The Brilliance of Bhaktapur’s Golden Gate

BHAKTAPUR, Nepal — Commissioned by King Ranjit Malla, the last king of Bhaktapur, the city’s Golden Gate stands as one of the finest examples of artisanry in all of Nepal.

51kwjz1l6-l-_sx384_bo1204203200_Having arrived in Bhaktapur — also known as Bhatgaon — early enough that it wasn’t yet crowded with tourists, I was nonetheless in such a hurry to hoof it to see as many of the ancient buildings as I could.

The Golden Gate, located at the entrance to the courtyard where the palace of fifty-five windows stood, stopped me in my tracks, leaving me awestruck enough that I took just three photographs: one of the metal sculptures atop the structure, and two of the fearsome Kali depiction above the doorway — and none of it in its entirety.

British historian and archaeologist Percy Brown described it in his 1912 book, “Picturesque Nepal.”

The Golden Gate is “a doorway of brick and embossed copper gilt, the richest piece of art work in the whole kingdom, and placed like a jewel flashing innumerable facets in the handsome setting of its surroundings,” he wrote.

Brown continues, “To adequately describe this feature, either from its artistic or religious aspects, is an impossibility, and no reproduction can give any idea of its gorgeous effect, owing to the brilliancy of the material in which it is executed.”

Beyond the highly skilled craftsmanship was the technique of storytelling in sculpture. Brown adds:

Complete volumes of Hindu and Buddhist thought are embodied in its design, and the meanest member of either of these faiths is able to read in almost any part of it some simple story that he can understand, or extract therefrom some attractive allegory which may stimulate his mind.

The richness of the tales it told weren’t lost on me, though the details were. I knew there were legends there, but I was not familiar with them. In all, it was a bit overwhelming. It reminded me of the ancient temple complex at Borobudur in Central Java, Indonesia. I could see but could not read them, yet they were a sight to behold.

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Kali and other Hindu deities adorned the Golden Gate in Bhaktapur, Nepal. At top, brass sculptures sat above the gate. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)

 

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Percy Brown’s book included this image of the Golden Gate.

 

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