Kathmandu Durbar Square at Dawn: part 2 – a morning of light & life

Beggar lady at dawn on a temple in Durba Square Nepal
Dawn at Durbar Square as a lady remains covered waiting for the sun to take the chill away. In the distance the blueish haze of the night fires now mixes with the rising traffic fumes.

Sunshine brings life to Kathmandu’s Durbar Square

Durbar Square exploded into a brilliant warm red beacon of life as the sun finally spread its warmth and light over the surrounding buildings.

The air is still cold and unless you are lucky to be standing in the sun’s rays it’s like waiting for a giant swivel heater to point in your direction.

The red stone buildings are painted a further tangy red which takes on a near orange-red fire color reflecting across the ancient temples. Durbar square has broken free of the nights shadows and come alive.

Groups gather in number

First the older men standing in small circles around smoldering night fire ashes. They fan out as the suns own heat reaches them. Some squat down by corners waiting. Others more go to help set up small flower stalls.

Sunlights comes sweeping into Durba Square bring with it that infamous red glow
Sunlight comes sweeping into Durbar Square as crowds of different types gather

Then the children arrive. Not school children, but street children. They meet on the steps as if in a morning meeting to decide who should beg where to-day. There’s are not girls amongst them, only boys in thick coats and faces smear in soot.

Work for the day in Kathmandu Durbar Square

The waiting men are soon joined by other men in fine woolen waist coats. From what I understand these men are handing out jobs for the day. Laborers, builders, sweepers and heavy lifers gather around for work details.

Some branch off and follow others as job notes are handed out. The remaining sit patiently hoping for someone else to come along and offer work for the day.

A few people now climb some of the temples and take up seats as the sun shines down. Hacking and spitting is now reaching near constant tones around the populating centuries old square.

Sunlight and the temples are still empty, are rare sight in Durba Square
Sunlight and the temples are still empty, a rare sight in Durbar Square

Prayers and alms

At the other end of Durbar square men and women queue to pay their respects to Shiva for the day. Candles burn with sweet-scented smoke. The area around caked in layers upon layers of colored waxes and bright inks. People are blessing themselves with that red dot on called a tikka squarely in the center of their foreheads before they walk away feeling focused and energised.

A bell rings out and the sound of school children running sweeps the across the old square. Cows rise up and stagger stiffly towards some ladies setting up a fruit stall.

The cow is sacred here and as a small one butts a bucket of peelings a woman is near fearful of smacking its nose. But this is Nepal in the new century and the old ways are changing. The cow gets a hefty push instead and a bucket of old banana skins thrown out to it.

Ganesha is Kathmandu’s favorite deity

I won’t promise for a second to fully understand the Hindu line of deities. But, from my common place, I can’t help but always notice Ganesha being represented nearly everywhere.

Ganesha is the Hindu deity with the elephant head. Put there by Shiva after removing his head in anger before realising he’s upset the balance of the universe.

In fact both Ganesha and Shiva play pivotal roles in Nepal and to me are the most frequently spoken of Hindu deities. A Shiva festival is heal yearly where hashish is smoked legally. Only in Nepal. And, more on that later.

People selling flowers at the entrance to a temple in Durba Square
People selling flowers at the entrance to a temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square

Children get a blessing before going to school in Kathmandu
Children get a blessing before going to school in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square
Finally as the days arrives Durba Square and Kathmandu move into action
Finally as the day arrives in Durbar Square and Kathmandu move into action

First sounds of the new world

A taxi comes racing through Durbar square, my signal that it’s time to leave. Very soon many more vehicles and motorbikes will come speeding into this ancient old square.

My walk back for breakfast is filled with the bumps and pushes from the now near full streets. Motorbikes tear through at speed. Children in uniforms skip along broken roads. Vendors carry their wears and the odd tourist couple walks in the opposite direction.

They are walking to Durbar Square early in a hope to avoid the fee to get in. A good tactic.

Some things in life are still free

If you are short on time, and want to see a different side to any city in the world. I would suggest you do the same thing and visit it at dawn. A city is very different in the early hours compared to the rest of the day.

It’s waking from a shadowed rest. It’s watching the people who will work in it arrive. You are free to roam around with no one there. What better way to see a place as old as this.

How many other great cities are best seen at dawn?

Travel Tip:

Want to know more about Durbar Square? Check out my free Kathmandu Durbar square travel guide for tips on the best time to go,  prices, tips and much more …

Coming Soon:

Preparing for Everest

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16 Replies to “Kathmandu Durbar Square at Dawn: part 2 – a morning of light & life”

  1. If you visit Milan it’s a different city at dawn. Traffic is easy, the city is quiet, and you also see people going home after long nights

  2. Such a great insight into the start of a day, thanks for making it happen. Love the prayers before the day starts. And how the holy cow is maybe losing it’s touch?

      1. Well the cow is revered if they are realy realy relegious but genrealy they are ignored or tolorated.

  3. ..and there’s a guy holding a fancy camera, looking around, seems lost but not…

    -i think, you observed ppl a lot dave.
    well, me too ..heee~

    1. Tell the reception you’re getting up to take photos and to charge you double if you don’t.

      Actually it also works to tell another guest you’ll buy them dinner tomorrow if you don’t get up before dawn to take photos.

      Financial incentives do wonders along with a pre dawn alarm clock ;)

  4. You can also avoid the main square entrance fees, that is principal reason for a dawn walk

  5. Great report on Durbar Square Dave. Brings me back to my visit there. Unfortunately, I visited well after dawn and it was crowded but still very interesting.

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