Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Traditional Newari houses of Kathmandu Valley- Part 1

By Sabin Chakradhar

‘Newars’ are the indigenous people of Kathmandu valley, Nepal. They ruled the valley and surrounding territories known as former Newar kingdom of ‘Nepal Mandala’ until they were defeated by the Gorkha Kingdom in 1768. The traditional Newari building of the valley has some unique styles and features marked by striking brick work and a unique style of wood carving rarely seen outside of Nepal. The traditional Newari building is the outcome of centuries of optimization in materials and technique, a design ideal for its climate.
Newari architecture represents the timelessness of Nepalese history and architecture. It has definite characteristics in practice that are often guided by religious and socio-cultural norms. Traditional Newari cities are generally based on the grid iron pattern with series of row housings with narrow streets: so narrow that the single car can hardly pass through. Each of these narrow streets lead to an open courtyard where you can see people engaged in their daily activities like drying the rice, making pottery, carving the wooden windows etc. These courtyards are also used to perform different ceremonial activities and celebrate different festivals.
Currently, mass migration into the Kathmandu Valley has resulted in the Newars becoming a minority in their homeland and the city as of now is an odd combination of traditionalism and modernity. The age old tiered temples and squares, the mainstay of traditional Newari architecture, are challenged by tall concrete buildings and glass facade complexes. The Kathmandu city is slowly losing its historical fabric because of the haphazard growth in population and unplanned development.  Since, construction of the building in traditional Newari style is more expensive than constructing it in modern style; people are more attracted towards the modern style nowadays and the once brilliant and famous building technologies of Newari people are now on the verge of extinction. 

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