Dharahara (Nepali: धरहरा), also called Bhimsen Tower, is a nine story (50.2m) tall tower at the center of Kathmandu sundhara. It was built in 1832 by the Prime Minister of the time, Bhimsen Thapa of Nepal. Thapa built the tower under the orders of Queen Lalit Tripura Sundari.
The tower has a spiral staircase inside containing 113 steps and 25 steps outside it . The 8th floor holds a circular balcony for observers that provides a panoramic view of the whole Kathmandu valley. The tower has a 5.2m bronze mast on the roof. The tower has been open for the general public since 2005 for a small fee.
The present day Dharahara is actually the second such tower made by Bhimsen Thapa. The original Bhimsen Tower was built in 1824 and was 11 stories high, two stories taller than the present day Dharahara. Dharahara was built for Queen Lalit Tripura Sundari, who was the niece of Bhimsen Thapa. She wanted a tower of her own next to Bhimsen’s original tower.
During the earthquake of 1834, both the towers survived, but Bhimsen’s tower suffered severe damage. A hundred years later, on January 15, 1934, another earthquake caused Bhimsen’s tower to be completely destroyed. Only two of the 11 stories on the second tower remained. The prime minister of the time, Juddha Shumsher, renovated Dharahara to its previous form. While the original Bhimsen Tower was obliterated, Queen Lalit Tripura Sundari’s tower got its name, ‘Bhimsen Stambha’. Sadly, the site where Bhimsen’s original tower stood is now a parking lot.
The purpose for the construction of the Dharahara was military. It was used as a watchtower. In case some incidents of national importance occurred, bugles used to be blown from the top floor of the tower. This served to herald the message to the army men to assemble on urgent reason by blowing trumpet at the top floor of tower. The tradition of bugle trumpeting is still in practice. The tower is also religiously linked because there is a Shivalinga (the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva) on top floor and a golden spire crowns it.
The architecture of Dharahara is designed in Mughal and European style. Indeed it resembles like the Islamic minaret. The main materials used in the building construction is Vajra-Surki (Brick dust), Chuna (Lime), Mas (Black lentil) and Chaku (Caramel).
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