to the lowest hill in the southern part of the
valley and slicing a portion of it with his Sword Of Wisdom, he
drained the lake, thus creating the Chobar Gorge (which till today
drains the rivers of the Kathmandu Valley). The valley with its
fertile soil appeared, and Manjushree proceeded on his
mission to worship the Swayambhu, which had rested upon the small
hillock of present-day Swayambhu.
Manjushree is then said
to have founded the city of Manjupatan, which was located midway
between Swayambhu and Gujeshwori (near what is today the Kathmandu
airport), and proclaimed his disciple Dharmakarma as the ruler
of that city. It was also during this era that Krakuchanda Buddha,
Kanak Muni Buddha and Kashyapa Buddha visited the Kathmandu valley
to worship Swayambhu and Gujeshwori.
Aware that Kaliyug, the
Dark Age, was drawing near, Kanak Muni Buddha sent Prachanda Deva,
King of Gaur (Bengal), to cover the flaming image of Swayambhu
since only such an act would preserve it from the gaze of the
sin-ridden world. So, Prachanda Deva built a stupa encasing the
sacred flame of Swayambhu.
Later, Prachandra Deva
sent his son Shakti Deva to enthrone their cousin Gunakama Deva
as King of Nepal. Gunakama’s reign saw a great famine afflict
the kingdom but with aid from the Goddess Shantishree, he was
able to overcome that disaster. The last king of this dynasty
was Singhakhetu and, in his reign, the country flourished in both
trade and commerce. It is said that the kingdom even conducted
trade with places as far away as Singhaladeep (Sri Lanka).
The demise of Gunakama’s
dynasty saw a succession of rulers from the provinces of India
such as Bengal and even from as far as Madras rule Kathmandu.
The most renowned was Dharmadutta of Kanchipuram who is said to
have built the Pashupatinath Temple. Boudhanath may have been
built by Dharmadutta’s second successor. Then came the Ahir
or Abhir Dynasty who were a race of cowherds. There were eight
kings in this line, the first being Bhuktaman and the last Yaksha
Gupta. Owing to pastoral disputes, this dynasty was then replaced
by another Abhir dynasty of shepherds. This second Abhir dynasty
had a succession of three kings and their rule ended when the
Kirati invaders defeated Bhuban Simha.
The Kiratis were a tribal hill people who came
from the East. (The Ramayana mentions them as being dwellers of
the northeastern Himalayan region.) The Kirati invasion of the
Kathmandu valley occurred sometime around 700 BC. The mist famous
among the Kirati rulers was Yalambar – the first of them.
Jitadassi, the seventh king, is said to have
helped the Pandavas during the Great War of the Hindu epic the
Mahabharata. It was also during the reign of Jitadassi that Gautama
Buddha was said to have visited the Valley. The Kiratis’
rule saw a succession of 29 kings until the Licchavis at around
AD 200 defeated Gasti, the last of them.
The advent of the Licchavis
brought in the first golden era of Nepalese art and Culture. They
were also the ones who introduced the Hindu caste system into
the valley. Among the 48 Licchavi rulers, Mana Deva I, who ascended
the throne in AD 464, was a ruler of considerable talent and abilities.
He consolidated the kingdom in all directions with his powerful
army and political tact. Besides this, he was also a patron of
the arts. Pagoda-roofed structures came into vogue. Sculptors
fashioned exquisite images of their Gods and Kings. It was during
this same period that the temples of Changunarayan, Vishabjynarayan,
Sikhomanarayan and Ichabgunarayan were built.Other notable masterpieces
include the Reclining Vishnu of Budhanilkantha, the gilting of
the roof of Pashupatinath Temple, the struts of Hanuman Dhoka
and the Basantapur Tower, the Uku Bahal in Patan, and the Indreshwar
Mhadev Temple at Panauti.
Amsuvarma, of the Thakuri lineage, ascended
the throne in AD 605 upon the death of his father-in-law Shivadeva,
a Licchavi King. According to the travelling Chinese monk Huen
Tsanf, Amsuvarma had attained high military and literary glory.
Of his palace at Deopatan, Huen Tsang says that it was seven stories
high and ornamented with gems and pearls. Amsuvarma made matrimonial
alliances with both his powerful neighbors of the north and the
south. To Tsrongsten Gompo, Tibet’s powerful ruler, he offered
his daughter, Bhrikuti, and to the Indian Prince, he offered the
hand of his sister. (It was Bhrikuti, along with a Chinese princess,
who converted the Tibetan king to Buddhism, thus heralding the
advent of the religion the country was to later become famous
for. Bhrikuti is considered the Green Tara of the Buddhist psntheon
while the Chinese princess is known as the White Tara.)
After the death of Amsuvarma in AD 629, power
reverted to the Licchavis once again for a considerable period
of time. It was only in AD 879 that Raghadeva founded the real
Thakuri Dynaty. To commemorate this event, Raghadeva established
the Nepal Sambat Era, a calendar that is still followed by the
Newars of Kathmandu Valley and is running in its 12th century.
