Dattatreya Square – Bhaktapur

Dattatreya Square, lying in the upper town carries a great history from the Bisket Jatra ( New Year ) festival. The wide alleys connecting the lower to upper town are followed by many thangka (religious scroll paintings) shops, local shops, handicraft and music shops, traditional attached houses of Newars, and stalls selling Bhaktapur’s famous curd and many more.

This is the very last square among the four charming squares when the visitors start their journey from Durbar Square but Dattatreya Square comes the first attraction when visitors start their journey from the Chyamasing entrance gate taking a few minutes to walk. Dattatreya square is also known as Tachapal tole by locals. It is one of the oldest squares dating back to the early 15th Century but it was the first square ruled by royalty. 

Dattatreya temple, built by King Yaksha Malla in 1427 A.D and renovated by his son Bishwo Malla in 1458 A.D is believed to be built from the timber of a single tree and is also known as the replica of Kasthamandap of Kathmandu Durbar square.

Dattatreya is only the temple in Nepal, which is worshipped as a trinity of  Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, guarded by statues of the Rajput wrestlers Jayamel and Phattu. The guarded position of Garuda with the conch and chakra disc mounted on pillars supported by the stone turtle is an iconic homage to Lord Bishnu.

One can see the terracotta base with several erotic carvings, built-in three-story, pagoda-style opens every morning and evening for homage by the priest and locals surrounded. More often, a group of locals, all men mostly elderly, can be seen performing an evening hymn and sacred dapha songs during the festive season.

Dattatreya Temple during evening
Dattatreya Temple during evening

Every year the temples get crowded during Hindu festivals like Shivaratri, Teej, and Holi. The temples get enchantingly dotted with the flickering light of natural local handmade oil lamps etching its beauty into your memory forever. 

To the west of the Dattatreya temple, one can see another temple, Bhimsen Temple built in 1605 A.D. It is said to be the god of trade, as, in the past, people had to walk to Tibet or India for trade or pilgrimage. In order to gain the strength and power to embark on the journey, they used to pray to this god and the tradition continues today.

The temple is built in two stories, and the rectangular shape has the ground floor open leading to the backside view of the deep traditional water spout (hiti) known as Bhimsen Pokhari. The open space is used as the meeting place where the shrine Bhimsen is hidden upstairs. In front of the temple, there is a column with a Naga at the top.

This is taken as the second important temple of this square.

The Laxmi Narayan temple located in front of Bhimsen to the left is the third main temple of the square where both Laxmi and Narayan are worshipped. Usually, this temple remains close but the spot has been taken as the meeting point of locals during the evening time.

In this majestic square, one can observe historically rich wooden window carvings and the open central area with new stone-paved. The Dattatreya temple on the east, Bhimsen temple on the west, and traditionally built guest houses, restaurants, cafes, local shops, and bars on the south and north have

shaped the square of Dattatreya. The two museums behind the Dattatreya temple lying opposite known as “Brass and Bronze” and “wood carving” signifies the ancient craftsmanship of Bhaktapur history. The four-story building of the wood carving museum also popularly known as Pujari Math (Hindu Priest House) is the best example of master craftsmanship.

Its main door leads towards courtyards which are decorated with richly carved pillars, windows, and a fine Newari house interior. On the other side, one can see the collection of ancient Malla houseware and ritual metalware in the Brass and Bronze Museum.

These museums are part of the Durbar square National Art Gallery where you can observe with the same ticket or vice-versa.

The square hosts quiet side streets leading to the off markets, and narrow alleys discovering more monuments and temples. Peacock window located at the eastern side lane of the Pujari Math taking towards the narrow alleys is popular among visitors.

The masterpiece peacock window is one of the intricately designed wooden windows, also called Mona-Lisa of Nepal. The best-preserved windows show the body of the peacock at the centre and its widespread feathers filling in the circular window.

After taking sight from this magnificent window one can see the many miniatures of wooden peacock windows of different sizes hanging on the wall and many small souvenirs shops, thangka painting, a group of women knitting, the yarn spinning lady and many more activities of local peoples will make your day worthwhile than any other square. 

Taking towards the north of Dattatreya temple, one can see the three-tiered Salayan Ganesh temple, the deity with the head of an elephant is worshipped every morning and gets crowded in every festival. As per Shiva Purana, Ganesha, after getting back his life with the elephant head, was blessed by shiva with a boon that he would be worshipped first before starting any work.

Beside the temple, a giant man-made pond dedicated to Lord Ganesh is located, named the Ganesh Pokhari  (pond). The open space around the pond is equally busy with shops and street vendors.

If you go around 5 min further from the Salayan Ganesh temple, you can find another popular temple of Bhaktapur called Navadurga temple which is famous for nine Durgas composed of Mahakali, Kumari, Barahi, Bramayani, Maheshwari, Vaishnavi, Indrani, Mahalakshmi, and Tripurasundari.

Durgas are the various demonic manifestations of  Goddess Parvati. Every year, the people perform a dance of the Nava Durga, the masks are kept in this temple for the Nava Durga Dance in Dashain.

Around 150 meters away, east of Tachapal, the Wakupati Narayan Temple is situated, built-in 1667 AD has a unique specimen of pagoda architecture dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple displays more or less five Guards mounted on pillars in a line.

This temple is considered the temple of the harvesting god by the local Jyapus (Newari farming subcaste). Recently this temple has gold plating on the roof plate adding its importance to the people. Lying close to the Chamasing gate, this temple is one of the eye-catching monuments to many visitors.

Nevertheless, this square is beautifully preserved with ancient art and artefacts. The square is alive with tourists and local people going about their everyday business. Visitors are fascinated with the best-preserved fine piece of woodwork of ancient Nepal, where one can find the perfect gift to take home. It is said, a visit to Bhaktapur would not be complete without a visit to Dattatreya Square.

By Urmila Jadhari

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