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Bhaktapur: Nepal's Living Museum of Newari Culture

submitted on 5 December 2023 by

A Brief Introduction to Bhaktapur

Imagine a place where time seems to have stopped, where ancient traditions and craftsmanship are still alive and well. Bhaktapur, located just 12 kilometers from Kathmandu, is one such place that offers a rare glimpse into the medieval glory days of Nepal. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the Newari people, Bhaktapur is a living museum of culture, architecture, and traditional life.So, if you find yourself in Nepal and are looking for a place less traveled, less trampled, and less trodden, make your way to Bhaktapur. But be warned: once you enter the town, you may never want to leave.

A Stroll Down the Cobbled Streets of Bhaktapur

As you enter Bhaktapur, you might feel as if you have accidentally stumbled upon a movie set for an Indiana Jones film. Walking down the cobbled streets, you can almost hear the clatter of horses' hooves, the creaking of wooden cartwheels, and the whispers of ancient tales. This is a place where history is so thick you can almost reach out and touch it.Wandering through the winding alleys, you will come across elaborately carved wooden windows, ornate pagoda-style temples, and grand palaces that once housed the Malla kings. It's like stepping back into another era, an era filled with mystique, grandeur, and a fair bit of intrigue.

The Lively Artisans of Bhaktapur

One of the most captivating aspects of Bhaktapur is its artisans - skilled craftsmen who have preserved their ancient techniques and continue to create beautiful works of art. As you wander the streets, you'll see potters spinning their wheels, weavers creating intricate textiles, and woodcarvers chiseling ornate designs into window frames and temple beams.Stop by the famous Pottery Square, where you can watch the skilled potters at work, molding wet clay into pots, plates, and other earthenware. The sight of rows upon rows of freshly made pottery drying in the sun is oddly satisfying, and you might even be tempted to try your hand at the potter's wheel. Trust me, though - it's harder than it looks.

The Architectural Marvels of Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is not just a living museum of culture, but also an architectural marvel. The city is a testament to the incredible skill and craftsmanship of the Newari people, who built stunning temples, palaces, and monuments in the unique Newari style.Do not miss the 55-Window Palace, a royal masterpiece adorned with ornately carved windows, each one more intricate than the last. The palace, once the residence of Bhaktapur's Malla kings, now houses the National Art Gallery, which is well worth a visit.Another must-see is the Nyatapola Temple, one of the tallest and most impressive pagoda-style temples in all of Nepal. Built in the early 18th century, the temple's five-tiered roof, massive stone stairway, and imposing guardian statues will leave you awestruck.

Bhaktapur's Famous Festivals

If you're lucky enough to be in Bhaktapur during one of its many vibrant festivals, you'll be in for a treat. The town comes alive with music, dancing, and spectacular processions, each festival more colorful and lively than the last.
  • Bisket Jatra: Held in April, this eight-day festival celebrates the Nepalese New Year with chariot processions, traditional music, and dancing.
  • Gai Jatra: This unique festival, held in August, honors the deceased with a lively parade of cows, costumed participants, and elaborate processions.
  • Tihar: Known as the festival of lights, Tihar (also called Diwali) brightens up the town with thousands of oil lamps, colorful rangoli patterns, and joyous celebrations.

Practical Tips for Visiting Bhaktapur

Although Bhaktapur is a delight to explore, there are a few practical tips to keep in mind to make your visit even more enjoyable.
  • There is an entrance fee for foreign visitors, which goes towards the restoration and preservation of the town's historic sites.
  • Be respectful of the local customs and traditions, especially when visiting temples and religious sites.
  • Don't be afraid to sample the local cuisine, particularly the famous Juju Dhau, a creamy and delicious yogurt unique to Bhaktapur.
  • As the town's streets are mainly cobbled and uneven, make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
So, dear traveler, when you find yourself in Nepal, take a detour to the enchanting town of Bhaktapur. Immerse yourself in the living history of Newari culture, lose yourself in the labyrinthine streets, and perhaps even leave with a newfound appreciation for the beauty and craftsmanship of a bygone era.
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