Kathmandu is the capital and, with more than one million inhabitants, the largest metropolitan city of Nepal.

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Kathmandu (Nepali: काठमांडौ [kɑʈʰmɑɳɖu]; Nepal Bhasa: येँ देय्‌) is the capital and, with more than one million inhabitants, the largest metropolitan city of Nepal. The city is the urban core of the Kathmandu Valley in the Himalayas, which contains two sister cities: Lalitpur (Patan), 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to its south and Bhaktapur or Bhadgaon, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) to its east, and a number of smaller towns. It is also acronymed as 'KTM' and named 'tri-city'.[4] In the last census (2001), the city of Kathmandu had 671,846 inhabitants. Population estimates for 2005 were 790,612 for 2010 they stood at 989,273[5][6] and 2012 at 1,006,656[7] The municipal area is (50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi))[8] and the population density is 19,500 per km².

The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped valley in central Nepal surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun and Chandragiri. Kathmandu valley is part of three districts, Kathmandu District, Lalitpur District and Bhaktapur District, with the highest population density in the country and accounting for about 1/12 of its population. These three districts contain 2.5 million people, as of the 2011 census.

Historically, only the Kathmandu Valley was referred to as "Nepal" by people who lived outside the valley. After the annexation of the valley by the Gorkha kingdom, and subsequent conversion of the valley as the capital of their empire, this designation of "Nepal" was extended to every land they conquered. The valley itself was referred to as "Nepal Proper" by the contemporary British historians. Today Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal but also the headquarters of the Central Region (Madhyamanchal) among the five development regions constituted by the 14 administrative zones of Nepal located at the central part of the country. The Central region has three zones: Bagmati, Narayani and Janakpur. Kathmandu is located in the Bagmati Zone.[9]

Kathmandu, as the gateway to Nepal Tourism, is the nerve centre of the country’s economy. With the most advanced infrastructure among urban areas in Nepal, Kathmandu's economy is tourism centric accounting for 3.8% of the GDP in 1995–96 (had declined since then due to political unrest but has picked up again).

The city’s rich history is nearly 2000 years old, as inferred from an inscription in the valley. Most of Kathmandu's people follow Hinduism followed by Buddhism. People of other religious beliefs also live in Kathmandu giving it a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the most common language of the city. Nepal Bhasa is the indigenous language spoken by the Newar people. Hindi is widely understood. English is understood by the educated population of the city. The literacy rate is 98% in the city.[10]

From the point of view of tourism, economy and cultural heritage, the sister cities of Lalitpur (Patan) and Bhaktapur are integral to Kathmandu. The cultural heritage recognition under the World Heritage list of the UNESCO has recognized all the monuments in the three cities as one unit under the title "Kathmandu Valley-UNESCO World Heritage Site".[11][12]


The city of Kathmandu is named after a structure in Durbar Square called Kasthamandap. In Sanskrit, Kastha (काष्ठ) is "wood" and Mandap (मंडप/मण्डप) is "covered shelter." This unique temple, also known as Maru Satal, was built in 1596 by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The two-storey structure is made entirely of wood, using no iron nails or supports. Legend has it that the timber used for this pagoda was obtained from a single tree.[13]

The colophons of ancient manuscripts dating up to the last century refer to Kathmandu as Kasthamandap Mahanagar in Nepal Mandala. Mahanagar means "great city". Till present times, the city is called Kasthamandap when the priest recites a vow during Buddhist rituals. During the medieval era, the name Kantipur (कान्तिपुर) was sometimes used to denote the city. This name derives from two Sanskrit words- Kanti and pur. "Kanti" is an alternate name of the Goddess Lakshmi, and "pur" means place.

Kathmandu is known as Yen Desa (येँ देश) among the indigenous Newar people. Patan and Bhaktapur are called Yala Desa (यल देश) and Khwopa Desa (ख्वप देश).[14] Yen is the shorter form of Yambu (यम्बु), which originally referred to the northern half of Kathmandu.[15]


Manjushree, with Chandrahrasa, the Buddhist deity who is credited to have created the valley

Archaeological excavation of places of Kathmandu have found evidences of ancient civilization. The oldest dated of these findings is a statue dated 185 A.D found in Maligaon.[16] Another undated brick with inscription in Brahmi script was found during the excavation of Dhando Chaitya. Archaeologists believe it to be two thousand years old.[16]

Ancient history

The ancient history of Kathmandu is based in mythology. According to Swayambhu Purana, the present day Kathmandu was once a lake called Nagdaha. The lake was drained by Manjushree, who established a city called Manjupattan and made Dharmakar the ruler of the land.[17][18][19]

Gopalraj Vansawali, a genealogy of Nepalese monarchs, states that Gopalas, Mahispalas, Aabhirs, Kiratas had Soma Vanshi ruled Kathmandu valley before Lichchavis ruled it.[19][20] Very few historic records of this era exist.

Medieval history

During this era, Kathmandu was ruled by Licchavis and Mallas. The city grew largely during this time. Most of the historic temples, monasteries and buildings were built during this era. The city served as an important transit point in the trans-Himalayan trade between India and China. During Lichchavi era, there were two settlements in present day Kathmandu called Koligram (Yambu/Thane) and Dakshin Koligram (Yengal/Kone),[21] which were merged by Gunakamadeva to form a city in the shape of sword of Manjushri. The city was surrounded by eight barracks guarded by Ajimas. Descriptions of buildings like Managriha, Kailaskut Bhawan, Bhadradiwas Bhawan have been found in journals of travelers and monks of the era. Famous Chinese traveller Xuanzang of 7th century had described about Kailaskut Bhawan, the palace of Lichchavi king Anshuvarma, in his travels.[22]

Lichchavi era was followed by Malla era. During late Malla era, the valley of Kathmandu consisted of four fortified cities, namely Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur, which served as the capitals of Malla confederation of Nepal. These states competed with each other on arts, architecture, aesthetics and trade which resulted in massive development. The Newar people—the indigenous inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley— came to characterize most forms of artistry during this time both within the valley and throughout the greater Himalayas. Highly sought after, they traveled extensively throughout Asia, creating religious art for their neighbors, as in the case of Araniko and the group of artists he led to Tibet and China. The kings themselves were directly involved or influenced construction of public buildings, squares, temples, water spourts, institutionalization of trusts (called guthis), codification of laws, writing of dramas, orchestration of plays in city squares. Influx of ideas from India, Tibet, China, Persia, Europe among others can be found in a stone inscription of king Pratap Malla. Books related to tantric tradition (e.g. Tantrakhyan), medicine (e.g. Haramekhala), religion (e.g.Mooldevshashidev), dictionary (e.g. Amarkosh), law, morals, history etc. have been found from this era. Prominent architectural buildings of this era are Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, former durbar of Kirtipur, Nyatapola, Kumbheshwar, Krishna temple etc.

Modern era

The termination of Malla confederation by the Gorkha kingdom marks the beginning of modern era. The Battle of Kirtipur was the start of the Gorkha conquest of the Kathmandy valley. Kathmandu was adopted as the capital of their Gorkha empire, and the empire itself was dubbed as Nepal. During early phase of this era, Kathmandu saw a continuation of its culture. New buildings in Nepali architecture such as the nine story tower of Basantapur was built during this era. Trade declined during this era because of continuous wars with neighboring nations. The alliance of Bhimsen Thapa with France against Great Britain led to the development of modern military structures in Kathmandu such as modern barracks. The change in policy from anti-British to pro-British during Rana regime saw the first development of western architecture in Kathmandu. The most prominent buildings of this era are Singha Durbar, Kaisar Mahal, Shital Niwas, old Narayanhiti palace etc. New Road was the first modern commercial road built during this era.


The green, vegetated slopes that ring the Kathmandu metro area (light gray, image centre) include both forest reserves and national parks.

