A Report on
Nyatapola-a marvel of Nepalese Architecture
Submitted by: Submited to:

Miss. Sudha Shrestha
Department of Architecture and Urban Planning
Pulchowk Campus
Pulchowk, Lalitpur, Nepal

Preface and Acknowledgement

History has given Nepal some of the world's best examples of Art and Architecture that man has ever created. Bhaktapur-the city of devotees still holds many of the marvelous works of art created in the medieval Period(1200-1768AD). The structures of those days still challenge today's material and design technology. Now a part of world heritage site-Nyatapola is an excellent example of Malla architecture. It's always interesting to know and learn about these temples. As students of architecture writing this report was a great experience. The report has also been released on the internet for easy access around the world. Now anyone interested in knowing about Nyatapola can access this report with all the photographs at . We would like to thank the following persons or institutions for their help in preparing this report:


Nyatapola temple is a typical example of Nepali temple architecture built in 1702 A.D. (822 N.S.) by the contemporary king of Bhaktapur King Bhupatindra Malla. This early eighteenth century tired temple is situated at the Taumadi Square, south east of Bhaktapur Durbar square. And its beauty is quite unexplainable in words. So much is it's beauty that whoever the people be, will forget to shut his eyes and can't stop oneself to praise its aesthetic beauty. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Siddhilaxmi which represents prosperity and good fortune and also represents the Goddess of war. It is the tallest tiered temple built in pagoda style, which stands on five huge plinths with 5 storied roof and a gold polished brass pinnacle at the top. There is only one 5-tiered temple beside Nyatapola and surely that is not as glorious as this one.

Taumadhi Square

Taumadi Square is a wide open space which is linked by a short pathway to the eastern end of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. The square represents the function of the ancient halves of Bhaktapur. In Robert Levy's words the square is "A neutral ritual centre that affirms the unity of the town". This function becomes most plainly apparent during the festival of Bisket, locally called as "Biska Jatra". When the people of the upper town compete with the lower to drag a towering ritual chariot containing an image of Bhairab out of the square into the streets of their own sector of Bhaktapur. Taumadi is dominated by two temples of unusual grandeur. One is a three storeyed rectangular temple on east side is Bhairabnath-originally built by Jagatjyotir Malla as a single storeyed structure in 1717 BS. Bhupatindra then restored the temple adding two further tiers. After it collapsed in 1934 AD earthquake it was reconstructed by the local people. Bhairab is the ferocious manifestation of Lord Shiva. The next is Nyatapola-the tallest tiered temple of Nepal. Dating back to 1702 AD, it is the most elegant asset of Nepal. The struts, doors, windows, tympanums, attractively carved divine figures has perfectly portrayed the creative tradition of Newar craftsman and medieval art and architecture. The next fabulous example of art and architecture is Tilmadhav Narayan Chowk, situated just in front of Nyatapola and dedicated to Tilmadhav Narayan. A few steps ahead of it, to the south west lies the famous pottery square, and a few steps ahead to upper town Dattatreya Square.


On the ground of evidences and information from different sources like local peoples, history readers and different books, we have come across to the following facts on the history of the temple. According to the local saying and history readers, the site where Nyatapola now stands was a farm land of a local citizen. The temple was constructed and completed in 822 NS Kartik Suddhi Tritiya, Thursday by king Bhupatindra Malla.

In the earthquake of 1990 BS the top roof of Nyatapola temple had fallen down which was rennovated later by king Tribhuvan. However the lower steps and roofs faced no damage. This also proves the stability and good work of ancient period. Later in the earthquake of 2045 BS, minute damages had occured but they were negligible.It is the result of good architecture and double layered wall.The latest renovation was done by Bhaktapur Municipality in 1996 AD the rennovation was completed within 9 months using some new and some old materials. Some details are as follows:

Timber used Amount
Old 400 cubic feet
New 1200 cubic feet
Jhingati(New) 50 %
Jhingati(Old) 40 %
Jhingati(From local people) 10 %

King Bhupatindra Malla was the son of King Jitamitra Malla and Queen Lalmati. He got the throne at the age of 22 after his father's demise in 1696 A.D. He ruled in Bhaktapur for 26 years till 1722 A.D. It is said that he was a good ruler and forward thinker having keen interest and knowledge in art and culture. This fact is verified by the construction of Nyatapola Temple and many more monuments during his regime. Besides that he had also done a remarkable work in the field of literature especially in Maithali literature. He had written many songs, poems and dramas and this shows his versatile nature.

