Bhaktapurlocally known by Khwopais world renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture and indigenous lifestyle. For its majestic monuments, colorful festivals and the native Newars best known for their long history of craftsmanship, the ancient city is also variously known as the "City of Culture", the "Living Heritage" and "Nepals Cultural Gem". Given such unequaled opulence in ancient art and culture, Bhaktapur is more like an open museum, and the ambiance here is such that it instantly transports visitors back by centuries the moment they step into its territory.
Bhaktapur has its gem in the Durbar Squarea World Heritage site listed by the UNESCO. Strewn with unique palaces, temples and monasteries best admired for their exquisite artworks in wood, metal and stone, the palatial enclave has bewitched pilgrims and travelers for centuries. Yet, they are not all though. Adding to the mesmerizing environs is the holy Himalaya that makes the backdrop of the city. Stretching all along the township, the panoramic Himalaya levitates in the skyline as if to keep vigilance on the citys enviable beauty and splendor.
Bhaktapur, at 1,401 meters above sea level, spreads over an area of 6.88 square kilometers. It grows from a collection of villages strung along the old trade route between India and Tibet. The capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom till the 15th century AD, Bhaktapur was founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla, but it was only in the early 18th century that this city took its present shape. It was at that time that many of Bhaktapurs greatest monuments were built by the then Malla rulers.
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Monumental masterpieces in Bhaktapur are innumerable, and each is more attractive than the other. Mostly terra-cotta structures supported by carved wooden columns, elaborately carved struts, windows and doors, gilded roofs and pinnacles, open spacious courts all around and, above all, the fascinating divine images presiding over the monumentmany edifices have many things in common, yet their varied shape, size and designs make the one even more wondrous than the other. Furthermore, each of their components reflects the religious belief, social outlook and the economic status of the builders, and the monuments in all carry along a rich artistic tradition of the native Newars.
In Bhaktapur, visitors confront a smaller or larger monument almost at every ten or twenty steps. Perhaps stunned by the clusters of monuments, a visitor in the past had admired the Kathmandu Valley, saying that "every other building (in the Valley) is a temple and every other day a festival". The proportion, owing to continual external invasions and natural calamities, might have changed over centuries, yet the presence of variously shaped and sized monuments in Bhaktapur is still awe-inspiring. The world-famous Nyataponla Temple, Bhairavnath Temple, Taleju Temple, 55-Window Palace, Golden Gate, Golden Faucet, Big Bell, Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple, Dattatreya Temple, Peacock Window, Taja Math, Pujari Math, Wakupati Narayan Temple, Nava Durga Temple, Chandeswori Temple, Barahi Temple, Bharbacho Gate, Terra-cotta Windows and Nepals largest Shiva Lingum at Hanumanghat, and such historic ponds as Ta-Pukhu, Na-Pukhu, Bhajya-Pukhu and Bahre-Pukhu (Kamal Pokhari) are simply a few among many that embellish the citys brick- and stone-paved squares, courtyards and open fields. Besides, the presence of a great many Buddhist monuments, many of them rubbing shoulders with Hindu shrines, simply reaffirms the age-old Nepalese tradition of social harmony and religious tolerance among its peace-loving populace. Because of this time-tested tradition, Bhaktapurs well known Lokeswor Mahavihar, Prasannasheel Mahavihar, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Jaya Kirti Mahavihar, Sukra-varna Mahavihar, Dipanker Mahavihar and many other Buddhist shrines have been the places of esteem and adoration for the Hindus alike.
CULTURE & FESTIVALS
The cultural traditions of Bhaktapur are no less glorious than its artistic masterpieces. The ancient ritual dances and festivals here are observed with the same fervor and enthusiasm as they were centuries ago. Consequently, the city is still a venue for a great many festivals and cultural dances, many of them as unique as the city itself. While Bhaktapurs Gai-Jatra (July/August) and the tantrically-inspired Nava Durga Dance (October-June), which is comprised of the citys protectress deities, are the "only ones of their kinds" in Nepal, the Biska Jatra (April), one of Nepals greatest and most exciting festivals, is the only such event observed according to the official solar calendar.
