The sleepy town of Kirtipur comes like a breath of fresh air amidst the other dust laden villages and cities. Thanks to the stunning ancient temples that are scattered along its backstreets and the authentic experience of the Newari culture that it offers, the town has been gaining more and more popularity in the past few decades, and today it stands as a symbol of the faded grandeur of the bygone era. Located just five kilometres to the southwest of Kathmandu, the town of Kirtipur is perched upon a rocky hill and is an excellent place to visit, especially for someone who is stepping out of Kathmandu for only a few hours.
Not only is the aesthetic appeal and charm of the town worth commending, but it also boasts of having an impressive historical background attached to it. When Prithvi Narayan Shah entered this valley in 1768, he made it a point to capture Kirtipur, so that it could act as a base for his further attacks. The locals resisted, and consequently, the town was captured. The residents had to pay a hefty price for trying to safeguard their homeland. The king ordered that the lips and nose of every male inhabitant be chopped off, saving those who were experts at playing wind instruments and could entertain the king!
Offering a breathtaking panoramic view of the valley, the town gracefully hides some of the best Newari restaurants in the valley. Being vehicle free, the town is well safeguarded and is ideal for strolling and wandering in the mornings and evenings.
Kirtipur has initially been the capital of the Kathmandu Valley and was always known to be a land of rebels. King Prithvi Narayan Shah invaded the town in the 18th century when it was a part of Patan, and eventually, Kirtipur broke away and became a separate kingdom. In 1767, the town was brought back again into the kingdom, after 23 failed attempts by the King to conquer it. These battles, later on, came to be known as the Battle of Kirtipur. As an aftereffect of these battles, the town became an anti-monarchy due to the negligence of the administration and lack of development under the former monarch. Consequently, in 2006, Kirtipur again became the hub of an uprising against the monarchy in Nepal.
One of the most famous temples in Kirtipur is the Bagh Bhairab temple, which was built in dedication to Lord Bhairab, and who is worshipped here in the form of a tiger. Bhairab is ironically considered to be both the caretaker and the destroyer, and consequently, all important ceremonial rituals in life, right from puberty to marriage and even the construction of a new house are not commenced without seeking blessings from the Lord. The three-storeyed temple was built in the sixteenth century, and other than the presiding deity, wooden posts with the carvings of other Hindu gods and goddesses have also been installed here.
The Uma Maheshwar temple, which is locally known as Kwacho Dega, is another important heritage site located here. Located on the top of a hill, it offers panoramic views of the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding mountain ranges. Rautra Vishwanath Babu, the son of King Sidhhi Narsinga Malla, undertook the task of the construction of the temple. It was destroyed twice by earthquakes, but the locals and the government have managed to preserve the temple as an important mark of their rich culture. An artistic stone gate welcomes visitors which then leads to a gigantic stone elephant, and then to the principal deities: Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati.
The Chilancho Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka back in 1515. Unfortunately, the top of the stupa was damaged, and later on, the beautiful Buddha faces around the stupa were also destroyed.
The primary water source of Kirtipur is Dev Pukku, which is fed by underground water. Visitors can also see the well preserved Royal Palace here, to the left of the tank. Other than this, the courtyard of the Bagh Bhairab Temple is also fantastic and well maintained, and is a must visit.
The Naya Bazaar or the New Market is located at the foothill, and this is where all trading and commerce take place. The market also houses the Thai style Theravada Buddhist Temple.
Restaurants in the area have not developed much yet, so you really should not expect anything to be open in the off-peak season. However, NewaLahana serves some genuine Newari food, and visitors claim that one must try their authentic local cuisine when in Kirtipur.
Visitors also don't opt for a night stay here, since the place is only twenty-five minutes away from Kathmandu. Kirtipur Hillside Hotel is the one hotel that you will find in the area, and the services offered by it are quite decent.
Kirtipur transports its visitors to an old-world atmosphere, with the town being set up in a typical Newari arrangement, with the northwest part of the town being Hindu, and the southeast Buddhist. The place is an ideal one to visit for those who want to have fun with independent bus travelling or those who are looking forward to getting a feel of the authentic Newari culture. A visit to Kirtipur can be combined with a visit to neighbouring areas of Chovar and Panga as well to make for a perfect day out!
Getting to Kirtipur is fairly easy. Buses leave for the area from Ratna Bus Park in Kathmandu after every 30 minutes. The bus fare is INR 15, and you should reach your destination in 25 minutes. Alternatively, you can book a cab from Thamel to Naya Bazaar for INR 400. The journey by taxi would take around 15 minutes in all. Cycling to and back from the town is also a feasible option for the adventure lovers and fitness enthusiasts.
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