JANA BAHA DYO : history and Inspection Report | year 2016

Between Indra chowk and Hanuman Dhoka lies Janabahal. Jana Bahal is home to a statue of Arya Avalokiteshwara, which plays a central role in the Seto Machchendranath festival at Kathmandu. The setoMachchendranath festival is essentially a smaller, less elaborate version of the RatoMachchendranath festival of Patan.


Seto Machhendranath is one of the more important temples in Kathmandu and both Hindu and Buddhist worship at this temple.

Janabahal remains oblivious of the fanface of the inner city, separated from the urban sprawl of Kathmandu by its thick walls and own inner courtyard bufferd by bahal houses. The tranquility within the courtyard of Jana Bahal is antithetical to the urban chaos that lies beyond its gates.


Jana Bahal is situated in the core area of the Kathmandu in ward 27 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City. The tumultuous street heading north from Indrachowk leads to Thamel, but the old Tibet road continues diagonally to a small square of KelTole. This is where Jana Bahal is located with the seventeenth century temple of Seto Machhendranath, one of the main shrines to the protector God of the Kathmandu Valley.


Jana Bahal is composed of two words in natives‟ language. Jana literally means people and Bahal means urban monastery. According to Sudarshan Raj Tiwari in his article “Bahals of The Kathmandu Valley”, “ Bahal is a Buddhist Monastery and derives its name from a Sanskrit word Bihara, meaning joy or enchanment and thus is a place of religious bliss”. Jana Bahal is one of the eighteen prominent bihars of the Kathmandu Valley. Jana Bahal is often called Jana Bahal: or even Kanak Chaitya Mahavihar.


The main deity residing inside the temple of the Jana Bahal, Seto Macchendranath, is also known as Karunamaya. There are total four prominent Karunamayas: two Rato Machhendranath with red face and next two Seto Machhendranath with white face. One of the two Rato Machhendranath resides in Bungamati, Patan and the other in Chobhar. Similarly, one of the two Seto Machhendranath resides in Nala (Kavrepalanchowk) and the other in Jana Bahal. These four prominent Karunamayas are said to have different power and functions. Among them the Seto Machhendranath of Jana Bahal is said to have the power to heal the diseased and disabled people. Seto Machhendranath is also known as „Janabahaa: Dyo:‟, “Karunamaya‟, „Adinath‟ or “Janamaa: Dyo:‟ in Newari. Tibetans and local Bhotes who follow Mahayana sect of Buddhism call the deity as „JaminKarya‟. Buddhists believe the deity is one of the Lokiteshwara and calls Arya Awalokiteshwor.



Every year, the deity’s image is placed in a chariot and paraded around Kathmandu.This festival is known as Jana Baha DyahJatra. The deity is bathed and repainted every year as a ritual that symbolizes the changes occurring throughout our lives.


Myths and legends play an important role in the religious significance, and account for the lasting importance of degas, temples, and other historical and religious monuments. These monuments have attracted a steady stream of pilgrims over the centuries up to modern times. It is said that Janabahaa: Dyo: dates back to 4th century BC but the temple at Jana Bahal was built by King YakshaMalla in 1502 AD. It is also believed that kings who followed Buddhism erected the image of various Lokeswaras inside the courtyard.

Jana Bahal originally was known as Kanak Chaitya Mahavihar. But after Janabaha: Dyo: was mounted here the courtyard became less known with the name. The ame Kanak Chaitya Mahavihar is from a chaitya of Kanak-Muni Buddha in front of the temple, situated in the courtyard. From this we can assume that the Bahal was originally a place for Buddhists religious activities. Sudarshan Raj Tiwari has further noted “The Bahals originally were places of religious learning for Buddhists and also served as residences of the learned Buddhist monks and priests who also performed necessary initiation and other religious rituals for the lay population.” This further helps in the assumption that Jana Bahal might have been one of the places for learning of Buddha. But not any strict evidences have been found assuring the above notes.

