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Tourist Places To Visit In Bhaktapur
A city in south-central Nepal that is best known for its architecture, Bhaktapur was once the capital of Kathmandu Valley. It features some of the best preserved monuments in the country that are a testament to its rich history and cultural significance. The Newari people were one of the original inhabitants of the city, and make up the majority of the indigenous population even today. Their influence on the city’s festivals, customs, architecture and lifestyle is evident in every aspect of daily life, and serves as one of the chief attraction points for tourists in the country.
Bhaktapur is also renowned for its craftsmanship that is showcased in not just its architecture, but in art forms like pottery, woodcarving and weaving, and can be explored in the numerous shops and museums that make up some of its highlights. To make the most of your trip, here are some of the best places to visit when you come over to Bhaktapur.
The five-storey Nyatapole Temple is the tallest temple in Kathmandu Valley. It is located within the Taumadhi Square and is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Siddhilakshmi. The staircase leading up to the temple features stone figures on both sides depicting the temple guardians; namely, the likeness of Bhaktapur’s strongest men, Jaymal and Pata; two lions; two elephants; two giffons; and Baghini (Tiger goddess) and Singhini (Lion goddess) on the topmost level.
Unfortunately, the temple is only open to priests, but the brilliant pagoda-style architecture and the stone guards on the stairway still make for some amazing photo opportunities on the outside.
The three-storied temple dedicated to Lord Shiva’s reincarnation Kasi Bhairab, is located close to the Nyatapola temple. The original temple was a modest one storey structure constructed in the 1700s. A second storey was later added by King Bhupatindra Malla and a subsequent third storey was added during the reconstruction of the temple after the earthquake in 1934.
While the massive temple is devoted to the worship of Bhairabnath, it depicts the deity of a disembodied head of Bhairabnath just a few centimeters in height. Legend has it that Bhairabnath was traveling under the guise of a man to get to a festival, and was recognised by a royal cleric Achaju. Upon discovering that he was being chased, Bhairabnath attempted to escape by sinking into the earth, at the same moment when Achaju used his Tantric sickle to take his head off. Filled with remorse over his act, Achaju carried the head with him into his sanctuary, which was later reconstructed into a temple. During the popular Bisket Jatra festival in April, the image of Bhairabnath is carried out of the temple in a chariot and paraded around the city for two days.
55 Windows Palace
Like most other structures in the city, this palace was also constructed during the rule of the Malla dynasty, and is an impressive work of art with ornate woodcarvings, patterned columns, and the most eye-catching feature – 55 windows with varied peacock designs on each window. The interiors of the palace are not open to visitors, but you will not be missing much because the true beauty of the building lies on its outside.
Ghats are an important religious site for Hindus, located on the banks of rivers considered holy. They are often used for bathing purposes to purify the body through the holy water, and also as cremation grounds. Bhaktapur has numerous such ghats and Hanuman Ghat is among the most popular ones. It spreads to a larger area that boasts a striking collection of Hindu deities including the largest Shiva Lingam in Nepal. Observe the intricately carved statues of Ram and Sita, Ganesh, Hanuman and Vishnu.
A large bell dedicated to the goddess Taleju resides in front of the Vatsala Durga Temple in Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square. It was constructed during the reign of King Ranjit Malla to mark the commencement of the morning and evening prayers, and for congregating the residents in the square for state related matters.
A smaller bell located nearby was constructed later in relation to a dream King Bhupatindra had; its ringing often causes the dogs around to whine and bark, that has led to its nickname, the ‘Barking Bell’.
Changu Narayan Temple
The Changu Narayan Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the oldest temples in Nepal that is still in use today. Like a lot of other temples in Bhaktapur, the Changu Narayan also features stone guards in the form of lions, elephants, and griffons on the outside. Inside, the deity Vishnu is depicted as Narayan, the creator of all life; along with the figure of his consort, Garuda, that is said to date back to the 5th century.
The stone inscription in front of the statue is believed to be the oldest in the Valley, with Vishnu’s symbols, the conch and the chakra disc, depicted on two pillars near the shrine. Various other avatars of Vishnu can be seen all over the courtyard; as Narsingha, the man-lion incarnation; as Vikrantha, the six-armed dwarf; and as the ten-armed and ten-headed Vishnu depicted on a piece of broken slab.
The present day Woodcarving Museum in Bhaktapur was once the Pujari Math. Math were brick houses made for Hindu priests, and a number of them still exist today. Pujari Math is the most well known among them for its exquisitely carved peacock set in a window, also considered the finest carved window in the Valley. Widely known as the ‘Mona Lisa of Nepal’, it is one of Bhaktapur’s most cherished architectural landmarks.