples have other two door on the either
side of the main doors, which can be opened when needed. Pashupatinath
,Changunarayan and Kumbheswar of Patan are the best examples
7. Above the main gate there is always a tympanum (Toran).
The image of the main god of Toran a corresponds with the
God of the temple. If there is Shiva's phallus in the temple,
the Toran must have Shiva's picture or some thing that represents
Siva. . However, it is not necessary to be the exact copy.
Tympanum is surmonted in the entrance door which is semi-circular
and made of exquisitely carved wood or metal. The detail of
torana gives the idea of the main diety residing inside the
shrine. The torana adapted to an infinite number of design
often has a number of deities evenly spaced around the main
deity. It is generally covered by a crowded complex of nagas,
garuda, minor deities, acquit animals, etc. But the commonest
of torana image is the Kirtimudha clenching the head of a
pair of nagas which forms the border decoration. Torana at
the main entrance of the chusya bahal crowned by the garuda-shaped
kirtimukha is the best example of the wooden torana architecture
(17 century )18. Here the kirtimukha
is holding a pair of snakes which flanks the border of carved
torana on either side. Shankhu Bajrayogini temple has the
similar type of wooden torana. Bhawani temple in Patan (16th
century )19 Teleju temple in Bhaktapur
(17 century )20 are the master pieces
of metal torana. Thus, the torana as an architectural and
decorative element is highly developed in Kathmandu valley.
8. After completing the wall of the ground floor, wooden
beams are kept. Above the wooden bases support the bamboo
or wood used to hold the soil kept above.
9. Vertical beams are put to support all the storeys. These
verticle beams in turn are supported by a horizontal beams
in slanting shape are kept. Struts (Tundal) on 45 degree angle
are there to support the horizontal beams.
10. Struts add beauty to Nepalese temple. In fact, struts
are the supporting elements of Nepalese Pagodas but also serve
as decorative architectural function.
11. If observed watch carefully, corner struts are united
shape of human beings, animals and birds. They have wings,
horns, human shape or image of birds. It is totally in anthropomorphic
12. As it is necessary to pinch the corner of horizontal
beam to stick each other, corner struts are kept in Nepalese
Pagodas. They are also called Kusal (horse of corner). Corner
struts are strong and powerful because they have to bear the
13. The struts have idols of God and Goddess. Some have one
and others have with their along twist (Shakti) female half..
14 Similar shape of soil of wood is repeated in upper storeys.
As the upper storeys become smaller than the ones below, the
struts are also smaller both in quantity and size. For example
there are six struts in the lower storeys and only four in
the upper storeys. Similarly, the number of struts has decreased
with the increase in the height of the Pashupatinath and Indreshowor
of Panauti. However, there are only two struts in the last
or upper most roof of Nyatapol.
15. Whether the temple is one storeys or five, the corner
of roof is always bent to upward. For this is needed special
tiles. Birds and other Additions at the corner up were bent.
The curves often have further additions, most notably bird.
These small images of metal are about the size of sparrows
but look like crane and in the mouth catching a fish upon
the upward curved tips of the corners. General opinion is
that they are basically decorative, but that there is also
some symbolic importance in the chirping of real birds as
a kind of warning. When the images are added to a building,
its construction is said to be finished and special worship
procedure take place including a roofing ceremony. It is believed
that its a mark of the last step in building. Just as the
sacrifice of a goat in the foundation depression may be the
first spet21 . This birds also give
a symbolic meaning that they are flying and taking this temple
to the heaven.
16. The upper roofs are made of copper or gold coated metal
but the lowers are roofed with ceramic tiles.
17. At the top of the temple is kept a Gajur (pinnacle) like
a poured bell. The number of Gajurs varies. Some have a Gajur
whereas other have more or up to Taleju temple of Bhaktapur,
Kumari temple, Rudrabarnamahabihar have Stupa like Gajurs.
There are other many examples in some places umbrellas are
kept around the Gajurs.
18. The roofs of Nepalese temples are either round or circular,
rectangular and square. The Panchamukhi Hanuman temple raised
by Pratap Malla and Pashupatinath are circular, Bhimsen temple
of Kathmandu and Patan are rectangular and Taleju of Kathmandu
and Kumbheshowor of Patan are in square.
19. Some temples are octagonal. The best example of octagonal
are temple made in front of Hanumandoka square by Pratap Mall
and a temple of Bhaktapur. These temples are called "Chyasingdeg"
in local terminology.
