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The inscriptions by the Lichhavi King Manadeva in the Changu Narayan Temple that dates back to 464 AD is considered to be one of the oldest in Nepal. This inscription is proof that Nepal’s history of architecture dates back to 1500 years if not more. Our rich architectural history is reflected in the various temples, stupas, monasteries, palaces, forts and water conduits that have been constructed in various regions over centuries by the dynasties that have ruled large portions of Nepal. Our heritage architecture is a reflection of our rich cultural heritage that is unique to Nepal.

The importance of this antiquity is reflected by the early inscription of the Kathmandu Valley as a Cultural World Heritage Site for its exclusive art and architecture that attributes ‘outstanding universal value to mankind’. The architecture is understood as a manifestation of a unique urban society that boasts ‘the most highly developed craftsmanship of brick, stone, timber and bronze in the world’.

UNESCO inscribed 12 sites as World Heritage Sites in 1978. The very next year, in 1979, Nepal got its inscription for Kathmandu Valley as a Cultural World Heritage Site – it was among the first three Asian country to be in the list. The inscription in this list is attributed to exceptional architecture and urban fabric illustrating a highly developed culture that pinnacled between 1500 and 1800 AD.

Laced windows or ‘aankhi jhyaal’, and detailed deities crafted in wood adorning struts that support multi-tiered slanting roofs are among aesthetics that have come to be seen as quintessentially Nepali style of architecture. While the elaborate decorative details of woodwork that add grandeur and character to these structures capture the world’s imagination, the science behind this style of architecture is less known. Innovation, intuitiveness and quality is intrinsic to the architectural style that is native to Nepal.

From the typical extended overhanging eaves of sloping roofs that protect the structures from weathering caused by rain and sun, to the choice of mud bricks and wood indigenous to the region as primary building materials – several structural elements exhibit a deep understanding of both our region’s geographic setting and the socio-cultural requirements of the time. Delving into the logic behind methods, sequences and innovations of these structures illuminates an approach that was intuitive of the natural setting, social requirements and available resources, that gave rise to a distinctive style of architecture.

View some functional aspects of structural elements by placing your cursor on the dots:

Sloping roofs at calculated angles are ideal for extensive snow fall and rainfall.
The typical extended overhanging eaves of sloping roofs protect the main structure from weathering caused by rain and sun.
Multi-plinth platforms were an ingenious feature that minimized problems of dampness that could result in rotting of wood that comprised the very skeleton of the buildings.
Multiple plinths were an innovative way to also provide a towering grandeur to important temples to emphasize the value of the deities residing within.
The bricks with shiny surface, called daci appa in Newari, found on the exterior have very thin joints to ensure resistance against water penetration.
Sal trees native to warmer regions were sourced for their quality of strength and durability and utilized for the construction of important structural elements like pillars, struts and beams.

While our fascination with our heritage is reflected in the homage we pay by imitating some of these typical visual elements in buildings, it is this legacy of intuitiveness and practicality that should inspire our approach to constructions. Companies invested in the construction market are leading changes in trends of product development customized to the requirements specific to Nepali and lifestyles of Nepali people. Focusing primarily on construction solutions, the Panchakanya Group draws inspiration from this instinctive approach of our past to provide Nepali people with intuitive solutions driven by the geographic setting of the nation, and adapts its product development to the evolving lifestyle requirements of Nepali people.

A scientific and intuitive method

“Some scholars, enamored by the aesthetics of traditional architecture, believe the sloping roofs were artistically purposed to mimic the slant of the hills surrounding the valley. However, the historic chronicle of Gopalraj Bansavali provides evidence of numerous instances of heavy and continuous snowfall in the valley that interrupted life and destroyed crops. Sloping roofs at calculated angles are ideal for extensive snow fall and rainfall,” Swosti Rajbhandari Kayastha, Lecturer at Lumbini Buddhist Univevrsity, reflects on the functionality of these architectural elements. The UNESCO publication by Caterina Bonapace and Valerio Sestini also explains that climatic conditions have influenced the overall Nepali architectural forms especially evident by the Nepali roof that plays an essential role in protecting the building from severe monsoon rains as well as extreme exposure to sun – both characteristic of the region.

