Narayanhiti Palace museum stands proudly at the heart of Kathmandu depicting its glorious past. Centrally located at the Durbarmarg, the Palace is one of the best architectural treasures of Nepal. The high monument reflects the past royalty, no wonder it was used by the Royals not long before. The Narayanhiti Palace museum was the residence of the Royal families till 2008. The Palace had been the symbol of the country’s monarchy for decades.
The then Prime Minister of Nepal Girija Prasad Koirala had inaugurated the museum on June 15, 2008 and it was inaugurated for public by then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” on February 26, 2009.
The museum has been very successful in attracting flocks of tourists and the locals. Whoever passes through the Durbarmarg street can easily see the long awaiting lines outside the museum everyday. Hundreds of visitors visit the Palace everyday. The Palace was not open for the commoners before.
The Narayanhiti Palace is named after the Narayan temple located at the eastern part of the Palace premises and a water fountain next to the temple. Water fountain is locally called ‘Hiti’ in Newari language. Thus the Palace gets its name as Narayanhiti by combining both the Narayan and Hiti.
The present structure of the Palace was designed by a foreign architect. The construction began in 1963 AD and was completed in 1969 AD. The entire Palace complex comprises of a total land area of 753 ropanies where the Palace building has occupied an area of 40820 sq. ft.
There are altogether 52 rooms in the Palace which have all been named after the districts of Nepal. The Palace rooms include living rooms, private chambers of the Royal family, rooms to house the visiting foreign Heads of State, dining halls etc.
Presently only 19 rooms are open for public viewing. The tour of the Palace begins with the purchase of tickets and the entrance to the Palace premises. As you reach the front façade of the Palace you will have to climb a few steps to reach the main entrance of the Palace. The steps of the Palace are decorated with big sculptures of Fish, Peacock, Horse, Elephant and Lion. The gracious Lions at the each corner of the entrance doors of the Palace are symbolic guards of the building.
The main entrance of the Palace, the Gaurishanker gate, is an exclusive piece of art. The artistic wood work is an exemplary piece of Nepali wooden art. The door is huge, 20 feet high and equally wide and very inviting. The doors of the Palace are named after the mountains of Nepal like Sagarmatha, Ganesh, Annapurna, etc. Once you enter the Gaurishanker gate you can enter the huge hall that many of the people are familiar with as the room was used for receiving the visiting Heads of the States, organizing swearing in ceremony of the Heads of the constitutional bodies, receiving credentials of the new Ambassadors and some other highly important functions. This room is much familiar to all as it was usually seen in televisions when such events took place in this hall. The name of this hall is Kaski hall (Baithak). This room is adorned with expensive furniture, wall sized portraits of the former Kings, beautiful lights and the live sized two stuffed tigers at the end of the hall.
To the right side and the left side of the Kaski Baithak are the ways that lead to the left and right side of the Palace. If you take the left side route you will enter into the Myagdi Room. This room was tea room for Heads of the constitutional bodies and Ambassadors. Further on is the Parbat Room which was used for the visiting Heads of the sates and other dignitaries to sign the visitors’ book. The signing ceremony also took place in this room after swearing in and credentials receiving ceremony for Ambassadors. The room also has a collection of gifts bestowed to the Royal families by the Head of States and such dignitaries.
Rukum Room was a waiting room for the VIPs for King’s audience. Rolpa was a room for the visiting Heads of the States to have meeting with the dignitaries. The corridor that leads from Rolpa to the Dailekh room has photographs of the Heads of States who stayed in the Palace; this tradition was started by the Late King Birendra. The Dailekh Room was the bed room for visiting Head of State. Baitadi Room was set for the First Lady of the visiting Head of State. Accham was another bed room specifically set for the other family members of the visiting Heads of the State. Bajura was a dining hall for the visiting Heads of the State and Jumla was a hall used to take rest before and after meals by the visiting Head of States.
After wondering these rooms, one can enter the second floor and an important part of the Palace premises beginning with the Dolpa Room which was used by the members of the Royal family to pay audience to the various programs organized at the Gorkha Baithak. The Dolpa room is attached to the Tanahun hall and is separated by huge see through glass. The Tanahun Hall was assigned for the Council of ministers, the high ranking Royal officials and the secretaries of the ministries to witness the programs at the Gorkha Baithak. By climbing a few steps from Tanahaun hall one can enter the Gorkha Baithak. The Gorkha Baithak has the “Ceremonial Throne” of 6 feet length, 4 feet breadth and 8 feet height which was used for the decoration ceremony of the members of the Royal family and the ceremony to declare the Crown Prince. The historic ceremony of the proclamation of the constitution of Nepal 1990 AD was also held in this hall. This hall is one of the most impressive rooms as the ceiling is high and the pillars of the room are massive and some pieces of art works can be seen on them.
The corridors from the Gorkha Baithak will then lead on to the Mugu room which houses the personal collection used by the Late King Tribhuvan. After this room the steps lead one downwards to the Kaski Baithak. The room on the right side of the Kaski Baithak is the banquet hall named Lamjung. This banquet hall was used for the special State banquet to be given in honor of the visiting Heads of the States and other dinner party to be organized on the special occasions associated with then Kings and Queens.
From the Kaski Baithak the journey to the right side of the Palace begins. The first room on the right side leads to Gulmi which was the private office of the then King Gyanendra. Further, the other room is Dhading which was used to take rest by the then King. Then one can reach ‘Dhankuta’, the bed room of the King . It may be surprising for many of us to find a small room as the bed room of the King. This is because the Kings used to reside in another complex of the Palace premises known as Shree Sadan. This bed room was usually only used when they had visiting Heads of States residing in the palace. The bed room is not that extraordinary but the speciality of the room is that the windows of the rooms are all bullet proof.
Following the corridors one will reach the Dhanusha Hall which is also quite familiar to many as this hall was used for organizing ‘Tika’ ceremony during Dasain to high ranking officials. The hall was also used during special functions like conferring on medals during various occasions. The hall is beautifully decorated with huge portraits of Late Queens, and the medals offered by the Palace have all been beautifully displayed, there are some family photographs of the former Kings and their families.
After this hall, one will be able to come out of the Palace complex and go to the back side of the building towards Tribhuwan Sadan. Tribhuwan Sadan was a hall with many rooms built during the reign of Late King Tribhuwan. This is the place where the Royal Palace massacre took place. Though the building has been dismantled now, the foundations are still intact. The spots where the killings took place have all been marked.
The Garden of the Palace is also a great place to stroll about as it is loaded with beautiful flowers. The revolving shade and the round shaped blocks in the garden are a great place to sit and enjoy the beauty of the garden and see the ponds and fountains around the garden.
The Narayanhity Palace Museum or Narayanhity Durbar was constructed under order of the Shah dynasty in the 18th century. The modern Narayanhiti Palace was built by Late King Mahendra, father of Gyanendra between 1963 and 1969. Late King Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah, great grand father of Gyanendra moved to this Palace from the old Hanumandhoka Palace towards the end of 19th century. Late King Birendra stayed in the Palace for more than 30 years.
Some more valuable and important attractions such as the precious Crown and the cars that the Royals used including a Daimler Benz (Hitler’s gift to former King Tribhuvan) are going to be added soon to the Museum. Shree Sadan which was the actual residence of King Birendra may also be opened for public as per the plans. As soon as the museum gets permission from the Ministry few more rooms of the museum will also be opened for public.