Bhaktapur, also called Khwopa locally and Bhatgaon historically is a city in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, in the east, 13 kilometres (8.1 miles) from the capital Kathmandu. Bhaktapur is Nepal’s smallest and most densely inhabited city. The city is renowned for its Newar customs, food, and craftspeople. Bhaktapur is a vibrant city with 40,000 residents. The valley’s original occupants, the Newars, developed a distinctive urban culture over almost two millennia that retained a pre-industrial way of life until the middle of the twentieth century. The city’s festivals punctuate the calendar in such a manner that the city becomes a platform for a lot of civic performances. Supernatural beings and people participate in these rituals to maintain the flow of time and space.
A Reflection of its Heritage
Renowned for its religious significance, cultural significance, and historical heritage, Bhaktapur is an exceptional city characterised by its wealth of ancient artwork, deeply-rooted religious beliefs, captivating cultural traditions, magnificent architectural wonders, and ancient sculptures, thus earning its reputation as an open-air museum. It boasts a mesmerising array of temples, pagodas, monuments, courtyards, squares, traditional dwellings, intricately crafted stone structures, water spouts, and Buddhist shrines and monasteries constructed throughout history. Additionally, Bhaktapur is widely recognised as a city of gods. Bhaktapur is also known as the “city of followers”, “city of culture”, “living heritage” and “the cultural jewel of Nepal”.
The Social-Cultural Dynamics of Bhaktapur, Nepal
As per Nepali and Sanskrit languages, Bhaktapur means a city of devotees. This city has successfully upheld its historical essence and cultural legacy, safeguarding its distinctive identity and civilisation for future generations. With a population comprising 92% Hindus and 7% Buddhists, Bhaktapur is adorned with numerous temples and monastic establishments that pay homage to these two influential religions. The captivating allure of Bhaktapur reveals itself through its four renowned squares: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Pottery Square, Taumadi Square, and Dattatraya Square. Each square unravels the tapestry of the city’s vibrant culture, ancient settlements, rich history, and the evolutionary journey that has endured for countless generations.
Bhaktapur also shines as a hub of festive fervour throughout the year, with celebrations steeped in mythical traditions, agricultural rituals, and the changing seasons. A prime example is the magnificent Biska Jatra, a grand procession spanning eight nights and nine days, held to commemorate the New Year. Renowned for its delectable Juju Vhau (King sweet curd), exquisite clay pottery, and intricate wood carvings, Bhaktapur has garnered international acclaim as an extraordinary city brimming with unparalleled uniqueness.
Modernisation and Architecture
Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Exploring Bhaktapur opens doors for visitors to immerse themselves in the profound study of the time-honoured architectural marvels, artistic treasures, and cultural tapestry flourishing during the reigns of the Lichhavi and Malla dynasties. The city’s prominent highlights, such as the majestic Five-Storied Temple, the captivating Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the revered Changunarayan Temple, the renowned 55 Windows Durbar Palace, the picturesque Dattatraya area, and the serene Siddhapokhari, effortlessly capture attention. Within these captivating attractions, one can readily witness the vibrant presence of the Newari language, the intricate mastery of arts, and the bewitching allure of traditional costumes, collectively narrating the timeless tales of Bhaktapur’s heritage.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durbar Square, nestled at the crossroads of Bhaktapur, serves as a captivating museum that showcases the splendid art and architecture of the medieval era. Within its precincts, one can marvel at an array of sculptures, intricately carved wooden masterpieces, and grand pagoda temples dedicated to various deities. The square is an enchanting ensemble of temples, encircling a magnificent palace adorned with fifty-five exquisite windows meticulously constructed from brick and wood. This architectural gem stands as a testament to the timeless artistic heritage of Nepal. Upon exploration, people will encounter golden statues of kings perched atop stone monoliths, benevolent guardian deities peering from their sanctuaries, and a symphony of meticulously crafted wood carvings adorning every corner, from struts and lintels to gateways and windows. Bhaktapur Durbar Square proudly showcases revered treasures of Nepali art, including the gilded gate, the illustrious 55 Window Temple, the Bhupatindra Malla statue, the museum housing precious artefacts, the resplendent Krishna Temple, the resounding Big Bell, the melodic Dog Barking Bell, the Siddhilaxmi Temple, and the sacred Taleju Bhagwati Temple.
Boasting impressive dimensions of 171 meters in length, 73 meters in width, and 3 meters in depth, this sprawling pond reigns as Bhaktapur’s largest artificial water body. Additionally, it holds a significant association with Lord Indra, as evidenced by the ornate display of “diyos” adorning its perimeter during the auspicious occasion of Indra Jatra. The surroundings of this magnificent pond are adorned with intricately sculpted stones, adding a touch of timeless artistry to the landscape.
The Perspective of The Community
Four interconnected place dimensions—the “sense of sacrality,” the “sense of community,” the “sense of historicity,” and the “sense of serenity”—are used by the locals to describe Bhaktapur’s sense of place. These four aspects are taken from Bhaktapur’s physical and metaphorical, historical and modern qualities—built and natural, actual and fictional. Bhaktapur residents have a strong feeling of social cohesiveness and togetherness. They cherish the links among local communities, extended families, and neighbourhoods. The community joins, builds relationships, and celebrates common traditions during social gatherings, religious ceremonies, and festivals.
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