The Heritage City of Nepal – Bhaktapur

Quick Facts:

  • Location Name : Bhaktapur
  • Other Name(s) : Bhadgaon or Khwopa
  • Location Coordinates : 27.6722° N, 85.4278° E
  • Country : Nepal (Asia)
  • Distance from the capital : 12 km east of Kathmandu
  • Entrance Fee : USD 15$ for foreigners and 500NRS for SAARC nations
  • Famous for : Juju Dhau (King Curd), Pottery, Handicrafts, Newari culture, Bhadgaunle Topi (Black Cap) & its old world charm
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durbar Square

The well preserved ancient Newar town, known for its artistic excellence, splendid courtyard and palaces, pottery and weaving industries and rich customs and culture, is a ‘living heritage’ in itself. The literal translation of ‘Bhaktapur’ i.e. “place of devotees” is well justified by its magnificent temples, artwork, festivals and religious celebrations. It was enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The place is like an open air museum, best for aimless wandering and exploration. The ‘culture gem’ of Nepal, Bhaktapur is extremely picturesque and inspiring.  So simply put on your best walking shoes and get ready to have a good peek into the famous Newar culture and tradition.

A look at its glorious past

Bhaktapur was founded way back in 8th century and remained the capital of Greater Malla Kingdom of Nepal till 15th century. The last rulers of Malla Kingdom played a crucial role in building Bhaktapur Durbar Square and the adjoining palaces. The position of this place on the main trade route between Tibet and India made this town very rich. Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the entry point to beautiful monuments, palaces and courtyards, temples, pagodas and various shrines spread across the town which is shaped like a flying pigeon. However, the place was severely affected by 1934-earthquake that destroyed almost one-third of its temples and buildings.

bhaktapur2

Find your way to Bhaktapur

The place can be reached by taking an Express Bus or a Micro Bus from Bagbazar (Kathmandu) or a taxi. However, taxi is the fastest way to reach there and would cost you around 600-800 NRS. No vehicles are allowed inside the Durbar Square, so it’s better to bring along your best walking shoes to explore the area. If you plan to stay here, you can find many guesthouses starting from 7$ around the area surrounding Durbar Square.

Tip – The place is huge and it will be a problem locating sign boards (if any) or directions. So it is advisable to hire a guide from the ticket counter, they charge pretty reasonable and will help save your time too.

Stay – Eat – Indulge

The cafes and restaurant serving continental, Indian and local cuisine can be found in almost every building surrounding Durbar Square. I had my meal at quaint little Nyatapola Café (nearby Nyatapola Temple) and food there was pretty good along with the great views. You can also try the local eating joints offering some great local (Newari) food or a popular pan fried rice patty called Bara-wa.

Cafe Nyatapola at Taumadhi Square offers good food with great views
Cafe Nyatapola at Taumadhi Square offers good food with great views

Tip – Bhaktapur is famous for its special curd served in earthen pots along with the local honey, named as Juju Dhau meaning the King of Curd. Don’t leave the city without tasting this simple & delicious delicacy.

L-R The very famous Juju Dhau (King Curd) of Bhaktapur ; Newari men wearing their traditional Bhadgaunle Topi (local cap)
L-R The very famous Juju Dhau (King Curd) of Bhaktapur ; Newari men wearing their traditional Bhadgaunle Topi (local cap)

Splurge & Sight see

Bhaktapur is mainly famous for its pottery and wood carving. Especially in the Pottery Square, you can see the potters making beautiful pottery wares out of black clay into colorful products that you can buy. Apart from that, you can take home the wood carved frames, boxes, mirrors, furniture, colorful masks, paper mache products, Tibetan prayer bowls, haku-patasi (black sari with red border), local cap (Bhadgaunle Topi) and jewelry.

