Bhaktapur, the third major town in the Kathmandu Valley, is known by many Nepali people as the ‘city of rice’. The streets are paved with cobble stone with very little traffic, which makes the town a very pleasant place to visit. At one time, Bhaktapur was an early trade route to Tibet. Much of the incredible architecture in the town dates back to the Malla Kingdom, which existed in the area beginning in the 12th century. The town is full of beautiful temples and the remains of a palace from the Malla kingdom. The tallest temple in Nepal, the Nyatapola Temple, boast some of the best examples of Newari architecture, which is famous for hand carved teak structures. The town houses the Lama Tanka painting school, which is a famous art school known for its Mandala paintings. A Mandala, a circle used to aid concentration in Tantric meditation, is an incredibly intricate painting. Mandala’s are very detailed works of art that require many years of training to learn the skill.
The town has a vibrant cultural life with hundreds of years of tradition. The buildings that surround the Malla palace are primarily small shops and a long narrow block of dwellings. The center of each block typically surrounds a small Hindu temple or statue. The row of homes acts as bordering walls for the temple with dark tight tunnels leading to the center of each block. From the exterior of the block, the doorway or passage that leads to the center block forces a normal size person to bow down before entering into the temple center. As people in the surrounding homes wake up to the ringing of a bell each morning, they journey to the small temple to pray and receive a daily blessing from a Bhramin priest.
Typically, a shop store is situated next to the row of homes. As you can see in the picture; the store is more polished and the homes are designed for convenience. As I crouch walked through a dark passageway, I stepped into the center of one of the blocks and my eyes were immediately drawn up by the expansive bright sky above. As my eyes slowly floated down the structure in front of me, I realized how much the building told me about the culture and lifestyle of the Newari ethnic group. Plants in pots were balanced on the tin roof of the highest floor balcony. Garlic and chili in vines were strung out the windows to dry next to laundry that was folded across bamboo strips on the lower floors. The wiring for electricity was pinned to the side of the walls as the cord lead down into a window where a man suddenly cleared his throat and spit out the window on to the ground below.