BHAKTAUR: Located about 20 km east of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’, the ‘City of Culture’, the ‘Living Heritage’, and ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The others are Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and Patan.
Bhaktapur is filled with monuments, most terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs, open courtyards. The city is dotted with pagodas and religious shrines.
Lying along the ancient trade route between India and Tibet, Bhaktapur is surrounded by mountains and provides a magnificent view of the Himalayas.
Founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla (according to various chronicles), 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 last three Malla rulers of Bhaktapur were Jitamitra Malla, Bhupatindra Malla, and Ranjit Malla. These rulers played key roles in building the palaces and temples of Durbar Square.
In 1744, Prithvi Narayan Shah, descendent of Dravya Shah, who was the founder of the Gorkha dynasty, began a conquest march in the Kathmandu Valley, capturing and unifying Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, and the smaller towns of the Valley under one rule.
After a period of instability and a bloody coup in 1846, Jang Bahadur Kunwar Ranaji took control of Nepal. His Rana dynasty ruled Nepal until 1951, when the Congress Party formed a new government. In 1960, King Mahendra took control, banned political parties, and instituted land reforms. Political turmoil continued throughout the late 20th century.
In 1934, a major earthquake destroyed over 2,000 houses and severely damaged over 2,000 more homes. Over 1,000 people died in this quake. Restoration of many buildings was undertaken over the years, including efforts funded by West Germany in the late 1980’s and by the U.S. in the 1990’s.
Bhaktapur is filled with Hindu and Buddhist religious sites and art. Although the population is primarily Hindu, there are nineteen Buddhist monasteries (Vihars). At Indra Varna Madavihar, built in 1671 and located between Durbar Square and Dattatraya Square, visitors can see two lion statues, a Patinga Hiti (water spout), Tantric wood-carved windows, and prayer wheels.
There are also many Buddhist monuments and shrines, including Lokeswor Mahavihar, Prasannasheel Mahavihar, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Jaya Kirti Mahavihar, Sukra-varna Mahavihar, Dipanker Mahavihar.
Many festivals are celebrated throughout the year to mark the seasons, pay tribute to gods, and remember historical and legendary events. A few of these are:
* Dashain, the longest festival of the year, lasting 15 days. This festival honors the goddess Devi Durga, who is said to have slain the demon Durga, son of Ruru. Celebrants perform many pujas (offerings) during this festival, including thousands of animal sacrifices. (September/October)
* Gai-Jatra, the Cow Festival. This festival focuses on families in bereavement. Every family who lost a relative in the past year participates in a procession with a cow or a young boy dressed as a cow. The cow, it is believed, helps the deceased reach heaven. (July/August)
* Bisket Jatra, the Nepalese New Year celebration, in which chariots are pulled through the streets and ultimately a tug of war over them determines who will be blessed with good fortune in the coming year. This celebration is also observed with picnics and other private get-togethers. (April)
* Tihar, the festival of lights, honors Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. The Nepalese light up their homes with candles, oil lamps, and other lights to invite the goddess Laxmi in.
They also worship crows, dogs, and cows during this festival and set aside one day to honor brothers. The Mha puja, a day of revering one’s own body and life, is celebrated on one day of this festival. (October)
* Handicrafts – Tourists can watch potters create works of art in the Pottery Squares. Indigenous (Newar) handicrafts include paubha scroll paintings, papier-mâché masks, cotton cloth, woodcarvings, metalwork, jewelry and ceramic products, haku-patasi (black sari), black caps and Juju-dhau (yogurt).
Bhaktapur is rich in architectural beauty, filled with ancient Hindu and Buddhist religious sites, and palaces and courtyards where tourists can easily spend days absorbing the traditions and culture of the Newars.
Bhaktapur’s Durbar (‘Royal’) Square was added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1979.
Bhaktapur has no deluxe hotels but can accomodate tourists in a total of 130 standard rooms throughout the city. Information on where to stay in Bhaktapur is coming soon…
Tourists arrive in the Kathmandu Valley via Tribhuvan International Airport. Airlines flying into this airport include Royal Nepal Airlines, Aeroflot, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, China South-West Airlines, Druk Air, lndian Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai lnternational.
(From the airport, which lies 5.5 km east of Kathmandu, one can take taxis or buses or rent a car with a driver. One can take them back to Kathmandu from just outside Bhaktapur as well.
Inside the city limits of Bhaktapur, motor vehicles are not allowed. Outside the city limits, buses and taxis are available.
Tourism Mail | 13th January, 2017
Women of Tharu community take out a cultural procession on the eve of Maghi festival, in Inaruwa of Sunsari district, on Friday, January 13, 2017.
Tourism Mail | 28th May, 2018
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