Besides the physical monuments and cultural festivities, the Newars of Bhaktapur have also inherited a long history of craftsmanship. It is here where visitors can have rare close-up views of Nepals master craftsmen giving continuity to their time-honored traditions of art. In its two famed Pottery Squares, they can see potters giving shape to lumps of clay on their traditional wooden wheels. Besides, they also encounter the citys well-acclaimed artisans who, with their wondrously skilled hands, produce a great variety of handicrafts. Bhaktapurs indigenous handicraft varieties include paubha scroll paintings, papier-mâché masks, cotton cloth, woodcarvings, metalwork, jewelry and ceramic products. In addition, the home-spun haku-patasi (black sari), black cap and the delicious Juju-dhau, literally the "King of all yogurt varieties", have also made this city a favored spot for tourists and the Nepalese alike.
For Bhaktapur and its tradition-loving locals, having monuments and culture alone is not all. For them, preservation of the mankinds shared glories is as much important as the creation of new ones. Keeping this in mind, Bhaktapur Municipality has launched an ambitious campaign for the purpose. In this course, the local body so far has carried out massive restoration of the Nyataponla and Bhairavnath temples, Ta-Pukhu (Siddha Pokhari), the Bhandarkhal Complex, and many other monuments of both religious and archeological importance. Now on the anvil of the municipality are the undertakings involving the rehabilitation of the Taleju Temple Complex, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple and the 55-Window Palace. In addition, the upkeep of the streets and squares will continue as it had in the past. The most notable part of all these conservation efforts is the active participation of the locals as well as the visiting tourists. While the locals on their part contribute with their labor and skills, tourists do the same through their moral and monetary support.
Bhaktapur Municipalitys commitment to the preservation and promotion of the city and its glorious traditions of art and culture also has taken shape into the legendary Bhaktapur Festival 1997. Organized by the local body for five consecutive days, from October 22 to 26, 1997, the mega eventthe first and biggest of its kind ever held in Nepalhad been instrumental in promoting not only Bhaktapur, but also the whole nation in the international arena.
Effortful of realizing its noble objectives, Bhaktapur Municipality has also enforced a ban on vehicles in the Durbar Square. Effective since 1992, the law forbids heavy vehicles from getting into the city core and all kinds of automobiles into the palatial enclave. Because of the municipalitys endeavors and cooperation from the local citizens, Bhaktapur today is Nepals one of the least polluted urban areas, besides being the countrys best preserved city.
Given the historic citys artistic and cultural riches combined with the unspoilt natural atmosphere all around it, a visit to Bhaktapur will sure to become an experience of a lifetime for many. A quiet stroll down the citys tranquil streets not only take them into a drastically different socio-cultural environment, but also help them explore a glorious dimension of human civilization that is Bhaktapur.
Bhaktapurs Durbar Square is the gem not only of Bhaktapur, but also of the entire nation. The most fascinating structure here is the world-renowned 55-Window Palace. The elaborately carved windows and doors are something that visitors simply cannot help admiring. The seat of royalty before 1769 AD, the building now houses the National Art Gallerythe museum better known for its rich collection of paubha scroll paintings and breathtaking artworks in stone.
The world famous Golden Gate rubs shoulders with the 55-Window Palace. An unparalleled specimen of repousse art dating back to 1756 , it is the entrance to the marvelous Taleju Temple Complex. Getting into it leads to a number of artistica-lly designed chowks (courtyards) including the Royal Bath, which is adorned with the well-admired Golden Faucet among others.
Another artwork that unfailing-ly bewitches visitors in the Square is the Big Bell. Big enough to match its name, the bell was erected by Ranajit Malla (r. 1722-1769), Bhaktapurs last Malla king. It was used in those days for paying homage to Goddess Taleju, the lineage deity of Malla rulers, as well as to call assemblies of the citizens to discuss on given subjects concerning the state. Today, it is rung twice a day as a mark of tribute to the goddess. Right next to it is a smaller Barking Bell. To ones surprise, all dogs around it start whining the moment it is rung by its caretaker.
The Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple equally adds to the Squares unparallaled beauty. Named after its builder king, Yaksha Malla (r. 1428-82), the two-storied pagoda was constructed after Kathmandus world famous Pashupatinath temple. It is noted for its wooden struts full of erotic carvings.
Other notable monuments in and around the historic Durbar Square are: the octagonal Chyasin Mandap, Siddhi Laxmi Temple, Shiva Temple (Fasi-dega), Vatsala Temple, Bhandarkhal Complex, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Indrayani Temple, Balakhu Ganesh Temple, Tripura-sundari Temple and the Char Dham symbolizing the four greatest Hindu pilgrimage sites.
The Nyataponla Temple presides over the Taumadhi Square. Dating back to 1702 AD, the colossal five-storied edifice is the countrys tallest pagoda temple. The struts, doors, windows and tympanumseach embellished with attractively carved divine figuresperfectly portray the creative tradition of Newar craftsmen. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Siddhi Laxmi, the manifestation of female force and creativity. The latest major renovation of this monument was carried out in 1997 AD by Bhaktapur Municipality using the revenue it collected from tourists.
Next to the Nyataponla Temple is the rectangular shaped Bhairavnath Temple. It houses a gilded bust of Bhairav, the ferocious manifestation of Lord Shiva. The three-storied pagoda was razed to the grounds by the 1934-earthquake, and its latest renovation was undertaken by Bhaktapur Municipality in 1995 AD.
The enclosed complex facing the Nyataponla Temple is dedicated to Tilmadhav Narayan, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, who is one of the Supreme Triumvirate of Hindu pantheon. A few steps ahead it, to the southwest, lies the famous Pottery Square, where visitors can see the citys well-known potters making variously shaped and sized earthenware. The major monumental highlight of this square is a temple of Jeth Ganesh, which dates back to the 14th century.
The Dattatreya Square is Bhaktapurs third dazzling gem. The seat of royalty till the 15th century, the area still houses a great number of historic monuments including many wondrous Maths (residential mansions) and temples.
The Dattatreya Temple is the main attraction of the Square. Constructed by King Yaksha Malla, the giant three-storied temple is believed to have been built with the stem of a single tree. Having defied series of calamities, it still bears testimony to the incredible achievement made in those regal days of the Nepalese history.
The Wane Layaku complex, which lies to the south-western corner of the Dattatreya temple, is noted for Bhaktapurs second Taleju shrine. Enclosed with old houses, the courtyard sees throngs of people, especially during the Mohani (Dashain) festival, when a rare Ghau-batacha (Water Clock) is put on public display. During the Malla Era, the water-clock was used by the then rulers and astrologers for fixing "propitious moments" for commencing and concluding various state and social ceremonies.
The Peacock Window, which is also called the "Mona Lisa of Nepal", is a rare masterpiece in wood. Dating back to the early 15th century, the unique latticed window has an intricately carved peacock in its center. The window adorns the Pujari Math which, with rows of exquisitely carved windows and doors, is equally appealing. The building presently houses the Woodcarving Museum. The museum has a rich collection of unique pieces in wood.
The Brass & Bronze Museum, housed in the historic Chikanpha Math, is the next highlight of the Square. It has a wide collection of bronze and brasswares including the ritual jars, utensils, water vessels, pots, spittoons and similar other household items.
Near the Dattatreya Square is the Wakupati Narayan Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the two-storied structure is a unique specimen of pagoda architecture. Next to it is Bhaktapurs second Pottery Square.
Besides Bhaktapurs three well-acclaimed
Squares, there are many other spots within the expanse where visitors can experience a lot
more. The recently-restored Ta-Pukhu (Siddha Pokhari), Ancha-Pukhu, Khancha-Pukhu,
Barahi Temple, Lokeswor Mahavihar, Nava Durga Temple, the Terra-cotta
Windows at Tuchhimala and Nepals largest Shiva Lingum at Hanumanghat are
some of Bhaktapurs monumental glories which tourists visiting this ancient city
simply do not like to miss.
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