Astronaut View of Kathmandu

The city is located in the northwestern part of Kathmandu Valley. The city covers an area of 50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi). The average elevation is 1,350 metres (4,430 ft) above the sea level. The city is bounded by the Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City in its south, Kirtipur Municipality in south-west, Madyapur Thimi Municipality in east and different Village Development Committees of Kathmandu in north, west and north-east.

Eight rivers flow through the city of which the Bagmati, Bishnumati, Dhobikhola, Manohara, Hanumant and Tukucha rivers are predominant. The mountains from where these rivers originate are in the elevation range of 1,500–3,000 metres (4,900–9,800 ft) and have passes, which provide access to and from Kathmandu and its valley. It falls in the central development region and it is the headquarters of the region.[8][23][24]

The Bagmati river originates at Bagdwaar, also known as Bag Tiger or Dwar Gate.[25] The water flows out through a gargoyle shaped like a tiger's mouth in the northern hills of Kathmandu valley about fifteen kilometres northeast of Kathmandu where three steams come together.[26] The mountain streams that cascaded over boulders become a wide, swiftly flowing river, with a high load of suspended solids, giving the river a grey appearance and coating the bottom with a grey silt of glacial flour.[26] The Bagmati flows southwesterly for about ten kilometres along the Kathmandu Valley which is predominately rice-patties in terraces up the slopes.[26] A number of resistant rock strata interrupt the flow down the valley, among these is the outcrop that the Pashupatinath Temple is built upon.[26] Afer passing the temple, the river flows south across the plain where it is joined by the larger Manohara River and turns westward. After entering the city the Bagmati is joined by a number of tributaries, notably the Dhobi Khola[27] and the sewage-laden Tukucha Khola.[26][28]

The natural vegetation is dictated by the climatic conditions and accordingly five vegetation zones have been defined for Nepal, out of which Kathmandu and its valley fall under the Deciduous Monsoon Forest Zone (altitude range of 1,200–2,100 metres (3,900–6,900 ft)). The dominant tree species under this zone comprises oak, elm, beech, maple and so forth with coniferous trees at higher elevation.[29]

Kathmandu agglomeration

The agglomeration of Kathmandu covers roughly three districts, having the 3 highest population densities in the country of all districts, extending beyond Kathmandu Valley. The following is a data table of the area.

Administrative district Area (km²) Population (2001 Final Census Count) Population (2011 Preliminary Census Count) Population density (/km²)
Kathmandu 395 1,081,845 1,740,977 4408
Lalitpur 385 337,785 466,784 1212
Bhaktapur 119 225,461 303,027 2546
Kathmandu agglomeration 899 1,645,091 2,510,788 2793


Climatic conditions vary to a large extent in view of several geographical factors (topography and altitude). Five major climatic regions have been deciphered in Nepal, out of which Kathmandu valley falls under the Warm Temperate Zone (elevation ranging from 1,200–2,300 metres (3,900–7,500 ft)) where the climate is fairly pleasant, atypical of the region. This zone is followed by the Cool Temperate Zone with elevation varying between 2,100 metres (6,900 ft) and 3,300 metres (10,800 ft). Under Köppen's climate classification, portions of the city with lower elevations features a mild form of a humid subtropical climate while portions of the city with higher elevations generally feature a subtropical highland climate. In the Kathmandu valley, which is representative of its valley’s climate the average temperature during the summer season varies from 28–30 °C (82–86 °F). During the winter season the average temperature is 10.1 °C (50.2 °F).

The city generally has a salubrious climate with comfortable warm days followed by the cool mornings and nights. Unpredictability of weather is expected as during winter, temperatures during the winter months have dropped to 3 °C (37 °F). The rainfall which is mostly monsoon based (about 65% of the total concentrated during the monsoon months of June to August), which decreases (100 cm to 200 cm) substantially from eastern Nepal to western Nepal, has been recorded as about 1,400 millimetres (55 in) for the Kathmandu valley and an average of 1,407 millimetres (55.4 in) specifically for the Kathmandu city. On an average Humidity is 75%.[8][30][31]

Climate data for Kathmandu (1981-2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 19.1
Average low °C (°F) 2.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 14.4
Avg. rainy days 2 3 4 6 12 17 23 22 15 4 1 1 110
Source #1: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (1981-2010) [32]
Source #2: World Meteorological Organization (UN) (precipitation days only)[33]

Based on the data source of the Nepal Bureau of Standards & Meteorology, "Weather Meteorology" for 2005, climatic data chart is given, which provides Minimum and Maximum temperatures (the lowest and highest temperatures recorded during the month respectively). Annual amount of Precipitation is 1,124 millimetres (44.3 in) for 2005, as per monthly data included in the table above.[31] The past decade has seen highly variable, unprecedented precipitation anomalies in Kathmandu, mostly due to the annual variation of the southwest monsoon. For example, 2003 was the wettest year ever in Kathmandu, totaling over 2,900 mm of recorded annual precipitation due to an exceptionally prevalent monsoon season, while 2001 recorded only 356 mm of precipitation due to an extraordinarily weak monsoon.


Kathmandu’s trade is an ancient profession that flourished along an offshoot of the Silk Road linking India and Tibet. From centuries past, Lhasa Newar merchants of Kathmandu have conducted trade across the Himalaya and contributed to spreading art styles and Buddhism across Central Asia.[34] Other traditional occupations are farming, metal casting, woodcarving, painting, weaving and pottery.[35] Kathmandu is famous for trading Nepalese Lokta paper, a paper made from Lokta (Daphne bhoula or Daphne papyracea) and Pashmina shawls which are very beautiful, light and warm and are used by women in Kathmandu valley to survive the cold winters.

Kathmandu is the most important industrial and commercial centre in Nepal, serving as the headquarters of most companies, banks and organizations. The major economic hubs are the New Road, Durbar Marg, Ason and Putalisadak.[35]

The city's economic output is worth more than NRs. 170 billion per year.[36] Kathmandu exports handicrafts, artworks, garments, carpets, pashmina, paper etc. and trade accounts for 21% of its finances.[35][36] Manufacturing comes next in importance and accounts for 19% of the revenue that Kathmandu generates with garments and woolen carpets being the most notable manufacturers.[36]

The top five countries importing Nepali handicrafts are the US (Rs. 223 million), Germany (Rs. 87 million), Japan (Rs. 74 million), the U.K. (Rs. 69 million) and Canada (Rs. 51 million).[36]

Other money making sectors in Kathmandu include agriculture (9%), education (6%), transport (6%), and hotels and restaurants (5%).[36] Although some of Nepal's wealthiest citizens live in Kathmandu, much of the city is living in poverty with a per capita income of just US $400 (World Bank, 2008).[8][37]

Real estate boom in Kathmandu

Recently Kathmandu has been undergoing rapid growth in real estate, such as shopping malls, apartments, shopping plazas, business towers, hotels, and private homes. The price of land in Kathmandu is skyrocketing, becoming one of the most expensive in Asia. Kathmandu as a valley has little space for five million people, so increasing the height of buildings and building apartments may be necessary. It is projected that the real estate business employs over 100,000 people directly and the share of real estate in Kathmandu's economy is growing day by day.

