Have you heard of a European style town in Nepal? If your answer is No, then I know that I am only human – for before I visited Bandipur in Nepal, even I did not know a town of that sort even existed. For me, Bandipur was just a forest in South India. Thus, when we were told that we were to stop over en route to Pokhara at a hilltown with the same name, a small green village is the image that I conjured up in my mind. However, Bandipur turned out to be far more than that. And discovering this place, turned out to be one big highlight of my latest trip to Nepal.
Bandipur struck me as a cute little hamlet that reminded me of the small towns of Europe. And yet it had the deep roots of the Newari culture that I had been experiencing at the various Durbar Squares of Kathmandu. There were shades of the Wild West cowboy towns and yet, at every turn, it was a charming hill station with views. Don’t believe me? Well, then let me share my tale of this European Newari Town of Bandipur.
An Introduction to Bandipur
Bandipur was a small town that was along the famous Indo-Tibet route until the Newari tradesmen chose it to become their home. As the history goes, the Newari tradesmen who stayed in Bhaktapur and Kathmandu moved here soon after the kingdoms fell to the Shah dynasty. The community moved here as they found the place to be a safe haven – not just from their foes but also, free of diseases. Most of this happened around the 18th century and even now, you will find those old homes and stories in Bandipur.
Welcome to Europe with Newari Roots
Our taxi got over a hill and stopped right at an old ground that seemed like a parking lot of sorts. Our driver said that he could not go into the town as no cars were allowed and that we were to walk the rest of the way, As I got out of that ground, all I saw were just a few buildings scattered over a large hill. They definitely did not impress me much for I had seen better Newari art at the Patan Durbar Square. Nonetheless, I continued up the path to a narrow lane that seemed to lead down a hill. And voila! What unfolded had me a little stumped for I felt I had wandered into one of those cobbled European lanes.
Pristine and clean, this definitely was a huge and pleasant change from the dusty lanes of Kathmandu. The only reason I believed that this was not some European Colony was that the buildings along that lane were typically Newari. Most of them were converted to hotels and cafes but there was no mistaking their origin.
As I walked further down Bazaar street (yes, that is what that lane was called), there was further proof of the Newari roots in form of this old building that was converted to a community service center and a typical Newari temple in front of it with its colorful, intricate brackets.I took in the temple with delight, spotting many a treasure here.
I must have walked along that Bazaar street at least 3 – 4 times to settle that frenzied feeling you get when you spot myriad of those interesting things at one go. Each time, I had this distinct feeling that some cowboy was going to trot up to me soon and say “Howdy Missy“. I think with those wooden gates that swung wild on their hinges and no vehicles on the road, (not to mention my somewhat cowboy hat) the scene in front of me seemed straight out of a Wild West movie. I wonder if you can see the likeness.
Khagda Devi Temple
We just had about an hour to spend in this town as this was just a breakfast stop-over while heading to Pokhara. What we did not know is how we are going to be blown away by this village so much that we would not want to leave so soon. However, what was planned had to be followed and after a quick check with the breakfast cafe that we placed our orders in, we set out to explore a few of the gems that the owner had pointed out to. Khagda Devi Temple was one such gem.
The temple was a short climb from the Bazaar street and though was not architecturally significant, was nonetheless interesting owing to the legend behind it. The temple has a sword that is tied with cloth and worshiped every year. The Sword called Khagda, belonged to a King of that region and story has it that anyone who sets sight on it is likely to die. Which is why it is kept covered. I could not see the sword but what I saw around it included small idols, a few bells and a huge tree which had some sacred threads around it. The Newari touch to Europe. 🙂
A Nature trail in search of a fort
The cafe owner also, mentioned a Monastery, cave and a fort in Bandipur. If you know me, you know what I really went for, given my limited time. The fort they said, was close to the Khagda Devi Temple but no where I could see the typical walls of one. However, for a change, I was not too bothered for what I encountered along the way was a lovely nature trail with butterflies that fluttered as I walked through those flowers.
There were plenty of vantage points that gave us beautiful views of the Bandipur Town and the valley beyond. We followed a path that led to a resort of sorts. That we discovered was what the fort was converted into. Nothing of the fort really existed except for this moat and wall. Not at all disappointing, given the magical views from here.
Walking along the lanes of Bandipur
The one other thing that caught my fancy was this place called Tindhara, which our cafe owner said existed from the times before the Newari settlement. Keen to see that, Abhinav, Swati and me decided to pace down the Bandipur town and attempt a quick visit. Big mistake! The activity got us to fall deeper in love with this quaint little town.
All through the walk, we encountered friendly faces going about their business. Kids playing at their colorful homes, friendly school kids walking in groups and ladies going about their daily chores. Each one of them had a ready smile for us and kept guiding us through those scenic lanes of their home.
Some of the homes had hung strings of corn to dry out, almost as a decor. These reminded me of the corn village of Sainji that I had seen last year.
This part of the journey got me so nostalgic about my visit to Italy where you encounter what we term as Juliet Balconies – ones with beautiful flowers and creepers framing them. I would have loved to spend more time here, talking to these lovely people and absorbing the simple, fusion culture that this place had.
Tindhara in Bandipur
Tindhara literally, means 3 taps and these were natural ones built to channel the natural water for the Bandipur Town. The taps are still used as a water source for the town. However, what we saw were actually 6 taps.
Above each tap, was a sculpted statue of either a king or a deity. The taps were quite intricately carved. From the condition that the place was in, it was evident that these were restored and preserved. A small water tank of sorts stood opposite this place, which did look ancient but again well preserved.
There was not much other than this out here. The historical significance is what prompted us to visit the Tindhara and given the limited time we had, we hiked through those lanes of Bandipur to get here. In hindsight, I feel I could have avoided this place and instead used it to see more of the Bandipur Town and its lovely inhabitants.
Other attractions of Bandipur Town
I did mention the other attractions of Bandipur Town – the cave and the monastery. Also, there are certain trails and viewpoints like Tundikhel from where you can see the Himalayas on a clear day. For those who like paragliding, there is an option close to Bandipur at Ramkot. However, keeping these aside, the Bandipur Town itself has an inherent magic that will get you to stay here. I am not sure if it the whole fusion of cultures, or the people or the views but whatever it is, it had me enraptured. An overnight stay here would have just been so ideal.
I am, however, glad that I managed to have a unique tale of my own – one where I discovered a perfect blend of nature and heritage, one that almost took me to Europe and yet kept me back in Nepal.
- Bandipur can be reached by public buses from either Kathmandu or Narayanghat or Pokhara. You will need to take a bus to Dumre from these cities.
- Alternately, you can hire a private vehicle from any of these cities to get here.
- Bandipur has quite a few hotels and homestays. However, the occupancy is limited and it is best to book in advance.
- There are no vehicles allowed within the town and hence, you will need to walk around. Make sure you are carrying the right footwear for it.
- Being a hill town, the temperature here fluctuates from warm in the day to mild chill in the night. Winters from November to February are a little harsh.
- In case you are looking at only a stop-over enroute to Pokhara or any other city, make sure you keep aside at least 3- 4 hours to enjoy Bandipur.
- Bandipur is being developed as an eco-travel destination. It is a clean and pristine place with a lot of natural trails. I would urge all my readers and travelers to leave it the way it is.