Bhairava Nath temple
Asia,  Blog,  Nepal,  Travelogue

Bhaktapur – the city of devotees

As the minibus gets out of Kathmandu city and weaves its way through heavy traffic to Bhaktapur, you know you are journeying back in time. And long before you reach your destination, the first sights that catch your eye is the rooftop of the magnificent Nyatapola Temple.
Narrow alleys inside Bhaktapur
Narrow alleys inside Bhaktapur
Immerse yourself in culture

Depending on who you speak with, Bhaktapur or Khwopa, is known variously as the City of Culture, Living Heritage, Nepal’s Cultural Gem, An open museum and City of Devotees. There is a reason why it would have so many names. With its great architecture, detailed woodcarvings and intricately designed statues, the Malla dynasty did well to encourage art, culture and festivals among the predominantly Newari community. Reason enough for it to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Jaya Mal Pata
Jaya Mal Pata

Bhaktapur consists of at least four distinct squares, including Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square, Dattatreya Square and Pottery Square. They are all located within Bhaktapur – one of three major cities within the Kathmandu Valley.

Relaxing under the shades of one of the smaller temples
Relaxing under the shades of one of the smaller temples

As you walk around the squares, you get a sense of the destruction that the 2015 earthquake caused to this ancient city. Centuries-old temples and buildings lie in ruins. Thankfully, with the efforts of several Nepalis, tourists and international organisations, efforts are underway to slowly restore this city to its former glory.

The courtyard at Durbar Square Bhaktapur
The courtyard at Durbar Square Bhaktapur
Children at the Durbar Square courtyard at Bhaktapur
Children at the Durbar Square courtyard at Bhaktapur
Discovering Bhaktapur

The only way to see as much as possible of Bhaktapur is to walk. That is the only way you can move around. Brace yourself and make the most of it. While there are many things to see and understand, I have only covered some of the highlights, in no chronological order.

The National Museum in the courtyard at Durbar Square Bhaktapur
The National Museum in the courtyard at Durbar Square Bhaktapur
Nyatapola Temple

Towering five-storey high and at 30m, surely, Nyatapola Temple is dedicated to Siddhi Lakshmi or Parvati. It is among the main highlights of Bhaktapur. Located within Taumadhi Square, it also happens to be the tallest temple in Nepal.

Nyatapola Temple
Nyatapola Temple

The temple was constructed between 1702 and 1703. Interestingly, back in Agra in India, the Taj Mahal was still under construction. It’s been built so well that it has been able to withstand a series of earthquakes, including the last one.

To get a sense of the beauty of this temple, and the views of the surrounding area, walk up the flight of stairs, catch your breath and see as far as your eyes can. Don’t miss the set of five statues leading to the top.

View from the top of Nyatapola temple
View from the top of Nyatapola temple
Bhairava Nath Temple

This triple-roofed temple, located within Taumadhi Square, is dedicated to Bhairab, the fearsome incarnation of Shiva.

The original temple, built in the early part of the 17th century, was a simple structure. Then, in 1717, King Bhupatindra Malla added a second story. In 1934, when the temple was rebuilt after the earthquake, a third level was added.

Bhairava Nath temple
Bhairava Nath temple
Golden Gate

This beautifully artistic gate is a prime example of Newari architecture. Known as Soon Dhoka in Nepali, it’s one of the highlights of Durbar Square. It opens to the Royal Palace courtyards, which unfortunately where nearly levelled during the earthquake in 1934.

Work on the gate originally started under King Bhupatindra Malla and was completed by his son, Ranjit Malla in 1753. Ironically, it also marked the end of the Malla dynasty, and with it, the golden age of Newari architecture.

As you walk under the Golden Gate, don’t miss out on the large copperplate inscriptions on either side. They date back to 1754.

Inscription at the Golden Gate
Inscription at the Golden Gate
Vatsala Durga Temple

This temple is dedicated to Vatsala Devi, another avatar of Durga. The original temple was built in 1696 by King Jitamitra Malla. In later years, King Bhupatindra Malla reconstructed it.

Unfortunately, the temple was razed during the earthquake that struck again, in 2015, though efforts are underway to rebuilt it once again.

Vatsala Durga temple
Vatsala Durga temple
Naga Pokhari

Walk under the Golden Gate and into the courtyard and you will come across Naga Pokhari, or the golden bath. It is also referred to as a hiti or traditional drinking fountain. Encircling the tank are naga heads mounted on top of columns. You can also walk down the stairs for a better look.

Naga Pokhari
Naga Pokhari

Centuries ago, hitis were prominent across Nepal. Sadly, they have lost their relevance in today’s modern world. Nevertheless, Naga Pokhari manages to live on, thanks in part because it’s among the best spots for all those looking for the perfect Instagram selfie.

Close up up a naga statue
Close up up a naga statue
Information you can use

It’s 13 odd km from Kathmandu city. The best way to get there would be to hire a taxi. However, if you find hailing a taxi a bit too cumbersome, why not get a little more adventurous and ride the public buses. These minibuses cost a fraction of what you would pay to hail a cab. It’s also a fun way to meet people.

Travelling in a local city bus
Travelling in a local city bus

There is an entry fee of NPR 500 per person for nationals of SAARC. Everybody else pays NPR 1,500 per person. Nepalis have full access at no extra cost.

Once inside, there are several restaurants and cafés, serving hot and cold beverages, and food, both international and local.

Bhaktapur city of devotees
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