Museum and Art Galleries of Nepal
Nepal, a land known as a home to the most of the highest peaks on earth including Mt. Everest and a great repository of medieval art and architecture, is also the cradle of two major religions of the world Hinduism and Buddhism. These two religions in a related short span of time has caused a unique development of cultural legacy of Nepal resulting a great array of art and artifacts.
Besides the history of Nepal is embedded with various colorful episodes at different intervals of time-recorded since 5th century AD. The recent excavations in the western mountains (Mustang) have also revealed the evidence of prehistoric human settlements in those areas. The museums of Nepal have some of those rare specimens, artifacts, weapons dating from all those periods. To a visitor who has a little bias to the history and the historic antiquities, a visit to the museums of Nepal is a must and in fact. are the best refuge after the tiresome shopping spree in the Kathmandu bazars or an arduous trek in the mountains. Similarly, Nepal, in recent times, has also become a unique melting pot of tradition-based painting and the western influences in the contemporary arts.
The city of Kathmandu is a window where one can experience how traditionalism could be easily diffused with the modern trends. In fact, the vibrant art scene of Nepal (today) is a plethora of local and global influences. The art of painting especially, best reflects the sheer profusion of scenic natural landscapes and contemporary figurative and non-figurative compositions. A stroll through the galleries of Nepal would reveal a host of works ranging from internationally established artist to exciting new comers. Overall, the art of Nepal today represents two distinct segments-firstly the tradition based idealistic painting known as ‘Paubhas’ (also known as ‘Thangka’ in Tibetan dialect) and the contemporary western style works. The contemporary painting is specially noted for either nature based compositions or compositions based on Tantric elements/social themes. Nepalese painters have also earned international reputation for abstract works based on these themes.
It is this thriving milieu that makes a visit to the art galleries of Kathmandu a pleasurable and rewarding prospect. A list of museums and galleries are presented below which should serve as a preliminary guide to the visitors.
Some of the important museums and galleries are elaborated.
KATHMANDU VALLEY PUBLIC LIBRARY (KVPL)
This public library has a central location in Bhrikutimandap, which is an appealing factor for its users, mainly students from the surrounding colleges.Set up in 2003 with zero books, KVPL has now amassed over 50,000 books through the sheer effort of donation from members of the Society for Kathmandu Public Library and the public. Most books are non-fiction as the books received are from government offices and research centers.
Location: Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu
AWON library is one of Kathmandu´s public libraries. AWON stands for Active Women of Nepal, an organization for community service.This library, located opposite Hotel Himalaya, is well hidden from the busy streets of Kupondole. It has been around for close to 42 years and depends mainly on public donations of books and other publications.The AWON library dedicates its first level to non-fiction and magazine publications, while the third level is mainly fiction. It is relatively spacious and comfortable as users are deeply absorbed in their reading, despite the slight noise from construction works outside. By applying for membership, you can check out up to five books for three weeks. There is also a little corner for children’s books.
Location: Kupondole, Lalitpur
Opening Hours :
Monday-Friday: 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm Closed on Sunday. Tel: 5520-803.
The famous Kaiser Library consists mostly of Kaiser Shumshere Rana’s vast collection of more than 45,000 books and magazines that cover an amazing number of topics such as astrology, law, gardening, history, art, hunting, religion and philosophy besides literary works of the world’s greatest writers, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Of special interest are also the numerous wall maps that depict Europe and other regions during the early 20th century.
During the last days of the Rana regime Kaiser Shumshere was a Field Marshal in the Nepalese army. From an early age, Kaiser Shumshere had been interested in buying and collecting different types of books and newspapers. On his visit to England with his father Maharaja Chandra Shumshere, he was very impressed by the ruling system of England and also by the library system and the proper management of books there. He brought a large number of books from England. Even though the books in his library grew in number they were his personal property and out of reach of ordinary people. Access to the library was limited to members of his family, important people of the nation and special visitors from abroad. However, before his death in 1964, he bequeathed his library to the government, thereby making it a national property. Besides his invaluable collection, the library also features current newspapers and magazine for daily visitors.
Location : The Kaiser Library is situated in the Kaiser Mahal a central city of Kathmandu valley, and right in front of the Western Gate of the Narayan Hiti Royal Palace .
Telephone : 977 1 4411318
Fax : 977 1 442010
Summer : 10.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M. (except on public holidays)
Winter : 10.00 A.M. to 4.00 P.M. (except on public holidays)
Friday : 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.
