The Kasthamandap Temple before the earthquake. Photo Courtesy: Hanumandhoka.gov.np
KATHMANDU, Dec 24: Archaeologists of Nepal and from Durham University in the UK have found a mandala structure used for building the foundations of Kasthamandap Temple hundreds of years ago.
Excavations show that the ancient builders of Kasthamandap not only used resilient construction methods but also provided the monument a symbolic configuration, creating a microcosm of the universe with a nine-cell mandala design out of brick walls.
“The team also excavated a deep trench within the central cell of the mandala ... and identified a further nine-cell mandala formed by brick walls at a depth of 1.60 meters within this central area,” reads a statement issued by the team after completion of the two-month excavation.
Kosh Prasad Acharya, an archeologist and project co-director for the excavations, said that the design reflects the uniqueness of this ancient architectural art.
“The nine-cell mandala at the foundation level of the temple totally connects with the architecture,” Acharya said. “We have not found such mandala designs at the foundation of other Nepali monuments”
Experts said this type of foundation was very famous in Nepali historical architecture and was mostly used for the construction of temples. But it was known only from the history books that several monuments in Kathmandu Valley and outside were built on mandala-design foundations.
“The mandala represents the universe and its use was compulsory for the construction of monuments in ancient times,” Sudarsan Raj Tiwari, a conservation architect and formerly of the Department of Architecture at Tribhuvan University, told Republica.
He said that the word ‘mandap’ at the end of the name Kasthamandap means it had used the nine-cell mandala design at the foundation. He has included this argument in his book, ‘Temples of the Nepal Valley’, which was published in 2001.
“The name confirmed that it was built using a mandala design, and this has now been proved,” he said.
The archeological team has also unveiled new dates for the construction of Kasthamandap. They argue that the temple was developed in two phases. “The scientific study shows that the temple was originally built in 700 AD,” said Prof. Robin Coningham of Durham University, who is also project co-director. “After two months of study, we now have a full understanding of the foundation and the development of Kasthamandap Temple.”
Coningham said the temple was remodeled in 900 AD and they created a complete nine-cell mandala at the foundation. According to him, Kasthamandap was built in 700 AD and it involved constructing a large square area measuring 12 by 12 meters. “This foundation was one meter wide and two meters deep,” he said.
The study also explored the original date of Kasthamandap, which is 400 years earlier than traditionally thought. They further said that they have found traces of human activity dating back 2,200 years at the temple site.