20. A leaf of embossed metal comes down to the entrance door
from its roof. Some temples have many such leaves and some
have only one. In fact, such leaves are offered by devotees
in the name of their ancestors or to beautify the temple.
Descending metal banners called Bhuajas or Patakas. This descend
from the pinnacle down past the edge of the lower most roof
edge, are as important for their religious meaning as far
their decorative appearance. This metal plates are believed
a kind of pathway from heaven along which a god may descend
toward the earth. For example Matsyendranath, Bhimsenath temple,
Annapurna Mandir etc. They are also offered by the devotees
on memory of the departed soul.
21. Another feature of Nepalese temple is the artistic windows.
These windows also help to add beauty to the temples. The
design and construction of windows have become an important
focus for displaying in Nepalese architecture, the wood-work
both in external design and skill joinery work. The windows
are made from many prefabricated units of varying shapes and
sizes without using any metal nails or glue. Each window consists
of two frames inner and outer, richly carved and both frames
are held together by wooden ties and nails. The lattice work
of the window is generally combining three different battens:
the perforated, the serrated and key battens. Windows is a
very common element for building which may be a place or temples
or a monasteries or a private house. Light and ventilation
is the main function of these windows but religious importance
is also added to it by putting divinities or object of worship
as a motif on these. Windows are combinations of grills and
frame and the frames may have decoration of auspicious symbols,
flower, mesh style, geometrical design, perfect in symmetrical
order and always kept in odd number. Symbolisation of sun
and moon, representation of auspicious symbols, bird motifs
are popular works which are displayed in most of the monuments.
The royal palace of Bhaktapur is known as Pachapanna jhyale
darbar because of its fifty-five carved windows, Pujarimath
and peacock window is the best example of Bhaktapur. Desemarujhaya
at a private house and Kumari Ghar in Kathmandu is a master
piece of window workmanship, as name itself suggests that
nowhere in the country like this. Some temples have fake windows
and other peacock windows so that there would be no monotonous
feelings in the shape from the temple. There are false window
to decorate. For example the false balcony windows of Patan,
Sundari Chowk, Peacock windows of Bhaktapur.
22. Wind bell (Fyanga) is the another feature of Nepalese
temple. They are called
so because even wind can ring them. According to direction
of wind, these
23. Around the temples there is a courtyard (Chowk) paved
with stone or bricks.
24. In some places we find statues of donors. The statues
of Pratap Malla and his family at Degu Taleju temple is an
example. Similarly, the statue of Parthibendra in front of
Taleju temple, Siddhinarshingh Malla in front of Krishna temple
in Patan and of Yognarendra in front of Patan Taleju temple
are some examples. Such was an old tradition in Nepal. The
vehicles of Gods and Anjali Mudras (Namaste) of donors are
25. Public rest house is made at the premises of the temples.
Generally the temples are made near the source of water. There
may be either rivers, springs, ponds or wells.
26. In front of the temples the vehicles of Gods like bulls,
lion, peacock, mouse are offered.
27. Brick and woods are excessively used in Nepalese temples
so that they can be reused whenever the temples are damage
by earthquakes and other natural calamities. Sometimes, the
devotees can make small temples larger. Even two storeys temples
can be turned into five storeys. While doing so, the Gajur
of first floor is kept in the storage. Recently when the French
repaired a temple in Panauti they found two such Gajurs in
the store. This indicates that the temple of Indreshowor was
once one storied in the beginning. The devotees who made the
second storey offered new Gajur and kept the old one in the
store. Similarly, the maker of third storey offered new Gajur
and kept the old ones in the store.
28. Another important feature is that Nepalese people are
the followers of Smarta religion. Smarta means belief in five
Gods - Sun, Durga, Ganesh, Shiva, Bishnu. Therefore, there
four small idols around the main Gods of Pashupatinath, Indreshowor
Changunarayan and even in small temples they are placed in
their respective places as per the cannons of iconography
29. In many temples we find bells hung on two large iron
,rope stuck in stone pillars, photos, mirrors, utensils and
weapons, and the information provided by the donors. Such
temples are often kept neat and clean .
30. In some temples we can find the description of religious
stories through pictures like in Jayabageswori of Devpatan
, Chandeswori of Banepa, Bagh Bhairav of Kirtipur. An inscription
of Chabahil describes the various scenes of Kinnari Jataka
painted on the monastery.
