Some 25 km north of Abu Khaireni, the picturesque town called Gorkha is the ancient home of the lionhearted Gorkha people. Around 300 years ago, when Prithvi Narayan Shah unified all the rivalling fiefdoms of Nepal into one monarchy and divided up the country into 50 different states, Gorkha was born along the slopes of Himalayas in north-central Nepal. Needless to say, the place has immense historical and cultural significance and is dipped in tremendous natural beauty. One can simply spend the time staring at the green valleys and the mountains around and do nothing else for the rest of the trip. However, that would be a waste, since there are quite a few things one can enjoy over here.
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At only INR 20 entry fee (INR 50 for non-SAARC residents), the Gorkha Museum is a good visit. The architecture of this grand Newari-style building outshines the collection of it. The hallways inside are lined with art and craft items, some weapons and historical remnants of the Newari culture and the Shah and Malla kingdoms. It's the corridors and galleries and hallways themselves, and the huge garden outside that steals the show.
Manakamana Temple is the most sacred place in the Gorkha district. It is the abode of Hindu goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Mother Parvati. This temple is much-visited by locals and travellers alike because the common lore is - whatever one wishes for in this shrine is granted. There is a fantastic cable car ride over the green valleys from Kurintaar to Manakamana temple. It is an easier commute as well as an adventure travel option for the tourists.
For the adventurers at heart, Manaslu trekking is the most exciting thing to look forward to in here. Mount Manaslu lies just towards the east of the great Annapurna massif. More and more people are now showing interest in the Manaslu Circuit Trek, ever since the permit fee was reduced and few tea-shops and lodging places popped up along the route just like Annapurna trek. Earlier, overnight camps had to be done out in the open, for which many people had difficulties in finishing the trek. The highest point of the trek is at Larkya La pass, from where a breathtaking view of the Manaslu can be savoured.
The bottom line is, Gorkha is not a place which is studded with one attraction after the other, and neither should you expect it to be. The historical significance alone is enough to lend Gorkha the importance needed to become a popular tourist destination. Add to that the fascinating durbar, lure of the treks and beauty of the sceneries - Gorkha becomes your perfect offbeat destination for a weekend trip.
Temples and Shrines
No Nepal district can be without numerous Hindu temples and shrines and Gorkha is not an exception. There is a Mahadev temple, a Vishnu temple, a Ganesh temple and a Bhimsen temple here in close vicinity. If you are wondering who Bhimsen is and why is he named with these heavyweight deities of the Hindu pantheon, then be assured that Bhimsen is quite as important over here. He is the Newari god of money and commerce and is very much revered.
The Durbar Square is the prime attraction of Gorkha valley, being birthplace and early home to unified Nepal's first ruler, Prithvi Narayan Shah. The complex is a fort, a palace and a religious destination all punched into one. Perching atop high hills, Gorkha Durbar overlooks the sprawling emerald green Trisuli Valley. If you look down from the edge, you can see the tiniest sliver of a stream flowing through the valley. And if you look straight, you can even see the entire range of Annapurna, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal and Himalchuli, standing majestically in the distance. You can go up by taxi since it is not possible for everyone to climb that many stairs.
The Durbar area is where the Gorkha Palace stands towards the east. To reach the palace called Dhuni Pati, one has to climb 1700 steps from the bottom of the hill. It is a taxing adventure to pursue, but for those up to the challenge, it can be quite rewarding to finally finish the hike and be surprised with the spectacular panorama. This palace is where the first ruler of a unified Nepal was born and raised. From the windows of the palace, the king as a child prince used to look out at the entire valley and imagine it as his one day - or so says the lore. Later in life, he went ahead and achieved his goal, but did not forget his roots.
There are a number of other attractions in Durbar Square. And miraculously, not many of them were harmed in the 2015 earthquake. The western gate of the durbar leads you to the 17th century Kalika Temple, a shrine devoted to the goddess of death and doom, Kali. The architecture is a mind-blowingly psychedelic one, with peacocks, serpents, demons and angels all interwoven in the wooden carvings. Near the palace is the mausoleum of Guru Goraknath, the saint who said to have been the mentor and guide for young Prithvi Narayan Shah.
Towards the northern gate, you can find a towering statue of Hanuman, coloured vividly in orange and red. From here, you can go visit a rocky platform called Chautara, with four sets of carved footprints, believed to be of Sita, Rama, Guru Goraknath and Guru Padmasambhava.
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