Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bhaktapur
Unlike Kathmandu and Patan which are situated close together, the third of the "Royal Cities", Bhaktapur (pop. 70,000), lies some 14 km (81/2 mi.) away, "outside the holy hollow of the Valley" on the old trade route to Tibet.
For Bhaktapur the trade route was both arterial link and major source of wealth. Its relative remoteness allowed the city to develop independently and in ways which distinguish it from the other two. With farmers - some of the best in the Valley - numbered heavily (60 per cent) among its inhabitants, the city is self-supporting.The traditional pattern of Newari urban life survives almost intact in Bhaktapur, and not without reason is it known as the "city of believers". In contrast to Patan and Kathmandu, the population of Bhaktapur is almost entirely Hindu. The rich Newari culture with its distinctive customs and traditions, already fast disappearing in so many places, clearly finds sustenance here. The Newari dialect is widely spoken and many of the older generation still do not know Nepalese. Mainly day tourists visit Bhaktapur, therefore the city profits little from tourism. The inner city has been closed to traffic and a charge of 5 U.S. dollars is made to enter.With so many of its population directly dependent on the land, Bhaktapur has always retained a more rural character than the larger, more urbanized Kathmandu and Patan. Neither the Shahs nor the Ranas made any great effort to modernize it. As a result both the architectural fabric and social structure have to a large extent been preserved. Most of the changes wrought on the city have been caused by the periodic earthquakes (in 1934 70 per cent of its houses were damaged). Few buildings more than 170 years old survive. Bhaktapur's temples have all been rebuilt, some of them several times.Bhaktapur is thought to have originated with the merging of a number of settlements which had grown up in the range of hills along the trade route to Tibet. These communities probably date from the 3rd c. This was the time when people first began to irrigate the land in preparation for agriculture. Several 6th c. inscriptions refer to the nucleus of settlement as being in the Bhaktapur area.The best place from which to begin a tour of the city is Durbar Square where, in addition to the royal palace, several temples are also situated. From Durbar Square a small alleyway at the south-east corner leads to Taumadhi Tole and the Nyapotala and Bhairava temples. The little pagoda in the center of the square contains a restaurant, a comfortable place from which to watch the bustle outside. From Taumadhi Tole a detour can be made to the Hanumante embankments and potters' quarter. Bazaar Street, an ancient thoroughfare with innumerable fascinating little shops and tea stalls, leads to Tachupal Tole, the original center and oldest part of Bhaktapur. Here, walking around the Upper Town, the visitor will find a plethora of temples, shrines, cisterns and fountains and catch an intriguing glimpse of Nepalese life much of which is played out on the streets and in the squares.
Like Kathmandu, Bhaktapur boasts a markedly older settlement nucleus in the eastern part of the Upper Town, centered around what was once the fork in the trade route to Tibet and the eastern Himalayas. Here are found not only numerous bahals but also the oldest shrines in the city. Between the clusters of houses huddling close together are large rectangular open spaces, aligned with the points of the compass and linked by an irregular network of streets. Much of Newari everyday life, from washing clothes to playing games in the evening, is carried on in these "squares", among fountains, temples and shrines.
The Lower Town, to the south of the palace, is laid out quite differently, the S-shaped country road which follows the ridge forming a spine from which side-streets branch off like ribs. The only squares here are Durbar Square (Palace Square) and Taumadhi Tole (Temple Square). In contrast to the corresponding areas of Kathmandu and Patan, these two squares do not comprise a single coherent unit. Not only are they on different levels but, being linked by nothing more than a narrow alleyway, are not even visually connected. Since none of the buildings in the Lower Town exceeds the palace in age, historians assume it to have developed through systematic expansion of the older Upper Town.
Bhaktapur's Durbar Square is filled with religious, historical, and architectural treasures, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Areas of the palace date back to the 14th C.
Tachupal Tol (Dattatraya Square)
The route from Taumadhi Tole to Hanumante Ghat passes the Candi Bhagavati Temple. The small open shrine is of no great age but the site on which it stands has long been in use. There are several interesting 14th c. sculptures including the religious symbol - a relief of Durga (Bhagavati) slaying Candi and Munda - a Uma Maheshvara stele and a dancing Ganesh.
Nava Durga Mandir
Nava Durga Mandir, a squat, two-storied building adjoining an enclosed courtyard, is the principal shrine of the nine Durgas (depicted in the carving of the toranas). Painted masks worn for the Dance of the Goddesses at the Dasain Festival are kept on the first floor. Unlike other masks these are venerated throughout the year, being lavished with animal sacrifices.
Potters' Square lies at the heart of the potters' district, south of the palace precinct. Here the potters ply their craft, some on open verandas, others out on the street. The pots are thrown on wheels and sun dried before being offered for sale.A pipal tree on the little hill on the north side of the square shades a small shrine to Ganesh.There are two more temples on the square, one dedicated to Vishnu, the other, with two stories, to Jeth Ganesh. The Jeth Ganesh Temple was built in 1646 by a wealthy potter; its priest is always a potter.
Vakupati Narayana Mandir
This small two-storied temple to Vishnu, hidden away in a courtyard, acquired its present appearance and unusual metalwork in 1638. One of the four statues of Garuda dates from 1408.
Hanumante Ghat (ghat, ceremonial embankment) was created during the reign of Jagat Prakasha Malla (1644-73). Being the setting for a variety of important religious ceremonies and rites, a vast assortment of monuments, chaityas, statues, lingams and reliefs have been erected. They include numerous images of Hanuman the monkey god, who is said to have rested here on his way south from the Himalayas. The Hanumante has been renovated in five places, the pithas replaced and six bridges built.
A huge 9th c. figure of Uma Maheshvara testifies to the great age of Chupin Ghat (south of Taumadhi Tole), one of the oldest of Bhaktapur's religious sites. The temple itself dates only from the 19th c. when a flurry of riverside building saw four shivalayas (temple complexes) with numerous sattals (meeting houses) constructed on Mangal Ghat and Chupin Ghat.
Changunarayan & Changu Narayan Temple
Thought to be the oldest temples in the Kathmandu Valley, Changu Narayan has a history that traces back to the 4th C. Following fires and earthquakes, the temple has been rebuilt and enriched over the centuries.
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