31. Erotic carving: caption of pictures and in sometimes number
can be found in struts. They also show secular art. Visitors
with pure and holy mind, when go to temples, frequently surprise
to find erotic arts in struts on eye level. Some of these
do not take it seriously or solve in the themselves but other
plunge into the non-solving fathoms of doubt. Solutions have
been given and many more interpretations have come . Justice
to revive a series of new doubt and questions. Simply speaking;
these art contain religious faiths, if not so would not be
carved in temples. This fact reminds other historious and
surprising facts hidden in the faiths distributed in other
contents. In Nepal, Kathmandu Valley is the fertile land of
erotic arts. Similarly Gorkha, Palpa and Pokhara are also
remarkable in this context. Following is the group of the
art found generally in temple. Even though a separate articles
in erotic carvings is needed but let me grab the opportunity
to discuss in detail about the secrets of erotic carvings.
1. Exhibition of Sex organs (Mahadev Temple, Hanumandhoka)
2. Couple engages in sexual Romance (Dattatreya Temple. Dattatreya
temple of Bhaktapur, Yakeshwor temple (Bhaktapur), Char Narayan,
Patan Three Devi Kathmandu)
3. Couples in Lustful Passion (Jal Binayak, Chobhar, Jagannath
4. Couples in sexual union in fantastic poses
a. A man with two women (Parvati Temple, Jagannath Temple.
b. Two men with a woman (Charnarayan Temple, Jagannath Temple).
c. A man with a woman with attendent (Mahadev Temple, Gokarna,
5. Sexual Action; with an attendant collecting semen (Pasupati
Yakeshwor Temple Bhaktapur, Jagannath temple of Kathmandu).
6. Couple practising Sodomy or titillation of the anus (Charnarayan
7. Women having coitus with animals:
a. Women with a dog (Laxmeshwor Mahadeve Temple. Teku
b. Two women with an ass/horse (Charnarayan Temple, Patan)
c. Woman with hybrid (Jagannath temple)
8. Coitus among animals:
a. Among dogs (Manakamana Temple, Thamel).
b. Among Asses/horses (Jagannath temple)
c. Among monkey (cafe Nyatopola Bhaktapur)
d. Among lions/hybrids/Elephant
9. Woman with woman (Charnarayan).
10. Woman with a branch of a tree (Guest house Gorkha).
11. Scene of delivery (Yakeshwor Bhaktapur, Laxmeswor Teku)
a. It is believed that these arts protects from thunder.
In Sanskrit the term "Vidyut" is believed Virgin,
and she does not enter the temple, where it is Garud in the
b. The Lord of thunder "Indra" pleases seeing these
posters and does not destroy the temples.
c. Some mystical thought are behind it. It is to protect
the temple or the living divine soul active to fulfil human
desires abiding inside the temple from evil eyes. Tantric
would not take the deity from the shrine by doing this renunciation
showing the divine couples in fantastic postures.
These are baseless layman's logic. One of the classical interpretation
of the erotic themes is as a language of Tantra, written in
erotic forms to make them very secret, and makes them neglected
by hypocritric Priests (Pandits). It is a sort of Sandhya
- bhasa ca twilight- language that only Tantric Yogis can
decode. The very basic of this interpretation is the male-female
nature of the ultimate reality. The male nature is interpreted
by "Shiva" and female nature by Sakti.
Tantrism was a powerful religious movement which emerged
out of the coalescence between primitive magic and highly
evolved spiritual ideals. It incorporated folk and tribal
magico-religious beliefs and rites at an organised level.
It is import to clarify different aspects of Tantrism and
se which among these could be relevant to erotic depictions.
We will examine two broad aspects of it:
(i) its spiritual goal of advaya, sahaja, non-duality.
(ii) its practice of maithuna as a makara to be offered to
the deity. We have to ascetain the extent to which these have
a bearing on sexual depictions.
As Tantrism is treated in Tantric texts as an esoteric religion,
meant only for the initiated, questions certainly arise as
to how its tenets and practices could have been exposed to
the general public. What can be relationship between the "depiction"
of sex and Ttantrism? It is possible to distinguish Tantrism
at three levels:
(i) "genuine" or "ideal" tantrism with
its ritualistic rigour and esoterism,
(ii) Tantrism at a "popular" level, as associated
with some of the Medieval Tantric sects and their aristocratic
(iii) the influence of tantrism in general in various areas
of Indian culture through the fusion of some of the tantric
magical elements and beliefs in puranas, Nibandhas, etc22
Tantrism developed out of Mahayana Buddhism and Sakta cults,
is now believed to be based on wrong assumptions. As S. B.
