One particular aspect of the Newari genius stands out against the Katmandu skyline: architecture. The pagoda-style temple, so characteristic of the Valley, may have been the prototype for pagodas throughout eastern Asia, each country modifying the original Newari idea. Arniko, the most famous of early Nepalese architects, was called to Kublai Khan’s court in Peking where, in the late thirteenth century, he became the Imperial Minister for Building and Arts, and is best known for the White Dagoba in Peking’s Central Park.
The majority of traditional buildings in an around the Kathmandu Valley follow a common architectural style – houses, monasteries, palaces and temples are all constructed in much the same way, using the same materials: wood with bricks, tiles, clay mortar and stone and metal. Although most of the art and architecture of Nepal has been derived from Indian forms, the architectural canon of the Newars is highly distinctive. Multidirectional shrines under sloping roofs do have Indian precedents, but in Nepal this form springs up fully developed, and its history and origins are obscure. This Newar ‘style’ is distinguished by the ‘storeyed’, ‘multi-staged’ or ‘tiered’ Newar temples and the numerous single-tiered temples that exist.
The ancient temples and palaces of Nepal, especially those of the Kathmandu Valley, show exquisite workmanship and architectural designs of the ancient builders of Nepal. Many of these, built of entirely indigenous materials, have withstood the ravages of time and nature.
Although the skills used to build them have lain dormant in the centuries since then, there is no doubt that these skills are still present. When the Hanuman Dhoka palace in Kathmandu and the Tachupal Tole buildings in Bhaktapur were restored in 1970s the work was performed by purely traditional means and with craft work every bit as good as in the past. More recently, the Chyasilin Mandapa in Bhaktapur, completely destroyed in the great earthquake of 1934, was totally rebuilt in 1989-90, again using traditional skills.