Urbanization in Kathmandu Valley


Hotel Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu

Tourism, considered as another important industry in Nepal, opened up as the country's political equation changed in 1950 and isolation from the rest of the world ended. Establishing air services and the opening of the Tribhuvan Highway between Kathmandu and Raxaul at the border with India started in 1956. Separate organizations to promote this activity was created in the form of the Tourism Development Board, Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation Department in Kathmandu. Further, Nepal became a member of several international tourists associations. Establishing diplomatic relations with other nations further accentuated this activity. The hotel industry, travel agencies, training of tourist guides and targeted publicity campaigns are the chief reasons attributed for the remarkable growth of this industry in Nepal and in Kathmandu, in particular.[38]

Since then tourism has opened up in the country manifold and as a result it is sometimes said to be the "third religion" of Nepal, as the country's most important industry that plays a large role in the economic activity of Kathmandu. It is a major source of income for most of the people of the city, with several hundred thousands of visitors annually. Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world visit religious places located in Kathmandu such as Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath, Baudhanath and Budhanilkantha. From a mere 6,179 tourists in 1961–62, the number jumped to 491,504, but with political instability in the country in recent years, it dropped to 275,468 in 2002–03, but since then has shown a rising trend with the country turning into a Democratic Republic. In economic terms, the foreign exchange earning showed a remarkable trend, registering 3.8% of the GDP in 1995–96 but then started declining. the high level of tourism is attributed to the natural grandeur of the Himalayas and the rich cultural heritage of the country.[38]

The neighbourhood of Thamel is Kathmandu's primary "traveler's ghetto", packed with guest houses, restaurants, shops and bookstores catering to tourists from abroad. Another neighbourhood of growing popularity is Jhamel, a name for Jhamsikhel coined to rhyme with Thamel.[39] Jhochhen Tol, also known as Freak Street, is Kathmandu's original traveler's haunt, made popular by the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s and itremains a popular alternative to Thamel. Asan is a bazaar and ceremonial square on the old trade route to Tibet and provides a fine example of a traditional neighborhood.

Government and politics

Civic administration

Singha Durbar, the Prime Minister's office and other ministries

Singha Durbar, the Prime Minister's office and houses other ministries

BICC, the seat of historic Constituent Assembly of Nepal


Metropolitan Kathmandu is divided into five sectors namely the Central Sector, the East Sector, the North Sector, the City Core and the West Sector. For civic administration, the city is further divided into 35 administrative wards.The Council administers the Metropolitan area of Kathmandu city through its 177 elected representatives and 20 nominated members. It holds biannual meetings to review, process, approve the annual budget and make major policy decisions.[8][40] The ward profile documents for the 35 wards prepared by the Kathmandu Metropolitan Council is exhaustive and provides information for each ward on population, the structure and condition of the houses, the type of roads, educational, health and financial institutions, entertainment facilities, parking space, security provisions and so forth. It also includes lists of development projects completed, on-going and planned, along with informative data about the cultural heritage, festivals, historical sites and the local inhabitants. Ward 16 is the largest with an area of 437.4 ha and Ward 26 is the smallest with an area of 4 ha.[41]

Kathmandu is also the metropolitan city centre of the surrounding Kathmandu District. The city of Kathmandu forms this district with some 57 Village Development Committees.

According to 2001 census, there are 235,387 households in the metropolitan city[42]

International relations

Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), in order to promote international relations with the objective of mobilization of resources and modernization of Kathmandu city, has established an International Relations Secretariat (IRC). KMC’s first international relationship was established in 1975 with the city of Eugene, Oregon, United States (US). This activity has been further enhanced by establishing formal relationships with 8 other cities namely, the Motsumoto City of Japan, Rochester in addition to Eugene, Yangon (earlier Rangoon) of Myanmar, Xi'an of the People’s Republic of China, Minsk of Belarus and Pyongyang of the Democratic Republic of Korea. KMC's constant endeavour is to enhance its interaction with SAARC countries, other International agencies and many other major cities of the world to achieve better uraban management and developmental programs for Kathmandu.[43]

Law and order


Kathmandu Police is the law enforcing body in the city and under the wider administration of the Nepal Police Force. The police force was officially established in 1864, but enforcement was loosely based and it wasn't until the 1950s that the first police head quarters were established in Kathmandu. The police force developed under royal insistence and the Nepalese government sought advice from India. The Police Act of Kathmandu and Nepal was passed in 1956, and the first Inspector General of Police in Nepal and Kathmandu was Toran Shamsher J.B. Rana.

Departments of the Nepal Police include intelligence division, motor transport and radio sections, counter intelligence branch, criminal investigation branch, the human resource department, the community department and the narcotics department. The police force also operates missing persons squad and offers services for the protection of women and children. Today there are several police stations in the Kathmandu metropolitan area, including one around the Durbar. Police uniform is light blue with a policeman cap and it is common to see policemen with face masks, protecting themselves from the pollution.

Fire service

The fire service, known as the ‘Barun Yantra Karyalaya', opened its first station in Kathmandu in 1937, with a single vehicle.[44] An iron tower was erected to monitor the city and watch out for fire and as a precautionary measure, fire servicemen were sent to the areas which were designated as accident prone areas.[44] In 1944, the fire service was extended to the neighbouring cities of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur and in 1966, the fire service was established in Kathmandu airport.[44] A German government donation in 1975 added seven fire engines to Kathmandu's fire service.[44] The fire service in the city is also overlooked by an international non-governmental organization, the Firefighters Volunteer Association of Nepal (FAN) which was established in 2000 with the purpose of raising public awareness about fire and improving safety.[44]


Kathmandu’s urban cosmopolitan character has made it the most populous city in Nepal, recording a population of 671,846 residents living in 235,387 households in the metropolitan city according to the 2001 census.[45] It is a trend displayed since historical times created by its unique Newar people who continue to be one of the dominant groups in the city.

The city has, over the years, absorbed people of various ethnicities resulting in an agreeable range of different traditions and cultural practices. In a decade, the population has increased from 427,045 in 1991 to 671,805 in 2001 and is projected to touch a figure of 915,071 in 2011 and 1319,597 by 2021. To keep up this population growth, KMC controlled area of 5,076.6 hectares (12,545 acres) has expanded to 8214 ha in 2001. With this new area, the density of population which was 85 in 1991 is still 85 in 2001 (due to increase in area) and is likely to be 111 in 2011 and 161 in 2021.[46]

Ethnic groups

The largest ethnic groups are Khas Bahun, Khas Chhetri and Newar. Tamangs originating from surrounding hill districts can be seen quite clearly in Kathmandu. More recently, other hill ethnic groups and Caste groups from Terai have shown their presence as well. The major languages are Nepali and Nepal Bhasa. The major religions are Hinduism and Buddhism.

The linguistic profile of Kathmandu underwent drastic changes during the Shah dynasty rule on account of their very strong bias towards the Brahminic culture. Sanskrit language, therefore, got a boost and people were encouraged to learn this language even by attending Sanskrit learning centres in India. Sanskrit schools were specially set up in Kathmandu and in the terai region to inculcate traditional Hindu culture and practices.[47]

Architecture and cityscape

Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site (WHS) Seven Monuments and Buildings Kathmandu Durbar Square in 1920• Kathmandu Durbar Square in 2007
Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu• Pashupatinath temple behind the Bagmati River
Swayambhunath at night•Boudhanath temple
Durbar square at Patan•Durbar square at Bhaktapur
Vishnu Vishvarupa - 9th century at Changu Narayan • Changunarayan temple precincts
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The ancient and refined traditional culture in Kathmandu, for that matter in the whole of Nepal, is an uninterrupted and exceptional meeting of the Hindu and Buddhist ethos practiced by its highly religious people. It has also embraced in its fold the cultural diversity provided by the other religions such as Jainism, Islam and Christianity. The ancient trade route between India and Tibet that passed through Kathmandu enabled fusion of artistic and architectural traditions of other cultures to be amalgamated with local architectural and artistic culture.[48]

Kathmandu has also been described as "Land of Gods" and as "land of the largest congregations of magnificent historical monuments and shrines ever built".[49]

The City Core has most of the remarkable cultural wealth that evolved during the reign of the Malla kings between 15th and 18th centuries. The city was filled with sculptures, pagodas, stupas and palace buildings of exceptional beauty. There are also 106 monastic courtyards (known as baha or bahi) known for their art and piety. The level of skill of the local artisans are the exquisite wood carving, stone carving, metal casting, weaving, pottery and other crafts. The finest wood carvings are seen on the ornate windows of old buildings and on the roof struts of temples. Carving skills of the local artisans are seen at every street corner in the form of images of gods and goddesses and sunken water spouts.[49]

Architectural heritage of Kathmandu city is integral to that of the Kathmandu valley since all monuments have evolved over centuries of craftsmanship influenced by Hindu and Buddhist religious practices. The architectural treasure of the Kathmandu valley has been categorized under the well known seven groups of heritage monuments and buildings. In 2006, UNESCO declared these seven groups of monuments as a "World Heritage Site" (WHS). The seven monuments zones cover an area of 188.95 hectares (466.9 acres), with the buffer zone extending to 239.34 hectares (591.4 acres).

