♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ परम पिता परमात्मा कण कण तिम्रो बास, गर्ने गराउने प्रभु तिमी सब कुछ तिम्रो साथ । अंग संग देखी तिमीलाई अवतार गर्छ अरदास, राजाको अधिराज तिमी म दासको पनि दास । ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ तूही निरंकार... मेँ तेरी शरणाँ... मैनु बख्श लो....... While receiving God-Knowledge, a seeker pledges to follow five principles given as: 1. One should consider all one's worldly assets - physical, mental and material as ultimately belonging to God and one may utilized them as a trustee and should not be proud of these possessions. 2. One should not feel proud of one's religion, caste, colour and creed as also the status (Ashram); one should love every one as a fellow human being. 3. One should not hate or criticize others on account of their diet and dress which may be different from his or her own. 4. One must not leave one's hearth and home, become recluse or ascetic and be a burden on others; one must earn one's own livelihood through honest hard work and fulfil one's responsibilities as a family person. 5. One must not divulge to others the divine knowledge as revealed by the True Master, without a word from him. This will save him or her from the pride of being in possession of God-Knowledge.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Narayanhiti Palace Museum

The existing Narayanhiti Royal Palace, built by King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, had been the primary residence of the country’s monarchs, until the last King Gyanendra and the monarchy was abolished by the Nepalese government in 2008 AD. It was designed and constructed by an American architect Benjamin Polk and supervised by Nepali engineer Shanker Nath Rimal. This was the third mansion built in this area whose construction began in 1963 AD.

King Mahendra wanted a new vocabulary to delineate his Kingship for addressing a modern Nepal as he wanted to transcend the conventional character of architecture that the previous rulers had borrowed from the Western world. He transferred modern construction technology into Nepal and built a structure that replaced the previous durbar style entirely and to conceive a different architecture representing modern Nepal. This palace restrains from the grandeur as exemplified by other Shah and Rana palaces. The palace was new with reference to time, situation and most importantly the architect. The mix of little native elements in the land of such brotherly competition was a new definition added to palace architecture. The distinct character of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style in a combination of horizontal lines, hipped roof, windows grouped in horizontal bands, huge overhanging eaves can be seen which hence resulted in a solid construction. And to come up with a Nepali way a perfectly composed the Shikhara form and a towering structure to its left to touch up the formal essence is made. The Narayanhiti Durbar, has been designed as a frame structure with quite a number of portions consisting of structural shear walls. It goes simple with a prominent hint of Nepalese architecture quite overt in the façade of the palace.

Kaski Baithak

The rooms and halls of this palace are named after the districts of Nepal and the main entrances of this palace are named the mountain of Nepal. There are altogether 52 rooms categorizing the entire palace into three separate wings. The central part is the state wing where the entire official works are performed, while the left section is the guest wing to house the visiting foreign head of state. The right wing on the other hand is the private zone including King’s and Queen’s chamber, dining hall, and private rest room.
The two stored building of Narayanhiti Palace is situated in Kings’ Way, Kathmandu. The entire palace complex has occupied total land area of 753 ropani (383,218 sq. m.). the palace building has occupied total area of 3,794 sq. m.

Socio-cultural and Religious context


Gaddi Baithak
Culture, trend and social behavioral patterns are the prime factors that drive the environment and setting that we live in. The main purpose of building this palace was to mark the monarchy and its dominance to the new Nepali society. So instead of using imported architecture, the palace was built in new structure that entirely replaced the previous durbar style (which was inspired from English art) and conceived a different architecture representing modern Nepal. The design of the palace also had to meet the requirement of rich class functioning in every facet of the lives of royal family - their living standards, functional planning and lavish organization for classy living. In the context of the then society where modern architecture had yet not been realized, Polk put it very simple in form and façade. But on studying the interior, one can see that the functional planning has been worked out in depth, understanding the royal behavioral pattern. 

The main entrance to palace, Gaurishankar which is 20ft high and equally wide is an impressive example of Nepali woodworks and artistry. In front of the main entrance, four wooden columns carved with auspicious symbols of lotus and leaves support a traditional Nepali roof. The door contains the encarvings of traditional silver jars, swastikas, a pair of ivory eyes, Lord Ganesh and Kumar and coiling serpents. The top crossbeam of the entrance, the toran has carvings of the images of Asta Matrika. The wide straight flight of main entry stairs are decorated on either side by five different sculptures of animals and birds namely, fish, peacock, horse, elephant and lion. Thus, this not only shows the artistry and grandeur in architecture but also reflects the social and cultural aspect of our Nepalese society. 

