KRITIPUR: AN IMPREGNABLE CITY

Kirtipur sits deliberately across a narrow mountain ridge about 8 km south-west of Kathmandu City. Kirtipur is a historic town indicating one of the oldest Newa settlements in the Kathmandu valley. People seeking places to get away from all the traffic of Kathmandu overlook the former “capital” of Kirtipur. It’s only 30 minutes on a local bus from Ratnapark and is filled with history, culture and food. Historical places like Patan, Bhaktapur and Basantapur had an important alliance with Kritipur back in 15th century. So, Try adding Kirtipur to your list as well, here’s why!

History might answer a few questions about why to visit Kritipur

Kirtipur is one of the oldest settlements in the Kathmandu Valley and also an ancient capital of Nepal. Kirtipur means “Brave town” in the Nepali language is also known as “kipu” and “kyapu”. Till now the Newas of Nepal Mandal area call Kirtipur as Kipoo. The name Kirtipur comes from Kirti (Glory) and pur (city). Once a queen named ‘Kirtilakshmi’ ruled over this place so it states Kirtipur as the city of ‘Kirti’.

History says that the ancient city of Kirtipur was founded by Shiva Deva between 1099 AD and 1126 AD and during the reign of the Malla Kingdom in the 15th century the city was developed for human settlement. Kirtipur’s fortress was considered impregnable. The Gorkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah laid siege to it three times before 1768 A.D. Finally taking the town after Kritipur had been betrayed. He exacted terrible revenge for heavy Gorkha losses – his brother was among those killed – by cutting off the nose and lips of every man and boy over the age of 12. These battles became known as the “Battle of Kirtipur”.

The unknown truth about the Battle of Kritipur was when the Gorkha troops won the Battle in the 3rd attempt and were celebrating, an arrow came unknowingly piercing a Gorkha soldier followed by a voice of Bhairab Singh. Gorkhali troop again fights with the unknown character for 3 days and 3 nights, but Bhairab Singh was losing his arrows one by one knocking and drawing to the enemy. He then tried to escape but got caught by Gorkha troops. He killed hundreds of Gorkhali army, was imprisoned in the dark and cold dungeon in Kirtipur. Nobody knew who he was but one of the armies came to know that Bhairab Singh is in fact the queen of Kirtipur, Queen Kirtilaxmi. She was in disguise, wearing male dress. Her bother Birana Singh son of a commander in chief Kaji Dhanwant was also kidnapped and tortured by Prithivi Narayan Shah, strained to betray against kritipur, but he refused so Prithivi Narayan Shah ruthlessly pealed his skin at Trishuli River.

Kirtipur now

These days there’s an air of seclusion about the place. Some say that it still views itself as a fractious old Malla kingdom, others say it’s still living in the past. In spite of the Battle of Kritipur, its streets are well kept, traffic-free, there’s a little tourist office, no entrance fees for tourists anywhere and a countless way to experience a little bit of old Nepal. A quick bus from Ratnapark will bring you to Naya Bazaar at the base of the steps leading up to the old city. At the top of the steps, you enter through one of Kirtipur’s old gates. From there on the old city starts.

Bagh Bhairav Temple

One of the oldest shrines in Kirtipur, also known as the guardian deity, is Bhag Bhairav temple.  As the name says, this temple inhibits Lord BaghBhairab, and there’s a whole different story to how he was contained in this temple. The rear side of the temple gives a thought-provoking view of south-west Kathmandu. It it’s your lucky day, you will witness mountainous range covering Kathmandu valley. The roof of BaghBhairab is embroidered with the swords and arms that resemble the victory of Kritipur against Gorkha on the First Battle of Kritipur.

Tri Ratna Temple

This old stone Krishna like temple is worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists alike. It comprehends Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The temple took some mild damage in the 2015 earthquake and was used by many aid organizations as a landmark. To the right down a street are two large golden Buddha statues worth visiting.

Dev Pukku

This old royal area is one of the most amiable in Kathmandu. The pond here is where Kirtipur’s main water source is fed by underground water. To the tank’s left is the very well-preserved former Royal Palace. It’s all local accommodation now and it’s great on a summer day to see people sitting at the old Newa style windows looking out. But now the situation of the pond is worsening by the day, the concerned authorities ought to do something about it.

Uma Maheshowri Temple

This tall temple is guarded by two elephants wearing saddles made of metal spikes (to keep people off). It is situated at the top from where the whole Kritipur along with south-west Kathmandu. Originally built in 1663 with four roofs, one was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake. It survived 2015 without much of scratch. There’s also a British Bell here from Croyden.

Newari Cusine

The Newa Lahana and SASA Newa is the place if you want to get a taste of the Newari cuisine. They serve a variety of Newari dishes; the popular ones being Samybaji set (a set with different items- beaten rice, marinated broiled meat, seasoned soya bean, lentil patties and so on), Momo (Nepali dumplings), Sekuwa (barbequed meat), Bhutan (fried intestine), Choela (roasted/ marinated meat), Chatamari (Newari pizza), Chyang (Newari Rice Beer), Aaila (Newari Whiskey).

Jholungeypul

The nearest jholungepul(suspension bridge) from Kathmandu city is in Ma: Kwa Cha, Derkha (Devdhoka) which connects Kritipur with Tinthana which is about 10 minutes’ walk from Nayabazar. As you step foot on the Jholungepul, you will notice that it is situated above a very deep gorge below which the Balkhu Khola flows. If you have a soft heart, then brace yourself, because it gives you chills. Crossing the jholungepul will be a frightening, yet memorable moment, when you are in Kirtipur. 

Kritipur has been standing strong for centuries. The real Kritipur starts from Kritipur viewpoint where artist Amit Karki drew a rectangle on the citadel of Kritipur in 2017 which covered 21 houses. The viewpoint signifies Kritipur as an organic whole of culture and history.

By : Jimi Rajbhandari

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