The Seven Monument Zones (Mzs) inscribed originally in 1979 and with a minor modification in 2006 are: Five monuments in Kathmandu – Durbar square of Hanuman Dhaka, Hindu temples of Pashupatinath and Changunarayan, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Boudhanath; and two monuments outside Kathmandu city limits, in the satellite towns of Patan and Bhaktapur – Durbar square at Patan, Durbar square at Bhaktapur. Brief details of the five Kathmandu city monuments (template shows all seven for sake of completeness) are elaborated here.[11][12]



Kasthamandap is a three-storied temple enshrining an image of Gorakhnath (Sanskrit for Gau+Raksha+Nath: Cow+Protect+Lord; the lord who protects cows), a form of the god Shiva. It was built in the 16th century in Pagoda style. It is said to be one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world. The name of Kathmandu is a derivative of the word Kasthamandap. It was built under the reign of King Laxmi Narsingha Malla and an interesting legend is stated to its wooden construction. The story narrated is about Gorakhnath, a disciple of Machindranath (Nepal Bhasa: Jana Baha Dyah).

Gorakhnath was spotted by a tantrik in human form, during the chariot procession of his guru Jana Baha Dyah. The tantrik held him under a spell, and sought his help seeking materials to build a temple in Kathmandu. Once the boon was bestowed, a huge tree started growing at the location where the present temple exists. With the wood of this single tree, the tantrik built the Kasthamandap temple. Once a year, a huge ceremony is performed in the temple. On that day, people gather around the temple and stay up all night. This temple is one of the major tourist attractions too. There are no restrictions on entry to the temple. However, photography is prohibited inside the temple. It is open after midday until midnight.[50]

Kasthamandap stands at the intersection of two ancient trade routes linking India and Tibet at Maru square. It was originally built as a rest house for travelers.

Hanuman Dhoka

Hanuman Dhoka is a complex of structures with the Royal Palace of the Malla kings and also of the Shah dynasty. It is spread over five acres. The eastern wing with ten courtyards is the oldest part dated to the mid-16th century. It was expanded by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century with many temples. Sundari Chowk and Mohan Chowk in the north part of the palace are both closed. In 1768, in the southeast part of the palace, four lookout towers were added by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The royal family lived in this palace till 1886, where after they shifted to Narayanhiti Palace. The stone inscription outside is in fifteen languages and legend states that if all the 15 are read milk would spring from the middle of stone tablet.[51]

Kumari Ghar

Kumari House

Kumari Ghar is a palace in the center of the Kathmandu city, next to the Durbar square where a Royal Kumari selected from several Kumaris from several places resides. Kumari, or Kumari Devi, is the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in South Asian countries. In Nepal the selection process for her is very rigorous. Kumari is believed to be the bodily incarnation of the goddess Taleju (the Nepalese name for Durga) until she menstruates, after which it is believed that the goddess vacates her body. Serious illness or a major loss of blood from an injury are also causes for her to revert to common status. The current Royal Kumari, Matina Shakya, aged four, was installed in October 2008 by the Maoist government that replaced the monarchy.[52]

Pashupatinath temple


The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous 5th century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Pashupati). Located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu, and is near to Hareram Ghar.[53] It served as the seat of national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, until Nepal was secularized. However, a significant part of the temple was destroyed by Mughal invaders in the 14th century and little or nothing remains of the original 5th century temple exterior. The temple as it stands today was built in the 19th century, although the image of the bull and the black four headed image of Pashupati are at least 300 years old.[54] The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[54][55] Shivaratri, or the night of Lord Shiva, is the most important festival, attracting thousands of devotees and sadhus.[citation needed]

Believers in Pashupatinath (mainly Hindus) are allowed to enter the temple premises but non-Hindu visitors are allowed to view the temple from the across the bank of Bagmati river.[54] The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Brahmins from karnataka, South India since the time of Malla king Yaksha Malla.[56] This tradition is believed to have been started at the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. This procedure is also followed in other temples around India, which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya.

The temple is built in the pagoda style of architecture, with cubic constructions, beautifully carved wooden rafters on which they rest (tundal) and two level roofs made of copper and gilded in gold. It has four main doors, all covered with silver sheets and the western door has a statue of large bull or Nandi, again covered in gold. The deity is of black stone, about 6 feet in height and the same in circumference.

Durbar square

Temples at Hanuman Dhoka

The literal meaning of Durbar Square is a place of palaces. There are three preserved Durbar Squares in Kathmandu valley and one unpreserved in Kirtipur. The Durbar Square of Kathmandu is located in the old city and has heritage buildings representing four kingdoms (Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur), built over centuries, the earliest being the Licchavi dynasty. There were further additions and refurbishments during the reign of Mallas (9th century) and then the Ranas. The complex has 50 temples and is distributed in two quadrangles of the Durbar Square. The outer quadrangle has the Kasthamandap, Kumari Ghar and Shiva-Parvati Temple while the inner quadrangle has the Hanuman Dhoka palace.



The Boudhanath, (also written Bouddhanath, Bodhnath, Baudhanath or the Khāsa Chaitya), is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal along with Swayambhu, and it is one of the most popular tourist sites in the Kathmandu area. It is known as Khāsti by Newars and as Bauddha or Bodhnāth by speakers of Nepali.[57] Located about 11 km (7 mi) from the center and northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu, the stupa's massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal.[58] Boudhanath became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī documents that the Boudhanath was founded by the Nepalese Licchavi king Śivadeva (c. 590–604 AD); though other Nepalese chronicles date it to the reign of King Mānadeva (464–505 AD).[59][60] Tibetan sources claim a mound on the site was excavated in the late 15th or early 16th century and the bones of king Aṃshuvarmā 605–621 were discovered there while other Nepali sources claim it was constructed by a prince to seek forgiveness for unwittingly killing his own father .[61][62] However, the Emperor of the Tibetan Empire, Trisong Detsän (r. 755 to 797) is also traditionally associated with the construction of the Boudhanath Stupa, after Songsten Gampo was converted to Buddhism by his wives the Nepali princess Bhrikuti Devi and Princess Wen Cheng of China in the 7th century and passes it on to Detsän.[63] However, given that Kathmandu was invaded by the Mughals in the 14th century who would have destroyed the monument, the current stupa is believed to date to sometime after this.

The base of the stupa has 108 small depictions of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha and is surrounded with a brick wall with 147 niches, each with four or five prayer wheels engraved with the mantra, om mani padme hum.[62] At the northern entrance where visitors must pass is a shrine dedicated to the goddess of smallpox, Ajima.[62] The stupa attracts many Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims annually who perform full body prostrations in the inner lower enclosure, circumambulate the stupa with prayer wheels and chant and pray.[62] Thousands of prayer flags are hoisted up from the top of the stupa downwards and dot the parameters of the complex. The influx of large populations of Tibetan refugees from China has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries) around Boudhanath.


Swayambhu at night

Swayambhu, also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in parts of the temple in the north-west, is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. Although the site is considered Buddhist, the place is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. Numerous Hindu kings are known to have paid their homage to the temple, including Pratap Malla, the powerful king of Kathmandu, who is responsible for the construction of the eastern stairway in the 17th century.[64] According to the Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī Swayambhu was founded by the great-grandfather of King Mānadeva (464–505 AD), King Vṛsadeva, about the beginning of the 5th century AD. This seems to be confirmed by a damaged stone inscription found at the site, which indicates that King Mānadeva ordered work done in 640 AD.[65] However, Emperor Ashoka is said to have visited the site in the 3rd century BC and built a temple on the hill, which was later destroyed. Legend has it that the Buddha himself visited Swayambhu and gave teachings there two hundred years earlier.[66]

The stupa consists of a dome at the base. Above the dome, there is a cubical structure present with eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions with the word "unity" in the main Nepali dialect between them. There are pentagonal Toran present above each of the four sides with statues engraved in them. Behind and above the torana there are thirteen tiers. Above all the tiers, there is a small space above which the Gajur is present.