The main entrance leads into the official reception hall known as Kaski Baithak which has an etched glass window with a puffed-up peacock pattern from the glass art concept used for the cathedrals. Above Kaski Baithak, there is Gaddi Baithak having “Ceremonial Throne” (6 * 4 * 8) crafted with religious symbols of serpents done on gold and silver. The throne is placed under a decorative canopy with a golden pinnacle in traditional Nepalese style. This hall rises to 60 feet in height representing a shikhara style expression but is viewed as the tower with the pagoda style roof from outside. Flanked by four colossal curvilinear struts/ columns  inspired by the four serpentine pillars (four sheshnag) around the Guheshwori temple, the entire concept of the throne hall is blatant, decorative and is patterned on the design of a mandap. These organic struts are further used as canvas to depict the goddess of strength – Asta Matrika and Asta Bhairav. The carvings on the doors, pillars and windows, paintings of gods and goddesses, sculptures of animals and deity depict the impact of the Nepalese culture while building this palace.

Materials and Technology


The entire form for this palace has been designed as a frame structure with quite a number of portions consisting of structural shear walls. Ordinary Portland Cement strengthen was used for structural works, mild steel for RCC was imported from England. 

The bricks used in the exterior of the palace have their own purposes. The bricks in the exterior of the ground level play no part in load bearing of the structure. They are simply clad into the walls. However the bricks in 2nd level share the load bearing of the structure. The mosaic pillars of the palace were also designed for the stability of the structure. The entire non-structural walls have been tied up to the main structure considering the possibility of failure due to earthquakes. Godavari marbles have been used in decorating the front stairs of the palace. Rest of the marbles used in the interior of the palace is Italian marbles which are superior in quality. 

For roofing, locally available slates have been used. All the woods used in the palace for the furniture were brought from Terai. Similarly, glasses used in the palace are imported from England. The Belgium-cut glasses were known for the best quality at that time. Also, the glasses used for the exteriors are bullet proof. All the chandeliers including the magnificient 48 feet chandelier of gaddi Baithak was exquisitely crafted by a company called Nicole Pyra, a pioneering group in designing silver coated light fixtures and electrical fittings, which also supplied almost all the electrical works and fixtures in the palace.

Effect of climate, topography, ecology and site in architecture


Narayanhiti Palace is spread in large landscape; which is complimented by its very spacious compound and gardens. Elements such as the duck pond, outdoor stage for performing arts and social gatherings, a huge fountain whose spray depicts the plume of the royal crown and plenty of rare species of plants and trees evoked a pleasure of fuzzy royal green ambience that once had been pleasant and overt.

It has sloped roof, made of slate, to set off rain water. Huge glass is used in exterior so that every part of the palace is well lit and the chandeliers as well as the other lights are for the dark hours. Wall clothes and wood is used on the walls for insulation. Every room has its own fire place to protect from cold weather.

In the foreground, the compound of the palace is lined with variety of trees. While in the background, Fohara Garden is adorned by water fountain, Duck pond, green house, rotating shade, rounded house, temple of Goddess Saraswati, naag pond, statues and sculptures. Thus this provides the feel that the whole palace is enclosed in nature.

Present condition


The once grandeur structure of the country is now deprived of proper maintenance. Unfortunately, this third eye of Narayanhiti now seems to be getting bland, probably because the royal life has now been discarded and most importantly the maintenance is meager. The high ceilings in the Gaddi Baithak have made it difficult to clean. Nevertheless, going by what is remaining, it did seem to have a glorified history that pinpointed the beauty of nature. The old buildings present in this place have been demolished. 33 out of 52 rooms have been closed in the palace. The plans for the maintenance and renovation of the palace are yet to be implemented. 
  

Conclusion


The royal legacy is not only maintained but also retained for the future generations to absorb and learn so that they can move forward in a positive direction. The magnificent rooms; Gaddi baithak and Kaski still have the grandeur. The residence of the then monarch has now been opened for public as the museum.  The palace is eclectic and surreal but yet modest to some extent because probably it perfectly matched the bizarre time of the 1960s!


Source: Case Study Report of 1st Year 'Introduction to Architecture' class presented by Shristi Tamrakar, Chandani Shakya and group.

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