NEPAL NATIONAL LIBRARY
The Nepal National Library was first established in 1957 at Singha Durbar with the personal collection of the king’s Preceptor, the late Hem Raj Pandey. It was later moved to its present location at the Harihar Bhawan in Pulchowk, Lalitpur. At the outset, the library had an impressive collection of 43,000 books and periodicals, including those brought in as a result of the amalgamation of the Central Secretariat Library. The library has an impressive collection of more than 82,000 books, documents and periodicals in different languages including Nepali, English, Sanskrit, and others. Copies of old newspapers have also been well archived here.
This library is located at Pulchowk in Lalitpur district of Kathmandu valley near UNDP complex. The library is housed at the first floor of Harihar Bhawan.
Fax :977 1 5010061
Summer : 09:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Monday through Friday)
Children’s Section:09:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Monday through Saturday)
Winter : 09:00 AM to 4:00 PM (Monday through Friday)
Children’s Section: 09:00 AM to 4:00 PM (Monday through Saturday)
THE BRASS & BRONZE MUSEUM
The metalwork section known as the Brass & Bronze Museum is housed opposite the Woodcarving Museum. This section showcases brass and bronze metal ware that were extensively used by nobility and their Newar subjects in the previous century and early 20th century. Objects used for religious purposes such as kalash and incense stands are noteworthy. Of much interest are the spittoons used by kings and other noblemen. Religious and ritual objects of the Newar community make up the bulk of the exhibition here.
The museum is also closed on Tuesdays and stays open only until 3 pm on Fridays.
THE WOODCARVING MUSEUM
The old Pujari Math has been converted into a Woodcarving Museum and is located at the Dattatreya Square about a ten minute walk from the Durbar Square. The Pujari Math is considered one of the oldest maths (dwelling of a priest) in the Kathmandu Valley. The museum has courtyards decorated with exquisitely carved windows and pillars. The Mara Vijaya, Pooja Devi, Viswaroop and Aryatara are magnificent specimens of woodcarving of the past centuries. The museum was restored some years ago by a German project which has captioned most of the artifacts.
The museum is open six days a week, from ten to four, Tuesday is a holiday
NATIONAL ART GALLERY
The National Art Gallery which occupies a part of the Bhaktapur Palace was established by the Government of Nepal, Department of Archaeology in 1960. This museum was founded to preserve and showcase traditional paintings of Nepal. The collection may not be very large but includes invaluable paubhas (Nepali religious scroll paintings) and manuscripts that date back centuries and also houses centuries old sculptures.
Stone Art Section:The Stone Art section of the gallery is on the ground floor beside the main entrance of the Gallery. Some stone inscriptions date back to the time of Lichhavi King Shiva Deva and King Yaksha Malla in 1468 A.D. There are some remarkable stone sculptures. The stone sculptures here are mostly from the Bhaktapur area and represent early medieval to medieval stone art of Nepal. The four-faced Shivalinga, Harihar, Surya, Chandrama, Vishnu, Tara, Ardhanariswar and some architectural fragments are worth mentioning. An intriguing piece of sculpture is the stone idol of Harishanker recovered from the temple that was destroyed by the earthquake of 1934. This idol is a combination of Shiva and Vishnu and thus holds symbols of both the gods.
Painting Section:The first floor is dedicated to paintings both as paubhas and manuscripts. The paubhas in particular are remarkable. Among these, Vasundhara Mandala, Ganesh with Shakti, Mahisa Sambhara, Vajra Yogini and Shiva Viswarupa are of great significance. In the main exhibition hall, there are five showcases in the middle of the room that contain some ancient illustrated manuscripts and covers of immense value. One among them depicts the pilgrimage tour of King Pratap Malla. Some of the other notable artifacts are the manuscripts of 11th Century Vishnu Dasavatara and the 13th Century manuscript cover of Shiva Dharma Purana. In this section, there is a rectangular room resembling a corridor, of which the northern wall painting facing south has rows of paintings all with captions depicting Shiva Viswarupa, who is multi-armed and multi-headed. The long corridors showcase watercolors of the aquatic world, mythical dragons, various birds, bulls etc. They are the best representations of medieval folk art of Nepal.
The museum is open from 10 am to 4 pm and only until 3 pm on Fridays.
The Patan Museum is a remarkable example of successful restoration work. Part of the old palace built by the Malla dynasty, it has a resplendent gilded door facing the fabulous Krishna Mandir in the Durbar Square. It showcases superb pieces of metal sculpture especially in the statuettes that have been painstakingly restored by a project jointly undertaken by the Austrian and Nepali governments.
