Bakthapur, one of the three former kingdoms of the Kathmandu valley is a lovely place to visit. By local bus it takes about 30 minutes from Kathmandu and it feels like going back in history, walking straight into an open air museum. Red cobbled streets, old red bricks houses and many ancient temples, this is a fascinating village and the perfect place to just wonder around and sit down at one of the many roof terraces watching life passing by.
We visited during the Nepali New Year which is celebrated by a 9 day lasting festival called Bisket Jatra. To start the festival, the young men of the village, divided into 2 groups (upper and lower town) are trying to move a huge wooden chariot with a statue of Bhairav into their part of town by a tug-of-war. We were warned it could get crowded and heated at the square where this spectacle was happening, so we decided to watch from a rooftop terrace. We had a great view and were happy we high above the crowd. It was an exciting show to watch, the 2 groups shouting and tugging, men on the chariot cheering on their mates and the crowd shouting ohh’s, ahh’s and ai’s, the chariot moving up and down to both sides; squeaking, cracking and dangerously swinging. It was not a straight line in which the chariot had to be tugged, so at some point the 2 groups were tugging in an angle of 45 degrees instead of opposite of each other, which made the chariot being dragged to the side, instead of rolling forward or backward. It took more than 2 hours until the chariot finally rolled into the street under loud cheering. It was an incredible spectacle to watch.
On the 13th of April, the last day of the year, people went to the temples offering goats or chickens, dressed in beautiful red and golden colors and another tugging-activity was going on. This time it was about the whole society erecting a 20 meter long wooden pole vertically up in the air. With 3 thick ropes and extra poles tied together in crosses to support the rising part of the main-pole, boys and men were tugging the pole in position, not without danger as the cross poles came down a couple of times and the 20 meter long pole was moving dangerously from one side to another. But again, under loud cheering of the audience and organizing instructions and shouts from the experienced older men, the pole was erected after 2 hours, without any accident happening. It was another incredible show to experience.
Apart from this amazing festival, Bakthapur is well known because of the pottery and the kids were invited to create a ceramic elephant, an art class they enjoyed a lot. We also had to taste juju dhau; king of curds, the best curd you will find in Nepal made of buffalo milk and spices, the creamiest and tastiest curd ever eaten, served in a ceramic bowl and to check if you’re eating the real thing, you hold the bowl upside down as the real curd won’t fall out where fake ones will.
We enjoyed being back in Bakthapur after 14 years and again, like in Kathmandu, we were sad to see the earthquake damage. Many restorations were ongoing, but some ancient details are almost impossible to rebuild.