Bhimsen Tower (Dharahara)

Present Day Dharahara/Bhimsen Tower

Dharahara, also known as the Bhimsen Tower is a nine story (61.88 metres (203.0 ft)) tall tower in the center of Kathmandu. It was originally built in 1832 by the prime minister of the time, Bhimsen Thapa, under the command of Queen Lalit Tripura Sundari. It survived an earthquake just two years after construction in 1834, but on January 15, 1934, another earthquake destroyed the tower and it was then rebuilt by the prime minister of the time, Juddha Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, who renovated Dharahara to its previous form.[67]

The tower has a spiral staircase inside containing 213 steps. The 8th floor holds a circular balcony for observers that provides a panoramic view of the whole Kathmandu valley. The tower has a 5.2 metres (17 ft) bronze mast on the roof. The tower has been open for the general public since 2005 for a small fee.[67]

Narayanhiti Museum

Narayanhity Museum

The enclosed compound of the Narayanhity Palace Museum is in the north-central part of Kathmandu. "Narayanhity" comes from "Narayana", a form of the Hindu god "Lord Vishnu", whose temple is located opposite to the palace, and "Hiti", meaning "water spout", which is located east of the main entrance in the precincts of the palace, and which has a legend associated with it. It was a new palace, in front of the old palace of 1915 vintage, built in 1970 in the form of a contemporary Pagoda. It was built on the occasion of the marriage of King Birenda Bir Bikram Shah, the then heir apparent to the throne. The southern gate of the palace is at the crossing of Prithvipath and Darbar Marg roads. The palace area covers (30 hectares (74 acres)) and is fully secured with gate controlled walls on all sides.[68][69][70] The palace, as discussed above in Kathmandu's history, was the scene of the gruesome tragedy, "Nepal’s greatest tragedy". On June 1, 2001 the Crown Prince Dipendra in an inebriated state apparently gunned down his immediate family consisting of his father King Birendra, his mother Queen Aishvarya, his brother and sister, and five of his relatives, later killing himself. After the massacre of King Birendra and his family, the next king in line was his brother Gyanendra and his family who lived at the palace. The newly elected assembly on 28 May 2008, after a polling of 564 constituent assembly members, 560 voted to form a new government, with the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, registering a dissenting note. At that point, it was declared that Nepal had become a secular and inclusive democratic republic, with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from 28 to 30 May. The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhity Royal Palace, to reopen it as a public museum. Now it has been turned into a Museum and is open for all to see.


The Shanker Hotel in Kathmandu

With the opening of the tourist industry after the change over in the political scenario of Nepal in 1950, the hotel industry drastically improved.[71] Nowadays Kathmandu boasts several five star hotels like Hyatt Regency, Hotel Yak & Yeti, The Everest Hotel, Hotel Radisson, Soaltee Crown plaza, Hotel De L'Annapurna, The Malla Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel and The Shanker Hotel (Heritage hotel: formerly a Rana Palace). There are several four star hotels like Hotel Vaishali, Hotel Narayani, The Blue Star, Grand Hotel, Woodlands Dynasty Plaza and Royal Singh Hotel. The Garden Hotel, Hotel Ambassador and Aloha Inn are among the 3 star hotels in Kathmandu. Hotels like Hyatt Regency, De L'Annapurna, Hotel Yak & Yeti, Hotel Radisson, The Malla Hotel, Soaltee Crown Plaza are among the 5 star hotels providing casinos as well entertaining their customers while making huge profits on this account.[72]



Stone carvings, called Chaityas, seen even in street corners and courtyards

Kathmandu valley is described as "an enormous treasure house of art and sculptures", which are made of -wood, stone, metal and terracotta, and found in profusion in temples, shrines, stupas, gompas, chaityas and palaces. The art objects are also seen in street corners, lanes, private courtyards and in open ground; mostly in the form of icons of gods and goddesses. Kathmandu valley has been the repositary of all this art treasure for a long time but it got a world wide exposure only after the country opened its doors to the outside world in 1950.[47]

The statue of Demon God "Kaal Bhairava" at Hanumandhoka

The religious art of Nepal and Kathmandu in particular is iconic symbolism of the Mother Goddesses such as: the Bhavani, Durga, Gaja -Lakshmi, Hariti-Sitala, Mahsishamardini, Saptamatrika (seven mother goddesses) and Sri-Lakshmi. From the 3rd century BC, apart from the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Buddhist monuments from the Ashokan period (it is said that Ashoka visited Nepal in 250 BC) have also embellished Nepal in general and the valley in particular. These art and architectural edifices encompass three major periods of evolution namely, the Licchavi or classical period (500 to 900 AD) with motivation from the Gupta period in India; the post-classical period (1000 to 1400 AD) with strong influence of the Palla art form that extended to Tibet as well; and of the Malla period (1400 onwards) that exhibited explicitly tantric influences coupled with the demonic art from of Tibetan Demonology.[73]

A broad typology has been ascribed to the decorative designs and impressive carvings created by the creative and artistic people of Nepal, who have maintained a perfect blend of the two religious faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism. This typology based on the type of material used in the art forms is five in number. These are: the Stone Art, the Metal Art; the Wood Art; the Terracotta Art; and the Painting.[74] These are briefly elaborated here.


Kathmandu is home to a number of museums and art galleries, including the National Museum of Nepal and the Natural History Museum of Nepal. Nepals’s art and architecture is a dazzling display from medieval to the present, which is a heady amalgamation of two of the ancient and greatest religions of the world – Hinduism and Buddhhism. These are amply reflected not only in the many temples, shrines, stupas, monasteries and palaces in the seven well defined Monument Zones of the Kathmandu valley recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site but also in its well planned and well exhibited displays in museums and art galleries spread all over the Metropolitan area and also in its sister cities of Patan and Bhaktapur. The museums display unique artifacts and paintings from 5th century AD onwards to date, including archeological exportation.[75]

Some of the famous Museums and Art galleries found in Kathmandu are, The National Museum, The Natural History Museum, Hanumandhoka Palace Complex, The Kaiser Library, The Patan Museum; The National Art Gallery, The NEF-ART (Nepal Fine Art) Gallery, and The Nepal Art Council Gallery.[75]

A Buddhist statue display in Kathmandu

The National Museum is located in the western part of Kathmandu near the Swoyambhunath stupa in the historical building which was constructed in early 19th century by General Bhimsen Thapa. It is the most important museum in the country, housing an extensive collection of weapons, art and antiquities of historic and cultural importance.[76] The museum was established in 1928 as a collection house of war trophies and weapons, and the initial name of this museum was Chhauni Silkhana, which literally means "the stone house of arms and ammunition". Given its focus, the museum contains an extensive quantity of weapons, including locally made firearms used in wars and leather cannons from the 18th–19th century and medieval and modern works in wood, bronze, stone, and paintings.[76]

The Natural History Museum is located in the southern foothills of Swoyambhunath hill and has a sizeable collection of different species of animals, butterflies and plants. The museum is noted in particular for its serial display of diverse life species from prehistoric shells to the stuffed animals, birds, crocodiles and many others.[76]

The Hanumandhoka Palace, a lavish medieval palace complex in the Durbar, contains three separate museums of historic importance, including the Birendra museum containing items related to the current monarch, King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah, including royal dress worn during state and historic occasions, medals and honorary titles received from other head of states and many more.[76]