Physical structure of Nyatapola temple

If we go through the name "Nyatapola", it itself describes its physical structure. In local Newari language "nyata" means five-storeyed and "pola" means tiers. So from the name itself it is clear that Nyatapola is a five storeyed temple with the roof of tiers. The base of the Nyatapola temple is rectangular terraced platform of stones and have five stages or folds with steep stone-paved stairway. On each stage, there is a pair of statues of different kinds on either sides of stairway. On the bottom stage, there are statues of two wrestlers of Bhaktapur naming Jaimal and Patta, who were believed to be 10 times stronger than the ordinary citizens, followed by elephants ,lions, griffins and two other deities - Singhini and Baghini . They are believed as door-keepers in charge of paved stairway which do not allow the evil power to enter into the temple. Amusing and interesting at the same time is that the statues are kept in such a way that its strength is 10 times more than that of previous pair. At the top fold is a square chamber enclosed by colonnade of wooden poles and pillars which sustain the lowest and the heaviest roof. Inside which the statue of goddess Siddhilaxmi Bhavani, the superior and most powerful tantric goddess, is errected. The square chamber has gates in all four sides. But the main gate is facing south. Above the main gate, there are beautiful torans which is engraved with the image of Mahish Mardini. The roofs of the temple are covered with special red tiles of similar shape and size. Though clay tiles has low resistance to earthquake it has high stability and very good resistance against insect and rain. Wind bells(ghanti) made of brass are hanging on the rafter of each roof.There are 48, 80, 104, 128 and 168 bells in fifth,fourth,third, second and first roof respectively. Besides that, the floor of each of these storeys is a square entablature of brick which goes on diminishing in size and area until the structure reaches fifth or the uppermost roof with a gold final atop. Each of the roofs is sustained by struts projecting at an angle of 45 degrees from the entablature which rests for support on the pillars of the lower storey. The structure decorated by the graceful carvings and vigorous sculpture which are characteristics of Nepalese architecture and they are 108 in numbers. Besides these four Ganeshes known as Drighu Ganesh is located in all four corners of the temple. But the statue of the north east corner temple has been stolen. These Ganeshes have been established for the protection of the Goddess and the temple. Nyatapola, the temple of terribles as many people call, is an outstanding illustration of medieval art and architecture. And it speaks for how rich we were in the medieval period in the sector of art and architecture. Not only that, it also has the importance from historic, cultural, social and archaeological view. It is also a fantastic site for tourists and is an inspiration for learning architecture techniques for the students like us. Above all it is a pride of Nepal and a jewel of the World. Due to above reasons, Nyatapola temple was listed as one of the world heritage sites in the year 1979 A.D. (2035 B.S).

Social Cultural and Religious aspects of Nyatapola

In Hindu community, temples and God and Goddesses placed have great influence on social, cultural and religious aspects. Nyatapola too from its time of establishment have a strong religious, social and cultural values. According to tales and old traditions, the contemporary king Bhupatindra Malla gave order to construct the temple to have control over the harsh and angry nature of Bhairab (representing power and war) in a tantric way; he enshrined their tantrik Goddess Siddhilaxmi. The Bhairab, whose temple is just in front of the Nyatapola temple, is said to have come to Bhaktapur from Benaras. Bhairab, along with Bhadrakali, is the principal personage of the festival Bisket Jatra of Bhaktapur (celebrated on every new year day of Bikram Sambat). Moreover, some of the Bhaktapur's inhabitants say that just as Tirpurasundari is in the centre of Astamatrika, so is Bhairab (also known as Aakash Bhairab) is the Astabhairab. From another tale Bhairab caused many disasters at that time so to offset and to have control over such a personage which compelled the contemporary king Bhupatindra Malla to take advice from his advisor (mostly astrologers). According to their advice the king built a huge and tall temple of tantrik Goddess Siddhilaxmi. The sanctum level of Nyatapola is in the same height as that of first Gajur of Bhairab temple which means Siddhilaxmi dominating Bhairab. From other beliefs it is also said that the king constructed this temple so high that it can be viewed from his 55-window palace, as the king had a keen interest in constructing temples with a high quality of craftsmanship. There is also an interesting fact that the king himself carried first three bricks along with other workers ,which shows the good relation between king and the citizens. Not only that it was also the desire of king to make the temple and the willing of the people to get rid of the anger of Bhairab. This very fact shows a social need with a religious background. On the auspicious moment of laying the foundation of temple, one jyapu ( peasant) sowed grains of paddy in his field and later on when he tried to pull them out he has to use a spade .This has a link with the stability of foundation as how much the earth was compact there. It is remarkable that the temple didn't fell in the earthquake of 1934 A.D., except the topmost roof had fallen. It was believed that the goddess wasn't allowed to be seen by ordinary people and only Rajopadhya Brahamins had right to enter into the temple and accomplish puja .This tradition is being strictly followed even today. This restriction is made so that the tantrik power of goddess is not revealed to ordinary people. At present, a priest of Karmacharya caste does the daily "Nitya puja" every morning and performs "Aarati" every evening. The main puja is done on two occasions. First on Bhadra Shukla parewa tithi when a goat is sacrificed to goddess and a flag symbolising good luck is placed on its pinnacles. Next on Ashad Sudi 1 when Panchaprachar puja (Tha puja or Tantric puja) is carried out. Unlikely other temples, it doesn't has any Guthi , Jatras or Bhajans.


