People have settled in the Kathmandu Valley for over 2000 years. Throughout this period, the valley has witnessed the migration of people from the high plateaus of Tibet, the fertile plains of the Ganges, and everywhere between. This intermingling of people and cultures created a vibrant and diverse society within the valley. By the 12th century, the inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley had developed a unique civilisation indigenous to the region and were known throughout the region as the Newars. They shared – and continue to share – a linguistic and cultural community bound together by a common language and culture called Newari.

Newari civilisation flourished during the reign of the Malla Kings from the 12th to the 18th century. The Malla Kings profited from being a major destination along the trade route between India and Tibet, and invested heavily in their arts and culture. Part of the valley’s exports included skilled craftsmen like sculptors, painters and carvers to India and Tibet. Together, the wood works contain the centuries of love and dedication that these craftsmen had towards this artistic tradition.

With a keen aesthetic sense, the Malla kings invested heavily in the arts and encouraged a rich tradition that encapsulated all forms of art. Testaments to their deep involvement within the cultural landscape of the valley are evident in the number of architectural and cultural monuments that remain standing to this day in the valley. The seven world heritage zones and more than 3000 temples and shrines that dot the Kathmandu Valley all date back to the Malla era, and give a clear testament to the artistic sense of the Newars. Much of the Dwarika’s collection of woodwork dates back to this period of artistic creation, preserving a cultural legacy that has defined Kathmandu.

During the 15th century, the valley disintegrated into the three kingdoms of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. This disintegration led to the creation of a Durbar Square (palatial complexes) in each of the cities and remains emblematic of the rich architectural traditions that existed in the valley. Durbar squares, temple squares, sacred courtyards, stupas, open air shrines, dance platforms, sunken water fountains, public rest houses, bazaars, multi-storied houses with elaborate carved windows and compact streets are the characteristics of the traditional design of towns.

Architectural splendour is only the most evident form of Newari heritage. The Newars were a highly urbanised civilisation and much of their culture remains embedded within the rituals and festivals that form the nexus around which Newari social life revolves. The Newars follow both Hinduism and Buddhism, celebrating festivals and worshipping deities from both traditions, and forming a unique example of religious tolerance and harmonious living.