Kirtipur Tourist Attractions
Kirtipur sits strategically astride a narrow mountain ridge 5 km (3 mi.) south-west of Kathmandu, at a point commanding the old trade route to India. From here there is a magnificent view of Kathmandu. The substantially intact historic town plan indicates one of the oldest Newari settlements in the valley. Kirtipur's fortress was considered impregnable. The Gurkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah laid siege to it three times before finally taking the town and then, it is said, only after it had been betrayed. He exacted terrible revenge for heavy Gurkha losses - his brother was among those killed - by cutting off the nose of every man and boy over the age of 12. Only wind-instrument players were spared - they were required to celebrate his triumph.The line of the old town wall, pierced by 12 gates, is still clearly visible. Most of the townspeople were weavers and farmers, the lower castes living outside the wall. When Tribhuvan University was built below the town, many farmers lost their land and Kirtipur became poor. With a population today of about 35,000, its problems are legion: the roads are covered with rubbish, the water tanks filthy and the houses in deplorable condition.Kirtipur spreads over two hilltops joined by a col. The Chilamchu Stupa crowns the southernmost hill, the Uma Maheshvara Temple the higher, northern one. The Bagh Bhairava Temple is situated at the low point of the saddle. In the southern part of the town are a number of water tanks ensuring plentiful supplies, a testament to the skill of the town's medieval planners.
Erected in its present form in 1509 the Chilamchu Stupa, modeled on a stupa of that name in west Patan, stands on a stepped platform surrounded by four smaller stupas. All five boast statues of the Dhyani Buddhas. At the base of the main stupa, Aksobhya, Buddha of the east, occupies a shrine-like edifice guarded by two small lion figures.A shrine in front of the entrance to the stupa has been split apart by the trunk of a large pipal tree.Some nearby buildings with extremely attractive traditional façades were once part of a bahal completely encircling the stupa. The old temple is located below the stupa on the south side. The torana above the entrance depicts a trio of eight-armed, triple-headed figures arrayed in the manner of Rajput princes, most unusual for Nepal. At the entrance are two stone lions and a bell. Unfortunately the fine wood carving is in a very dilapidated condition.
Bagh Bhairava Mandir
The three-storied Bagh Bhairava Mandir is also unusual. The deity is worshipped in the form of a tiger, the town having been terrorized by one such beast. The king declared it an incarnation of Bhairava and erected the image to placate the god - successfully it is said. The squat 16th c. temple has both wood-carvings and wall paintings, a rare combination in the Kathmandu Valley. The paintings unfortunately are almost unrecognizable. Ancient weapons, reputed to be relics from the Gurkha siege, adorn the upper section of the façade.
To the right of the Bagh Bhairava Mandir stands an interesting sculpture thought to be of Kirtimata, mother of Kirtipur, depicted on her back giving birth to a still unidentified creature. Other sculptures in the vicinity of the temple include the Ashta Matrikas (the eight mother deities) dating from the 3rd or 4th c., and a rare iconic portrayal of Shiva from the 6th c. These survivals from the Licchavi period show the site to be among the oldest in the valley.
Uma Maheshvara Mandir
The three-storied Uma Maheshvara Mandir is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvati. Already situated at the highest point of the town, its dominant position is accentuated still further by a tall stepped platform. Built in 1673 and originally four-storied, the temple was badly damaged by the 1934 earthquake. Insensitively rebuilt there is little worthy of note apart from spectacular views of the Kathmandu Valley.
A recommended detour goes 2 km (11/4 mi.) south-west from Kirtipur to the village of Machhagaon (pronounced Machagau). Here a little shrine stands in an idyllic setting by a pond, from two sides of which clear water flows.
Map of Kirtipur Attractions