Goddess Siddhi Laxmi is the main deity enshrined in the Nyatapola temple. She is believed to be the superior tantric goddess and represents female force and creativity. The statue of Goddess Siddhilaxmi inside the temple is 9 feet tall, carved in black stone. The statue has 9 heads arranged in 3 rows with 5,3,1 heads from bottom to top respectively. The top single head is called Chandi Bhadrakali, the three heads of second row of the statue is called Pratyangira and the third row with five heads is called Siddhilaxmi. She has got eight pairs of hands. There are two statues of Mahakal Bhairab and Masan Bhairab in either sides of Siddhilaxmi. They are supposed to be helpers of Goddess Siddhilaxmi who provide the tantric power to her. The five pairs of statues in the stairway are the guards to protect the goddess and the temple from evil powers. According to local people the Godess also gets the power from Mandala in which Astamatrika are located in eight directions.


The temple was constructed and completed in 822NS Kartik Suddhi Tritiya, Thursday by king B. Malla. The detailed records of expenditure and information on the involved personnel, list and price of materials used for the construction has been preserved in the National Archives office, Babar Mahal. This valuable paper manuscript has been remarkably preserved and only pages from 264(b) are missing. The manuscript is written in the traditional Newari script on yellow Nepalese paper(Nepali Kagaj). Apart from some ink stained pages and a few rat eaten ones the manuscript is in good condition.


The basic raw materials used in construction of Nyatapola are similar to that of other Nepalese temples. They are wood, bricks, clay mortar (sometimes Surkhi), stone, metal (copper, brass), red oily paving tiles (Telia Int) etc.

In the construction of Nyatapola temple, five different types of timbers are used. They are :
Chap (Michelia champaca)
Sal (Sorea robusta)
Salla (Pinus roxburghii)
Deodar (Cedrus deodara)
Gobresalla (Pinus roxburghii)

Stones are mainly used in the construction of the guardians (five pairs of large guardians) of the temple on the façade. Among the guardians, the first one Jaimal and Patta are made of monolithic stones called 'Kothka'. These stones were brought from Chobhar. Stones are also used in the steps and at the edges of the plinths. The circum-ambulatory columns also have the stone base. The 'Jalahari' (Water drainage system) on the north (Mandala like) ritual spot on the north-east corner of the third plinth are also made of stones. These stones are brought from village of East Nala, Sanepa, Panauti, Sanga, Dhulikhel, Khadapu and Chaukwalh along with different Toles of Bhaktapur.

Different types of bricks are used in the construction of the temple, general bricks for the load bearing wall, the Telia brick(wedge shaped brick having glazed surface) for the façade. These bricks have mud mortar. From the manuscript , the total number of bricks used were 11,35,850 and Telia Int used are 1,02,364. The sizes of the bricks used in the plinth wall have the dimension 8.5" X 4.5" X 2". These bricks were brought from Thimi, Bode, Nagadesh.

Metals are mainly used in the construction of pinnacle and wind bells. For small bells:

Metal Approximate Weight(in Dharni)
Main(wax) 24
Kaas 17
Pittal(brass) 31
Iron 13.5



For big bells:
In various forms 9 dharni of iron are used.

For pinnacle:
The total weight of pinnacle is 40 Dharni. Materials used for the construction are listed below:

Metal Approximate Weight(in Dharni)
Copper 148
Galeko Pittal(Brass) 1
Kacho Pittal 2
Kaash 4(demanded)
Khaposat 3



Construction technology

The construction technology used for the Nyatapola temple is very much similar to the other tiered temples of Nepal. From the history the whole construction on an average is done in a very small span of time .

