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Sight Seeing In Nepal : Kathmandu Patan & Bhaktapur

Kritipur

KATHMANDU CITY
Kathmandu, the capital city is the largest and most exciting city in Nepal. It is also the cultural capital with several Hindu and Buddhist festival being celebrated every month. This historic city abounds in a wealth of artistic creations several centuries old. The temples, stupas and old palaces are works of art displaying woodcraft, metal craft and architectural wonders second to none in the world.

Places to visit in Kathmandu
Pashupatinath, the holiest of Shiva shrines attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year both from India as well as from within Nepal. It lies only a two-minute drive away from the International airport. The holy Bagmati river flows immediately below. This is where most Hindus in the valley cremate their dead.

Boudhanath, one of the largest stupas in Asia is only fifteen minutes away from Pashupatinath by car. This is the most important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from all over the world. Many Buddhist monasteries surround the stupa and a large Buddhist community lives here.

Swayambhunath, the second stupa of importance lies west of the city perched on a hill overlooking the capital. The history of this stupa goes back to the time of the creation of Kathmandu valley. It is believed that the boddhisatva ‘Manjushri’ arrived from Tibet and with one stroke of his magical sword cut open a path for the lake waters to flow out of the valley. Kathmandu was a huge lake until then. The opening of the Chobar Gorge enabled the water to drain giving birth to one of the most fertile valleys in the world.

Durbar Square (durbar=palace) is a must see. It is a trip back to the past, when Malla Kings and then Shah Kings ruled the valley. The exquisite woodcarvings, the unique architecture and sheer splendour of the palace buildings and temples leave one in awe.

But Kathmandu also boasts of four casinos (open 24 hrs), several discotheques, restaurants serving international cuisine and five- star hotels that meet international standards. Freak Street where once hippies lived in stoned out bliss is worth a visit. Pashupatinath, Boudhanath, Swayambhunath and Durbar Square are all World Heritage Sites.

PATAN
Patan also known as Lalitpur (city of artisans) lies five kilometers southeast of Kathmandu and is even today the center of art. This ancient city still retains the old architectural charms of a bygone era. The art of metal craft has been kept alive and metal workers can be seen in all parts of the city. Patan has a predominantly Newari population of which some are Buddhists while the rest are Hindus. The Newars are the original inhabitants of Kathmandu valley and were master builders and exceptional craftsmen, taking their craft as far as China during the reign of Kublai Khan. Their masterpieces can be seen even today.

The most notable rulers of Patan, which was an independent kingdom before the invasion by the Shah dynasty, were the Malla kings. During the reign of these Malla kings, art and culture flourished and much of what is seen today belong to the Malla era. Most of the beautiful architectural creations found here date back to the 18th century.

Places to visit in Patan

Durbar Square The Patan Durbar Square, a World Heritage Site is an architectural wonder and the highlight of the city tour. The palace complex along with the brick and stone temples are outstanding works of art. Among these the Krishna temple is unique and also the most important culturally. Built completely of stone, it has entire Krishna related legends carved in friezes on its façade.

The Royal Palace occupies the entire eastern side of this large Square and is well worth visiting. Most of what is seen today was built around the 17th and 18th centuries by Malla kings. The exquisite woodcarvings, superb metal works and unique architecture are an art lovers delight.

The Patan Museum, which has been renovated in recent times houses a fascinating collection of cast bronze and gilt copper work depicting Hindu and Buddhist deities. The galleries display interesting photographs of Patan at the turn of the century. The other temples worth visiting are the Golden temple, Kumbeshwar temple and Mahabouddha temple (temple of the thousand Buddhas). The Jawalakhel Zoo lies within Patan and holds an interesting collection of animals and exotic birds. Jawalakhel is also famous for its carpet center.

BHAKTAPUR

Bhaktapur literally means “city of devotees” and is the most fascinating of the three cities of the valley. Once known as Bhadgaon it was an independent kingdom ruled by the benevolent Malla kings until the Gorkha conquest. Farming and pottery are the major occupations of these simple Newari people. Their simple way of life has been little influenced by the trappings of modern living. Every morning and evening there are devotional songs sung at the temples in this city of devotees who religiously visit temple after temple. Being in Bhaktapur is akin to taking a step back in time.

Only 14 km east of Kathmandu, this city seems far removed from modernization. With traffic only a trickle within the inner city there is an aura of peace and the citizens live in harmony. Hindus predominate but there are many Buddhist monasteries worth visiting.

Places to visit in Bhaktapur

Durbar Square The Bhaktapur Durbar Square, also a World Heritage Site is less cluttered than its counterparts. The west side is dominated by the palace, which also houses the National Museum (worth visiting). Tremendous amount of renovation work has been carried out in Bhaktapur and the most remarkable piece of restoration is the eight-sided Chyasalin Mandap, which was rebuilt from scratch. The most talked about piece of metal craft here is the tympanum of the Golden Gate leading to the sacred Taleju temple. King Bhupatindra Malla’s bronze statue on a stone column faces the palace.

Taumadhi Square & Dattatreya Square The other important squares are the Taumadi square and Dattatreya square. The former is dominated by the five storied pagoda style Nyatapola temple, which is the tallest in the country. Next to it lies the important Bhairavnath temple. At the Dattatreya square, the Dattatreya temple stands at the center with the Woodcarving Museum and Bronze and Brass Museums at its flanks.

Around here are also seen the Maths (monasteries for Hindu priests) which now house museums and woodcraft shops. These old buildings have exquisitely carved windows.

Changu Narayan & Singi Binayak Temples From Bhaktapur the Changu Narayan temple, which is the oldest in the valley, is worth a visit. Only twenty-five minutes away by car, this temple from the Lichhavi era and built around the 4th cent. A.D. is perched on a hill overlooking the valley. Some fine stone sculptures can be seen here. The other temple of interest lies barely ten minutes drive away from the city. This is the Singi Binayakl temple dedicated to the elephant-headed Hindu God Ganesh.

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