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Dharahara, The Bhimsen Tower


Dharahara is a tower in Kathmandu, Nepal, built in 1832 and destroyed in the 2015 Nepal earthquake.

It was a nine-story tower with a height of about 60 meters (200 feet) and was a popular tourist attraction in the city.

The tower was also known as Bhimsen Tower, named after Bhimsen Thapa, the Prime Minister of Nepal at the time it was built. It was made of brick and stone and was used as a watchtower and a communication tower.

The tower was rebuilt after the earthquake and is a popular tourist attraction in Kathmandu.

Dharahara: History

The second tower of its kind, constructed by Bhimsen Thapa, the Dharahara in Kathmandu, is the tallest structure in Nepal.

At his home, Janarala Bagh, located southeast of Sundhara, close to Bhotebahal of Kathmandu, the first tower was constructed eight years earlier, in 1824 (1881 BS).

During the 1834 earthquake, it was split in half and was never restored. Only one year later, in 1835, Bhimsen Thapa constructed the second Dharahara and Sundhara (the golden water spout) for Queen Lalit Tripura Sundari Devi, his niece.

One hundred years later, on January 15, 1934, a new earthquake completely demolished the first tower, leaving only two of the second tower’s nine stories standing.

The Dharahara tower was renovated by Juddha Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana, Nepal’s prime minister at the time, to bring it back to its original condition.

Bhimsen Stambha (Nepali: lit. “Bhimsen Tower”) is the name given to Queen Lalit Tripurasundari’s tower after the old Bhimsen Tower was demolished.

The second tower was constructed to honour Bhimsen Thapa’s achievement in regaining Nepali territory during the conflict.

Bhimsen Thapa received a lalmohar (a document bearing the royal seal) from King Rajendra Bikram Shah in 1835, recognizing his position as Commander-in-Chief and the construction of Dharahara at Sundhara in his honour in 1824.

Dharahara was built as a watchtower for military use. Bugles were blown from the tower’s top floor when significant national events happened.

This served as the command for soldiers to gather. Bugle trumpeting was still practised up until the tower’s fall.

On one of the signboards at Dharahara, it is written that the Dharahara’s primary function was to allow the state and city authorities to call for people to assemble on the Tundikhel (the military parade ground to the northeast of the tower) to hear official announcements and that it demonstrated “the religious harmony between Hindu, Muslim, and Christian faiths.”

One of the many urban legends surrounding Kathmandu concerns Jung Bahadur Rana, the legendary and ominous Rana Prime Minister of Nepal.

According to legend, “The White Tiger” mounted a horse and scaled the tower’s upper floors to reach the balcony.

What he did next was considered bold by some and simply dumb by others. On his horse, he sprang from the balcony. Although “Jungey” survived the jump, the horse perished. One of his many brave deeds.

Dharahara: Historical Significance

This structure is significant historically. It was built in recognition of Bhimsen Thapa’s brave deeds. Being Nepal’s first prime minister, he is revered as a hero for preventing the secession of the Tarai area from the hills.

However, he is also held responsible for the Sugauli Treaty, which he signed with the East India Company. Despite taking this move, many people need to be made aware that the British offered him a sizable sum of money to distribute across the entire plains. Annual wealth was estimated at $200,000.

Bhimsen Thapa recognized the importance of the plains; he imagined Nepal without the Terai region, so he did not accept the proposition of the Britishers,” historian Sushil Bickram Thapa claims.

Dharahara: National Significance

As a cultural site, Dharahara was a popular tourist destination and an important symbol of Nepal’s history and heritage. Its unique architectural style, nine stories, and intricate design made it a notable landmark in the city of Kathmandu.

In October 2018, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli launched the construction project with a program. The full development of the raising only took a little more than two years. The prime minister frequently spoke about the initiative in speeches despite the many obstacles. Dharahara is crucial from a national standpoint in addition to having historical relevance. This has the appearance of a phallus, an elevated male sex organ that symbolizes strength and pride. Additionally, there is a Shiva Linga, a representation of vigour and fertility, on top of the structure.

The building serves as a symbol of a unified country, Nepal. It stands for the bravery of Nepalis who fought the British during the Anglo-Nepal War. Dharahara honours all courageous Nepalis for their brave deeds rather than remembering Bhimsen Thapa.

Dharahara: Interesting Facts and Myths

  • Dharahara was built to be a military watchtower and was, at the time, the tallest structure in the Kathmandu Valley.
  • The finial of the tower was a 17-foot bronze mast with a spiral stairway with 213 steps. At 203 feet, it was tall.
  • The tower was also religiously connected because a Shiva statue was erected.
  • Both European and Mughal architectural styles were used to create Dharahara.
  • As seen by his now-demolished palace, Bhimsen Thapa was a well-known devotee of the Mughal style, which combined elements of Kathmandu Gothic and Mughal architecture.
  • Vajra-Surki (brick dust), Chuna (lime), Mas (black lentil), and Chaku were the primary materials utilized in the tower’s construction (Caramel). These components work much better together than the widely used cement.
  • One of the many urban legends surrounding Kathmandu is Dharahara and Jung Bahadur Rana, the most infamous and ferocious Rana Prime Minister of Nepal. According to legend, “The White Tiger” mounted a horse and scaled the tower’s upper floors to reach the balcony. What he did next was considered bold by some and simply dumb by others. On his horse, he sprang from the balcony. Although “Jungey” survived the jump, the horse perished. One of his many brave deeds.
  • The 2015 Earthquake also destroyed another building known as Kal Mochan, mainly credited to Bhimsen Thapa. Bhimsen Thapa is only partially to blame for the building’s completion because he began work but was forced to commit suicide before the foundations were nearly finished. Later, the temple was completed by Jung Bahadur Rana, Bhimsen’s grandnephew. To end any speculation as to why he killed himself, Bhimsen Thapa was misled by his tormentors—who had much to avenge—into believing that his wife was being made to wander the streets of Kathmandu in her underwear. He slit his wrists in the prison cell where he was held captive in extreme agony, breaking a window pane. This enormous white temple was situated next to the Bagmati River in a vast courtyard. On the way from Bagmati Bridge to United World Trade Center, many have seen this enormous white Mughal-style temple, but few are familiar with its name and history.
  • -By: Saru Niroula For Land Nepal
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