We returned to Kathmandu making a stop in Baktaphur which was the one of the three major cities of the Kathmandu Valley which was worse hit by the 2015 earthquake. There is building activity everywhere but there is still a great deal to do. Pottery square which I remember from my previous visi of 20 years ago is not what it was and one wonders how it ever can be. However in 1934, a major earthquake destroyed over 2,000 houses and severely damaged over 2,000 more homes. Over 1,000 people died in this quake and almost 1/3 of the ancient temples, monasteries, and other ornate buildings were destroyed. Bhaktapur’s Durbar (‘Royal’) Square was added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1979 and restoration of many buildings was undertaken over the years, including efforts funded by West Germany in the late 1980’s and by the U.S. in the 1990’s. So maybe it will in time also recover from the recent much less severe disaster.
Bhaktapur is the living representation of how the entire Kathmandu Valley would have looked during the medieval period. The city is famous for its architecture; high temples in the pagoda style – believed to be the stairway to the heaven, fine clay pottery, and massive royal courtyards whose existence dates back to the 12th century, where devotees, still celebrate their pre-historic festivals with an equal amount of gusto and passion. Bhaktapur used to be the ruling throne of the Kathmandu Valley until the king, Yakshya Malla, in 1482, divided the kingdom between his three sons, eventually destroying the strength of unity and losing the nation to the Shah dynasty
Bhaktapur is filled with Hindu and Buddhist religious sites and art. Although the population is primarily Hindu, there are nineteen Buddhist monasteries (Vihars). At Indra Varna Madavihar, built in 1671 and located between Durbar Square and Dattatraya Square, visitors can see two lion statues, a Patinga Hiti (water spout), Tantric wood-carved windows, and prayer wheels.
Bisket Jatra is the Nepalese New Year celebration in which chariots are pulled through the streets and ultimately a tug of war over them determines who will be blessed with good fortune in the coming year. This celebration is also observed with feasts and other private assemblies in April.
Durbar Square contains the main sites of the city:
- The 55-Window Palace served as the seat of royalty prior to 1769. The palace has elaborately carved windows and doors and houses the National Art Gallery, with Buddhist Paubha scroll paintings, palm leaf manuscripts, and stone carvings.
- Just outside the palace, at the entrance to the Taleju Temple Complex is the Golden Gate, built in 1756, a splendid example of Repoussé metalwork. There also lies the Royal Bath, with its Golden Faucet.
- The Big Bell, built by the last Malla king of Bhaktapur, Ranajit Malla in the 18th century, was rung to pay homage to the Goddess Taleju and to call the public to town meetings.
- The Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple, built by Yaksha Malla in the 15th century, was modelled after the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu and was designed with ornate wooden struts decorated with erotic carvings.