Dasgupta puts it: side by side with the commonly known theological
speculations and religious practices there has been flowing
in India an important religious undercurrent of esoteric yogic
practices from a pretty old times; these esoteric practices,
when associated with the theological speculations of the Saivas
and the Saktas, have given rise to Saiva and Sakta Tantricism;
when assoc iated with the Buddhistic speculations, have given
rise to the composite religious system of Buddhist Tantricism;
and again, when associated with the speculations of Bengal
Vaisnavism, the same esoteric practices have been responsible
for the growth of the esoteric Vaisnavite cult, known as the
Vaisnava Sahajiya movement. Similalry, we have Saura and Ganapatya
Tantras associated with the worship of Surya and Ganapati.
The Tantric mode of worship and practices are also associated
with Jainism23 .
Essential Features of Tantrism:
Goal of Non-Duality: The aim of Tantric Sadhana is the realisation
of the identity of the worshipper and the worshipped, the
individual soul and the supreme soul. Here it does not differ
in its philosophy from non-Tantric Hindu or Buddhist philosophies,
but it distinct from them in its methods. Tantras point to
a short-cut to Moksa or liberation. Instead of the laborious
path of asceticism, moral discipline and mortification, they
make use of magical and psychological aids which help the
sadhaka (aspirant) to achieve quickly the goal of self-realization.
These include mantras (Incantations), yantras (mystic diagrams),
mandalas (circles), kavachas (amulets) and mudras (gestures).
By the practice of nyasa the sadhaka identifies each part
of his body with that of the deity. Identifying his body with
the deity, he becomes the deity. What is speculatively conceived
of in the religious systems of the Vedanta is actually put
into practice in Trantric sadhana24
Yogic Practices: In Buddhist Tantrism and
some schools of Hindu Tantrism (Natha sect and Sahajiya sect),
the semen, called bodhichitta or bija, is not to be cast.
The fall of the semen is considered a great sin. The semen
must not be emitted; otherwise the yogin falls under the law
of time and death, like any other common libertine. For checking
the flow of semen, the sadhaka practises coitus reservatus
by taking recourse of Hatha-yogic or psycho-physical techniques.
The semen instead of flowing downwards is let by Yoga to the
highest centre of the body or the Ushnisha Kamala of Buddhist
Tantras or the Sahasrara Chakra or Hindu Tantras. Hastha-yogic
processes of mudra, bandha, asana and pranayama are resorted
to in arresting the flow of semen25
Maithuna and Other Makaras: In Hindu Tantrism,
the fifth makara, the maithuna, is offered to the goddess
as are wine, fish, rice and meal. The Tantric sadhaka emits
semen with the following formula: "Om with light and
ether as my two hands, I, the exulting one, relying on the
ladle, I who take darma and non-dharma as his sacrificial
ingredients, offer (this oblation) lovingly into the fire,
svaha. The Karpuradistolram (10,15), a Medieval Tantric work,
declares: "If by night, Thy (Devi's) devotee, unclothed
with dishevelled hair, recites whilst meditating on Thee,
Thy mantra, when united with his Sakti, youthful, full-breasted,
and heavy-hipped, such a one makes all powers subject to him,
and dwells on the earth ever a seer." "He, O Mahakali,
who in the cremation ground, naked and with dishevelled hair,
intently meditates upon Thee and recites Thy mantra, and,
with each recitation makes offering to Thee of a thousand
Akanda (sunflowers) with seed (nijagalitaviryena) becomes
without many effort." The Tara-Bhakti-Sudharnava Tantra
says that the fifth tattva or maithuna is not the ordinarily
performed sexual act but the ritual process involving nyasa,
mantras, etc; the entire operation is to be carried out as
an offering to the Goddess or Brahman in its collective female
aspect. The Kalikulasarvasva declares: "By doing japa
or mantra and by adoration of Bhagavati, the consort of Siva,
at the time of sexual union, a man becomes like Suka, free
from all sins.". Mantras and dhyana (meditation formula)
of several Tantric goddesses contain descriptions of a couple
of sexual union near the goddess. For instance, Chhinamasta,
a fierce goddess, has to be visualised, according to the Mahakalasamhita
(248th Patala, p.116), with Dakini and Varnini on either side
and Rati and Kama in form of Siva and Parvatiinvolved in viparitarata
as a sexual act where female is in top26
Tantrism and Fertility Cults: The significant
place assigned to the panchamakaras in Tantrism clearly associates
it with primitive and folk religion. The propitiation of Vinayakas,
according to the Manava Grihyasutra (II,28) of the pre-Christian
period, included bali or offering of mudra, mamsa, mina, madya
or wine in a basket which was put at the cross road. These
four objects are the makaras in Tantric religion. The Mother
goddesses were also propitiated by similar means in the popular
religion practised in the 2nd century A.D. The primitive worship
of the Mother goddess with meat and wine, two of the Tantric
makaras, is seen in the Aryastava in the Harivamsa, and is
also mentioned in the Visnu Purana (V, 2.84). The utmost importance
given to maithuna asone of the five makaras in Tantrism, either
in its actual or symbolic performance, reveals its closeness
to cults of fertility in which, as we have ritual copulation
is performed for the attainment of general welfare and the
riddance of all evils27 .
