Bhaktapur: Nepal’s Medieval Gem

Carving on Nyatapola Temple.
Carving on Nyatapola Temple.

The more we explored Nepal, the more it surprised us. We did not expect much from this country at the very beginning as we heard both good and bad review of such country. Generally, we only knew that Nepal is a well-known land-locked country in South Asia  surrounded by Himalaya Mountains, with Mount Everest as the highest point on earth. Other than that, we just relied on our browsing skill. After getting sick of riding the van downhill  from Nagarkot, voila! we arrived at Bhaktapur, one of the loveliest places in Nepal.

Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur
The golden gate was guarded by Nepali armies. Some are not very friendly but some are very warm to visitors.
The golden gate was guarded by Nepali armies. Some are not very friendly but some are very warm to visitors.

Bhaktapur or was known as Bhadgaon, lies about 20 KM east of Kathmandu, is a preserved ancient city which is listed as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Bhaktapur was Nepal’s capital during the Malla Kingdom, a medieval-great-kingdom, which reigned the Kathmandu Valley territory until the second half of the 15th century. In the past, there were three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The kingdoms are united and currently known as Nepal. One-third of the city was destroyed by earthquake in 1934, therefore several parts are no longer authentic. Nevertheless, we can still get the feel and the chill during our visit. For foreign visitor, you should pay an entrance fee was NRS 1,500 or USD 15 per person. It was quite pricey, but it was worth every penny!

The cozy Cosy Hotel.
The cozy Cosy Hotel.

After we paid the entrance fee, we walked right away go to Cosy Hotel, our place to stay overnight in Bhaktapur. Cosy Hotel is literally cozy and comfy. It lies in the heart of this preserved old city. Not wanting to waste our time there, we walked to see the beauty of the historical buildings right after we dropped our luggage at the hotel though it was already getting dark.

Nyatapola Temple. Do you notice the guards?
Nyatapola Temple. Do you notice the guards?

We visited the Nyatapola Temple, a five-floor-temple, each of its floor is “protected” by different stone-figures consisting of two famous wrestlers on ground floor, two elephants on second floor, two lions on third floor, two griffins on fourth floor, and Baghini and Singhini – the goddesses’ tiger and lion – on fifth floor. It is believed that each figure on each floor is guarding the temple from bad people or enemies. The higher the floor, the stronger the guards (at least so we were told). We also visited the Bhairava Nath Temple and Changu Narayan Temple, which are nearby.

Posing with the wrestler
Posing with the wrestler

 

IMG_4604

Nearby temples, different architecture. The different style shows that there were cultural mixes in Nepal.
Nearby temples, different architecture. The different style shows that there were cultural mixes in Nepal.

The following day, we were woken up early to explore further this amazing ancient city. We directly went to the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, and were amazed with its huge square surrounded with many historical buildings. Since we were also confused to start from which part, we “were finally found” by a young tour guide who offered us his service. For about two hours, the service fee we paid was NRS 800. He had wide knowledge of Bhaktapur’s history and fun-facts though he was still a high school student. He took us to small alleys between the locals’ houses to short cut here and there.

Our guide was eagerly telling tales.
Our guide was eagerly telling tales.

He guided us to 55-Window Palace having elaborately carved wooden-windows that is also a seat for royal family. Our tour guide told us that the number of windows reflects the number of King’s wife on that era. Each window was made for each King’s wife to see outside of palace. Wow! I can’t imagine how strong (and lucky) the King was!

 

The queens' windows designed for the the residents' privacy as those inside can see outside but not the other way around.
The queens’ windows designed for the the residents’ privacy as those inside can see outside but not the other way around.

Just outside the palace, there lies the Golden Gate and Royal Bath, with its Golden Faucet. The pond was circled by a large snake statue which was torn into pieces. Based on the guide’s tale, the snake was the trustful pet of the king. One day, the snake almost ate the king’s most beloved queen as it thought she was an intruder using the bath and not knowing that she was a queen.

Golden faucet at the royal bath. Can you guess what animal is it?
Golden faucet at the royal bath. Can you guess what animal is it?
Pieces of snakes circling the royal bath.
Pieces of snakes circling the royal bath.

The most surprising thing that we were told was the story of the carving on the temples: Kamasutra. We were not even able to figure out what it was there until the guide told us! Afterwards, we just giggled one to another when we obviously can see various “sex-position” carved on its wooden-window and pillars. It just could not be unseen. Before judging that we are a pervert, mind you that we clearly understand that sex is really a human nature and might play an important role in that era (the king had 55 wives, remember?).

Kamasutra on woods.
Kamasutra on woods.
Another kamasutra style.
Another kamasutra style.

Another surprising fact told by our guide was the policy to cut the painters, carvers, sculptors, and engravers’ hands/fingers after the completion of their art for the kingdom on that era. The purpose is to make sure that the artists would not produce any better arts than the ones they present for the kingdom. Hence, their arts were regarded as masterpieces. It does not sound very human, but that was such a pride for the artists.

Up to now, Bhaktapur has been through several centuries and still keeping its mystery and antiquity. Overall, we were really impressed with the beauty of this preserved ancient city. However, are we to provide any suggestions, we would like motor vehicle to be banned from the ancient city. Not only that the city is small and very walkable, we believe banning motor cycles will help to maintain its condition as it is one of a historical sites with lots of tales to tell. (fst)

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