Major Attractions – 

  • DURBAR SQUARE – It’s the main square of the city dotted with architectural showpieces, pagoda style temples with elaborate carvings, palaces and courtyards.The Golden Gate (Lu Dhowka) is a dainty piece of art embellished with the figures of Hindu goddess Kali, Garuda and other deities that dates back to 1756 AD and is considered one of the most beautiful molded specimens in the world. Right in front of it is the Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla placed on the top of a stone monolith facing the palace. The Palace of 55 windows, build in 1427 AD is a fascinating structure made up of brick wall with a balcony having intricately carved 55 windows.  The Lion Gate has two lion statues as guards with stone images of Bhairab and Ugrachandi (aspects of Shiva). The Golden Gate is the entry to Taleju Temple Complex and the royal bath pond. However, only Hindus are allowed to enter the Taleju Temple. The National Art Gallery houses the ancient Hindu and Buddhist paintings and scrolls from different periods and is closed on Tuesdays. The Vatsala Temple is a marvelous stone temple of goddess Vatsala Devi. It is famous for its bronze bell or The Big Bell built by last Malla King also known as ‘the bell of barking dogs’ because the dogs bark to its ring. It is rung twice a day everyday so as to pay homage to the goddess Taleju. There is also a replica of Pashupati Temple (of Kathmandu) known as Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple with erotic carvings on its wooden struts.
The Golden Gate and the Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla
The Golden Gate and the Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla
Palace of 55 windows with intricate wood carvings
Palace of 55 windows with intricate wood carvings
Royal bath pond inside Taleju Complex
Royal bath pond inside Taleju Complex
Vatsala Temple ~ beautiful example of stone sculpturing
Vatsala Temple ~ beautiful example of stone sculpturing

The big, rectangular pond at main city gate known as Siddha Pokhari (Ta Pukhi) dates back to early 15th century.

  • TAUMADHI SQUARE: Taumadhi Square showcases the brilliant architecture of multi roofed temples and craftsmanship of stone sculptures. The five-storied Nyatapola Temple dating back to 1702 AD is the tallest pagoda temple of Nepal. The colossal edifice dedicated to Hindu Goddess Laxmi has intricate carvings and embellishments on its doors, struts and windows with five terraces each having a pair of two meters tall stone statues of – the most famous wrestlers (Jaya Malla and Phatta Malla), elephants, lions, griffons and tantric goddess (Baghini and Singhini) on either side. Next to Nyatapola Temple is the Bhairavnath Temple dedicated to Lord Bhairav (the dreadful aspect of Lord Shiva). The three storied temple (now renovated) was severely destroyed by the 1934-earthquake.
Five-storied Nyatapola Temple :  The tallest pagoda temple in Nepal
Five-storied Nyatapola Temple : The tallest pagoda temple in Nepal
Nyatapola Temple at Taumadhi Square : A closer look
Nyatapola Temple at Taumadhi Square : A closer look
Bhairavnath Temple (Taumadhi Square)
Bhairavnath Temple (Taumadhi Square)
  • POTTERY SQUARE: This place is all about pottery. You can see people working with traditional wheels and black clay, shaping them into beautiful pottery wares that can also be bought.
Pottery Square
Pottery Square
Traditional Potter wheel & black clay pots at Pottery Square
Traditional Potter wheel & black clay pots at Pottery Square

Tip – Always ask before photographing people especially at Pottery Square, some may even charge for it.

  • DATTATRAYA SQUARE: It is the oldest part of the town famous for wood-carving and the Dattatraya Temple. The temple is claimed to be built out of trunk from a single tree by King Yaksha Malla in 1427 AD. The three storied pagoda style temple stands tall despite of the natural disasters, adorned with incredible wood carved panels. Besides the temple is the Pujari Math exhibiting the notable Peacock Window with beautiful carving. It is one of the signature attractions of this site.
Dattatraya Temple (Dattatraya Square) that is believed to be made of single tree trunk
Dattatraya Temple (Dattatraya Square) that is believed to be made of single tree trunk
Around Pujari Math at Dattatraya Square
Around Pujari Math at Dattatraya Square
The famous 'Peacock Window' at Dattatraya Square
The famous ‘Peacock Window’ at Dattatraya Square

GET AROUND BHAKTAPUR:

Changu Narayan Temple is some 6km north of Bhaktapur and is the oldest pagoda temple of Kathmandu valley. Dating back to 464 AD, the spectacular temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Monument.  Nagarkot is a small hill station, 18 km from Bhaktapur, famous for its sunrise and the landscape that is best for overnight stay.

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