Climatic conditions should be the very first criterion to dictate what materials and what technology we adopt. Nepal is located at a favorable latitude that receives abundant sunlight for majority days of the year. Solar energy is a sustainable energy option that is being explored as a viable solution around the world. Having identified the immense potential to cater to the country’s energy requirement through solar solutions without disrupting the ecology of our rich flora and fauna, exploring renewable energy solutions through Ujjwal Energy came naturally to Panchakanya’s vision for growth.

Rohit Ranjitkar, Country Director of Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust, mentions how several elements we view as decorative elements have essential functional purposes. The horizontal wooden beams running across the exterior walls that are often crafted in the form of ‘naagas’ or serpents help brace the structure. Ranjitkar says that in his conservation experience of nearly three decades he has witnessed an exact method and sequence in place even in the iconography, “The ashtha-bhairab and ashtha-maatrikas, for instance, that we view as part of temple designs are in no way randomly placed – each deity is symbolic and has an exact space designated to them depending on their prowess and purpose.”

The multiple-plinths that comprise the platforms that important temples stand on is another example of how intuitive older architecture was of their natural setting and the resulting requirements. Kayastha sees this example as a reflection of how beautifully the architects of the past blended geographical and cultural requirements. She explains that there is ample geological evidence that substantiates the mythology of the Valley having been a lake in pre-historic era.

This archaic lake left behind fertile soil that allowed civilizations to flourish because of agricultural bounty. However, the moisture of the soil is disadvantageous to architecture.

quotequote Multi-plinth platforms were an ingenious feature that minimized problems of dampness that could result in rotting of wood that comprised the very skeleton of the buildings. These raised platforms also provided a towering grandeur to these important temples that worked wonderfully to emphasize the value of the deities residing in the temples. Swosti Rajbhandari Kayastha, Lecturer, Lumbini Buddhist University

These examples highlight the practicality behind the adoption of architectural elements that have come to be recognized as typically Nepali in style. This intuitive outlook of understanding and responding to requirements both geographical and social-cultural is as relevant to us today as it was then. Our requirements change to match our evolving lifestyles, and solutions need to match these needs. In the past years there has been a drastic shift towards the use of ground water for household requirements. The problem of rusting of plumbing lines surfaced as a resulting problem of this trend. This prompted the introduction of updated plumbing and water delivery solutions adopted globally to the Nepali market. PPR pipes were introduced by Panchakanya to replace the traditional Galvanized Iron pipes with an option that is cost efficient, durable due to its non-corrosive quality and provides ease of installation. Similarly, the need for upgraded quality of hot water supply specific plumbing was met with the pioneering solution of Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC) pipes and fittings to provide the Nepali market with an option that offers better resistance to hot water and exhibits fire-retardant properties.

Driven by Resilience

The Durbar Squares that are a reflection of our historic urban society are ensembles that were built over more than three centuries by several generations. “This ensemble reflects layers of knowledge that has been accumulated over time as a result of adopting tried and tested approaches,” says Ranjitkar.

The structures in these Durbar Square ensembles date as far back as 16th century. These structures have withstood weathering and degradation caused by natural elements over centuries as well as the effects of natural calamities. There is recorded history of earthquakes in Nepal since 1310 Bikram Sambat or 1255 AD, and ten major earthquakes in the region have been recorded since. Several constructions were made incorporating lessons from disasters that the urban society then witnessed in their lifetimes. The palace complexes in the three durbar squares are interpreted as an example of adapting to this seismic prone nature of the region. The Malla era of 12th to mid-18th century AD that saw the construction of five-story tall temples, constructed royal residential palaces of only two stories of under six and half feet in height with walls of not less than three feet in thickness probably as a measure of resilience to seismic tremors.

“There are several structural elements that were additions in later structures like the decorative horizontal bracing panel that is characteristic of structures only from the latter centuries of the ensemble,” shares Ranjitkar who sees this evolution in structural elements as learning and adapting solutions that were tested through natural weathering and even calamities. “There is so much we still do not know about the science and quality behind traditional methods. There should be research done into the structural elements that gave specific heritage structures resilience – Nyatapola for instance is among our tallest temples and it has withstood the two major earthquakes in our recent history!”

quotequoteNyatapola survived the two major earthquakes of 1934 and 2015. This five-tiered marvel is worthy of study so we can understand what elements give it its resilience and strength.– Rohit Ranjitkar, Country Director KVPT

Some of the prominent heritage temples that survived the 2015 earthquake

It is intriguing that the fundamentals of heritage structures give a sense of intuitive use of available material and innovative technology to add resilience to seismic action that the region has always been prone to. “The extensive use of wood especially in the skeletal and support system of these structures in the form of pillars and beams, supporting each other on what we know globally as ‘mortise and tenon joints’. All joints and hinges were made of wood with calculative precision giving these structures the advantage of flexibility and ability to sway without falling apart,” explains Kayastha.

