Archives for category: Travel

Standing on the banks of the Yamuna river in the town of Vrindavan, Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh is the highly revered temple of Banke Bihari. This temple is an important pilgrimage for the followers of the hindu Deity Krishna and his consort Radharani. Given the massive following that Lord Krishna enjoys, the temple is flooded with thousands of eager pilgrims who come from all corners of India and Nepal during the monsoon month of Shhrawan when the Jhulan festival takes place. Devotees of Lord Krishna come in droves to the Banke Bihari temple during this special time for the special unveiling of the Lord Krishna and Radharani’s statues. The statues of Lord Krishna and Radharani are in the classical Tribhaga mode where their figures are bent in the knee, hip and neck which is also known as “Banke”. The “Banke” is a type of posture closely associated with Lord Krishna.

The temple management committee vehemently opposes taking photos of the legendary Banke Bihari statues when they are unveiled for public viewing. Generally, these viewings are rather brief in nature and offer a glimpse of the statues that does not last longer than a few seconds at a time. None-the-less, the pilgrims and devotees visiting the Banke Bihari temple have an unrivaled fervor towards Lord Krishna and Radharani, which creates a highly energetic and colorful atmosphere inside the temple.

One will not fail to notice the kaleidoscopic array of colors swirling around the temple. Garlands and flowers hang on every wall for this special occasion, as the pilgrims rejoice the life and times of Lord Krishna and Radharani with bhajans and kirtans.

Banke Bihari Temple has been Decorated for the Jhulan Festival during the Month of Shhrawan

Inside the Banke Bihari Temple during the Month of Shhrawan

Inside the Banke Bihari Temple during the Month of Shhrawan

A Covered Fan inside the Banke Bihari Temple

A Covered Fan inside the Banke Bihari Temple

Nandi - Inside the Banke Bihari Temple

Nandi - Inside the Banke Bihari Temple

Banke Bihari Temple in full Bloom in the Month of Shhrawan

Banke Bihari Temple in full Bloom in the Month of Shhrawan

Macchhegau is a Village Development Committee (VDC) in Kathmandu district.  This area has some lush forests that border the VDC.  I spotted a water tank under construction in this area.  Far from the concrete jungle of urban Kathmandu and oblivious to the demand of urbanization, these locals are taking advantage of the underground water to fulfill their needs.  Constant water is a luxury in Kathmandu.

A Water Tank under Construction

High Tension Wire Towers in Macchegau

There has been a construction boom in Kathmandu.  The main construction materials are cement, bricks and steel rod.  Consequently a lot of brick factories have sprung up in Kathmandu.  In Macchegau VDC, there are about five or six such factories.  I visited one of them.  These brick factories are closed during the monsoon as the wet climate hinders proper combustion and green unbaked bricks are easily damaged by the rain.

A Brick Factory with Kathmandu City on the Background

An Idle Truck is Parked outside the Brick Factory

Industrial Chimney

Kids have a Chitchat at the base of the Chimney

A Stack of Bricks

Finished Bricks have been Taken Out of the Bull's Trench or Dug

In the vicinity of the Brick Factory were the remains of a defunct ropeway system. This ropeway system linked Kathmandu to Hetauda and was built in 1960 with American aid.  The Tribhuwan Higway that linked Thankot to Bhainse was completed some 7 years prior to the start of construction of this ropeway system.  After the construction of roads that linked the Kathmandu valley to the Terai, this ropeway died a painful death due to bad management, apathy and corruption in 1994.  I happened to stumble upon its rusty remains while I was on the ‘off the beaten path.’

The Top Section of this Ropeway Tower has Fallen to its Side

Another Ropeway Tower - One of 280 Such Original Towers

The Steel Framework of the Tower as Seen from Below

I Look down as I Climb this Rusty Tower

This is Me Near the Top of the Tower - One of my Crazy Endeavors

Ropes of Steel

The Two Towers

The View of a Gondola from below

During my visit to Nuwakot, I noticed an interesting micro-economy of trout rearing near Kakani and Ranipauwa.  In Nuwakot alone, there are more than twenty trout farms.  Most of these farms have a restaurant attached to them.  Two of these trout farms are located south of Kakani while the rest are located north of Kakani.  At these trout farms, one can purchase and take home a fresh trout, or have the attached restaurant fry, make a curry or barbeque it.  When I visited the trout farms, rainbow trout was selling at around a thousand rupees per kilogram.  Rainbow trout is famed as a delicacy, with its ‘unfishy’ nutty taste.  Also, I witnessed a whole new form of tourism in Nuwakot district – tourists visiting trout farm/restaurant.

This strip of Pasang Lhamu Highway has now developed a small micro-economy revolving around rainbow trouts.  This mushrooming of trout farms can be attributed primarily to Trishuli river and the mountain streams and the proximity of these trout farms/restaurants to the Kathmandu valley.

Rainbow trout was first introduced to Nepal in the late 1960s.  However, due to lack of infrastructure and know how, they did not survive to have any economic viability.  Again, in 1988, rainbow trout was introduced from Miyazaki prefecture in Japan, which lead to people naming it Japanese rainbow trout.  The Japanese rainbow trout need cold, running water which must maintain a temperature of around eighteen degree Celsius as these are very sensitive fish to temperature variations.  Also responsible for this trout boom is the Fishery Research Station at Trishuli which provides the fry or baby trout needed to start growing this beautiful fish.  In the last decade, local people have started to build commercial trout farms and raise their own fries in these parts of Nuwakot district.

It was encouraging to see the local people take advantage of the local resources to create something wholly original. Although production has not reached levels needed for export, let us hope for a bright future of trout rearing in Nepal.