The structural plan of high stepped plinths is still unknown . foundation of the temple is unmanifest .It has not been clear that whether the nyatapola temple stands on huge masonary square field with soil or upon a hillock of trodden soil which is circumscribed by stepped plinths of brickwork. The plan is flexible to seismic effect. This seismic resist technology is used at that time of construction or the structural engineers on today want to fit it in the flexible theory of seismic resist. In the 1934 A.D. earthquake, only the upper most roof of the temple fell whereas the Bhairab temple alongside had collapsed wholly .This resist to earthquake can be due to its square symmetrical plan,pyramidal structure and very large foundation with high plinths which reduce liquefication.

The massive load bearing wall of the temple comprise material of high compressive strength. These walls are covered with another layer of bricks to increase its durability by protecting it against rain, vermin and abrasion and to improve the thermal and moister performance of the wall and also to give an aesthetic look to its appearance. The brick facing are trapezoid in shape and brick adjoins brick edge on the outer face and the mortar is mostly within and so the mud mortar cannot be easily washed away. The mortar constitute yellow clay with "Mass" and "Chaku". The fine lines between the edges of bricks are often scaled with a water proofing agents i.e. a mixture of oil(Tel), resein(Saldup) and red earth(Sindhur).

The entrance have massive double door. The door consists of an interior frame(Duchu) and exterior frame(Bha) which are joined together by floor wooden ties(Tas) pinned together with wooden nails(Chukus). There is pediment(Torana) fixed to the upper frame for decoration. Carvings around the door frame, window frame, and in the torana have carvings of tantrik Goddesses and goddesses Siddhilaxmi. Torans are the quality of art and architecture of medieval period. Since Goddess Siddhilaxmi is the Tantrik Goddess and ordinary people are restricted to enter the temple so as to represent the images of Goddess their carvings are on this Torans.

The temple has a tied beam (Lakansin).In these tied beams total of 20 vertical wood columns stand such that in each face we see 6 columns with 5 voids between them. The load of the lintel(Nina) is transferred to these columns through a Meth(wooden bracket like capital). The meth is carved as an arch. This column takes the load of the external part of the first roof only. It also gives some space around the wall of the main core of the temple used as "Pradakshina Path"(cloister or circum-ambulatory path) for the worshipers. Over the Meth the beam passes throughout the length of the temple, a small portion of which extends outwards. These exposed surface has been carved with the faces of lion one above the other. Above these beams there is a cornice whose one end has been exposed to the external space and another end has been penerated inside the load bearing wall(9" in average). Above the cornice there rests struts(Tundal) which support the whole load of the roof and transfer it to the load bearing wall. This load bearing wall, of the second floor is smaller in comparison to the wall above the surrounding of the main core. The upper part of the struts supports a long beam over which rafters' extreme end rest. These rafter rest on two such types of beams. These rafters start from 2nd wall which are tied by the wedges(Chukul) which again rest on another wood plank peneterating the wall.

There are total of 5 tiered roofs decreasing in dimension from bottom to the top. The first roof covers the third plinth. This first overhanging roof is 49' 6" square in dimension. These roofs protects the wall and wooden components from the external degrading agents. The upper part of 2nd, 3rd, 4th storey are supported by 2nd load bearing wall. The little upper portion of the 1st roof is exposed with bricks of 6 or 7 brick level. Also the 3rd shifted wall where the rafter stands and again the same with the 1st roof structure. In the same way 4th roof has been placed. The uppermost roof is somewhat different. A single ornamented brass pinnacle(195") lies on the centre part of the roof. The 5th shifted wall is the last load bearing wall on the top of the temple. The middle portion of the rafter rests on this 5th shifted wall. All the rafters are concentrated at the centre vertical column over which the pinnacle lies. These rafters have been tied to the straight wood which is again tied to the lower end by the beams and passes through the 5th shifted wall.


Nyatapola lies in Taumadi square-a wide open space .There is a big platform right in front of Nyatapola known as Taranh Dabu (Big platform). Nyatapola is surrounded by many temples with fabulous art and architecture and traditional houses which added more beauty to Nyatapola. Some of the important places and surroundings are discussed below.