The principal use of these wooden joints in the structural skeleton and the fact that structures have survived these earthquakes is also a reflection of the precision and accuracy with which these structural woodworks have been crafted as even slight disproportion in these fixtures can cause the wood to split or break.


Resilience was important then, and it is important now. We are still prone to seismic activity and the 2015 earthquake was a reminder that resilience requires priority. The importance of strength and durability in construction is even more pertinent for a geological setting like ours.

Construction companies have responded to the lessons from the recent earthquake with solutions specific to earthquake resilience. While Panchakanya’s response was introducing Light Gauge Steel which is a preferred material for construction in seismic zones, resilience has been a driver of product development from earlier on.


In 2002, Panchakanya made the landmark shift in Nepal’s construction sector by introducing Thermo Mechanically Treated (TMT) Steel. TMT technology was adopted to replace Cold Twisted Rebar steel to produce bars of greater strength and ductility used to construct stronger and safer buildings. “When we introduced TMT, there was a reluctance to use the product due to lack of awareness about the newer technology. The idea was to make available a globally tried and tested product as a better quality solution compared to what was available in the Nepali market,” shares Ujjwal Shrestha, Executive Director at Panchakanya. Today TMT is the standard technology for production of steel bars as well as the standard steel used in constructions across the country.

Slide to view an inspired approach

The use of ingenious methods like the wooden joints and several other functional structural elements were responses to the demands of our natural setting.

The introduction of Structured Steel was an inspired attempt to respond to a very critical demand of our natural setting that the 2015 earthquake was a reminder of – material and technology customized for construction in seismic prone regions.

The Quality Obsession

Much of the credit for the resilience to time and nature in heritage structures goes to stringent quality control. Wood was sourced from forests by experts to ensure exact requirement of maturity. Sal trees native to warmer regions were sourced for their quality of strength and durability and utilized for the construction of structural elements like pillars, struts and beams. Particular kinds of mud were sourced for and used only for specific purposes respective to their qualities. For instance, dark gray, silt-mixed mud was used in terraces for water proofing and Kaali mati or black mud was used to line ponds.

Heritage sites reveal nearly 30-40 varieties in quality and type of bricks used for specific purposes. Bricks are known to have been produced in close proximity to the construction site itself to ensure strict quality control. The bricks with shiny surface called daci appa in Newari is a typical feature of external walls found in heritage structures. Bonapace and Sestini elaborate in their study that these bricks have very thin joints for not only aesthetic but technical reasons as well since they ensure resistance against water penetration that they are exposed to during monsoon rains.

“The ancient hand-made bricks baked in traditional wood fire kilns are much sturdier than bricks mass produced today with advanced technology and temperature controlled furnaces,” says Ranjitkar. He explains that during his work with GTZ several tests were carried out here as well as in laboratories in Germany to reveal the elements that contribute to the strength of these ancient bricks. “Unfortunately these studies were all in vain as we were unable to decipher the exact composition of these bricks. So we still don’t know what quality of ingredients and preparation techniques used that gave these bricks their durability and strength,” he shares. The exactitude of composition might be vague but what is clear is that choice of material be it brick, mud or wood – quality dictated the choice and purpose of material use. This lesson of quality driving choice is pertinent to us today. While our local market provides a variety of material and products, the aware choice of choosing quality certified products produced through updated technology dictates durability, performance and even direct effect on our quality of life.

quotequoteWhat we invest in improving quality by updating techniques is what we will reap as consumer trust and a brand reputation for obsessive quality control.- Prem Bahadur Shrestha, Chairman, Panchakanya Group

Quality is determined by both material as well as techniques. Adapting better and updated techniques is important if we want better results. But changing from existing and prevailing standards to choosing new techniques that offer better quality and efficiency is a matter of changing people’s perspective and creating awareness.