The reign of the later Thakuris has been considered
the Dark Age in the history of Kathmandu on account of much strife
and turmoil during this period and that included the ravages of
multiple foreign invasions. But trade and commerce still flourished
and cities and settlements grew. Another King, Ganakamadeva, who
ruled from AD 949 till AD 994 deserves special mention. It was
he who introduced the important festivals of Indra, and Kridhna
Jayanti. But more importantly, Gunakamadeva founded Kantipur,
In AD1200, King Arideva
assumed the title of Malla, and the dynasty of the Mallas ruled
Kathmandu Valley for a total of 568 years. At one time, during
the reign of King Yakshya Malla (1428-1482), the Valley’s
territorial gains had extended north as far as Digarcha in Tibet,
Gorkha to the west, Morang to the east, and southwards up to Bodh
Gaya in Bihar, India.
The early period of the
Malla rule saw peace and tranquility with a great deal of progress
in all spheres of life. Though the Mallas were Vaishnavite and
Shaivite Hindus, they showed tolerance towards other religions
too. Endowment monasteries, Muslims were allowed to settle in
the Valley although they were forbidden to convert others. Even
a Roman Catholic Mission of the Capuchin order was allowed into
Kathmandu and granted land by royal decree.
The Mallas were benevolent
patrons of the arts and it was during their reign that a renaissance
of the arts flourished. Traditionally passed down from father
to son, the skills of proficiency. Further developments evolved
with new ideas being acquired from neighboring kingdoms. These
craftsmen excelled in stone carving, woodcarving, brick making,
metal work and painting.
The fame of Arniko
In the 13th Century, Arniko, a Newar architect
and master craftsman of Bhaktapur, was invited to build a stupa
in Tibet at the request of Kublai Khan. Word had reached the ears
of the Mongol emperor about Arniko’s prowess as a master
builder. Soon, after the initial assignment, Arniko was conscripted
into the Court of China as "The Controller of Imperial Manufacture."
Other Newari craftsmen were also invited to
Tibet and China. On their return, they brought back a new style,
which was a fusion of their original newari style combined with
Tibetan (Chinese) art. An example of this style is seen in the
Golden Gate of Bhaktapur, which was built in 1754. It has Tibetan
and Chinese motifs inlaid among the periodic designs.
Bricks were the main components
used in construction. The Newari builders had devised a method
of strengthening regular-fired bricks by mixing oil to the clay.
Called Chikau Uppa (or Telia Eet in Nepali) meaning "oiled
brick," this novel technique brought about stronger and longer-lasting
constructions. Houses, temples, street and courtyards were all
constructed with this brick.
Besides the three principle
cities, other settlements grew around the Kathmandu Valley. Fortresses
were set up at strategic points to serve as defense outposts which
also provided protection to the farming community spread all across
the Valley. Others grew up along the flourishing trade routes.
Wary of attack by bandits and foreign invaders, people built their
houses in close clusters, often on higher ground and high walls
further fortified these.
The renaissance during the Malla eras saw further
development in the craft of image making. Stone carvings of the
earlier times gave way to mental craft. All the spires of important
temples and shrines were crowned with gold; this technique of
gilding involved a chemical compounding process. Skill in metal
craft reached a high degree of excellence and Patan, or Lalitpur
(city of arts) became the center. The best example of that period
can still be seen today in the 14th century Kwa Bahal, the Golden
Temple. Tibetan pilgrims who came on pilgrimage to this site were
so enraptured by the sight of it that they called it "Yerang"
meaning "Eternity Itself."
While the artisans of
Patan excelled in metalwork, the artisans of Bhaktapur pursued
the traditional craft of stone and woodcarving. Evidence of their
excellence is still visible today as one observes the 55-Windowed
Palace, the Peacock Windows, and the Nyatopola Temple –
all built during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla.
It is believed that Bhupatindra
Malla was brought up by a carpenter since his step-mother had
ordered to have him killed to make way for her own offspring to
become king. He is considered to be among the ablest rulers of
Bhaktapur. He was also a contemporary of Shah Jahan, the Indian
emperor who built the Taj Mahal. In all likelihood, it is possible
that the Moghyl Emperor and his sense of grandiose art inspired
Paubha –Newari Paintings
From the 11th century, religious manuscripts
were being embellished with paintings. Buddhism inspired the earliest
of these. Drawn on palm leaf strips, these simple ink sketches
were accented with basic natural colors. After the 15th century,
paper began to replace the leaf.
The Newars also had a miniature form of
painting till the 14th century that was distantly related to the
Indian Pahari School. Thereafter, that from gave way to scrolls
painting. Like the craftsmen, Newar painters had also been invited
to Tibet to paint murals and scrolls in the monasteries. Tibet
was then a prosperous trading country. Traders travelling the
Silk Route brought in merchandise from other kingdoms and this
provided an opportunity for the artists from Kathmandu to study
the arts of the other parts of Asia. As a result, they were able
to incorporate their own and other styles into the traditional
Tibetan art and evolves a whole new genre. When the Newar artists
returned back to their Kingdoms once more, they used their knowledge
to create splendid works of art in Kathmandu valley.