On Saturday, terrible, tragic news came from Nepal… a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake leveled ancient temples of the Kathmandu Valley, collapsed houses, and killed thousands. I still can’t quite process what happened. It’s hard to fathom that beautiful, peaceful Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur – which I visited just less than a year ago – were destroyed in a matter of seconds. These sacred spaces, in a few terrifying moments of the ground shaking violently in pointless wrath, became hell on earth.
I know that Nepal will recover and rebuilt. Destruction on that scale – and even larger – happened in 1934 when the 8.0 magnitude earthquake did similarly unimaginable damage. I remember when visiting the ancient squares and temples I was looking at old black-and-white photos of how these places used to look prior to that earthquake. I’m sure one day we’ll look again at the painful before-and-after photos flooding the media now and, with the perspective of time, appreciate the country’s renewal after tragedy.
In the meantime, my heart goes out to all the victims who suffered in this terrible event. And my mind, weary of the images of death and destruction, longs for Nepal’s serenity, temporarily lost but sure to be recovered – hopefully soon. Behold the Garden of Dreams. Read the rest of this entry →
In previous posts about the cities of the Kathmandu Valley I talked about Kathmandu (part 1) and Patan (Part 2). Last but not least is Bhaktapur, once the largest of the of the three Newar kingdoms of the Valley. The city was founded in the 12th century by King Anand Dev Malla and was the capital of the Malla Kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley until the 15th century when the kingdom split into three city-states: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bkahtapur. Many of its greatest monuments were built then.
Just like its sister cities, Bhaktapur boasts an impressive Durbar (Palace) Square anchored by the Palace of 55 Windows built in 1427 and adorned by a masterpiece of woodcarving – a balcony with 55 elaborate windows. The statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, who remodeled the palace in the 17th century, faces the edifice on a tall column. The palace remained the seat of the local Malla king until 1769 when Nepal was unified under the Shah monarchy. It now houses the National Art Gallery, with the entrance flanked by two guardian stone lions. Nearby, the magnificent Golden Gate or Sun Dhoka opens to the inner courtyard of the Palace of 55 Windows, stunning visitors with a masterful frieze featuring Hindu deities set against the red brick entryway and surrounded by the white palace walls. Read the rest of this entry →
Kathmandu panorama from Swayambhunath temple
Kathmandu is the gateway to the Himalayas. Tucked away in the eponymous valley, the capital of Nepal stands at 1,400 meters (4,600 ft) above the sea level and for most visitors is just an entry point in transit to even greater elevations of the majestic mountains. Me – I like to linger and enjoy things close by before going for the mountain peaks. Kathmandu Valley
, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
, is a perfect place to acquaint yourself with the rich cultural tapestry that is Nepal.
The valley once was an important trade route from India to Tibet, which explains a ubiquitous and fascinating mix of Hindu and Buddhist influences in local beliefs, architecture, and food. Historically the valley was settled by the Newars, a tribe of Indian and Tibeto-Burman origin. “Nepal” and “Newar” are phonetically different forms of the same word. Read the rest of this entry →