A brief note on Kasthamandap

Kasthamandap was the oldest heritage building at the center of Kathmandu Durbar Square Monuments Zone of Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site as designated by UNESCO. This iconic temple and sattal building, which totally collapsed in the 2015 Earthquake, is presently being reconstructed following national-traditional and world standards for reclaiming authenticity, values and integrity to the utmost possible. The reconstructed work is expected take three years and Kasthamandap will again take its central position as the harbinger of architectural heritage of Nepal for all time to come.

The material architecture of Kasthamandap is explained in its name itself, which, in Sanskrit, stands for a pavilion in wood. Its popular name is Marusattal, which, in indigenous Newari, tells of its function as a public wayfarer’s rest house sattal. The word maru meaning absence (of something) in Newari carries the popular memory that it had no installed deity. Architecturally Kasthamandap is contained in a pure cube of about 20 meters, its three tiered jhingati roofs and woodworks as stark and pure a reflection of Nepal valley’s own tiered talakara style.

Kasthamandap is a unique historical landmark monument that has lent its name to the capital town of Kathmandu since almost a thousand years. Post-earthquake archaeological research has established that the mandap was constructed in 7th century AD almost to its present size and went through a major ritual reconstruction in 9th century. The four huge central posts, and the wood framed building itself that has inspired a colourful legend that Kasthamandap was wholly built out of a single tree granted by the wishing tree god Kalpabrikshya, date from 11th century. Amazingly, one of the timber beams spanning across the central posts, has been scientifically dated to 5th century, raising the possibility that the 7th century construction may actually have been renewal of an early fifth century temple. This temple appears to have been dedicated to the Kirata rain god, Kiratavarsadhara. It is archeologically evident that the 7th century Kasthamandap had a pit sanctum that could have held about one meter of standing water. In 9th century, sanctum of Kasthamandap was filled up to plinth level and enlarged to its present size.

[Text and Conjectural Analogy by Prof. Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, Member of the Technical Committee for the Reconstruction of Kasthamandap.]