Art galleries

Kathmandu is a center for art in Nepal, displaying the work of contemporary artists in the country and also collections of historical artists. Patan is particular is an ancient city noted for its fine arts and crafts. Art in Kathmandu is vibrant, demonstrating a fusion of traditionalism and modern art, derived from a great number of national, Asian and global influences. Nepalese art though is commonly divided into two areas, the idealistic traditional painting known as "Paubhas" in Nepal and perhaps more commonly known as Thangkas in Tibetan, which are usually highly colorful and bold and closely linked to the country's religious history and then the contemporary western style painting, including nature based compositions or abstract artwork based on Tantric elements and social themes of which painters in Nepal are well noted for.[76] Internationally, the British based charity, the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre is involved with protecting arts in Kathmandu.[77]

Kathmandu contains many notable art galleries. The NAFA Gallery, operated by the Arts and crafts Department of the Royal Nepal Academy is housed in Sita Bhavan, a neo- classical old Rana palace, divided into two galleries, the permanent Birendra Art Gallery which displays works of successful contemporary painters and sculptors. and a temporary gallery featuring artwork of up and coming Nepalese artists of the country.[76]

The Srijana Contemporary Art Gallery, located inside the Bhrikutimandap Exhibition grounds, hosts the work of contemporary painters and sculptors, and regularly organizes exhibitions, both solo and group shows. It also runs morning and evening classes in the schools of art.[76] Also of note is the Moti Azima Gallery, located in a three storied building in Bhimsenthan which contains an impressive collection of traditional utensils and handmade dolls and items typical of a medieval Newar house, giving an important insight into Nepalese history.[76] The J Art Gallery is also located in Kathmandu, near the Royal Palace in Durbarmarg, Kathmandu and displays the artwork of eminent, established Nepalese painters and the Nepal Art Council Gallery, which is located in the Babar Mahal, on the way to Tribhuvan International Airport which contains artwork of both national and international artists and contains extensive halls regularly used for art exhibitions.[76]


Kaiser Mahal library

Asa Archives

The National Library of Nepal, is located in Patan, the largest in country with more than 70,000 books, mostly in English, but also with many in Nepali, Sanskrit, Hindi and Nepal Bhasa.[76] The library is in possession of rare scholarly books in Sanskrit and English dating from the 17th century AD. Kathmandu contains the Kaiser Library, located in the Kaiser Mahal on the ground floor of Ministry of Education building. The collection which totals around 45,000 books, is derived from a personal collection of the Field Marshal Kaiser Shumsher Rana.[76] It covers a wide range of subjects including history, law, art, religion, philosophy etc. and a Sanskrit manual of 'Tantra', believed to be over 1,000 years old.[76]

The Asa Archives are also of major note and specialise in medieval history and religious traditions of the Kathmandu Valley. The archives are located in Kulambhulu, and have a valuable collection of some 6,000 loose-leaf handwritten books and 1,000 palm-leaf manuscripts, mostly in Sanskrit or Nepal Bhasa and a manuscript dated to 1464.[76]

Cinema and Theatres

Kathmandu is home to the Nepalese cinema and theatres. The city contains several theatres of note including the National Dance Theatre in Kanti Path, the Ganga Theatre, the Himalayan Theatre and the Aarohan Theater Group, founded in 1982 and the M. Art Theater is based in the city. The Gurukul: School of Theatre organizes the Kathmandu International Theater Festival, attracting artists from all over the world.[78] A mini theater is also located at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square, established by the Durbar Conservation and Promotion Committee.

Kathmandu has a number of theatres showing Nepali, Bollywood and Hollywood films, including the Vishwajyoti Cinema Hall, Ranjana Cinema Hall, Kumari Cinema Hall, Jai Nepal Cinema Hall, Gopi Krishna Cinema Hall,and also international and national cinema chains in the form of multiplexes such as BIG Cinemas and QFX Cinemas, respectively.


Traditional Buddhist musical procession during Gunla.

Kathmandu is the centre of music and dance in Nepal and is integral to understanding the city. Musical performances are organized in the cultural venues. Music is a part of most of the traditional aspect of Kathmandu. Gunla is the traditional festival of music according to Nepal Sambat. Newar music originated in Kathmandu. Besides, music from all over Nepal can be found in Kathmandu.

A number of Hippies visited Kathmandu during 1970s and introduced rock and roll, rock, and jazz to the city. Kathmandu is noted internationally for its jazz festival, popularly known as Jazzmandu. It is the only jazz festival in the entire Himalayan region and was established in March 2002. The festival attracts musicians from countries worldwide such as Australia, Denmark, United States, Benin, and India.[79]

The city has been referenced in numerous songs, including works by Cat Stevens ("Katmandu", Mona Bone Jakon (1970)), Bob Seger ("Katmandu", Beautiful Loser (1975)), Rush ("A Passage to Bangkok" ("Pulling into Kathmandu"), 2112, 1976), Krematorij ("Kathmandu", Three Springs (2000)), Fito Páez ("Tráfico por Katmandú" – "Traffic through Kathmandu"); Will Ackerman ("A Happy Home in Kathmandu", The Opening of Doors (1993)); Tantra ("The Hills of Katmandu", early 1980s); Ok Go "Back From Kathmandu" (Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (2010)); and Godiego ("Coming Together in Kathmandu", 1980).


A typical Dal bhat.

The cultural diversity of Nepal has facilitated the growth of a number of cuisines based on the ethnic groups and the geographical features of the nation. Popularly served though is Dal bhat, which is a dish of lentils and rice, generally served with vegetable curries and forms a staple part of the diet. Given that Kathmandu only had one restaurant in 1955,[80] a large number of restaurants in Kathmandu have since grown up catering in Nepalese cuisine, Tibetan cuisine, Chinese cuisine, and Indian cuisine in particular and many others to accommodate both for Nepalese people and for tourists from all around the world. The growth of tourism in Kathmandu has led to culinary creativity and the development of hybrid foods to accommodate for tourists such as American chop suey, which is a sweet and sour sauce with crispy noodles, with a fried egg commonly added on top and other westernized adaptions of traditional cuisine.[80] Kathmandu is particularly famous for "momo". It is a type of dumpling that origined from Tibet. Many street vendors sell it. It is one of the most popular fast food in Kathmandu.

Tea is widely served in Kathmandu, but is served extremely weak by western standards. It is richer and contains tea leaves boiled with milk, sugar and spices. Local alcoholic beverages are found in Kathmandu. The popular ones are [Chhyaang], and [tongba], typically made from fermented millet or barley, thwon, made from fermented rice, ailaa, arak, made from fermented potatoes and rice and rakshi. Shops and bars in Kathmandu do, however, widely sell western and Indian beers, although shops are forbidden to sell alcohol on the first two days and last two days of the Nepali month (Nepal Sambat).[80]


President of Nepal Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, among others, observing the street festival of Yenya, which literally means (festival) of Kathmandu.

Most of the fairs and festivals that are observed in Kathmandu have their origin to the Malla period. This was further given an urban cultural touch, not limiting it to Newar festivities, subsequent to the Gorkha conquest in 1768–69. The culture of Parbatiyas and new migrant communities were also harmoniously amalgamated. The festivities such as the Ghode (horse) Jatra, Indra Jatra, Dasain Durga Puja festivals, Shivratri and many more are observed by all Hindu and Buddhist communities of Kathmandu with great devotional fervour and enthusiasm. Social regulation in the codes enacted incorporated the Hindu religious traditions and ethics. These were followed by the Shah kings as had been followed by previous kings, as devout Hindus and protectors of Buddhist religion.

Cultural continuity has been maintained for centuries – from ancient to modern periods – in the exclusive worship of goddesses and deities such as the Ajima, Taleju (or Tulja Bhavani), Degutaleju, Kumari (the living goddess) and so forth in Kathmandu and the rest of the country.[citation needed]

The artistic edifices have now become places of worship in every day life of the people and thus a roster is maintained to observe the annual festivals, which is intimately linked with the daily life of the people. It is said that there are 133 festivals held in the year.[49]

Some of the traditional festivals observed in Kathmandu now are Bada Dashain, Tihar, Chhath, Maghe Sankranti, Naga Panchami, Janai Poornima, Pancha Dan, Teej/Rishi Panchami, Indra Jatra, Gathanmuga, Swanya Punhi (Buddha Jayanti), Shree Panchami, Maha Shivaratri, Phagu Poornima, Ghode Jatra, Chaite Dashain, Nava Varsha, White Machchhendranath Jatra and Matatirtha Aunsi, apart from those mentioned earlier.[48]


The main religions in Kathmandu as in the rest of Nepal are Hinduism and Buddhism, although there are minorities of Kirats, Sikhs, Jains, Muslims, Baha'ais and Christians.


