Bhaktapur—literally meaning "The City of Devotees"—is world renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colorful festivals and ritual dances as well as its indigenous lifestyle. While Sagarmatha (Mr. Everest) is breathtaking, and the landscape of Lord Buddha mysterious, tourists visiting Nepal still don’t feel their sojourn complete unless they have experienced Bhaktapur, Nepal’s ancient "City of Culture".

Situated at an altitude of 1,401 meters (4,553 ft.) and spread over an area of 6.8 square kilometers, this conch shaped historic city was founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla, but it was brought to its present shape only in the early eighteenth century. Time has passed, but the city and its dwellers seem to have remained, more or less, unchanged. Today one can view age-old dances and festivals as well as time-honored traditions and rituals which are still enjoyed with the same fervor and enthusiasm as they were hundreds of years ago. And tourists, taking a casual stroll down Bhaktapur’s maze-like lanes, will find that many of the town’s residents still don their traditional attires and costumes.

'Khwopa', as the Newars still call their city of Bhaktapur, was the capital of the greater Malla Kingdom from the 12th to the 15th century. It was King Yaksha Malla who heavily fortified his capital city in a bid to make it invulnerable. Yet, in the course of time, and owing to continual invasions by intruders and subsequent natural calamities, the forts crumbled, but the huge gateways and the colossal Dattatreya temple still bear testimony to the incredible achievement made in those regal days of the Newar Malla Kings.

Numerous massive palaces and mansions, wonderful temples, mystic monasteries and marvelous monuments have already vanished in history, yet Nepal’s ‘Cultural Capital’ still boasts a subtle culture vividly depicted in the thousands of remaining temples and monuments. 'Nyatapol' or the Five-Storied Temple, 55 Window Palace, Bhairavnath Temple, 'Lun Dhwakha' or the Golden Gate, 'Lun Hiti' or the Golden Faucet, Taja Math, Pujari Math, the Taleju Bell, Yaksheshwor Mahadev Temple, the Peacock Window, Nava Durga Temple, the Terra-cotta Windows of Tuchhimala, Khanchalpukhu, Nepal's largest Shiva Lingam at Hanumanghat, the Barahi Temple, the Batsala Temple, Aneha-pukhu with Narayan reclining on Shesh Nag at Bholachhen, are just a few of the monuments reflecting Bhaktapur’s artistic grandeur.

Besides the physical monuments, the people of Bhaktapur have inherited a unique and centuries old cultural tradition. Today this tradition lives on in Bhaktapur’s ‘Newar Renaissance’, where skilled craft-persons continue to practice generations-old handicrafts. Unlike its two sister cities of the Valley—Kathmandu and Lalitpur—Bhaktapur is still predominantly comprised of the peasantry, with weaving and ceramics, besides agriculture, being their traditional enterprises. And like the rest of Nepal, one can see Hinduism and Buddhism intermingling with one another in religious tolerance and communal harmony.

Bhaktapur has made a conscious effort to preserve its temples and unique environs. Besides the reconstruction work which was undertaken in the 1970’s, Bhaktapur Municipality has recently launched an ambitious campaign for the purpose. Also other steps have been taken. For instance, heavy vehicles have been forbidden to enter the old city and consequently, Bhaktapur is the least polluted city in the Valley.

Given the artistic and cultural values of the ancient city, along with the pleasant natural scenes surrounding it, a visit to Bhaktapur, Nepal’s ‘Cultural Capital’, be it a prolonged or a brief one, will not only make the visitors feel their visit complete, but give them blissful everlasting memories of the ‘City of Devotees’.


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