I spotted the majestic pyramidal pagodas of Bhaktapur in the Akshay Kumar Starrer ‘Baby’. I am sure you spotted them too. But this is not the only reason I made it a must-see place on my Kathmandu checklist. As a matter of fact, there is much more that Bhaktapur shares in art, history and culture to understand in a single visit. Here’s a walkthrough of what’s in here to witness in this magnificent temple town, full of artistic galore.
About the Temple Town of Bhaktapur
In olden times, it was customary to build the cities within well-guarded fortifications. The boundaries of such cities would have high rise walls, to prevent visibility from outside and also well defined observation posts on top of these walls to maintain a constant check on the outside from all directions. The marketplaces, city centers, houses and the royal residences would be put well within these fortifications and protected from outside invasions.The temple town of Bhaktapur is no different. Nestled atop a steep hill, it is guarded by two entry gates that not only makes the entry into the fort difficult, but also puts the force within the structure at a vantage point, from where one could get maximum observation of the entire approach below.The outer entrance door is about 2 feet wide, simple yet ornate. The narrow entrance would not allow more than two to enter inside, making it difficult for a crowd to punch in through. A wide gap lies between the inner and outer entrance, with a wider inner entrance for forces from within to accumulate quickly if needed. There were two approaches to climb up this town, and both were equally steep to climb up.
With construction started in the late 17th Century, this complete city is constructed in red stone and soil, characteristic to this region. It is still a mystery how the architects of the olden times could make structures with so impeccable finesse and symmetry, that there could be no way to find a flaw in their work.
For a moment, when you see those giant lions, towering pagodas and artistic temples, you realize that the ancient generations utilized their time to create things of intangible value; much of what has gone missing with the ‘digital edition’ of human beings today. Somehow, we have stopped creating things that would stand the test of time. For that matter, probably, in every civilization, there has been a sudden irrecoverable gap between the ancient and the modern architecture that the modern structures seem to have completely done away with; the robustness of the ancient architectural science.
We purchased our entry passes to the city and started to move in through the gate. Bhaktapur has plethora of historic temples and buildings with ancient significance. Each spot has an elaborate history, with immense cultural information, which can be easy to miss upon in one go.
The Golden Gate
The Golden Gate is one of the most richly crafted structures inside the Bhaktapur town. Loaded with minute art work, the gate has the idol of Goddess Kali studded at the entrance with Garuda guarding the deity right above. Needless to say, we are yet to unravel several scientific secrets from the ancient generations, that can throw nail-biting challenges to modern scientific knowledge.
Bhaktapur City Center
At this under-construction spot was the Vatsala Temple, a towering structure with multiple intricate carvings and elaborate designs; At its entrance stood a silver bell, which is currently removed, after the temple was damaged.
The Mahalakshmi and Shiva Temple
Further ahead of the City Center and just behind the Vatsala Temple are the tattered temples of Mahalakshmi and Shiva, whose temple structures have been destroyed due to earthquake, however, the beautiful monuments at the entrance steps remain. These robust monuments of the tigers appears like a giant 3D model. For a moment, when you stand close to them, it feels as if they will come alive. In most of the temples here, it is common to see the various animals kept at the steps climbing up the temples. This reminded me of the Konark Sun Temple in Orissa, where there are distinct effigies of Nara, Gaja and Simha (the man, the elephant and the lion), at the foot of the chariot, one on top of the other. The Nara is at the bottom, the elephant in between and the lion is at the top.
This signifies that money (or affluence represented by elephant) and power (represented by lion) eventually leads to the doom of the man.
The Replica of Pashupatinath Temple
At the original Pashupatinath temple, most of the temple structures outside the temple had been reduced to ruins. However, within the inner sanctum, the monuments made up of gilded metal alloys still remain intact. Photography of the inner sanctum of the Pashupatinath Temple is strictly prohibited due to which I was not able to capture the majestic metallic monuments inside the temple.
But here you can see the replica of the temple, in a much smaller size though. The original temple has a similar temple entrance gate where you can walk up to the entrance and pay obeisances. Facing the temple entrance is the stone replica of Nandi (the bull), which is considered to be the ride of Lord Shiva. In the original temple, the actual Nandi is a magnanimous metal structure, overwhelming in size and almost overshadowing the entire view of the temple entrance in front.
Remember the tower from where Ajay (Akshay Kumar) eyes upon his target from a distance while Shabana (Tapsee Pannu) engages him. The Nyatapola temple stands like a rock solid and unshakable structure that stood the test of the 2015 aftermath.
The foundation of the temple is built on five platforms, tapering upwards from the base, giving it a solid pyramidal structure at the foundation. Further, the structure above has five stories, that rests over twenty pillars at the center. The five stories symbolize the five elements of the universe – earth, water, fire, air and ether.
The entrance to the temple has steep stairs with massive stone idols on either sides of the stairs. One peculiar fact that I noticed here too, is the sequence of the idols – man, elephant, and lion. similar to the one in Konark Temple. However, the distinction of the Garuda above all, remained unexplained to me, even by the guide.
Finally, the Bhaironath temple stands within the complex, right next to the Nyatapola Temple. Bhairava is the ‘fearful’ and protective form of Shiva, that protects the universe from the evil forces and controls all cardinal directions.