The Kathmandu Valley, located in Nepal, lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations of Asia, and has least 130 important monuments, including several places of pilgrimage for the Hindus and the Buddhists. There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites within this valley. Historically, only the Kathmandu Valley was referred to as "Nepal" by people who lived outside the valley. After the annexation of the valley by Gorkha kingdom, and subsequent conversion of the valley as the capital of their empire, this designation of "Nepal" was extended to very land they conquered. The valley itself was referred to as "Nepal Proper" by British historians.
The city of Kathmandu is named after a structure in Durbar Square called Kaasthamandap. In Sanskrit, kāṣṭh (काष्ठ) = "wood" and maṇḍap (मंडप/मण्डप) = "covered shelter." This unique temple, also known as Maru Satal, was built in 1596 CE by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The entire structure contains no iron nails or supports and is made entirely from wood. Legend has it that the timber used for this two story pagoda was obtained from a single tree. As the city has many temples, it is also known as the City of Temples.
The Kathmandu Valley may have been inhabited as early as 300 BCE, since the oldest known objects in the valley date to a few hundred years BCE. The earliest known inscription is dated 185 CE. The oldest firmly dated building in the earthquake-prone valley is almost 1,992 years old. Four stupas around the city of Patan, said to have been erected by a certain Charumati, a purported daughter of Ashoka the Great, a Mauryanking, in the 3rd century BCE, attest to the ancient history present within the valley. As with the tales of the Buddha's visit, there is no evidence supporting Ashok's visit, but the stupas probably do date to that century. The Kirats are the first documented rulers of the Kathmandu Valley; the remains of their palace are said to be in Patan near Hiranyavarna Mahavihara (called "Patukodon"). The Licchavi Dynasty whose earliest inscriptions date back to 464 CE were the next rulers of the valley and had close ties with the Gupta Dynasty of India. The Malla Dynasty ruled Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding area from the 12th until the 18th century CE, when the Shah Dynasty of the Gorkha Kingdom under Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the valley as he created present-day Nepal. His victory in the Battle of Kirtipur was the beginning of his conquest of the valley.
The Newars, generally acknowledged to be the indigenous inhabitants of the valley, are understood to be the descendants of the various ethnic and racial groups that have inhabited and ruled the valley in the two-millennia history of the place.
According to Swayambhu Puran, the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake. The hill where the Swayambu Stuparests had lotus plants with beautiful lotus flowers abloom. One story says that the god Manjusri cut a gorge at a place called Kashapaal (later called Chobhar) with a sword called Chandrahrasha and drained away the waters in order to establish a habitable land.
According to Gopal Banshawali, Krishna cut the gorge with his Sudarshana Chakra to let the water out. He then handed the drained valley to the Gopal Vansi people, who were nomadic cow herders.
The valley is made up of the Kathmandu District, Lalitpur District and Bhaktapur District covering an area of 220 square miles(almost the area of Singapore). The valley consists of the municipal areas of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Lalitpur Submetropolitan City, Bhaktapur municipality, Kirtipur Municipality and Madhyapur Thimi Municipality; the remaining area is made up of a number of Village Development Committees. The valley is a cultural and political hub of Nepal. The Kathmandu valley was accorded the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1979.
The major river flowing through the Kathmandu Valley is the Bagmati.
Places to see
Important monuments of Kathmandu Valley include:
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- Thimi Durbar Square
- Changu Narayan
- Swayambhunath Stupa
- Boudhanath Stupa
- Pashupatinath temple
- Balkumari Temple/Thimi
- Wakachhen Mahadev/Thimi
- Golden Window/Thimi←←←
- Manjushree Temple in Majipa, Manjushree Tole
- Aditnath Temple in Chobhar hill village
- Palanchok Temple in Kavre, east from middle of Kathmandu
This valley hosts an UNESCO World Heritage Sites composed of seven different Monument Zones: The centers of the three primary cities, Kathmandu Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur, the two most important Buddhist stupas, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath and two famous Hindu shrines, Pashupatinath temple and Changu Narayan. Since 2003 the World Heritage List lists the site as being "in danger" out of concern for the ongoing loss of authenticity and the outstanding universal value of the cultural property.
In the past, Tibetan Buddhist Masters including Marpa, Milarepa, Rwa Lotsava, Ras Chungpa, Dharma Swami, XIII Karmapa, XVI Karmapa and several others visited and traveled in the Kathmandu Valley. However, the largest group of Tibetans came in the 1960s. Many settled around the Svayambhu and Baudha Stupas. Many other famous Lamas known throughout the world have their Buddhist monasteries and centers in the Kathmandu Valley.
- Cat Stevens wrote a song titled "Katmandu," which appeared in his 1970 album, Mona Bone Jakon.
- Rock musician Bob Seger wrote a song titled "Katmandu," which appeared on his 1975 album, Beautiful Loser.
- Kathmandu is mentioned in the song "Cry Baby," by Janis Joplin.
- Kathmandu is also mentioned in the song "Nobody Told Me," by John Lennon.
- A Russian rock band Krematorij had a song titled "Kathmandu" on their 2000 album Three Springs.
- The Argentinian musician Fito Páez has a song called Tráfico por Katmandú ("Traffic through Kathmandu" in English).
- New age guitarist Will Ackerman has a song called "A Happy Home in Kathmandu" on his 1993 album The Opening of Doors.
- The group Tantra recorded a song called "The Hills of Katmandu" in the early 1980s.
- Banjo player Béla Fleck has a number called "Kathmandu."
- David Hughes from Sweden, included a track titled "Kathmandu" on his 2007 release "Foreign Shores".
- Canadian prog-rock band Rush mentioned Kathmandu in the song "A Passage To Bangkok"on their 1976 album "2112".
- OK Go, an American band have a song titled "Back from Kathmandu".