Bhaktapur – Newari Wrestlers and Frisky Elephants

15 Nov

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is only about 12 km’s from Kathmandu. The seemingly short distance nevertheless takes about 45 minutes via local bus because they stop for virtually each and every man, woman, child and animal walking along the road in hopes of picking up additional passengers, and I highly recommend taking the local buses as they’re great fun and probably your best chance to rub shoulders (and every other part of your body as they pack them tight) with normal Nepalis who aren’t trying to sell you something. Regrettably, I wasn’t aware that Sister Sledge was running a bus line in Kathmandu otherwise I would have hopped aboard…

We Are Family

Unlike Patan, Bhaktapur felt very much to me like a separate city having thus far warded off the encroachment of sprawling Kathmandu. And that’s a very good thing.

Bahktapur’s old streets and ancient squares are almost entirely free of the constant flow of cars, motorbikes and crowds that make a stroll through the streets of Kathmandu anything but relaxing.

Quiet Street

And it is just as richly stocked with ancient buildings…

Old Home

and interesting temples…

Nyatapola Temple

and unexpected courtyards…

Courtyard

and child sized doors…

Little Door in Bhaktapur

The woodwork on many of the temples is simply amazing…

Temple Woodwork

The subject matter generally tends towards intricately carved deities but sometimes it’s a bit more risqué in nature…

Interesting Woodwork

And at other times, well, I’ll let you decide how to describe the nature of this one…

Elephants in Action

Also of interest are the various large reservoirs scattered about the old part of town which have been an integral part of the town’s water supply system since ancient times (a term I use when I’m too lazy to figure out just how old the tanks are).

Water Tank

I’m hoping that the water I used while in town was supplied from a tank other than this one with its unearthly greenish hue…

Green Water

While the main squares in Bahktapur are visited by the same heaps of tourists that visit those sites in Kathmandu and Patan, I found that far fewer of those tourists venture off to wander the surrounding streets, which for me were actually even more interesting than the temples and palaces found in the two main squares in town.

Bhaktapur Street

That’s not to say that the squares aren’t beautiful with their temples and palaces.

Bhairabnath Temple

They are… and even more so late in the day and early in the morning when they are blissfully free of tour groups daytripping from Kathmandu. And for that reason alone, it’s well worth it to spend the night in Bahktapur rather than being one of those daytrippers.

But just a block or two away from those squares, life seems to go on for many locals as it has for many hundreds of years without reliance on the tourist trade. What I found utterly fascinating was that many people continue to work the land despite living in a fairly densely developed city. While the fields lay just outside the densest development, much of the work related to the harvest is nevertheless performed in the streets and smaller squares throughout town. I spent an hour or so one morning drinking hot tea with milk and watching women systematically sift through piles of drying grains in Potter’s Square. It was beautiful… and nearly as hypnotic as watching the kelp farmers at work back on Lembongan.

Sifting Grain

And since I promised you wrestlers in my previous post, here you go…

Wrestlers

The two blokes standing watch at the base of the staircase at Nyatapola Temple are Jaya Malla and Phatta Malla. They were famous wrestlers and strongmen in the Kathmandu Valley around the time the Nyatapola Temple was built. They represent the first line of defense against evil spirits. If you’re an evil spirit looking for trouble at this temple, and you manage to win your initial tag team match against this formidable duo, you’ll still have to defeat the pairs of elephants, lions, griffins and goddesses lined up along the staircase behind the Malla Brothers in order reach the doors of the temple itself, all of which sounds like something from an awesome video game to me.

And if that one’s not to your liking, then tune in next time for another such idea which was inspired by the first leg of my trip into the Himalaya. It’s called Nepali Busdriver.

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