Morning light streaked through the apex of Dattatreya temple. Slurping hot, sugary tea, I sat on a corner of Dattatreya Square, watching a dog that was stuck in its puppy hood – it ran amidst a flock of pigeons trying to catch the fluttering birds.
Meanwhile, in rest of Bhaktapur, devout women worshipped flat stones that laid in front of their houses with flowers and food. These offerings were a favourite with local fauna like feral pigeons, stray poultry and dogs.
“The stones represent Kul Devata (family deities)”, one shopkeeper had explained.
Women also placed offerings at various street corners and places… those might have been statues of Gods that fell during the 1934 earthquake. Durbar Square or Palace Square had lost a third of its monuments and buildings in the same earthquake.
Durbar square housed the palace of Malla Kings. The palace had been converted to a museum and it housed Taleju Temple (Goddess Durga) and Kumari Chowk (Living Goddess’ residence). The square became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
After finishing my tea, I started my exploration of the city. Soon, some round alien fried bread, floating in hot-oil caught my attention. The kadhai or wok of oil was sticking out of a small room that opened to the street.
What are these? I asked,pointing at the unfamiliar bread, hoping to have discovered something exotic.
“Doughuts !” The Man, frying the goodies, looked up and gave me a smirk.
Could anything have been more Nepalese than that?
In Pottery Square, a potter sat in trance spinning the wheel. He worked on a pot. In front of him was an expanse of pots, drying in the sun. In contrast to Dattatreya Square, which contained workshops of metal smiths and woodcarvers, Pottery Square was known for its terracotta.
The southern precinct of Bhaktapur did not have the royal touch of Durbar Square or the epic scale of the Main City Square (Taumadhi Square) which housed Nepal’s tallest pagoda temple, Nyatapola Temple. It had simple farms with Hanumante River flowing through it.
As I sauntered towards the river, smell animal dung and blood filled my nostrils. Death reeked in a farm enclosure. A buffalo stood in a corner with its head turned away from a pile of freshly flayed skin. The sight reminded me that no matter how evolved man is, by nature we are grotesque. Sadly, savagery and gore unites humanity.
After that sight, I could not eat (buffalo)buff momo (dumplings). Not that I missed much!
Bhaktapur is a time capsule to be explored at your own pace. Redbrick finish of the buildings had intricately carved door frames, that lured you into a wonderland of bygone years. The emotive stone and wooden figures of the temples spoke to you in some silent language. Those settings mixed with ever-smiling inhabitants was a giddy mix.
The locals exhibit unparalleled dedication to woodcarving, pottery, metal works and many other artworks. Their devotion and faith has given the city its name- Bhaktapur, City of Devotees.