A Little Digital Archaeology
January 24, 2008
More from The Secret Museum of Mankind
WHERE THE NEWAR CRAFTSMAN’S FANCY IS CUT IN IMMORTAL STONE
Nepal has not unjustly been called a museum of archaeology and arts. In this time-worn street of Bhatgaon structures of great architectural merit, with handsome ornamentation of Oriental design, are to be seen on all sides. The entrances of many of the important buildings are guarded by large stone animals which stand on each step in pairs and are reputed to have great strength.
This photo above on Secret Museum scanned as it from the book, and sourced from somewhere around the turn of the century, is actually flipped left to right. Someone was making a compositional choice, conscious or unconscious, and figured that the viewers wouldn’t know any better anyway.
Not surprisingly, I found a photo of the same set of buildings surprisingly from a very similar position, through a Google search for Bhatgoan Nepal in this Flickr Stream from east med wanderer from 1998.
There are a few well known temples in Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square and Taumadhi Tole, and the larger ones all have a series of guardian statues along the main entrance. But these ones match. As much as I tried to space myself around in my head, I couldn’t set out a position where that scene could have been seen, until I flipped the old photo. So, here is the flipped image, , and east med wanderer’s photo from roughly the same place.
Cross referencing with memory, guessing, and with Lonely Planet’s Nepal, the temple with the statues on tiers is most certainly Vatsala Temple Siddhi Lakshmi in the Northeast corner of the Square… which isn’t square. Centrally, the vaguely pyramidal shape belongs to the water tank, and the with the octagonal roof is Chyasalin Mandap, destroyed in 1934 by an earthquake, rebuilt in 1990. The temple on the left with the open archways is , I suspect, Siddhi Lakshmi Temple a corner arcade. The octagonal roof belongs to Vatsala Durga temple. The whitish tower seems to be Vatsala Durga. The white building on the right with the vertical windows is, I suspect, the 55 Window Palace.
Taumadhi Tole is a hub of business activity, whereas Durbar Square is much quieter. Here is one of my own photos of the temple with the octagonal roof – oh, so cleverly cropped so as to exclude the distractions of context or place – and my family strolling through the Durbar Square – from the opposite side of the other photos – in late October of 2008, that whitish pointed temple, which I believe is either Krishna Jagarnath temple or Shiva Kedarnath Temple in the background. I deserve a through beating for being such a poor reporter. Please correct me.
Yet more: The street in the picture below is still just as busy with trade and shops as you see it in this older photo. But imagine it with cars and motorbikes in both directions
STREET MARKET SCENE IN A DECORATIVE OLD WORLD SETTING
Among a prolific display of quaintly carved houses, topped here and there by a red tiled pagoda roof, the marketers of Bhatgoan peddle their wares, while coolies parade the street carrying bamboo poles from which depend baskets of tasty meats, and ghurras filled with “dhye” (sour milk) or toddy, the juice drawn from palm trees which soon becomes highly fermented and intoxicating.
As compared to this photo where if you look carefully, you can see that same temple set in a small square (Nasamana Square?), but enclosed by taller buildings. On the right side of the older photo you see a set of steps. These lead up to a smaller altar which is, no doubt, still there today. The Squares are the hubs of commercial activity.
If anyone has more accurate information, please!
UPDATE: Monday, February 23, 2009
The Daily Explorer posts an essay of their correspondent’s recent trip, with a couple of pictures of interest to this historical continuity.
The first, from a point slightly farther back than the previous view, with our ancient photographer probably up on the wall behind that leftmost lion, if not on the lion itself, and the other, I swear, from exactly the same rooftop restaurant table from which I took mine.