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December 2004 - January 2005


Travel

Nepal

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur


Nepal lies in the lap of Himalaya and is a land of many contrasts. It has the highest peak in the world- Mount Everest and some miles in the south it contains flat fertile land – called ‘Tarai’. Snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas are among the finest and most dramatic natural spectacles. Walking through the foothills and valleys of these mountains provides an opportunity to experience its beauty.

In Nepal, Buddhism and Hinduism flourish side by side. The population is made up of many different ethnic groups, deeply rooted in their traditions and beliefs and people keep a happy smile on their faces.

Nepal is generally called a trekker’s paradise but this ancient country has also on offer remarkable cultural heritage and abundant natural beauty.

Built environment: Concentration of art, architecture and archaeological sites are in Kathmandu Valley, which covers an area of approximately 30 km in diameter. It contains the city of Kathmandu itself, Bhaktapur and Patan. All these cities have their own Durbar Squares with a Palace and pagoda-style temples. However, each square has its own charm and character with exquisite buildings constructed between the 12th and 18th centuries by various kings of Nepal.
The features of Durbar Square of the medieval city of Bhaktapur, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are so impressive that in 1995 the director Bernardo Bertolucci made a film called ‘Little Buddha’ here.

In and around Kathmandu other important architectural and religious buildings are the PASHUPATINATH temple – dedicated to the God Shiva, situated on the banks of the holy Bhagmati River; the SWAYAMBHUNATH stupa – perched on a hill overlooking the sweeping views of Kathmandu Valley; the BOUDHANATH – one of the largest stupas of the world; the remote hilltop temples of CHANGU NARAYAN; and the residence of KUMARI DEVI – THE LIVING GODDESS in the heart of Kathmandu.

Handicraft skills of the Nepalese people can be clearly seen in wooden carving on the palaces, temples and other old historic buildings, metal work, pottery and weaving.

The Nature: Pokhara valley to the west of Kathmandu is an enchanting and serene area with several lakes reflecting the high mountains, which surround them. It is a tranquil valley with stunning views of the Annapurna range. The main lake in Pokhara is picturesque Phewa Tal. Near by to the west of Pokhara is the small village of Lumle, situated on the top of a hill within the Annapurna Conservation Area with stunning views of surrounding mountains and valleys.
To the east of Kathmandu there is the hilltop town of Nagarkot overlooking a wide range of snow-capped mountains, which glow at the sunrise. It is said that on a clear sunny day, if one is lucky, Mount Everest can be seen from here.

Chitwan National Park, South-East of Kathmandu, is one of Asia’s premier wildlife park. It has astonishing wild life including many species of birds, deer, crocodile, Rhino and tiger.

Having visited Nepal now, I can definitely say that it is wonderful destination to soak up the atmosphere of the ancient civilisation and spectacular scenery, and also to relax in beautifully landscaped surroundings.

Bajrang Bahadur Mathur is a retired Chartered Architect and Town Planner and lives in London. Since retirement he is doing honorary and voluntary work with a few charitable organisations. He is a keen traveller. All photographs are by him.

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