BHAKTAPUR, Nepal — Setting foot in Bhaktapur was the closest I’d come to feeling transported back in history, even further than the 18th century in which Nyatapola Temple was built.
Nyatapola, which means “five-story temple” in Newari, rises as a monument to antiquity itself, rising more than 30 meters from Bhaktapur’s Taumadhi Square, its grand sandstone-colored steps leading up to a platform restricted to priests only.
Its history is at least as interesting as its exquisitely detailed appearance:
Legend tells of the days when the angry god Bhairab was causing havoc in society (1702 AD). Bhairab’s temple stood in Taumadhi Square. To counteract his destructive behavior the king decided to build a more powerful temple right in front of the Bhairab Temple. To make the brick and wood temple strong and powerful, King Bhupatendra Malla ordered guardians be placed in pairs on each level of the base leading up to the Nyatapola Temple.
On the first level of stairs stood two statues — of Jaimal Rathore of Badnor and Patta of Kelwa, 16-year-old defenders of the Chittor fort in Akbar’s 1567 siege — keeping eternal guard at the temple’s entrance. (However, I didn’t learn what their connection is to Nyatapola.)
At the next landing up stood two elephant statues, followed up two lions, two griffins and finally Baghini and Singhini, the tiger and lion goddesses.
Built in 1702 and dedicated to Siddhi Lakshmi, Nyatapola is the tallest temple in the Kathmandu Valley and has survived an 8.3-magnitude earthquake in 1934 and Nepal’s devastating 2015 quake.
Maybe Nyatapola’s guardians had something to do with it?