March 23, 2015 , by Reetu Joshi, 3 Comments
A modern-day Kathmandu, with a bird eye view from Google Earth, always pushes you towards an imagination of a concrete jungle. Once unscathed by a swift urbanisation that the Western world has embraced, Kathmandu has now become a city that is seemingly devouring a rich history that it has lived for centuries. But as the city comes under the scutiny of nature surfers, Kathmandu will take your breath away. With an ancient history and civilisation, the clock always ticks back in Kathmandu. Bungamati, situated at the Southern part of Kathmandu, not only takes you back to the old times but also lets you live a rich culture that it boasts.

DREAMS Heritage Series
A Living MuseumKhokana & Bungamati
The essence of travelling to places lies not in the place itself but in the feeling that it gives when you walk into its doorstep. As I decided to put on a pair of worn out sports shoes to hang around the place we know as Bungamati, I was left aghast gracing one of the oldest civilisations of Kathmandu just few kilometres away from a modern city. Passing through the Bhainsepati town-planning, one would expect the place would be cramming itself with everything new — modern buildings, freshly paved roads and unpleasant pollution.
But you might be in for a wonderful cultural surprise. Instead of towering buildings, the area is surrounded by brick houses of not more than two stories. Instead of black-topped avenue, the roads were nicely laid out in baked bricks. And the best of all, the village is devoid of any noise or air pollution.Yes, you have travelled back in time, only this time it is not an old photograph but a contour of new body with an old soul. Having been situated around eight kilometers south of Kathmandu; it is still untouched by the postmodern time and lifestyle. The villages have managed to preserve half a millennium year’s old history of its existence.

From a vantage point, one can clearly see the entire village of Bungamati. As soon as you enter the village, friendly residents, mostly from the Newar community, welcome you with grin. While walking around the alleys, a typical Newar village is evident when you see the batches of chilies hung at the beautifully carved wooden windows, the grain is milles, peddling of the traditional herbs at the shops and elderly people basking in the sun clathed in traditional Daura Suruwal and Haku Patasi. Even with most of the locals out in the field during the day; the nooks and corners of the village are filled with small showrooms where the traditional occupations are kept alive by the present generation. Stone and woodcarving, thread weaving, carpet manufacturing are a few of them.

As an old quote goes, “All roads lead to Rome”, with Bungamati “All the narrow gullies lead to the temple of deity Rato Machhendranath”. Regarded as the patron of the valley, his large Shikhar-style temple in the centre of the village square is his home for six months of the year (he spends the rest of his time in Patan). The process of moving him around Patan and backward and forward to Bungamati is one of the major festivals in the valley which is celebrated with much fanfare.

Karya-binayak temple, dedicated to a natural stone named Ganes, is another major attraction of the village. The temple holds tremendous amount of importance in the Newah culture. One of the locales of the village said about the history of the village: "It was established as early as the 7th century. The first stele of Amshuverma was found in Bungamati dated Sambat 29 or 605 AD where the first mention about Kailashkut Bhavan was found. The stele further shows that Bungamati had already been a famous village for agriculture, livestock and fishing. Bugayumi was name of the village in Lichchhavi period and then it changed to Bungapattan during the Malla dynasty.
Bungamati, with its timeless beauty shows where the heart of real Nepal lies. Let’s take a glimpse at its unfazed heritage.

Artistically blessed, both the villages boast wood carving, handicraft as their main profession after farming. Small spaces and shops showcase the exquisite artwork and the technique behind creating it.
All three of them owned a farm in Khokana village. One of the ladies on the right asked: “Why are you taking our pictures? We are old and have nothing new to offer.” I just smiled at their faces and thanked them for the picture. But if I had the opportunity to reply, I would tell them to raise their chin up because what our generation lost using smart phones and watching TVs were nurtured and utilised by them.
The pillars of past and the future intertwined with history, respect and love.
As she stood in one of the alleys’ flaunting the traditional haku patasi and gave a smile which had seen a lot of hardships, I realised beauty is found everywhere.
With abundance of land available for mustard farming, another thing Khokana is famous for is its oil mills. Within every 20 to 30 steps you take there is an oil mill sending out an aromatic scent drawing us in.
Talking about weird traditions residents of Khokana are not allowed to keep chickens on their farm or grow garlic in their field. Hence ample number of ducks quack here and quack everywhere.
Love is all we need.
No substitute for hardwork.
Said to have been built by King Shree Niwaas Malla almost 300 years ago, Bungamati temple is a shikhara style temple which holds the shrine of god Rato Machhendranath and also its home for six months of the year.
The courtyard surrounding the temple is one of the most beautiful in the valley.
It also consists of a Buddhist shrine showing the amicable relationship of both religions even during those times.
The vantage point from where the spectacular view of the villages can be observed; from the towering Bunga: dya temple to farmland adjoining the ancient houses. Bungamati and Khokana have stayed true to their inherited roots despite the pressure of modernization.
People generally know that there are three living goddesses (Kumaris) in Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. But forgot about one such goddess in Bungamati. Allowed to visit only during special occasions, her presence holds a special place in the cultural setting.
Small haven for tourists.
A glimpse of the Newar village
If you ever get tired of city’s hustle bustle, I dare you to take a bus from Ratnapark to Bungamati bus park to explore the living museum. Be brave!

Words and Photos by Reetu Joshi.

To read more by Reetu Joshi on DREAMS, click here.
Follow Reetu on Twitter @reetuzoshy.

[1] Mohan Duwal @mkduwal – Post-processing of Reetu’s original photos,
[2] Shakya Sansar – Local informant.

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Categorised in: Heritage Series

3 comments on “A LIVING MUSEUM

  1. Eva Dhaugoda says:

    woooooooo awesome of the awesomeness :D :D Reetu proud of u!! Pictures are just toooooooooooo goood yaar!! Looking forward to ur next article!! :) :) :) :)

  2. Abhinav Singh says:

    The link might inform you more about happenings at Khokana and Bungamati area.

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