Between Mandala and World Stage: A Historiographical Study of a Public Space

  • Urmi Sengupta
Keywords: Public Space, History, Urban, Mandala, Kathmandu


Cities change. A sudden natural disaster may destroy a city. Spaces that were once important for the citizens and political life may be lost to development. Spaces that survive hold the quirks of history, culture, and society. This article develops a historical account of urban public space that explores the changing relationship between space, political order, identity, and memory. Using Tundikhel, the largest public open space of national significance in Kathmandu, Nepal, the article takes a journey from the ancient era to medieval times, and right through to the modern period to decipher the ways in which the public space has been historically formed, construed, and interpreted. The main body of the paper explores Tundikhel’s evolution through four thematic phases: (1) abstraction, folklore, and mysticism (300–1200 AD); (2) art, mandala and mercantalism (1201–1767 AD); (3) power, visibility, and modernity (1768–1989 AD) and; (4) breaking barriers and emancipation (1990 onwards). The article argues that a postmodern, hybrid nature of the public space today does more to capture the nature of the city’s change as a complex, multi-layered shift in which the history cannot be simply erased, but returns to disrupt contemporary narratives of the national space.

How to Cite
Sengupta, U. (2021). Between Mandala and World Stage: A Historiographical Study of a Public Space. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 40(2), 79-96.
Research Articles