Museum in Swayambhunath & Around
foreigner/SAARC Rs 150/50, camera/video Rs 10/200
10.30am-4.30pm Wed-Sun, to 2.30pm Mon Feb-Oct, to 3.30pm Wed-Sun, to 2pm Mon Nov-Jan
Around 800m south of Swayambhunath at Chhauni, this sprawling museum set in a walled compound looks a little moth-eaten and overgrown, but there are some interesting treasures on display and it never gets crowded. It’s worth a visit.
As you enter the compound, turn left to reach the Judda Art Gallery, which contains some exquisite stone, metal and terracotta statues of Nepali deities and fabulous paubha cloth paintings. Look out for the 1800-year-old life-sized statue of standing Jayavarma, only discovered in 1992, as well as the bronze statue of buffalo-headed Sukhavara Samvara with 34 arms, 16 feet and 10 faces!
At the back of the compound is the temple-style Buddhist Art Gallery. As well as Buddhist statues, votive objects, thangkas and manuscripts as big as coffee tables, there are some informative displays on mandalas (geometric Buddhist diagrams). A highlight here is the 8th-century stone depiction of the birth of Buddha, showing Queen Maya holding onto the branch of a tree.
Don’t miss the antique Hudson car just around the corner, which was imported from Detroit.
To the north of the main compound, housed in a handsome Rana-era palace, is the Historical Gallery, which displays a bloodthirsty collection of weapons, including the personal kukri (daggers), katar (punch-daggers), tulwar (curved swords) and khanda (hatchet swords) of such national heroes as Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of Nepal. Note the leather cannon seized in the 1792 Nepal-Tibet War.
The same building formerly housed the Natural History Gallery, with arthritic-looking stuffed animals and old bones, but the building and collection were damaged in the 2015 earthquake. The upstairs Numismatic and Philatelic Galleries were also damaged beyond repair.
Ticket sales stop an hour before closing time; bags must be left in the free lockers at the gate.