A legend says that the idol of the deity was found in Jamal by a „Jyapu‟ (Maharjan) 600 years ago inside a well at Jamal. The “Jyapu‟ and his clans are known as ”Jamami‟. These Jamamis are still needed for many of the rituals of the Arya Awalokiteshwar. In dream of the Jamami, who found the idol, god/goddess showed him/herself and told him to make a temple in the place now situated. Due to this legend the god/goddess is often called Janma: Dyo:. As JanmaDyo: resides in this Bahal we can undertake that the Bahal was originally called Jama Bahal which later changed into Jana Bahal due to the mispronunciation of the name by the people.

People also believes that KarunamayaLokesvara(or the compassionate one) came to the earth in prehistoric times for the elimination of the sufferings of all sentient beings and for all the welfare of mankind and considered to be the protector of the world.


Common name                              – Seto Machchendranath
Dedicated to                                  – Karunamaya (Arya Avalokiteshwara)
Location                                          – Janabahal, Kathmandu
Erected by                                      – YakshyaMalla
Date                                                – 1502 A.D (NS )
Temple-Type                                 – A square room, open on all four sides and encircled by a second wall which has wide doorway on each of its four sides. The deity, Lokeshwore is centrally placed. The plan demonstrates the typical mandala.

Plan                                                 –


Ground floor      7.20 m X 7.20 m

Plinth base        9.63 m X 9.63m

Elevation                                        – Temple               14.8 m

Plinth base     +  .45  m

total                 15.25 m


Building materials                         – Plinths         –


Walls             –




Roofs           –



Floors         –


faced with marble skin and curbs of natural stone

of burnt bricks and bajra as mortar, exterior walls on ground floor faced with gold gilded metal mask, whereas first floor is exposed to burnt bricks

tiled with traditional jhingati tiles provided with gold gilded metal coverings

of cella and walkway in marble stone in regular pattern

doors, windows, struts of painted wood(paint not original), beams , rafters, etc. mostly faced with gold gilded metal with detail carvings


The roof is typically the first line of defense against water infiltration and its maintenance is critical in order to prevent the interior walls and surfaces from being damaged. On inspecting the roof of the Janabahal temple, we came to know that the authentic material jhingati tiles is been replaced by gold gilded metal roofs. The replacement was done during the rule of shah kings.


The roof has suffered through discoloration due to constant expose to sun and rain. The surfaces are not cleaned frequently thus we can see pigeon droppings on roof surface that has been deteriorating its surfaces. Yet the temple has not suffered through leakage and water seepage problems due to the use of durable materials metal.



  • Structural elements
  1. Struts:

Struts being the structural element of the temple, it should attain its strength to hold the load of the temple. Struts are made of wooden materials with carvings of different gods and goddesses. The visible damages are seen in struts due to effects of insects and termites which is degrading the strength of the struts. We could observe the spider webs and littering of insects and birds which are deteriorating and discoloring the aesthetical beauty of the carving.


2. Beams:

In the exterior, the wooden beams throughout the temple with 108 faces of Lokeshwor have been covered by the metal works. Due to the nailing of metals into the wood visible cracks are seen in the beam which is decreasing the strength of the beam. In the interior, the beams have been replaced after being damaged by the earthquake. The use of authentic materials i.e. gwachashi wood has been used. The wood was treated in the oil to protect from insects and termites.


3. Corner members:

The corner members are been made of stones which transfers the load from struts to lower structural members. The visible cracks are seen in these members which is resulting in the decrease of strength of the temple.


  • Exterior walls:

The temple walls are in very vulnerable state. The exterior façade of the wall is covered with gold plated metal with different motifs of gods and goddesses. The nailing of such metal plates into the brick has developed hair cracks in the bricks. Due to such metal coverings the damages caused in the wall are not being able to treat properly. In the front façade, the wall has completely bulged off with severe crack on its exterior walls.

Some elements are found to be missing from the exterior façade which may weaken the strength of the temple. The temple is build using traditional materials and technology which is not maintained properly as a result of which the mortar joint are crumbling.

