Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital in the valley carrying its name, is now a city with a population of around 2.5 million. It is the home of the Newar people, although people of many ethnicities live there. It is a city of palaces and mansions of Nepalese aristocracy and has countless temples, both Hindu and Buddhist. The name Kathmandu derives from Kasthamandap, a Sanskrit word meaning “Wooden Pavillion“, a structure which stood in the central Durbar Square (but collapsed in the 2015 earthquake). The indigenous Newar term for the city is Yem Desa.
The modern era of Kathmandu may be said to begin with the Battle of Kathmandu in 1768 when the Gorkha kingdom conquered the valley, and proclaimed the Kingdom of Nepal. During the Rana autocracy, when the kings were mere figureheads, the rulers became pro-British, and the first buildings in Western European style were built. It included the old Narayanhiti Palace, demolished in 1958 to make room for the current palace in a more Nepalese architecture style. Tribhuvan University in Kirtipur was established in 1959.
The sacred Hindu Pashupatinath Temple and cremation site on the banks of the Bagmati River, east of the city, dates back to 400 BCE. The present temple was built in the 5th century by Licchavi King Prachanda Dev, and many more temples were erected around this two-storied temple over the centuries. The Buddhist Swayambhunath stupa atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of the city, has shrines and temples, some also dating back to the Licchavi period (approximately 400 to 750 CE). The place is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus.
There are many other Hindu temples in the city and Buddhist stupas, including the immense Boudhanath, one of the largest in Nepal, about 11 kilometres from the city centre. It probably dates to the 5th Century CE.