A Tale of Three Cities
Once upon a time, in the years before Nepal was unified as a whole country by Prithvi Naryan Shah, the Kathmandu Valley comprised more than one state with three capital cities; Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, and Kathmandu itself whose name derives from the original Kasthamandap (House of wood). Lalitpur is modern day Patan.
I didn’t know any of this until I bought some old and battered books in a small shop near Tundikhel and started asking my new family lots of questions.
This is therefore a tale of three cities.
We travelled to Lalitpur/Patan from Chauuni in a car from Dr Madan’s office, Nepal Royal Drug Corporation. It was a marvellous sight …… Patan Durbar Square with its many pagodas, wooden lattice windows, gold doors, and statues of various Malla kings on top of tall columns or pedestals. You can tell the city is renowned for its Newar craftsmen particularly brasswork, stone carvings and carved wood. Just wandering around and between these buildings was like being on another planet, very calm and peaceful, nothing like this in England.Walking down a side road from the square we ducked through a small wooden entrance and into an open square with the most amazing tall structure, this was Mahaboudha. The temple was built in the 13th Century, dedicated to Siddartha, the Buddha. Sometimes called the Temple of The Thousand Buddhas because there is a Buddha face on every brick. We were all getting a stiff neck just walking around and looking up at it when a man leaning out of his house window so closeby called to us and invited us up to his rooftop for a better view. Very welcome, looking at all the brickwork at eye level was wonderful but we also has great views across the city rooftops too.
Our car and driver had now left us so we walked back to Durbar Square and grabbed a taxi to take us to the centre of Kathmandu and that City’s Durbar Square. Similar in nature with pagodas and palaces but much larger. Very clean, no beggars, no pestering except for one man who tried to sell me hashish until Champa slapped him!Amongst the many temples is Taleju, the king’s royal temple in the area where a bulls head is chopped off during a specific festival. Not so festive for the bull! Also here is Hanuman Dhoka, a mixture of government and royal buildings and palaces with a statue of Hanuman the monkey god in his red cloak at the gate. Entrance fee is 1 rupee for nationals, 5 rupees for foreigners and children are free. This also gives entrance to the museum in honour of King Tribhuvan the grandfather of the present king, Birendra. The museum is full of so many of his personal posessions, clothes, guns, coins, medals, photographs and newspaper cuttings describing events leading up to the brief “Democratic Revolution” in 1950 which overthrew the Rana caste who had ruled the country for decades. Here is also the royal throne, royal elephant trappings, and the royal carriage which is placed on top of the elephant for important ceremonies. I was really impressed with Michael and Sharon here because, remember they are only 7 and 5, yet were curious about and interested in everything.
We then walked through to the Naiken Tole area where there was an ice cream parlour, a real touch of “the west” which was clean, air conditioned and with a fantastic choice of ice creams. So, personally, I started with a Lime Surprise, and finished with a Mango Tango! The day was really rounded off with a fresh roasted corn-cob from the garden.