Print Edition - 2016-07-16  |  On Saturday

Perched on history


Jul 16, 2016-

A stone’s throw away from Kathmandu, the impregnable Kirtipur feels a world away. The historic citadel, which obstinately warded off several sieges by the Gorkha army, still stands proud in the summer sun, still largely resistant to the sea of change that has swept the valley that it overlooks.

Beyond the meandering chaos of Balkhu, through a university painted red with lofty political signs and past a cricket stadium where so many hopeful promises were made, only to be broken, Kirtipur, the proud ‘fourth kingdom’,  welcomes you in all its Gondor-esque splendour. 

Once you move past the new settlement (naya basti), with its small eateries and bookstores catering to the students at the university, several stone staircases meander into the old town above. As you start your climb upwards, the cityscape changes instantly. So much so, a short five-minute walk feels like a time warp into another time and place. Suddenly you find yourself in an old Newari town with narrow gallis, intricate bay windows and brick houses, the colour of earth, that have stood the test of time and troubled transitions. 

Here old women bask in the sun, weaving yarn and sifting through grains. The men huddle in Falchhas, spinning tales and watching visitors with curious eyes. The children, carefree, still run riot, dodging bikes and camera lenses.  

Once you are here at this quaint town—an earshot from the honks and hoots of the traffic you left behind—you can’t help but feel anew. The calm that Kirtipur exudes is infectious. Here, minutes turn to hours, and hours turn into dusks fueled by thwons obtained by the litre from unsuspecting hole-in-the-wall watering holes. The kind of dusks that let you happily miss the last cramped micro back home.

And all the while as you stagger back to the meandering chaos of Balkhu, you are left wondering why you don’t make this peaceful detour more often. Kirtipur, after all, stands just a stone’s throw away. Defiant, proud and always open-armed. 

Text and Photos:

Merit Maharjan

Locals huddle at a Falccha in Tanami, one of the town’s main thoroughfare.

The splendid Bagh Bhairav is easily the most identifiable space in Kirtipur. The temple houses a beautifully conceived avatar of Bhairav and is adorned with swords and daggers reportedly from the Gorkhali seize of the town. 

 A groundskeeper sickles the underbrush at the Uma Maheshwor Temple—the 

highest point in Kirtipur.

Kirtipur’s outlying farms remain largely intact, but for how much longer is 

anyone’s guess. 

Locals chat with each other up in the morning. Neighbourhood ties remain strong in Kirtipur, giving it a communal feel that the Valley below is losing by the year. 

The community field at Kirtipur Gate serves as an open arena for sport-lovers and lovebirds alike. Beyond, the old town juts out into the sky.

 A khaat—used while parading deities in Jatras year round—lies idle on the Bagh Bhairav premises.

Layaku, Newari for palace, once housed the palace of the rulers of Kirtipur. 

An intricate window at Layaku that survived, what appears to be, a bitter inheritance feud. 

 A pigeon looks over the dense Kirtipur settlements.

The Bagh Bhairav Temple affords one of the most stunning panoramas of Kathmandu’s chaotic cityscape. It is one of the few outlooks in the Valley that offers up such a view without the added trouble of a day-long hike. 


Published: 16-07-2016 11:16

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