Long eclipsed by Pokhara and Lumbini, the town of Tansen offers much history and abundant natural beauty
Apr 12, 2019-
For decades, Tansen has been eclipsed by its two more popular neighbours: Pokhara to the northeast and Lumbini to the southwest. But in the last few years, things have begun to change in this small hill town steeped in history and abundant natural beauty. Tansen is seeing more tourists than ever, and it is now slowly emerging out of the shadows of its neighbours.
Here are six things you should not miss out on in Tansen.
What many might not know about Tansen is that in 2006, a fierce battle was fought between the Nepal Army and the rebel Maoists. In the fighting, the Tansen Durbar, originally built in 1927 by Pratap Shumsher, was destroyed. But the Durbar has now been restored with striking red paint. Its doors and windows have bright green varnish and the building itself has been turned into a museum, with a collection of implements that are traditionally used by the Magars, an ethnic group that once ruled the region. The Durbar serves as a reminder of the decade-long insurgency and the direct impact it had on the town and its people.
If you go for a walk in Tansen Bazaar, you will most likely see dozens of shops that sell Tansen’s famous bronze, brass and dhaka products. In Taksar tole, you can still spot artisans making karuwas (a vessel mainly used to drink and store water, and alcohol) of all shapes and sizes. In the narrow alleys of this town, you can also see handloom weavers weaving dhaka shawls. In all, this tole makes for a fascinating walk.
Perhaps the best spot in town to relax and watch people is Sital Pati. An octagonal resting place in the middle of town surrounded by shops and tea stalls, the Pati is believed to have been built on the orders of Khadga Shumsher, the governor of Palpa from 1891-1902. When Tansen was ruled by governors, the Pati was where public announcements were made. Even though Sital Pati has been relieved of its traditional role, it still plays an integral part in the local town as a great place for locals to sit, talk and sip numerous cups of tea. One can even head to the nearby Bhimsen Temple, which is the oldest temple in the town.
On my first night in Tansen, one of the hotel’s staff told me not to miss out on seeing the town’s famous White Lake. He described the lake as a huge cloud that forms in the mornings, and instructed me to wake up at six am. I was tempted to Google White Lake, but I had vouched to not use the internet during the trip. The next morning, a little after six, I headed to the hotel’s roof and what I saw left me awestruck. The White Lake is this vast mist that blankets the Madi Valley, and it is something you have to see to believe it. As the sun rises higher, the mist slowly starts dissipating, and by 10 in the morning, the White Lake has vanished, like a pleasant illusion.
If you are going to stay in a hotel in Tansen, it is most likely going to be in one of the many hotels in the main bazaar, and the best spot for sweeping views of the town, mountains, and hills from the town is Srinagar hill. This pine-forested hill sits at an altitude of 1,524m, and on clear days affords views of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Langtang. The hill’s height also makes it the perfect place to view the White Lake and Tansen town in its entirety.
Popularly dubbed the Taj Mahal of Nepal, Rani Mahal is Tansen’s most famous landmark and the reason many travel to the town. The Mahal is located 13 kms from Tansen Bazaar, but if you are expecting to see a mahal with ancient regal artifacts inside it, you will be disappointed to learn that there’s nothing inside. It’s interiors have remained empty for many years. A local I met at the Mahal told me that many of the artifacts had been plundered many years ago.
But the Rani Mahal, which sits on a dramatic hillock by the banks of the Kali Gandaki river, is still worth a visit. When you walk its empty halls, you cannot help but imagine its grandeur of its heyday, and feel a looming sense of loss.
You can rent a vehicle from the town to the Rani Mahal, which will take you around an hour, but the best option is hiking. It’s a daylong hike, and the trail winds through quaint Magar villages, lagoons, waterfalls, babbling brooks, and dramatic cliffs before ending at the banks of Kali Gandaki River. There’s also a warm stretch of sandy river beach near the palace, which is a perfect spot to unwind after your long hike. There are a few restaurants near the beach that serve cold beer and fish caught fresh from the Kali Gandaki.
Published: 12-04-2019 07:00