A view of Pashupatinath temple

The Bagmati river flowing past the Pashupatinath Temple, an important spot for Hindus

Many Hindu temples in Kathmandu and the surrounding district are centuries old with some temples of national importance to Hindus. As discussed previously, the Pashupatinath Temple, Changu Narayan temple (the oldest) and the Kasthamandap are of particular importance. Other notable Hindu temples in Kathmandu and the surrounding valley include Bajrayogini Temple, Dakshinkali Temple, Guhyeshwari Temple and the Sobha Baghwati shrine.

The Bagmati river which flows through Kathmandu is considered a holy river both by Hindus and Buddhists, and many Hindu temples are located on the banks of this river. The importance of the Bagmati also lies in the fact that Hindus are cremated on the banks of this holy river, and Kirants are buried in the hills by its side. According to the Nepalese Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times into the Bagmati river before cremation. The chief mourner (usually the first son) who lights the funeral pyre must take a holy river-water bath immediately after cremation. Many relatives who join the funeral procession also take bath in the Bagmati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation as the Bagmati River is believed to purify the people spiritually.


Left:Kopan Monastery. Right:Amitabh Monastery

Kathmandu and its historic stupas have been of major importance to Newar Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhists for centuries and attracts thousands of pilgrims annually. Kathmandu is the only place where Buddhism is still practiced in Sanskrit. Princess Bhrikuti and Araniko of Kathmandu valley had played a significant role in spread of Buddhism in Tibet. Besides, the clan of Shakyamuni Buddha are believed to have settled in Kathmandu valley. So, the valley imposes a large role for Buddhist pilgrims esp of the Bajrayana sect. Since the 1960s, the permanent Tibetan Buddhist population of Kathmandu has risen significantly so that there are now over 50 Buddhist monasteries in the area. Of major note are the International Buddhist Academy, Kopan Monastery, Amitabh Monastery and Tharlam Monastery.

An important gathering at Tharlam Monastery

The International Buddhist Academy (IBA) provides an academy for non-monastic Buddhist study and teaches the key Classic Indian Buddhist treatises studied by all Mahayana and Tibetan traditions. Kopan Monastery is located near the Boudhanath on the outskirts and belongs to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international network of Gelugpa dharma centers.[81] Kopan has become especially noted for teaching Buddhism to visiting Western foreigners. The first of what would become annual month-long (November–December) meditation courses was held in 1971 and was initially known as the Mount Everest Centre.[82] These courses generally combine traditional Lam Rim teachings with informal discussion, several periods of guided meditation, and a vegetarian diet. Today the monastery is home to about 360 monks.[82]

Kirant Mundhum

Nakchong practicing in Tundikhel, the central park of Kathmandu.

Kirant Mundhum is one of the indigenous animistic practices of Nepal. It is practiced by Kirat people. Some animistic aspects of Kirant beliefs, such as ancestor worship (worship of Ajima) is also found in Newars of Kirant origin. Ancient religious sites believed to be worshipped by ancient Kirats, such as Pashupatinath, Wanga Akash Bhairabh (Yalambar), Ajima are now worshipped by people of all Dharmic religions in Kathmandu. Kirats who have migrated from other parts of Nepal to Kathmandu practice Mundhum in the city.


Sikhism is practiced primarily in Gurudwara at Kupundole. An earlier temple of Sikhism is also present in Kathmandu which went defunct.


Jainism is practiced by the small Jain community of Kathmandu. A Jain temple is present in Gyaneshwar, where Jains practice their faith.


According to the records of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Nepal, there are approximately 300 Baha'is in Kathmandu valley. They have a National Office located in Shantinagar, Baneshwor. The Baha'is also have classes for children at the National Centre and other localities in Kathmandu.


Mosque in Kathmandu

Islam is practised in Kathmandu but Muslims are a minority, accounting for about 4.2% of the population of Nepal.[83]


Even though Nepal's constitution provides freedom of religion, proselytization is forbidden. In this regard, the Christian population is a minority (0.45% of the total population of Nepal) but is growing. Christian churches have been established only since 1950, after multiparty democracy was instituted, even though efforts were made in the 19th century to bring Christianity to Nepal. The New Testament was translated into Nepali language as far back as 1821 and the complete Bible in 1914. It is said that in Kathmandu alone there are 170 Christian churches. Christian missionary hospitals, welfare organizations, and schools are also operating. Nepali citizens who served as soldiers in Indian and British armies, who had converted to Christianity while in service, on return to Nepal continue to practice their religion. They have contributed to the spread of Christianity and the building of churches in Nepal and in Kathmandu, in particular.[84][85]


Kathmandu University Medical School and Kathmandu University High School at Chaukot (KU village)

The oldest school of Nepal, Durbar School and the oldest college, Tri Chandra College, are located in Kathmandu city. The largest (according to number of students and colleges), oldest and most distinguished university in Nepal is located in the Kathmandu Valley, near Kathmandu city, in Kathmandu district, in Kirtipur called Tribhuvan University. The second largest university, Kathmandu University (KU), is located in Dhulikhel, Kavre on the out-skirts of Kathmandu. It is the second oldest university in Nepal, established in November 1991,[86]

Medical colleges

Tribhuwan University Institute of Medicine, the first medical college of Nepal, is located in Kathmandu. Besides this, a number of medical colleges including Kathmandu Medical College, Nepal Medical College, KIST Medical College, National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS), Patan Institute of Health Sciences (PIHS), Kathmandu University School of Medical Sciences (KUSMS) are also located in or around Kathmandu.[87]


Dasarath Rangasala Stadium

Football and Cricket are the most popular sports among the younger generation in Nepal and there are several stadiums in the city.[88] The sport is governed by the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) from its headquarters in Kathmandu. The only international football stadium in the city is the Dasarath Rangasala Stadium, a multi-purpose stadium used mostly for football matches and cultural and entertainment programs in the neighborhood of Tripureshwor. It is the largest stadium in Nepal with a capacity of 25,000 and was built in 1956. Martyr's Memorial League is also held in this ground every year. The stadium was renovated with the help of China before the 8th South Asian Games were held in Kathmandu and had floodlights installed so that it is able to organise matches and events in the evenings. Kathmandu is home to the oldest football clubs of Nepal such as RCT, Sankata, NRT. Besides these, most of other prominent football clubs such as MMC, Machhindra FC, Tribhuwan Army Club (TAC), MPC etc.

Cricket is also very popular in Kathmandu. Nepal's U-19 Cricket team is known to be one of the best. Even though Nepal Soccer has not improved at all, Nepal cricket has improved a lot over these years, and it is capturing the eyes of more and more youth in the country. It has become like what baseball is to America, and almost as how Football is to Europe. Kathmandu is also home of some of the oldest cricket clubs of Nepal such as Yengal Sports club. Kathmandu has the only recognised internation cricket ground of the country at Kirtipur at the University site.

Sports complexes in Kathmandu are not well maintained and most of them are not up-to-date because of the lack of funding from the government or other sources.

Another international stadium for swimming events, is located in Satdobato, Lalitpur near Kathmandu. ANFA Technical Football Center is located just adjacent to this stadium.


Kathmandu taxiRed bus in Kathmandu

Onboard a bus in KathmanduFemale tuk tuk driver

The total length of roads in Nepal is recorded to be (17,182 kilometres (10,676 mi)), as in 2003–04. This fairly large network (still considered a very inadequate connectivity with the rural hill areas) has helped in the economic progress of the country in the field of agriculture, horticulture, vegetable farming, industry and also tourism.[89] In view of the hilly terrain, transportation facilities in Nepal in general and Kathmandu in particular, are mainly by road and air with limited rail link in the terai region.

