Bhaktapur, The Former Royal State of Nepal

Bhaktapur formerly was a princely state ruled by the Malla Kingdom of Nepal, until it was invaded and annexed by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1744 during his initial unification campaign. Today, it remains one of the major cities in Nepal and a popular tourist destination.


Overview

Bhaktapur or Bhadgaun is an ancient Newari city located 12 km east of Kathmandu. One of the 3 former princely states of Kathmandu valley, Bhaktapur is also known to be the largest among them.

55 windowed palace
55 windowed palace

Due to the historical and archaeological importance of the place, it was enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Newar tribe of people remain the predominant inhabitants of the city. The local architecture and culture signifies that of contemporary Newari art and lifestyle.

The city was hugely damaged by the major earthquake of 2015, along with the tourist site of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Most of the monuments in the durbar square has been renovated or are in the process.

History

Founded in the 12th century by Ananda Malla, Bhaktapur was the capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom until the 15th century and was an independent kingdom from then until the 18th century. The Newari art, cuisine and lifestyle flourished under the Malla regime. The popular religious and public festivals were birthed during the hey day of Bhaktapur. The individual rulers of Lalitpur and Kathmandu city belonged to the same Malla clan and were siblings.

Ranjit Malla was the last king of Bhaktapur. He was a close friend and aide of Prithvi Narayan Shah. The latter invaded and annexed the city during his initial conquest of the entire Kathmandu valley. Afterwards, it came to be known as one of the districts of the unified Nepal.

The most popular delicacy of Kathmandu, Ju Ju Dhau (Curd) was introduced in Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

The former royal complex at the center of Bhaktapur district is known as the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Consisting of a palace, courtyards, historic monuments and numerous temples, the whole complex, along with Kathmandu Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square, were included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

After Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur is the 2nd most visited tourist destination. it suffered a huge loss during the major earthquake of 2015. The renovations have started and going well lately.

Tourist Attractions

  • 55 Windowed Palace -It is a former royal palace of the Malla Kings. It has a total of 55 windows, hence the name 55 Windowed Palace. Today, it serves as the art museum for the  tourists.
  • Golden Gate -A major gate of the palace is entirely made out of gold. It lies just in front of the 55 Windowed palace and acts the main entry point.
  • Lion’s Gate -According to the legend, “This magnificent gate was produced from artisans whose hands were cut off after finishing touch to them by the envious king so that no more of such masterpieces could be produced again.” Today, it serves as one of the major entry points for the durbar square.
  • Mini Pashupati Temple -Similar to the Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu, the Mini Pashupati temple is a major attraction of Bhaktapur
  • Nyatapola Temple -A 5 storied temple, it is located inside the Durbar Square premise, and is one of the major attractions of the area. Despite the huge earthquake in 2015, the temple still stands strong.
  • Bhairav Nath Temple -Dedicated to the God of Terror and Death, Bhairava, it is another major tourist destination. It holds importance among the locals; and devotees sacrifice animal at the temple premise every year.

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The Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world. A sacred place dedicated to Lord Shiva congregates more than 800,00 pilgrims during the grand festival of Maha Shiavratri. It is a popular tourist destination in Kathmandu.


Overview

The term Pashupatinath stands  for “Lords of all animals.” The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva (One of the Hindu Trinity) and also known as the lord of animals. A stone bull in a crouching position marks the insignia of the temple.

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva

It’s located at the heart of Kathmandu. The area of Pashupatinath encompasses 264 hectares of land including 518 temples and monuments. Due to its historical and social importance, the entire site was added in the UNESCO Heritage Site in 1979.

The Maha Shivaratri is the major festival of all Hindus in South Asia which is celebrated with much awe inside Pashupatinath temple premise. It attracts over 800,000 visitors in a single day, one of the highest religious congregations in the world. Thousands of visitors, including; pilgrims, devotees, tourists, visit the temple everyday.

An animal sanctuary was established inside the area to protect the indigenous wildlife of the region. Antelope and other few animals reside inside the sanctuary; and it is open to tourists.

History

There isn’t certain date signifying the origin or creation of the temple. The earliest evidence of the temple dates back to 400 AD. The current temple was constructed or renewed in the 15th Century by the Lichhavi king of Kathmandu. Since, then many renovations have taken place; along with many temples, shrines built inside the premise.

Legends

There are many legends to the creation or origin of the temple.

The Cow Legend suggests,

Lord Shiva once took a form of an antelope and started roaming around Bagmati river. The Gods seeing this, caught him by his horn and forced him to take his self form. The separated horn was revered and prayed as the Linga. Centuries later, a herdsman found the linga buried inside the earth. Sine then, the shrine was established to pray to the Linga.

The Mahabharata Legend suggests,

When the Pandavs went to the Himalayas, Shiva tried avoiding them because they killed many people in during the Mahabharata war. To avoid them, he ran away in the form of a Bull. On being followed, the colossal Bull dived into the ground to resurface at other places. He left his hump at Kedarnath. When he resurfaced, he had assumed a human form and emerged at different areas in these mountains. His Face resurfaced at Rudranath. His Arms resurfaced at Tungnath. His Naval emerged at Madha Maheshwar. His Hair emerged at Kalpeshwar.

There are many other theories to the origin of the temple, which today are part of the popular folklore’s.

Arya Ghat (Crematory)

The banks of Bagmati river passing through the temple also serves as the cremation ground for the locals. Known as Arya Ghat, it is considered important mainly because the Ghat is the only place around the temple where the water is considered sacred enough to be brought into the temple.

You may witness people cremating their family or relatives at the ghat almost everyday. You can visit the site  during Kathmandu Day Tour.


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Kasthamandap – The Lost Heritage of Kathmandu

The Kathmandu city originally got its name from the public shelter located at the center of the city, Kasthamandap. A popular public shelter and a tourist landmark was lost in the major earthquake of 2015.


Overview

Kasthamandap was a three-storied public shelter that included a shrine consecrated to Gorakshanath situated at Hanumandhoka, Kathmandu. The word Kasthamandap literally translates to ‘Wood Shelter’ in English. The landmark was a popular tourist site for ages, until it was destroyed by the earthquake.

It is supposedly known to have been constructed out of a single Sal tree. It first served as a community center where devotees gathered for major religious and cultural ceremonies. Later, it was turned into a temple dedicated to Gorakhnath, a 13th-century ascetic who was subsequently linked to the then royal family.

A central wooden enclosure houses the image of the god, which is noteworthy since Gorakhnath is usually represented only by his footprints. In the corners of the building are four images of Ganesha.

Many street vendors chose the spot to setup their dingy shops due to the constant inflow of visitors. It served as one of the popular tourist landmarks at Hanumandhoka.

History

It was believed to have been constructed in 12th century during the Malla empire. Several myths about the construction of the Kasthamandap Temple have been resolved with the recent archaeological findings. The excavated objects from the destroyed site suggests that it may have been built in around 7th century, during Lichhavi empire.

The construction residue left from the excavation proved vital to link the landmark to 7th century period. The premise idolizes the greater lifestyle and culture of Kathmandu. The usage of wood for major construction and the ornate designs, color and decorations has always been indigenous to the greater Kathmandu inhabitants, Newars.

Destruction

The major earthquake of 2015 shook the entire Nepal with its magnanimous force. Most of the old temples and premises were left completely destroyed.The earthquake caused the casualty of over 8,000 souls.

Kasthamandap along with the surrounding temple and the historical palace were partially or fully destroyed. The reconstruction of the palace and other premises are well under the operation. The site of Kasthamandap remains empty with only the shrine of Gorakhnath.