Bhairav Nath Temple
This temple is situated at south east front of Nyatapola with a path to Kwachhan tole between them. It was first built by Jagat Jyotir Malla as a single storeyed rectangular temple, later restored to three storeyed temple with seven metal pinnacles by king Bhupatindra Malla. The main image placed inside the temple is of Bhairab and is a body without the head. In the front wall of ground level of this temple there is a small image of Bhairab known as Nasadyo flanked by a pair of metal statues of guardian lions. Akash Bhairab is regarded as a third representation of Bhairab which can be seen painted on a straw mat hung on the right front wall of first floor. The observer of the temple will never miss the kinkinimala hanging metal border in the upper most roof, there are 56 struts each of which are carved with wooden images of Goddesses which supports the three roofs of temple. The spaces between the struts are packed with lattice screens and some of them on the lower tier are made of gilt copper. The famous Bisket Jatra of Bhaktapur city is dedicated to Bhairabnath in which a chariot is dragged throughout the city. This jatra is held on the new year day of Bikram Sambat. This temple is also a good example of medieval art and architecture.

Café Nyatapola
This is a two storeyed rectangular building originally called as Aisamari Satta. "Aisa Mari" is a special kind of a bread and "Satta" means public rest-house(mainly for travelers). At present it is used as a café for tourists but originally it was constructed by the contemporary king as the rest-house for travelers, a place for performing Bhajans, shelter for far travelers. The struts and wood carvings has added more flavour with the taste of art of that time. The wood carvings on struts are designed beautifully and the wooden bars on both floors have their own beauty and importance.

Narayan Chowk
It is an enclosed complex situated in front of Nyatapola. The main deity enshrined in the main temple is Tilmadhav Narayan, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu. In front of the temple there are two stone pillars with beautifully carved metal shankha and padma on left one and gada and chakra on right one. On the right front of the temple there is a Shiva linga popular as Tileshwor Mahadev and on the right side of the temple there is a stone pillar carved with Baraha Avatar of Narayan. And the pillar stands on a stone tortoise statue. Behind this pillar there is a square shaped platform with Shiva Linga on it and a statue of Saraswati(the Goddess of Knowledge) on its side wall. Near the temple there is a well made for public use. The temple is surrounded by the old traditional residential houses and in this many religious ceremonies take place as Bhajans, Bel-Bivaha etc.

Chaturbrahma Mahabihar
This Buddhist monastery is situated at north west corner of Nyatapola temple known as Chaturbrahma Mahabihar. This Mahabihar is mainly dedicated to Dipankar Buddha. There is a open courtyard in this Bihar surrounded by traditional buildings with wonderful traditional windows, wood carvings resting on struts carved with different divine structures. There is a small stupa in the centre of courtyard and a pillar near it with a small stupa in it. The puja takes place every morning and evening. At present the Mahabihar is under restoration by Bhaktapur Municipality. During our visit some people were performing Bartabhanda ceremony which shows its social importance. More than that the presence of Buddhist monastery in the area dominated by Hindu temples shows the unity of the people of different cast and religions. It also proves that there was no restriction in religion and social gathering since that time and every cast and religion was equally treated.

Traditional houses around Nyatapola
On the beauty of traditional houses, houses around Nyatapola seems to be successful to keep the artistic traditional and cultural taste of Bhaktapur on their own. Since Bhaktapur is dominated by Newars we can obviously get the different taste of Newari art and architecture around Nyatapola Temple too. These houses have fulfilled every aspect of a typical Newari house as low height, lattice windows, attic roof, beautifully carved pillars and windows etc. The main construction materials used are timber, mud mortar, burnt bricks etc. The existence of these traditional houses till today after hundreds of years explains its resistivity against natural disasters, climatic conditions, storms, rain and earthquakes.


  After a month long assiduous work of five group members, in the process of our research about Nyatapola, we came to know a great deal about its magnificience and importance. Nyatapola is truly a magnificent example of Nepalese art and architecture. Even the high richter scale earthquake of 1990 B.S. was unable to deform it. Only its top roof toppled over. This definitely proves the grandeur of Nyatapola. Every year thousands of tourists from all over the world visit Nepal to view and experience the cultural and religious heritage of this part of the world.Hence it has helped to uplift the economic status of the country too. Nyatapola is not only a symbol of architectural beauty but it also posses many social, cultural and religious importance. Till this date and for centuries ahead this temple has and will remain as an emblem of unity and inspiration to all Nepalese people. However, few of its wood carvings, struts have been stolen away. It is very disappointing to see that such a masterpiece of architecture have not been properly taken care of. We hope concerned authority take necessary steps to preserve and maintain the temple for our future generation.


This report was prepared for Introduction To Architecture-a course we have to do in first semester. Many photographes, drawings and sketches are missing because we could not get the report back from our teacher.
This HTML version was prepared by
Ashehswor Man Shrestha[056/BAE/207]. We welcome your queries or comments via e-mail at architecture2056@yahoo.com. Other similar reports can be viewed online at http://www.oocities.com/architecture2056/report/list.htm.