Through the process of Five Year Plan developments, the first transmountain highway, later named Tribhuvan Highway, linking Kathmandu with Bhaise, a distance of 126 km (78 mi), was built and further extended via Hetauda through Birganj to Raxaul in India, a distance of 64 kilometres (40 mi) (built by Government of India in 1956). Another trans-Himalayan highway that was built in 1963 connects Kathmandu with Kodari, a distance of 114 kilometres (71 mi) (built by the Chinese), and links to Tibet. Another highway called the Prithvi Highway, within the country, connects Kathmandu with the Pokhara Valley over a distance of 200 kilometres (120 mi) (built by the Chinese).

Tribhuvan International Airport

Air transport, the next in importance to Nepal (since it is a landlocked country) was also developed since 1953, first by the Indian Air Lines, and subsequently in 1959 by the Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC) with internal services starting with Kathmandu as the hub linking with many towns and cities within Nepal. Gradually, it spread to Indian and other international destinations. Now, Nepal boasts of 44 airports throughout the country.[90] The main international airport serving Kathmandu and indeed Nepal is the Tribhuvan International Airport, located about six kilometres from the city center in the Kathmandu valley. Operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal[91] it has two terminals, one domestic and one international. At present, about 22 international airlines connect Nepal to other destinations in Asia and the Middle East, connected to cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka, Islamabad, Karachi, Paro, Lhasa, Chengdu and Guangzhou.[91] A recent extension to the international terminal has made the distance to the airplanes shorter and in October 2009 it became possible to fly directly to Kathmandu from Amsterdam by Arkefly[92] Regionally, several Nepalese airlines operate from the city including Agni Air, Buddha Air, Cosmic Air, Gorkha Airlines, Nepal Airlines and Yeti Airlines connecting Kathmandu to many other major towns across Nepal.


Ropeways are another important transportation means in hilly terrain. A ropeway operated between Kathmandu and Hetauda over a length of 43 kilometres (27 mi) which could carry 25 tons of goods per hour. It has since been discontinued due to poor carrying capacity and maintenance issues. During the Rana period, a ropeway was constructed between Kathmandu (then Mathathirtha) to Dhorsing (Makawanpur) over 22 km (14 mi) length, which could carry cargo of 8 tons per hour.


Shahid Gangalal Cardio Cener

Healthcare in Kathmandu is the most developed in Nepal, and the city and surrounding valley is home to some of the best hospitals and clinics in the country. Notable hospitals include Bir Hospital, Trubhuwan University Institute of Medicine (Teaching Hospital), Patan Hospital, Kathmandu Model Hospital, Tribhuwan Chandra Army Hospital, B & B Hospital, Om Hospital, Norvic Hospital and the city is supported by specialist hospitals/clinics such as Shahid Shukra Tropical Hospital, Kathmandu Veterinary Hospital, Nepal Eye Hospital, Kanti Children's Hospital, Prasuti Griha (Obstetrics & Gynecology center), Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC), Gangalal Cardiology Hospital, Nepal International Clinic ( Travel and Mountain medicine center),Neuro Center, Spinal Rehabilitation center, Bhaktapur Cancer hospital. Most of the general hospitals are located in the city centre. although several clinics are located elsewhere in Kathmandu district.

Bir Hospital is the oldest (and busiest), established in July 1889 by Bir Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana. The hospital has been run by the National Academy of Medical Sciences, a government agency since 2003 and has a capacity of 458 beds. The hospital provides high quality medical and surgical treatments to people from all across the country. Nephrology service in Nepal started at Bir Hospital, though although 40 kidney biopsies are done every year, due to lack of well trained manpower in the field of renal histopathology, glomerular diseases cannot be easily diagnosed with accuracy. Many patients from the rural areas come to this hospital to get free treatment. Every year the hospital produces qualified efficient and well trained post graduates in different subjects of clinical medicine such as general surgery, internal medicine, orthopaedic surgery, pathology etc. It has become an Internship centre for students who had passed MBBS from China and Russia and other parts of the world. Hundreds of nurses of different levels get nursing training in this hospital. The yearly budget of the hospital is about NRs 27 Crore (About US$ 4.1 million), two thirds of which is funded by the government but adequate funding is always a problem in running the hospital.[93]


Kathmandu is the television hub of Nepal. Nepal Television, established in 1985, is the oldest and most watched television channel in Nepal, as is the government owned NTV 2 Metro, Channel Nepal, Image Channel, Avenues TV, Kantipur Television, Sagermatha TV, Himalayan Television and other channels.

The headquarters of many of the country's news outlets are also located in the city including the government owned Gorkhapatra which is the oldest national daily newspaper in Nepal, The Kathmandu Post, Nepali Times, Kantipur Publications and its paper Kantipur which is the largest selling Nepali language paper, The Himalayan Times which is the largest selling English broadsheet in Nepal, Karobar Economic Daily only economic daily in Nepal, and Jana Aastha National Weekly.

Nepal Republic Media, the publisher of MyRepublica, entered into publishing alliance with the International Herald Tribune (IHT), to publish Asia Pacific Edition of IHT from Kathmandu from July 20, 2011.[94] There is a state run National News Agency (RSS). The Internet address is nepalnews.com, which provides private online news.

Radio service of Radio Nepal, a state-run organization operates national and regional Radio stations. The Radio stations, which are operational are: Hits FM (Nepal) – commercial; music-based -HBC 94 FM – operated by Himalayan Broadcasting Company, Radio Sagarmatha – FM, public, community station, Kantipur FM – commercial and Image FM. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has also a FM broadcasting station at Kathmandu.[37]

In popular culture

In some travelogues, the Kathmandu valley has been referred to as the "Emerald Valley".[95] Numerous works of literature have been set in Kathmandu, including Kim Stanley Robinson's 1989 work, Escape from Kathmandu. Recently, the book ("Arresting God in Kathmandu") by Samrat Upadhyay received international acclaim, as well as the non-fictional book written by Manjushree Thapa "Forget Kathmandu". Pico Iyer, a British writer, also has a non-fiction book named "Video nights in Kathmandu", although only one chapter of the book is dedicated to Kathmandu. In the novel Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut the protagonist Rudy Waltz writes a play titled "Katmandu" in which a man takes a journey on foot to Kathmandu. Two contemporary songs are titled "Katmandu" (without the "h"): one by Cat Stevens (1970) and another (1975) by Bob Seger. It's also mentioned in the 1984 song Nobody Told Me by John Lennon in which the lyrics make reference to "a little yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu" which is similar to a line from J. Milton Hayes' poem entitled The Green Eye of the Yellow God. Hayes' line was "There’s a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu".

Kathmandu has also been mentioned in numerous films including in the film Bewitched as the title of a fictional movie Will Ferrell's character stars in prior to his role in the Bewitched remake and by Cameron Diaz in There's Something about Mary. In the comic titled "Tintin in Tibet" the characters land in Kathmandu and spend some time before heading towards Tibet. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, a video game by Naughty Dog for the PlayStation 3, includes several chapters in Kathmandu (though it does not mention the city by name) and depicts a pagoda-style temple and old houses.

A film industry, nicknamed "Kollywood", fairly big, has been established which produces around many movies in Nepali and other regional languages.

In the game Civilization V Kathmandu appears as a city-state which the more powerful civilizations can interact with.

Sister cities

Kathmandu is twinned with the following cities.

  • Dortmund, Germany
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Eugene, Oregon, United States
  • Isfahan, Iran
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Kansas City, United States
  • Kyoto, Japan
  • Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan
  • Minsk, Belarus
  • Pau, France
  • Pyongyang, North Korea
  • Québec City, Canada
  • Rochester, New York, United States
  • Xi'an, China
  • Yangon, Burma


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