That is the uphill battle Panchakanya faced with Ready-Mix Concrete (RMC) since its introduction in 2006. RMC was introduced to update the existing space-, material- and labor- intensive practices of preparing concrete for construction. A drastic change in technique, for nearly seven years, the battle was to change mind sets to adopt a more efficient and better quality approach to construction. It is only in the last five years that Nepali market has accepted its benefits and several RMC units have sprung up across Nepal to cater to the demand created by Panchakanya’s pioneering approach of introducing RMC and raising awareness of a more efficient technique.

Quality has also underpinned Panchakanya’s introduction of Stainless Steel or SS tanks though the company had the license to produce the prevalent synthetic black tanks. Stainless steel tanks have been the preferred option for liquid storage because of its quality and are widely used in dairies, breweries, pharmaceutical industries as well as in the hospitality sector. In an attempt to provide a better alternative to the prevalent plastic tanks, food grade Stainless Steel Tanks were made available for water storage in households as the more hygienic and corrosion resistant option. Since the product’s introduction there has been gradual awareness among people of the benefits and there has been a notable shift towards the adoption of SS Tanks. Panchakanya has not only met the growing local demand but also gone on to export SS Tanks to India.

Nepal’s current requirements and changing needs

Our heritage construction approach has been that of intuitiveness towards socio-cultural and geographic setting. There is much we can learn from our heritage for how we approach construction today. We need to build with an intuitive understanding of our natural setting as well as our changing lifestyle patterns. We were and continue to be prone to seismic action – so resilience should be priority. Other conditions, however, change to correspond to our evolving patterns of urbanization, infrastructure development and internal migration.

For instance, uncertainty in the government’s water supply has resulted in many households resorting to the underground water-table as primary source of water. Depleting forests mean that alternative to wood will be required in constructions. Exponentially increasing energy demand for a developing Nepal’s growth will mean sustainable energy options will need to be explored. Understanding our evolving needs can drive a more intuitive approach towards construction solutions as our heritage architecture reflects. The construction of our present times needs to reflect these changes that come from our evolving lifestyles.

Panchakanya is a Nepali company that understands these natural and lifestyle-driven evolving needs of Nepali people and intuitively develops products with quality and relevant updated technology at the heart of their vision.

For nearly 50 years now, Panchakanaya Group has been pioneering these innovative, upgraded and advanced quality solutions in the Nepali market. Among the numerous products that Panchakanya manufactures, several products have been novel introductions to the Nepali market in an attempt to provide updated, tried-and-tested solutions adopted globally either to cater to the changing needs of Nepali people or as solutions towards minimizing disaster risk that our geographic setting makes us prone to.

Panchakanya stepped into the construction material industry through a need-driven design. The company’s first industrial venture was set up in 1971 in the form of a rice mill in Jhapa. The perimeter needed to be secured with a boundary wall and since there were no brick kilns in the region, Panchakanya began producing bricks. Their journey since has been dictated by providing unique solutions for changing requirements of Nepali people. In its near five-decade journey, Panchakanya has expanded to more than ten industries. From introducing TMT steel, PVC pipes, Ready-mix Concrete to Structure Steel, Panchakanya has pioneered several solutions to cater to either changing requirements or upgraded quality by updating techniques.

Initiated by Prem Bahadur Shrestha’s vision that was inspired by an ingenious outlook characteristic of our history, Panchakanya continues to grow by providing quality driven and adaptive technology solutions to cater to Nepal’s distinctive requirements. Our history has been one of adapting to the requirements of the time and giving quality the utmost importance. We need to apply the very same principles to how we approach construction today – understand our natural setting as well as our changing requirements, and adopt solutions of prime quality to cater to these needs. Panchakanya is determined to extend this Nepali heritage of an innovative outlook to construction by addressing Nepal’s current needs as well as striving to cater to evolving needs of our future by providing quality made-in-Nepal products that Nepali people deserve.

quotequoteHeritage architecture is proof that Nepali people themselves have produced quality driven and highly advanced solutions to cater to the requirements of the time. That is what we strive to work towards - a Nepali company providing made-in-Nepal solutions driven by quality and innovation- Prem Bahadur Shrestha, Chairman, Panchakanya Group