While in first storey the walls are covered with gold plated metal plates with carings of brick textures which is disturbing the authenticity of traditional materials.
  • Metal coverings:

The maximum protion of the exterior of the temple has been covered by the gold plated metal with different motifs of gods and goddesses. Yet the metal has not been maintained properly. The use of chemicals like abir and lighting of diyos of wax is deteriorating the quality and aesthetics of the metal.


  • Doors and windows:

Door and windows are constructed of woods with intricately carved motifs. Due to the attacks of insects and termites the wooden member is being deteriorated. The use of chemicals like abir has even degraded the quality and aesthetics of the wooden carvings.




  • Interior walls:

The interior walls are constructed of bricks but the use of tiles in the interior has disturbed the authenticity of the traditional materials. Due to the use of tiles, the damages in interior surfaces are not being visible thus people are unaware of the status of the interior surfaces.



  • Exterior façade:

The whole temple structure is enclosed within the metal rails in order to protect the temples statues and carvings. This has created visual disturbance and the traditional methods of constructions and materials are dominated by the use of these rails. This has created bulkiness to the temple disturbing its authenticity and truth to materials.





  • Circumambulatory paths:

The use of metal rails in the exterior façade has caused disturbance in circumambulatory paths. The linkage barrier between temple and circumambulatory paths has been created. After the devastating earthquake, the storage of building materials are done in the paths which has converted the paths into dead space. Recently people have created inner circumambulatory paths inside the rails yet the paths are not maintained properly. The littering of pigeon droppings and lighting of diyos and candles have polluted the paths.



This square mandala plan temple has the outer circumambulatory passage which is then supported by loadbearing walls. There are two rings of loadbearing walls. The inner ring supports the above structure. There are multiple entrances from all four sides of the temple with major façade facing east. There are four lion stone sculptures placed at diagonal corners of the circumambulatory passage. The main deity is placed centrally gated by the inner walls. The temple is a perfect example of typical mandala plan.


The vertical section of the temple presented in the above picture clearly shows the nature of load distribution of the structure upto the roof and gajur. The angled struts rests on the loadbearing wall at angle on a wooden wall beams. The first roof is made accessible through a small opening which is a cut on the roof itself.


The structural beams on the first floor shows the typical load resting system of the temple. The discontinued beams are used so that they can be repaired without dismantling the whole structure on the floor

Some detail inspection illustrations through 3d drawings are presented hereby:


Through direct observation and consultation with the experts and locals of the temple area, we have come to the following conclusions that we believe if opted can improve the existing conditions of Janabahal Temple and hence aid in its conservation and preservation.

  1. The metal railing covering the temple façade should be removed in order to conserve the pagoda style of the temple.
  2. Repair work should be carried out as soon as possible. The metal plate in external façade should be removed in order to treat the cracks on the walls.
  • Wood works in doors and window, struts and beams should be cleaned and treated properly against insects and termite affects. The nailing work has created cracks in its surfaces thus it should be controlled. Instead of using nailing of different materials, the use of wooden nailing can aid in controlling the damages on its surfaces.
  1. The use of foreign materials such as tiles, metals should be discarded in order to preserve the authenticity of the material.
  2. The metal roof used in roof can function more effectively upon weathering effects than that of tiles, thus it should be cleaned and maintained frequently.
  3. The activities like lighting of diyos and candles should be restricted to external periphery of the temple.
  • The storage of raw building materials of destroyed building after earthquake should be removed and cleaned in order to maintain the circumambulatory paths.




The recent Earthquake destroyed the bhajan satal building.


The locals got interested in the inspection !
A narrow passage beneath a house connected the temple courtyard with the near street !!  not only people even the water pipes gets the way through !
Changing Scales ! who’s responsible ?
Chaityas surround the temple !
Incomplete without parking and shops displays! COTTONS!
A covered Dabali ?
Colorful artworks on the ceiling!
The flower pot gets protection but not the !!!
Lions roars ! at all corners !
heads down and pray !
the red abir is part of praying!


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