The architectural designs of Nepali temples are influenced by a number of different cultural and religious traditions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. Many temples in Nepal are built in the Shikhar style, which features a tall spire or tower at the top of the temple. These spires, known as “shikhara,” are often adorned with intricate carvings and painted with bright colors. The walls of Nepali temples are also often adorned with intricate carvings and paintings, depicting religious themes and stories.
The architectural designs of Nepali temple reflect the country’s rich cultural and spiritual history, with a blend of traditional and modern design elements.
What are the traditional temple styles of Nepal?
Nepal has a diverse architectural tradition, with a number of different styles of temples found throughout the country. Some of the traditional temple styles of Nepal include:
- Shikhar-style temples: These temples feature a tall spire or tower at the top, which is a characteristic feature of temples in Nepal. They are usually built in the Nepalese pagoda style and are found throughout the country.
- Stupa-style temples: These temples are characterized by a large, dome-shaped structure that represents the enlightened mind of the Buddha. Stupa-style temples can be found throughout Nepal, and are typically surrounded by smaller shrines and other religious structures.
- Chaitya-style temples: These temples are characterized by a large, rectangular hall with a high ceiling and an ornately carved entrance. The walls of chaitya-style temples are often adorned with intricate carvings and paintings, and they are often used for rituals and ceremonies.
- Pancha Ratha-style temples: These temples are characterized by their five-tiered structure and are found in the Kathmandu Valley. They are typically built in the shape of a chariot and are used for religious ceremonies and rituals.
- Bhairava-style temples: These temples are dedicated to Bhairava, a fierce aspect of Shiva, and are typically found in the Kathmandu Valley. They are characterized by their small size and are often adorned with intricate carvings and statues of Bhairava.
Architectural Designs of Nepali Temple
Of the many architectural designs of the Nepali temple, one of the most striking is the pagoda. The pagoda temple originated here and is said to have derived from the practice of animal sacrifice. One theory on the evolution of the pagoda argues that worshipers found it necessary to have an altar that was sheltered to keep the rain from extinguishing the fire. It was also needed, however, to cut a hole in the roof to let out the smoke. To keep the rain from entering the hole, a second roof was added atop the first.
Nepal Architecture Designs of The Pagoda
Most pagodas stand on a square base, or plinth, of brick or wood. It has two to five roofs, each smaller than the one below. The uppermost roof is usually made of metal and gilded, as are frequently the lower ones. The buildings are richly adorned with carved pillars, struts, doors, and other woodwork. Most decorative carvings are of various deities of all sizes and shapes. Such as gods with many arms or deified, humanized animals, often in erotic poses.
The deity to whom the temple is dedicated is usually housed on the ground floor. The upper levels are more decorative than functional. Some art historians believe that the receding upper tiers are intended to represent the umbrellas that protect the deity from the elements. Above the main entrance is a semi-circular tympanum or to-Rana usually with the enshrined deity as the central figure. The Nyatpola temple in Bhaktapur is considered the most impressive pagoda in the country.
Architecture Designs of Shikhara Temple
Although the shikhara is of northern Indian rather than Nepali origin. Many of Nepal’s temples follow its architectural form. Shikara is a simple square tower of bricks or stones and mortar, with a small room at the base that houses the god or goddess. Variations on the shikhara have pillars, balconies, and surrounding interconnected towers, which may also house deities.
The Krishna Mandir in Patan is an excellent example of a stone shikhara. The most exciting shikar in Nepal is the Mahabuddha, the Temple of One Thousand Buddhas, also in Patan. This shikhara is built with bricks, each containing an image of Buddha.
Architecture Designs of The Stupa
The Buddhist stupa is the oldest and most straightforward of Nepali art forms. On its base, most often a stepped pyramidal platform is a solid hemispherical mound in white adorned by a spire. The hill represents the universe, and the pairs of eyes on the four sides of the spire symbolize the four steps between the dome and the spire representing the 13 degrees of knowledge needed to attain nirvana.
The canopy that surmounts the top of the spire represents nirvana. Each stupa is usually ringed by a prayer wheel, each of which is given a twirl by devotees as they circle the shrine clockwise.
The oldest known stupas in Nepal are those erected by Ashoka in Patan, but the most famous are those of Swayambhunath and Bodhnath.
The Gompa and the Hindu Monastery
Another form of architecture indigenous to Nepal and neighboring Tibet is the gompa. It is the Buddhist monastery of the high-mountain regions. Although they follow a reasonably simple floor plan. All gompas are finely adorned and embellished and many dates back to the time of Ashoka.
The most striking example of this architecture in Nepal is the Thangboche monastery at Khumbu, near Mount Everest. There are about 400 Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu valley, and this number may change over time. Those near the stupa at Bodhnath are open to visitors.
Of a more intricate style are the Hindu monasteries, thirty of which are located in the Kathmandu valley. These serve as centers of Hindu study and learning. The most beautiful is probably the Pujahari Math in Bhadgaon.