Beyond the urban milieu of the three ancient cities of the Kathmandu Valley, theres a wealth of culture and nature waiting to the discovered. Ensconced amidst the lush greenery are magnificent monuments that are specimens of artistic workmanship. The villages and small towns dotting the landscape provide charming glimpses of rural life. The Kathmandu Valley is not very big (about 20 by 25 km), and an explorer can combine a number of locations in a leisurely day trip. Given below are some destinations to make your day:
Panauti is a charming old Newar town which lies to the south of Banepa (26 km to the east of Kathmandu on the Arniko Highway to Tibet). From the Tribhuvan statue at Banepa, a road (7 km) turns right leading to this ancient settlement that still has its traditional characteristics intact. Located at the confluence of the Roshi and Pungamati rivers, Panauti is rich in art and architecture.
Its main attraction is the 13th century Indreswar Mahadev temple, the oldest existing pagoda structure in the country. It enshrines a lingam, the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. The temples carved wooden struts are said to be the best in Nepal.
The confluence is an important pilgrimage site where every 12 years a month-long fair is held. And every year during the Makar Sakranti festival (mid-January), devotees flock here to take a dip in the water. Small temples, shrines, lingas and cremation ghats crowd the auspicious meeting point of the rivers. Across the river is the 17th-century Brahmayani temple, dedicated to the patron goddess of Panauti.
Before the construction of the highway, Panauti was an important trading center on the caravan trade route between Kathmandu and Tibet. The town contains beautiful red brick houses with intricately carved wooden windows as well as a plethora of temples and shrines.
Panauti affords a number of pleasant hikes to nearby places. Namo Buddha, where the Buddha is said to have offered his own flesh to a starving tigress, is four-five hours on foot, while a two-hour stroll takes you to the hill resort of Dhulikhel.
Buses leave regularly for Panauti from Kathmandus bus park at Tundikhel.
Gokarna is highly popular among pilgrims, picnickers and tourists. Situated some 7 km to the northeast of Kathmandu, the sacred site is thronged by Hindus to pay homage to Gokarneswar, or the Shiva of Gokarna.
Those who have lost their fathers in the past year also visit this place on the new moon day in August (August 29 this year) to perform annual rites. There are a number of intricately carved stone images scattered all around the place, the oldest among which is an eighth-century image of Parbati, the consort of Shiva.
In addition to the religious significance, Gokarna is acclaimed for its wildlife and many species of birds. An unpaved road past the Bouddhanath stupa that turns left at Jorpati leads to Gokarna. Although lying close to Kathmandu, this area shows you a different face of the Valley, a face that is rustic and more resplendent.
Another pleasant destination situated just beyond Gokarna is Sundarijal. Sundarijal, which means "pure water", is a beautiful waterfall cascading down from a hill-top. To enjoy the best view, you will have to climb up a long stone stairway. Nearby lies one of the countrys oldest hydro-electric power houses. Besides being a popular picnic spot, Sundarijal is also the starting point for adventurers embarking on the popular Langtang-Helambu trek.
MD Publishing Co.
Tripureswor, P. O. Box 3525, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel: 260327, 256003 . Telex: 2611 EMC NP. Fax: 977-1-261159.
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Last Updated: 24 July, 2000
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