Central Kathmandu, in an area north of the Bagmati River, once teemed with elaborate palace complexes built by kings and prime ministers. Today, with the exception of the famous and touristy Durbar Square, many of those palaces have been repurposed or destroyed by time and earthquakes. One of the most impressive estates was Thapathali Durbar, home of the Thapas.
Construction of the palace began around the turn of the 18th-century under the orders of Nain Singh Thapa, an influential general and grandfather of the powerful prime minister, Jung Bahadur Rana. Thapa barely lived to age 30, dying after being wounded in battle. Later generations expanded the family home to an impressive degree.
As the Thapa/Rana family fortunes and power declined, other palaces became the center of Kathmandu society and government. Eventually, a large portion of the palace was converted into a hospital and one of the primary buildings was refitted to serve as the Nepal Rastra Bank.
This temple to Shiva, now the centerpiece for a small Newar community, is one of the last original palace structures left. Surrounded by outdoor stoves, rambunctious children, barking dogs, and an abundance of drying laundry, this building hardly proclaims a stately past, but it has withstood the test of time.
A few blocks south, on the banks of the Bagmati River is the more notable Kal Mochan Temple, completed by Jung Bahadur Rana just outside the walls of Thapathali Durbar. Although one can still see the impressive dome of Kal Mochan from various points of the city, it is in fact a reconstruction since the original was destroyed in the earthquake of 2015. Somewhat ironically, Kal Mochan was dedicated to Vishnu “The Preserver” while the temple to Shiva “The Destroyer” still stands.
Know Before You Go
Although Thapathali Durbar can be found on maps, the temple is a bit hard to find. The only public entrance is on the west side of the community along a very narrow road. Locals will be able to help with directions.