Concrete Tanks Used for Rearing Trout in a Structure known as Raceway

Raceway and Restaurant about Ten Kilometers from Ranipauwa

Cold and Well-Oxygenated Running Water Being Channeled into the Raceway

Baby Rainbow Trout

Nuwakot is the neighboring hill district of Kathmandu. It can be accessed through the Pasang Lhamu Highway which begins in Balaju, Kathmandu and ends in the Tibeto-Nepal border. On the Pasang Lhamu highway,30 kilometers north of Kathmandu, lies the popular tourist spot called Kakani. Kakani is famed for its majestic view of the Himalayas. However when I visited there, the hill was mired in a thick fog, resulting in the Himalayas being blocked out of view. There are good days and bad days,  I thought. Maybe I would be able to see the Himalayas the next time.

But my destination was the Saat Talle Durbar in Bidur Municipality, an experience which I have described in an earlier post. But as they say, the road travelled is as important as the destination. For one hour, I got stuck in a traffic jam in the road just past the hamlet of Jureythum. The traffic jam had originally been a bandh, after a Khalasi allegedly beat up a student. Even after the bandh was resolved, the heavy buses on the narrow road prevented the flow of the traffic from taking place. When I reached that portion of the highway, I found out that people had been stuck there for more than three hours. Oh, the pains of traveling in Nepal….

Aside from that, Nuwakot is a lively place. The valleys in Nuwakot are very deep with Likhu, Tadi and Trisuli rivers draining them, so these valleys are favorable for human settlement. Although agriculture is the main occupation of the locals, there are some areas where commercial poultry farming is popular. I saw maybe five or six tall buildings where poultry was being reared. And then there were the exotic Trout ponds and hatcheries, with in-built restaurants on the side. People utilized the water from the mountain streams to raise rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a prized culinary delight that sells locally at a whopping thousand rupees per kilo.

Valley between Tadi and Trishuli Rivers in Nuwakot District

Hills of Nuwakot District

Pasang Lhamu Highway

Prayer Flags at Kakani

A House Amidst the Fog Near Kakani

Mushroom Farm Near Kakani

High Tension Wire Tower on the Pasang Lhamu Highway

Backroad Under Construction (With No Long Term Planning)

A Bandh on the Pasang Lhamu Highway

Vehicles and People Stuck in a Bandh on Pasang Lhamu Highway Near Jureythum, Nuwakot

Located in Bidur municipality in Kathmandu’s neighboring hill district of Nuwakot is where the Saat Talle Durbar or “The Seven Storied Palace” is at.  This old part palace part fortress was built by Prithivi Narayan Shah during his efforts to conquer Kathmandu.  At the time, Nepal was a loose collection of small kingdoms.   The ambitious Shah king, who was the militaristic king of Gorkha at the time, launched a campaign to extend his territory.  The primary objective of his campaign early on, was to conquer the Newari city states in the Kathmandu valley which would provide him with enough resources to conquer the rest of Nepal.  His strategy was to annex all of the territory surrounding the valley so that he could control Kathmandu’s imports and exports.  To oversee this operation, Shah shifted his capital from Gorkha to Nuwakot which had seen three Malla kings before he captured the place.  He commissioned artisans and masons from Patan to build the Saat Talle Durbar in what is modern day Bidur municipality.

A tall looming figure on the top of a hill, this palace is composed of raw history.  Made of bricks with wooden internal structures, this building is built with old Newari aesthetics combined with a militaristic approach.  If one was to study the layout of the building then one would notice that this palace was A quasi fortress:

1st floor :- Reception for the museum

2nd floor :- This floor contains a room used for various religious purposes, including daily (nitya) puja and pujas during certain festivals

3rd floor :- This floor contains the living quarters of the king and his two wives. The rooms of the wives of king was designed so that they could be entered only from the king’s room. A balcony encircles the entire floor from which provides a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and the valleys carved by Tadi and Trisuli rivers

4th floor :- This floor contains a dimly lit room where a small battalion was supposedly kept to ensure the king’s safety in the lower (4th) floor

5th floor :- This floor comprises of a large feast room where the king carried out social fuctions

6th floor :- This floor is a dungeon of sorts. With four foot high ceilings, Rajdrohi (Traitors) were kept in captivity and possibly tortured here.

7th floor :- This is the smallest floor and is called “Burja” (Burjis an Arabic word which means tower, and the Burja room is definitely a rooming the tower) and serves as a place where a guard(s) was kept to look out for trouble and blow the bugle when necessary.

To get to this palace/fortress,  one needs to go through the Pasang Lhamu Highway which starts at Balaju, Kathmandu and craves through Nuwakot and ends in the Tibeto-Nepal border.  The turnoff point for the Nuwakot durbar is at Battar bazaar (some 75 kilometers from Kathmandu’s Ring Road) in Bidur municipality.  The Saat Talle Durbar lies a little over five kilometers to the east of Battar bazaar.

The Saat Talle Durbar was turned into a museum in April 2011.   Tickets are priced at twenty rupees for adults.  Ten rupees for students with an pictured identity card and on Saturdays, it is just two rupees for students.  Surrounding the palace is an old Newari village with a Taleju temple and a Bhairab temple.  Two historical buildings from the past which are located in front of the palace have been turned into police and army barracks.

Nuwakot Durbar Compound

The Nuwakot Durbar

Newari Style Windows of the Nuwakot Durbar

The Durbar Courtyard

Statues of Prithivi Narayan Shah and his Two Wives, Commissioned and Hand-crafted During his Lifetime

King's Living Quaters

Wooden Stairs of Sal Wood

The Feast Room

A View from the Durbar

The 7th Floor

A View from the 7th Floor

The Bhairab Temple

An Old Man Resting in the Bhairab Temple