This palace compound which houses the museum is known as Keshav Narayan Chowk and dates back to 1734. The whole courtyard has been beautifully restored and has become a favorite venue for concerts and other functions. After years of neglect this section of the palace had been slowly deteriorating and the woodwork decaying until the restoration project came to its rescue. As a result of dedicated work of restorers, the museum was finally opened in 1997.
The exhibits cover a long span of Nepal’s cultural history and some rare objects like the Malla era throne are among its treasures. The significance of much of the artifacts within the living traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism are explained here. Some objects such as cast bronzes and gilt copper repoussé pieces represent the finest of Nepal’s metal work from the past centuries. Metal craft of this nature is a living tradition in Patan. The artistry of metal craft has been handed down from generation to generation and Patan is still famous for its statue making.
The Museum covers a long span of Nepal’s cultural history and among its treasures are some rare objects. Their meaning and context within the living traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism are explained in extensive captions. Most of the objects are superb cast bronzes and repoussé work in copper.
From an existing national collection comprising more than 1500 objects, some 300 were selected for permanent exhibition here. A majority of exhibits are sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities that were created in the Kathmandu Valley, many in the nearby workshops of Patan itself. Other objects include those that originated in India, Tibet and the western Himalayan regions. They are accompanied by written commentary by scholar and author Mary Slusser (of ‘Nepal Mandala’ fame) that attempts to explain their artistic, spiritual and historical significance as part of the cultural heritage of Nepal. The exhibits are also designed to assist in interpreting the living culture that lies beyond the museum’s walls.
Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm(Tel: 5521492)
NARAYANHITI PALACE MUSEUM
Narayanhiti Palace Museum is the former royal palace in the centre of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, It is the palace which long served as a primary residence for the country’s monarchs. Narayanhiti, in Narayanhiti Palace, is made up of two words ‘narayan’ and ‘hiti’. ‘Naryan’ is a form of Hindu god “Lord Vishnu” whose temple is located opposite to the palace and ‘hiti’ means “water spout” which is also located to the east of main entrance in the precincts of the palace, and which has a legend associated with it. The entire enclosure surrounded by a compound wall, located in the north-central part of Kathmandu, is called the Narayanhiti palace. It was a new palace, in front of the old palace of 1915 vintage, built in 1970 in the form of a contemporary Pagoda. It was built on the occasion of the marriage of King Birenda Bir Bikram Shah, the then heir apparent to the throne. The southern gate of the palace is located at the crossing of Prithvipath and Darbarmarg roads. The palace area covers (30 hectares (74 acres)) and is fully secured with gate controlled walls on all sides. The palace, as previously discussed in Kathmandu’s history, was the scene of a gruesome tragedy, termed “Nepal’s greatest tragedy”, on June 1, 2001 the then king Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and his family members were killed in a massacre. After the massacre of King Birendra and his family, his brother Gyanendra got opportunity to be the King of Nepal. The massacre of the then Royal family is still mysterious. But it is believed that Gyanendra shoot the then king Birendra and his family members. Another strong proof is that none of the family members of Gyanendra were injured. If Birendra and his son were not dead there would be no chance for Gyanendra to be the King. All these proofs point to Gyanendra. And Nepalese believe that the massacre was done by Ganendra. The newly elected assembly on 28 May 2008, after a polling of 564 constituent assembly members, 560 voted to form a new government, with the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, registering a dissenting note. At that point, it was declared that Nepal had become a secular and inclusive democratic republic, with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from 28 to 30 May. The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, to reopen it as a public museum, until he was asked to move out of it. Now it has been turned into a museum and is open for all to see.
Nepali citizens: Rs 100 • Students: Rs 20 • SAARC nations, Chinese: Rs 250 • Others: Rs 500
The Narayanhiti Palace Museum is open everyday except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and public holidays, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Before the establishment of the Natural History Museum (NHM), specimens collected by foreign scientific expeditions were allowed to be taken out of the country for lack of a proper repository facility in Nepal. As a consequence, much of the scientific research in the natural history of Nepal was done in other countries. Nepali scientists, students, and teachers had limited access to the information on their own country’s natural inheritance. The museum was established in 1975 with the objective of serving as a research and education facility in Nepal for foreign and Nepali scientists, students and teachers. The museum was built on the premises of the former Ananda Kuti Campus. Today, it houses about 40,000 zoological specimens, 7,000 botanical specimens, 400 fossils and 100 skeletons.
The museum is open everyday, except on Saturdays and on official government holidays from 10 am to 4 pm.
