Why Visit Nepal?


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Below article is written by Anuradha Goyal

on her experience while Travelling Nepal

Published on IndiaTales

Index: Chitwan National Park | Pashupatinath | Lumbini | Kapilvastu | Mt. Everest | Author |

Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Squares
Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Squares

Think of Nepal and the first thing that comes to your mind is the snow-clad Himalayas. If you force yourself to think beyond this glory of Nepal, you think of Casinos that attract a lot of tourists to this country. Followed by our Nepali security guards, who are synonymous with security agencies in our country. If forced to think about the cultural heritage of Nepal, you may say ok, there is Pashupatinath temple, holy for all Hindus. The cultural places are the Kathmandu Durbar Squares.

Kathmandu Durbar Squares – UNESCO World Heritage

Not many have heard of the Kathmandu Durbar Squares of Nepal. Those to me are the cultural high point of Nepal, a living heritage. Kathmandu Durbar Square’s are in fact a UNESCO world heritage site. There are three Kathmandu Durbar Square’s, all of them are quite similar and yet have individuality. Traditionally a durbar square used to be the residence of the king and also the center of the town. It had the king’s palace, the deity of the clan and other temples in an open space. Followed by the residences of the important people and then by those of citizens. The roads coming out of the Kathmandu Durbar Square’s had the markets and the open spaces had the long corridors. Temples had elaborate steps, all the spaces available to the people to roam around. To sit and chat and to mingle with others.

Social Spaces

These were social spaces just on the outskirts of royal family’s palace. You have to spend some time in these squares to feel the intimacy that people would have shared with the royal family. Though there is a distinct difference in the social hierarchy that is highlighted by the state of buildings, they are physically and hence I assume psychologically close enough to each other. Even today all these durbar squares are living spaces with no restriction on locals to enter and use them. However, tourists have to pay a fee and paste the ticket on them to say that they have paid the entrance fees. As there are no formal entry and exit gates. You can see the durbar square fading into ordinary houses as you move away from the center.

Some places have now been converted into art centers where Thangka paintings and other local arts are promoted. Some palace parts have been converted into museums housing the artifacts of royal families and excavated articles from the region. Most temples are still practicing and are fiercely guarded. Some allow only Hindus to go and most do not allow photography.

Kathmandu Durbar Squares – Bhaktapur, Basantapur & Patan Durbar Square

Typical octagonal structures at Kathmandu Durbar Squares
Typical octagonal structures at Kathmandu Durbar Squares

Basantapur Durbar Square

Basantapur Durbar Square
Basantapur Durbar Square

The Basantapur Durbar Square is more popularly known as Hanuman Dhoka because of a large number of monkeys in this complex. Till very late this was the place where the king’s coronation used to take place. This square also houses the Kumari Ghar, the house of Nepal’s principal living Goddess. If there are enough tourists, the guide will signal and the Kumari will come out to give you a glimpse of her. There is one building in this square with a colonial architecture, which stands out in the cluster of otherwise traditional Nepali architecture.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu

Old town Bhaktapur is considered the cultural capital of the region. This square actually has three squares. You see the first one as you enter from the main gate called the Durbar Square. The Past this is Taumadhi Square, which has the magnificent five-storied Nyatapola temple dedicated to Siddhi Laxmi along with a three-storied Bhairav temple. The steps leading to the temple have huge figurines of animals on both sides. From the top-story of the temple, you can get a bird’s eye view of the town. Behind this square is a potter’s square. Where you will see rows of pottery lying in a square and potter’s wheels around it.

Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square is famous for it’s Krishna temple. It is built in grey stone in Nagar or North Indian temple architectural style and is a practicing temple. There is a shining brass image of Lord Krishna on the first floor of the temple. And has carvings of usual Hindu themes on the outer walls. Another attraction of this square is the Golden temple dedicated to Buddha. You can walk across the square and it’s by lanes. You will see so many big and small temples, stupas, Lingas that beauty is the life that exists around them. They are not monuments that have to be preserved for tourists. But they are a part of everyday life of the people living in and around them.

