Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Traditional Newari Houses of Kathmandu Valley- Part 2

By Sabin Chakradhar

In the last blog I gave you a glimpse upon the Newars and Newari Architecture and this time I am going to explain some more about the traditional Architecture of Newars, especially the residences. Nepal is famous for having a diverse culture and each of this culture have their own traditions leading to diversified architecture to reflect upon their individual culture. This diversified culture is the result of social reform introduced by King Jayasthiti Malla, where he created the caste system to distinguish the people by their profession. Among the various cultures, Newari Architecture earned its fame as its architecture blossomed in the form of temples, palaces and squares during the Malla reign that lasted for 550 years. But today I am just going to talk about the typical dwelling units of the Newari people.
The typical Newari houses are aligned in a row with enclosed courtyards. One of the row houses along the main street will have a small road usually called galli which is 2 feet wide and 5 feet high which leads to the courtyard. The courtyard is common and is used by the community for running various household chores, sun-drying, sunbathing and various community functions. The plan of typical Newari house is rectangular with 20 feet depth and length varying as per the status of the people and availability of the materials. These Newari houses are usually four storied.

The unique feature of all these Newari houses is its vertical use. Almost all of these houses have the same vertical usage. The ground floor is left open, in earlier phase it was used as shed for animals and storage because dampness made it very cold for people to live. In later days, the shop fronts and toilets were added to the ground floor. The earlier Newari houses do not have restrooms as it was considered unhealthy and irreligious to have restrooms inside the house. The First floor and Second floor is used for living purpose as bedrooms and living rooms. The living room has huge wide windows (Sajhyas) facing the main street especially for the view of chariots and processions on the street, where as the bedrooms have small lattice windows (tiki jhya) with restrict the visual permeability to the outsiders. The Third floor is used for kitchen and the attic space known as Buigya has a trap door at the end of the stairs and leads to the rooftop. This attic space also has a small room for gods where they worship their deities.
The traditional architecture of the Kathmandu Valley- Wolfgang Korn, Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1977

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