Once out of Bhaktapur city, the Arniko Highway offers a great drive, with really great scenery all along the road. There’s serenity in the surroundings, you’ll agree. An abundance of lush greenery everywhere you look, especially in this season of rain. The road climbs up gradually in places, and goes lazily downhill in some, the traffic isn’t much, and you get to enjoy long moments of silent tranquility on the way. It’s peaceful, is what I’m trying to say. Then, a half hour or so, and you reach one of the most touristic spots in the valley, Dhulikhel.
Now, this Dhulikhel, it has some of the best resorts you’ll find anywhere on Earth, located on hilltops and plateaus, offering panoramic views of the mighty Himalaya. It’s said that no visit to Nepal can be complete without a night’s stay in Dhulikhel. Most visitors come here looking forward to being bewitched by magnificent sunrises every morning. The city is deeply steeped in ancient Newari tradition and culture, and the city folk take special care to uphold such a rich civilization. Here is where you’ll find the locals vigorous in celebrating the many festivals throughout the year, and here is where you’ll discover the pleasures of bird watching in the thick jungle all around. If you love nature, you’ll love Dhulikhel. Period!
Now, if you drive on a few kilometers, you’ll arrive at a place called Banepa that’s a rapidly growing city. It’s an important place of commercial activities. Here is where you’ll find a road meandering northwards from one of the squares on the main road. This road takes you to one of the most ancient Newari towns of the country. They say that it is the fourth most culturally important town, next only to Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur. It has a rich history, and is said to be located on a massive rock bed, which makes it impervious even to the mightiest earthquakes!
This particular town is also as ideally located in another sense, at the confluence of two sacred rivers, the Roshi and Punyamati. The town has many pagoda-style temples and other religious shrines, in addition to other common paraphernalia common to Newari settlements, such as patis and sattals (public resting places) and hitis with dhungedharas (watering spots with carved stone spouts). Most such places are made of wood and terracotta. You’ll find that the wood columns are also intricately carved pieces of art, and as far as the temples are concerned, they have beautiful gilded roofs and wide courtyards in front. At the center of the town, you’ll discover the remnants of an ancient durbar, as well.
This town was formed after the merger of six ancient villages, and now has an area of about thirty-four square kilometers. From here, too, you’ll be able to have splendid views of the Himalaya, especially if you take the trouble to take a 15-minute walk uphill to Gorakhnath Hill. From here, you will also realize that the town is, in fact, slightly fish-shaped from east to west, and that it is pretty small, only about a kilometer in length. The junction of the two rivers is known as Triveni Ghat, a sacred site for the last rites of loved ones.
Although many of the festivals and traditions are similar to that of the capital, this town also has some festivals that are unique to the place. One such, a post-harvest festival, is in honor of a delicacy that has become famous throughout the land, and which originated here. In fact, today, it has attained a high status as one of Nepal’s most popular dishes, and many restaurants in the valley tout it proudly on their menus. Another festival unique to this town is held once every twelve years for a full month at the confluence of the two rivers, Roshi and Punyamati. It is believed that another river, the Lilawati, also confluences at this point, but you’ll need your third eye to see it.
Another interesting fact about this town is that this is where Prince Mahasatwo was born. Who’s that, you may query. Well, he’s the famous prince who sacrificed his body to feed a tiger and her cubs in the nearby Namobuddha jungle, and thus became the very epitome of compassion and sacrifice. Now, it is a very holy pilgrimage site that is visited by thousands of devotees who hope to imbibe the same noble values. Indeed, this ancient town, and its surroundings, is where one will find history and culture intertwined in equal measure.
Bet you’re intrigued by this place. Well, then better make a trip here soon!