The finely carved wooden structure at Kathmandu Durbar Square
The finely carved wooden structure at Kathmandu Durbar Square

Architecture of Monuments at Kathmandu Durbar Squares

The architecture of buildings in Durbar squares is typically Nepali that borrows a lot from the Pagoda style. Finely carved wooden windows adorn the walls of most buildings. In fact, Kathmandu was originally called KashthaMandap or a hall made of wood. The carved wood can be seen all over the durbar squares. And in curio shops where the miniature versions of the Nepal windows are sold. The dark-colored carved wood looks beautiful against the red palace and temple walls. While you can read about the history of Kathmandu Durbar Squares and Nepal, see the living heritage. As people use it today as they would have used it in the past.

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See the locals selling their art and craft to the tourists, small vendors selling food. Look at them interacting amongst themselves as the tourists sprinkled between them move around. The chaos, the sound of children playing on the steps of closed temples. Sights of brick, wood, metal, and stone all come together to create a cultural identity for the place. You have to sit at Kathmandu Durbar Squares and soak yourself in it, to feel it & to absorb it.

If you are visiting Nepal, recommend you to explore the Kathmandu Durbar Squares.

Some places have now been converted into art centers where Thangka paintings and other local arts are promoted. Some palace parts have been converted into museums housing the artifacts of royal families and excavated articles from the region. Most temples are still practicing and are fiercely guarded. Some allow only Hindus to go and most do not allow photography.

ry lying in a square and potter’s wheels around it.

Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square is famous for it’s Krishna temple. It is built in grey stone in Nagar or North Indian temple architectural style and is a practicing temple. There is a shining brass image of Lord Krishna on the first floor of the temple. And has carvings of usual Hindu themes on the outer walls. Another attraction of this square is the Golden temple dedicated to Buddha. You can walk across the square and it’s by lanes. You will see so many big and small temples, stupas, Lingas that beauty is the life that exists around them. They are not monuments that have to be preserved for tourists. But they are a part of everyday life of the people living in and around them.

Finely carved wooden structure at Kathmandu Durbar Square

Architecture of Monuments at Kathmandu Durbar Squares

The architecture of buildings in Durbar squares is typically Nepali that borrows a lot from the Pagoda style. Finely carved wooden windows adorn the walls of most buildings. In fact, Kathmandu was originally called KashthaMandap or a hall made of wood. The carved wood can be seen all over the durbar squares. And in curio shops where the miniature versions of the Nepal windows are sold. The dark colored carved wood looks beautiful against the red palace and temple walls. While you can read about the history of Kathmandu Durbar Squares and Nepal, see the living heritage. As people use it today as they would have used it in the past.

See the locals selling their art and craft to the tourists, small vendors selling food. Look at them interacting amongst themselves as the tourists sprinkled between them move around. The chaos, the sound of children playing on the steps of closed temples. Sights of brick, wood, metal and stone all come together to create a cultural identity for the place. You have to sit at Kathmandu Durbar Squares and soak yourself in it, to feel it & to absorb it.

hinos had just entered, we had second thoughts about leaving the boat. However, our guides gave us confidence and we stepped into the forest.

Walking Safari At Chitwan National Park

Well, we were on a walking safari at Chitwan National Park in Nepal. After exploring the jungle from the safety of a Jeep and a boat, today we were planning to walk through the jungle.

Mist lifting and revealing the forests of Chitwan National Park – Nepal

Rhino’s entry into the same part of the jungle made us curiously nervous. However, we were constantly reminded that there are more than 600 Rhinos at Chitwan National Park. They are all around whether we see them or not. We were also told that Rhinos are not really interested in humans unless they sense a danger from us. I wondered how would they know I am scared of them and they have no reason to be scared of me when all they can see is that I am from a species that is known for killing them.

Beauty of Nature at Chitwan

As we started walking, the fear started subsiding as the eyes started taking in the beauty all around me. Small ponds reflected the tall trees around them as the mist slowly lifted from them. It was like pond revealing itself in slow motion.

Walking through the tall trees – Safari at Chitwan

We were walking on the bed of dried leaves that create a rustle every time we took steps – I wondered if Rhinos and their other wild friends can hear this and react. It was a lovely scene – a bed of sepia dried leaves and tall green trees emerging out of them. At places, trees formed a canopy as if they are leading you to a special place.

Common Kingfisher

Our walk leader Saket kept pointing out the small creatures. I frowned, how is it that he is able to see all these and I have to strain my eyes before I can figure them out in the direction of his finger. However, it was when he starting looking upwards on tree tops that I could compete with him. We spotted so many colorful birds as we walked along.

