A pair of hand-carved window frames from Bhaktapur, an ancient Newar city in the Kathmandu Valley. They measure 44 x 45.5 cm and are dated to the late 20th century. Woodwork has been part of Nepal’s traditional architecture and wood carvings have graced temples, monasteries, residential homes and palaces since the twelfth century, although the earliest surviving temple decorated with wood carvings, bears the date 1396. Another traditional architectural site, which is believed to have been built as a shelter for travellers in Kathmandu that still stands, was believed to date back to before 1143 but there is no evidence of its true date. In fact, the history of woodcarving in Nepal is older than that.
Woodcarving in Nepal is an excellent example of Newari art. The Newari language comprises of a rich vocabulary of wood carving terms. Each component forms a part of a traditional pattern. Each detail of the craft has a name. The decorative work has to be very precise so that the countless pieces used to make up the pattern fit perfectly, because no glue or nails are used.
Historic sources name a kind of wood called Dhusi or Chasi, meaning in Newari "as strong as a tiger". Today mainly agarth, chapa & sal wood is used, as there is plenty in and around the valley. Wood has been the traditional building material in the Valley not only used to form the heavy framework, which forms the essential part of the structure but beams, struts, pillars and roof supports. All the available wood surfaces on the buildings, including doors, windows, cornices, lintels and brackets are formed and carved into decorative patterns of geometrical, floral, animal and human forms.