The town of Bhaktapur, a few hours’ drive away from Kathmandu city, transports you into a long-lost era. The architecture is mostly red brick style, characteristic of Newari culture, seen in most Unesco World Heritage Sites in Nepal. The streets are love at first sight for a lover of street photography, like myself. As I wander in the lanes of Bhaktapur, awe-struck at the integrity with which the town retains its rich heritage and culture, I fully understand the status awarded by Unesco in 1979. No wonder Bhaktapur is also called the ‘Living Museum’.
Particularly charming in the light rains of August, the area is a treasure trove of architecture, design and craftsmanship in the form of terracotta windows, stone temples of various Hindu deities, intricately carved doors and windows and fine pottery. Walking down the street from the Ticket office towards one of the main squares Taumadhi Tole, to my right a lane leads to Pottery Square at Talakwo, where potters are at work with traditional wooden wheels expertly turning clay into various objects which are then left in the sun to dry.
Continuing downhill the street takes me to Taumadhi Tole (or square) which consists of three multi-storied temples. The biggest one is the five storied Nyatapola Temple which was built to worship an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga. Right across from it is the three-storied Bhairabnath Temple in honour of her consort who is believed to be an incarnation of the Hindu Lord Shiva. There are many shops, guest houses and restaurants in the lanes around Taumadhi square. Around sunset, the evening prayers are offered by men singing bhajans(hymns), chanting and playing cymbals at the Til Madhab Narayan temple, next to the Bhairabnath Temple. After this the area is plunged into pitch darkness, as shops close and there are no street lights.
Lanes close to Nyatapola Temple take me to Bhaktapur Durbar square, which is the main square of the erstwhile capital of Nepal. The Golden Gate, the Palace of 55 windows, the Vatsala Temple, the big bell and the Taleju complex are some of the important sites here. Most tourists visit Bhaktapur on day trips from Kathmandu, but spending at least one night here offers the chance to experience first hand the village like feel of the place as the sound of bhajans fill the air in the evening. At dusk, there are very few tourists around and one is transported to another time.
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