Charmingly chaotic: The Kathmandu Valley

Charmingly chaotic: The Kathmandu Valley

Travel Tales

Dating back as far as 900 B.C, if historical records are to be believed, Kathmandu Valley has been home to a vast array of flora and fauna with a rich variety of varying cultures coursing through its proverbial veins.

From the enlightening footsteps of Lord Buddha gracing the slopes of what now is modern day Patan to Emperor Ashoka’s delegates constructing stupas and the subsequent reigns of the Licchavi, Kirat and Malla dynasties and the settling of the Tibetans within the last 60 years, The Kathmandu Valley is a bouillabaisse of cultures that come together to paint a picturesque scene in an otherwise troubled nation in recent times.

Despite being the only Hindu nation in the world, the culture of the Newar’s (the indigenous people) has been able to transfuse with that of the Tibetans, the Lepchas and other tribes in a seamless and harmonious fashion.

Walking on the streets of modern day Kathmandu, once divided into three separate sections of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan, one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the many monuments  built by the different rulers and their descendants, who chose to indulge in artistic warfare to outshine each other with resplendent architecture that takes the breath away of the fortuitous travelers of today.

Dotted with UNESCO World Heritage sites all around the city, like the  Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupati Mandir, the Durbar Margs in Basantapur, Patan and Bhaktapur and also Swayambhunath Mandir on the fringes of the city, it is astounding how this city is able to hold all these things without bursting at its seams. The Durbar Marg in Basantapur is infamous for housing the ‘Kumari Devi Ghar’ or ‘The Palace of The Living Goddess’, where resides a young girl who is put on the pedestal akin to a Goddess by the locals. Each ‘Kumari Devi’, whilst being in a state of infancy, is selected by the high priests of the temples that pepper Durbar Marg. She is only allowed to stay inside the palace and has no contact with the outside world. She only makes 13 appearances to the public from the confines of her palace each year. Once the girl reaches adolescence, she is let out and allowed to lead a normal life, with the government taking up the responsibilities for her expenses and the search for a new ‘Kumari Devi’ begins afresh.

One of the advantages of having such an assortment of cultures is that it brings around an even delectable palate of cuisine. From traditional Newari dishes like Sadhayko Aloo and Choila to the buffalo Shyapta of the Tibetans with their steamed buns and dumplings, Kathmandu promises a treat for your eyes as well as your belly.

Aside from the historical allure of Kathmandu, it is equally famous for its nightlife. The setting sun breathes life into Thamel, the area inhabited by tourists from the world over and littered with numerous watering holes and restaurants with live music and other frivolities. Handicraft shops run rife through the city and one can pick up many a trinket for a meagre sum.

In spite of the fact that monarchy was abolished in the latter half of the last decade, Nepal remains an otherwise poor nation, with a section of the population living in exorbitant luxury. Nevertheless, I doubt that the beauty of its capital city will cease to enthrall all those who visit.

As told to A Ayush Chatterjee, by Abhimanyu Thapa, a photographer from Darjeeling who visited Nepal recently.