See our detailed post on – Birds of Chitwan National Park.

It was difficult to click the birds as they had enough foliage to hide behind. So, for a while I let my camera hang around my neck and just enjoyed the flight of birds from one tree to another. It was when I saw a blood red bird that my hands automatically picked up the camera. We played hide and seek but the colors were betraying both the birds and me. When I managed to click a picture I was back to my group.

Ant Holes – Safari at Chitwan

Signs of Wildlife

Saket showed us ant holes, snake holes and numerous footmarks on the ground – he could not only tell us which animal they belong to but also how old they are. Incredible!

Spider hanging on its web or is it still weaving it?

We clicked spiders hanging with the web all around them as if they are holding the two neighboring trees together with their web.

Breakfast in Jungle - Safari at Chitwan

Breakfast in Jungle – Safari at Chitwan

Around 8 o’clock we stopped to have our breakfast. Our friendly forest guard guided us to a clearing where a tall tree was lying horizontally. It became our dining table and we opened our packed breakfast. It was a picture-perfect location – a small clearing with a big fallen tree surrounded by trees all around. We munched our breakfast and just as we started walking again – a Rhino with her young one appears – just about 100 meters from us.

Rhino with her baby - Chitwan National Park - Nepal

Rhino with her baby – Chitwan National Park – Nepal

We hid behind a tree and hoped that we did not come in the line of sight of the Rhino. It was fun to watch them from such close quarters from the same level as them. Before this, I had seen them from elephant back and jeep.

Meeting the Kanchiruwa

Skeleton of a Rhino - Chitwan National Park

Skeleton of a Rhino

The most amazing experience of the jungle walking safari at Chitwan National Park was the chance discovery of the skeleton of a Rhino called Kanchiruwa – called so because of his cut ear.

Different parts of the rhino were lying scattered here and there. It was when we were standing next to its head that I realized how big the animal is. The ribs looked like long sticks. There was a tooth that almost quarter the length of a human foot.

The students of zoology could have spent hours studying the rhino structure. I was shocked to see the size even when it has no skin on it.

Later when I was looking at the images of this Rhino – I could see the law of jungle in action. Till this Rhino was alive, it must have ruled the jungle. Once it died, it became the food for fellow animals and an exhibit for the travelers like us. I also wondered why do we not see more bones scattered in the jungle as animals would be dying on a daily basis. Do you know the answer?

Vine with big thorns - Chitwan National Park - Nepal

Vine with big thorns

Observe Keenly

We kept walking and met lots of colorful butterflies and insects. It was fun to focus and find a light green grasshopper over a dark green leaf. We walked along a lake where colorful common kingfisher sat on branches hanging over the water.

Small lake at Chitwan National Park

Small lake at Chitwan National Park

We saw vines that had triangular thorns of the size of a human hand. They looked like giant pimples – but I wonder if they are a survival mechanism for the delicate vines.

We saw mushrooms growing on logs lying around – wonder if we could eat them or if vegetarian inhabitants of this jungle like Rhinos eat them. I am not even sure if I was seeking answers to these questions. I was just getting more aware of the intricate ecosystem of the forest around me.

Red flowers of cotton silk tree

Sindhure - the saffron colored berries at Chitwan National Park - Nepal

Sindhure – the saffron colored berries at Chitwan National Park – Nepal

The red flowers of cotton silk tree sparkled through the sandy earth – adding the dash of color. However, the big discovery of the day were small orange colored balls – which leaves an orange powder on your hands when touched. We knew they must be of some use – but could not figure out what. Our forest guide said the local name is Sindhure – which is precisely the name of the color in Nepali, Hindi or Sanskrit. After we returned to the lodge we checked their library for information on this colorful berry-like fruit. Guess what, Sindhure was used to dye silks in good old days.

Banks of Rapti River at Chitwan National Park - Nepal

Banks of Rapti River at Chitwan National Park – Nepal

After walking for 4-5 hours and soaking in the fragrance of the forest we were bank on the banks of Rapti – where a narrow long boat made of a single tree trunk was waiting for us.
Before stepping into the boat, I looked back at the forest and then looked at the bank of Rapti – it had its own forest with many types of plants floating above and beneath its waters.

I would remember this walk at Chitwan National Park for a long time. There was a calm along with nervous energy, there was a sense of wonder, a joy and of course the much needed physical exercise.

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