As a matter of fact the writer of these lines personally
has a different opinion regarding the erotic carving in Nepal.
The Nepalese erotic carving is very much similar to the Orrisan
carvings. The tantra literature are written in a code language.
The simple translation of tantric literature confuses the
reader. The teacher only is able to decode the code language.
Once the decoding technique is understood, then the erotic
carvings of the Nepal is understood. So far the scholars have
tried to explain the real meanings and sense of erotic carving
just translating the literature but without being able to
decode them. In certain places the erotic carving of Nepal
is explained by proper caption. The writer is convinced that
there are very scientific tantric equations that describes
both the gross and stubble word from microcosm to macrocosm.
32. Pillars and Plasters: These stand to
bear the bale of the super structural roof together with a
complex of beams, lintels and rafters. In the structures,
which have the circumbulatory passages provided outside, the
delicacy of pillar can not be enjoyed but as one enters the
courtyard of monastry, place or temple there are series of
carved pillar and pilasters start projecting out throughout
the cloisters. In the residential houses the pillars are usually
plain, without any motifs. The base portion of a wooden pillar
is generally a plain square without carving, but the shaft
and the capitals are much more ornate. Ghatapallava, Patravali,
Ratnahara, Puspapatra, Kumbha, Kalasa, Amalaka, etc. are some
of the most common motifs. The cross section of the shafts
differ from one adorning layer to another, for the motifs
are vividly executed. The Purnakalasa, floral design and effigy
of Garuda are very common motifs on the pillars. The capitals
may display on either side Kirtimukha or miniature of divinity
surrounded by the Patravallis. The pillars of Durga temple
in Bhaktapur, Krishna temple in Patan (17 century, N. R. Banerjee).
Lohan chock at Hanumanadhoka palace are the some of the best
examples of the pillars deriving. They are all place in the
ground floor. Dettatraya temple at Bhaktapur, Kasthamandapa,
Siva and Panchali temples in Kathmandu, Bhairava temple at
Panauti have decorative pillars in the first floor also. The
pillars of Durga temple in Bhaktapur have more than a dozen
of mouldings in the shaft portion alone28
33. Wall Band: Many temple and monasteries
have wall band design like coiled body of the snake. At the
very end of the wall these turn into the bust of naga and
naginies offering water through a conch snell or in anjali
mudra. In many brick temples of the late period as well as
on stone temples we find the ceramic and stone wall band,
respectively. Some medieval palaces and Buddhist monasteries
are famous for these kinds of wall band. At the very beginning
this might have been started to check and stop the dampness
of the earth. But later on this became a fashion and part
of the temple. When temple started to regarded as a body and
the God as the soul of the body, they might have developed
this concept as udaravandha. A wrest band that separates the
earthly affairs and heavenly affairs.
34. The cloth flag or banner is a very old religious form
in Nepal and they may still be seen hanging from poles around
temples or attached to the temples themselves. For example
the Bhairava temple in Bhaktapur.
35. Kalasa:- The copper gilt bell shaped
crescent on the top of a temple. This Kalasa which hang from
the underside of the roof of temple. This represents the blessings
shown on man much like the cornucopia symbol of the western
world, and also this humble water vessel is considered to
be a most auspicious ornament.
