Archaeology and Architecture of Nepal


Department of Archaeology was established in 1953 A.D. under the Government of Nepal. This is primer organization for the archaeological research and protection of the cultural heritage of the country. Protection and maintenance of archaeological sites, ancient monuments including remains of national importance, museum and archive management are the main concern of Department of archaeology. Department of archaeology also regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provision of the ‘Ancient Monument Preservation Act, 2013’ (A.D. 1956) Likewise, the act also provides ample provisions to protect and preserve any individual monuments, group of monuments, sites and even vernacular edifices located throughout the country either private or public having archaeological, historical, artistic and aesthetic values. This act has authorized the Department of Archaeology as a principal governmental authority to protect and preserve the vast cultural heritage of the country.

Mission of the Department of Archaeology:
- Preservation and protection of monuments and archaeological sites.
- Conduct archaeological exploration and carryout archaeological excavation and publish the report.
- Carryout research activities on Nepalese history, culture and archaeology.
- Collect, research and publish the archival materials.
- Establish and enhance the museums.
- Protection, preservation and management of the World Cultural Heritage Sites.
- Prepare and publish the inventory of the cultural heritage.
- Control the illicit export and import of the movable cultural property.
- Provide technical and financial assistance to the local people and agencies for the monument conservation.
- Raise the awareness for the protection and promotion of the cultural heritage.
- Publish the journal of Department of Archaeology "Ancient Nepal"

Nepal's other important archaeological sites are:

Gotihawa-These ancient ruins are situated nearly eleven kilometers south of Taulihawa, the present district headquarters. To the north of the Gotihawa village, there is an ancient brick stupa and an Ashokan monolithic column. The lower portion with its square granite base stone is still intact but the crowning features and inscriptional portions are mission. The site can be safely identified as the Nirvan stupa of Kakuchhanda Buddha (one of the previous Buddhas), whose hometown lies within one kilometer of this stupa-pillar complex.

Sagarahawa-This site is located nearly two km north of Tilaurakot on the bank of the Banganga river. It was excavated in 1896 and seventeen miniature stupas were found there. In the same general region, sites of ancient civilization have been identified at Lumbini, Banjarhi, Nipaniya and Kadyatawa to mention just a few names. Several eastern region of the country, the most important which are Bhediari, Varahakshetra, Janakpur and Simarangarh.

Bhediari-Located nearly ten km south of Biratnagar, the ancient ruins a this site have revealed many important brick temples, one of which has been fully excavated. It appears to have been built in the Sunga period and shows two phases of construction. There is a two-meter high rectangular platform supported from the inside by cross walls. So far no image either of stone or terra-cotta has been found during the excavations; however, a number of silver punch-marked coins have been found.

Varahakshetra-This is another important temple site located at the confluence of the Koka and Koshi rivers. The site is known to belong to the period of later Guptas who had issued a copper grant for the two Varaha images found there. Apart from these images, there are many miniature Gupta period temple replicas, which suggest that during the sixth to the seventh centuries AD, many such temples, and idols were made.

Narasingha Tappa-Some years ago, while cultivating lands at Narasingha Tappa, close to the present town of Ithari, an idol of Vishnu was discovered. The image belongs to the fifth or sixth century AD and is based on the Gupta art school tradition. It has now been temporarily kept inside a local Shiva Temple. The site, according to local people also contains pottery items, indicating that it was inhabited as early as the Gupta dynasty (4th - 5th centuries AD)

Janakpur-At Rama-Janaki temple complex near Janakpur there is an important image depicting Uma lying over a bed and feeding a baby. Ganesh and Kumar are also depicted in the panel while on the top of the scene is a Shiva Lingam. The piece dates from the 12th or 13th century AD and belongs to the Karnatakas of Simarangarh. Some auspicious Symbols on the piece prove that it influenced the Malla art period of Katmandu.

Simarangarh-This was the old capital city of the Karnatakas of Mithila and was built by King Nanyadeva in 1097-98AD. The ruins of the city extend over the area of 16km, the whole area still being surrounded by high kiln-burnt bricks. There are more than one hundred images and sculptures scattered all over the area. Most are made of black cist stone and are nicely polished; however, a few are also made of sandstone. The images represented at the site are of Vishnu, Narayan, Lakshmi-Narayan, Shankarsana, Garudopari Vishnu, Uma-Maheshwara, Durga, Shiva and Surya (both types standing and holding lotus flowers, while leaning over a seven-horsed chariot). In different parts of Simarangarh, there are remains of temples and gateways of the old city.

Other sites bearing Karnataka images and sculptures are Kanchanpur (near Rajbiraj), Murtiya (west of Janakpur) and Valmiky Nagar (near the Gandaki Barrage), as well as several other places between the Gandaki and Saptakoshi rivers.


Bastu means a place of dwelling. The art dealing with a place of dwelling is called architecture (bastukala). Just like the art of painting and sculpture, the ancient architecture of Nepal is found to be excellent even from the scientific point of view. Nepalese architecture is also considered to be very important amongst the cultural heritages of Nepal. Ancient architecture can also be divided into three categories:

A. The Pagoda Style: According to the historical facts, the pagoda style was introduced in Nepal from the beginning of the Thirteen century. It is believed that the Pagoda Style of Architecture was taken to China by Araniko and his colleagues from Nepal. Pagoda style means the style of having more than one roofs with a broader base and gradually narrowing tops. Man Griha of Man dev, temple of Changu Narayan, Kailash kut bhawan of Amshuverma Bhadradhiwas of Narendra Dev of ancient times are some excellent examples of Nepales architectures. Many Pagoda style temples, Palaces and buildings were built during the Malla period, Dattatraya and Nyatapole of Bhaktapur, Kastamandap of Kathmandu, etc are such examples.Nine storey pa;ace of Basntapur and the palace nuwakot built during Prithivi Narayan's time are also built in this style. Temples of Pashupatinath, taleju, palanchowk Bhagwati are also the examples of Pagoda style.

B. The Stupa or Chaitya Style: According to the Bouddha tradition, the style of architecture having a broad base and gradually tempering upwards is called the Stupa or Chaitya Style. Emperor Ashok is believed to have introduced this style of architecture in Nepal. Maya Devi temple of Lumbini is its fine example. This style has been in practise in Nepal since ancient times. Swayambhu Nath and Boudddha Nath are the excellent examples of the Stupa Style. Ashok Stupa of Patan is believed to be the oldest stupa of Nepal. Charumati Chaitya of Chawahil is also built in this style.

C. The Shikhar Style: The Shikhar style is also a fine traditional architecture. It si tall and looks like a pyramid. There are five to Nine perpendicular divisions or sections at the outer part of such architectures. There are Gajurs at the top of each section. They are broader at the lower portion and becomes narrower at the top. Krishna Mandir of Patan and Mahabouddha are its excellent examples.Krishna Mandir was built by Malla king, Siddhinarsingh Malla.

There are buildings and religious shrines built in Gumbaj Style, mugal style etc in Nepal. Janaki Mandir of Janakpur is its example. There are some fine Gumbaj Style architectueres especially in the Terai. The Malla period palace of 55 storey in Bhaktapur, Rana period palace of Singha Durbar, Kesar Mahal, Thapathali Durbar, Sri Mahal, Rani Mahal etc are also some fine examples of the Nepalese architectures. We can see some of the Europeans style architecture in these palaces.