HANUMAN DHOKA MUSEUM
Tribhuvan Museum at the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Kathmandu Durbar Square highlights the life of King Tribhuvan (1906-1955) who helped free the country from the Rana regime. The gallery displays rare photographs and paintings of other Shah rulers. Of special interest are the personal effects of the late king such as his bicycle, photographic equipment including boxes of Kodak chemicals. The gallery also has photos depicting the funeral of the king. The Mahendra Museum sheds light on the life of late King Mahendra (1955-1972). Displays include his personal belongings such as his imported clothes, decorations, gifts and his literary creations. Both the museums can be visited with one ticket.
The museum is open from 10:300 am to 3 pm everyday except Tuesdays. On Friday it is open from 10:30 am to 2 pm.
NATIONAL ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM
National Ethnographic Museum presents a kaleidoscopic image of Nepal to visitors. This museum showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Nepali people which tourists and Nepalis can see right here in the heart of the capital. Nepal Tourism Board and Nepal National Ethnographic museum has set up a permanent exhibition of eleven different ethnic communities namely: Thakali, Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Chepang, Jyapu of the Newar group, Magar, Sunwar, and Tharu, in the diorama hall at the Tourist Service Center in Bhrikutimandap.
The Museum aims to function as a living resource center to inform and educate both Nepali and foreign visitors/tourists interested in knowing and learning about Nepal’s architecture and culture (customs, lifestyles and occupation).
Location: Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu
The museum will remain closed for maintenance on Monday only.Visiting Hours: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
The Asha Archives is a public library of Nepali manuscripts, named after the late Asha Man Singh Kansakar, father of the late Prem Bahadur Kansakar (1917-1991). Mr. Kansakar was a prominent activist, social worker, educationist and Newar writer who had founded several social, cultural, literary and educational institutions. The nucleus of this collection was donated by Prem Bahadur Kansakar to Cwasa Pasa, a premier literacy association of Newar writers on 16th August 1985. To this personal collection were later added the donations of valuable manuscripts and palm leaf documents by several well-wishers and friends.
The Asha Archive was inaugurated on 7th December 1987 and opened to the public. The Toyota Foundation’s generous grant made it possible to purchase and furnish the house where it is now located. The Foundation also supported the documentation of the manuscripts and the initial operation of the archive with a fund deposited as seed money and endowment.
The archive has several valuable collections of palm leaf, loose leaf pothi and folded manuscripts. There are more than 6,700 manuscripts and about 1100 palm leaf land grant documents. These manuscripts belong to various sects and genres written in different languages and scripts. Largest among these are the ritual texts, medical texts, manuals of magic and necromancy, astrology/astronomy, Vedic, Puranic and Tantric texts of Shaiva, Bauddha and Shakta sects. A large number of manuscripts also belong to the Mahayana and Vajrayana sects. Of special interest are technical and symbolic drawings and architectural designs of religious and secular structures, painted covers, and book illustrations of great beauty and design. However, the most valuable of the archive’s possessions are the literary texts, hymns, songs, plays, popular narratives, didactic tales and Buddhist avadanas in the Newari language. Remarkable specimens of beautiful calligraphy can be seen in Nepalbhasa, Maithili, and Nepali language, rendered in plain black ink, silver and golden letters.
The archive also has a collection of nearly all Nepalbhasa books in print, journals, magazines and newspapers in the Nepalbhasa. There is also a small Nepal collection, consisting of books on Nepal in English and other languages which will be of interest for study and research on the culture and heritage of the Nepal Valley. The Asha Archives is located on the western edge of old Kathmandu, in the locality known as Kulanbhulu, opposite Raktakali on the way to Swoyambhu.
Asa Archives located at Kulambhulu west of Nhyokha Tole, are open daily from 11 am to 5 pm excet saturdays and holidays (Tel: 4223817)
The National Museum is located in the western part of Kathmandu near the Swoyambhunath stupa in the historical building which was constructed in early 19th century by General Bhimsen Thapa. It is the most important museum in the country, housing an extensive collection of weapons, art and antiquities of historic and cultural importance. The museum was established in 1928 as a collection house of war trophies and weapons, and the initial name of this museum was Chhauni Silkhana, which literally means “the stone house of arms and ammunition”. Given its focus, the museum contains an extensive quantity of weapons, including locally made firearms used in various wars and leather canons from the 18th-19th century and medieval and modern works in wood, bronze, stone, and paintings.There are three buildings within the museum premises: The main historical building, Juddha Jatiya Kalashala and Buddhist Art Gallery.
It is open daily,except on tuesdays and on government holidays from 10:30 am to 3 pm.Note that the museum is only open from 10:30 am to 2 pm on Fridays.