36. Horns: In some temples exteriors are
mounted horns of sacrificial buffaloes. The are considered
important as symbols rather than as art. Example are found
in Nasadya, Bhairavs of Kathmandu valley and Thecho Nava Durga.
37. The oil lamp railings which so often surround the bases
of Nepalese Temples at the height of the plinths. In most
of the temples we will find oil lamp Railings to burn wick
38. Painting: In some temples we will find
beautiful wall paintings, struts and other carvings. We can
see many Hindu and Buddhist stories in painting. The temples
of Bag Bhairava at Kirtipur, Bhagavati Temple of Nala, Jaya
Bageswari, Vaku Bahal, are among the many shrine displaying
such vibrantly coloured roof paintings
39. Colour: "While the brick construction
and materials of Nepalese temples have already been explained,
a few very basic additions to the walls have not. As the walls
are commonly painted bright red with yellow colour defining
the lines of mortar between the bricks, red is said to be
the colour of bravery, courage, and strength, while yellow
may in some cases symbolise gold, be associated with Visnu,
or symbolic of mildness. Both colours are probably used on
temple walls, however, for their decorative quality and for
their similarity to the colour of the original materials.
Red paint renews the appearance of bricks which were baked
with oil, and yellow colour is said to resemble a layer of
earth. Like most painting on temples, wall colouring of this
sort may not be really traditional; certainly the very bright
and long-lasting coloured enamels often used today were not
in ancient practice "29.
40. Cornice: The wooden cornice designs,
sometimes combined with plastered elements, are discussed
in detail with reference to several individual temples in
the survey of Kathmandu Valley temples. In almost every case
this 1 to 2 foot wide band of carved wooden borders, topped
by a ledge extending out about 4 to 10 inches from the wall,
serves as a base for the struts. These struts are partially
braced at their bottoms by the brick walls but the cornice,
too, is usually needed to brace them. The struts are rarely
seen to be based in niches of the core wall only, as at the
Gah Bahal, and this occurs only with temples of very unusual
design. Presumably for extra strength, the top ledge of the
cornice is often plastered over, and special large bricks
are sometimes used here in projection from the core walls
to form a ledge. In both of these cases the ledge is painted
red and yellow or red and white in the style of brick construction
elements. The cornice top may be wood alone, and this is common
of most small scale structures30 .
41. The eight Auspicious symbols so common in Nepalese temple
design. Always of reference, the usual eight symbols are listed
a) Kalasa or colus - holy water jar
b) Sriwatsa - endless knot
c) Padma - lotus
d) Dhwaja - flag, standard of victory
e) Chakra - Dharmachakra - wheel
f) Matsya - pair of fishes
g) Chhatra - umbrella
h) Sankha - conch shell
A meandering line along the cornice may be associated with
the water jar symbol and the border of petals, a very common
motif, is clearly associated with the lotus. Other garland-like
borders may be distantly related to other auspicious symbols
like the pair of fishes, although it may be assumed that these
borders have now become so standardised that their symbolic
origins are sometimes lost to the Nepalese craftsman. Whatever
their origin, the many motifs which form repeated borders
from the top of the wide cornice to its bottom combine to
give an especially delicate and elegant appearance to this
band of wood which passes around the temple. Further relationships
exist between the auspicious symbols and passage carvings
not yet discussed, and these individual symbols and passage
carvings not yet discussed, and these individual symbols are
given prominent positions on some temples, such as Vajra Yogini,
Taleju, Machhindranath and Bhimsen temple of Patan31
42. Large Bells: The great bronze bells
which hang from massive stone frames in front side of the
temple. It gives a symbolic meaning to calling the Gods and
project the prayers of devotees to the God through their diving
43. There are a number of wooden elements which have the essential
roles to keep erect the structures. They are beams, lintel,
rafters, pins, etc. which are concealed inside the structure.
Their main function is to bear the load of the superstructure
much care has been given in the size and quality of fitness.
If any piece of wood happens to fail to conceal inside the
wall, artists never forget to leave it without carving. Kirtimukha
or animal heads are generally found in the rafter head keeping
outside the wall. There are a variety of such heads carved
on the rafter head in the Changunarayana temple and which
are not similar to each other. From time to time various auspicious
symbols are carved in the wood flanking the entrance to the