Located approximately 5 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu city within the Kathmandu Valley, lies the ancient city of Kirtipur, Nepal. Geographically, Kirtipur is situated between longitude 27° 38″ 30′ and 27° 41″ 30′ E, and latitude 85° 13″ and 85° 19″ N. Its altitude ranges from 1284m to 1524m above sea level. The city derives its name from Sanskrit, where ‘Kirti‘ means Glory and ‘Pur‘ means City, signifying its status as the city of Glory.
Kirtipur holds the distinction of being one of the oldest cities in Nepal, originally inhabited by the Newars. For those with limited time to explore Kathmandu, Kirtipur is a must-visit destination. It offers a brief escape from the bustling crowds, with no entrance fees, and provides a glimpse into the captivating world of a traditional Newari village – a hidden gem known to only a few.
A Journey Through the History of Kirtipur
Kirtipur, famously known as the city of fierceness, holds a captivating history that traces back to 1099 AD when it was a part of Lalitpur. The city flourished in culture, trade, industry, and agriculture, attracting the attention of the great King Prithvi Narayan Shah. In 1767, after a series of tumultuous battles, King Prithvi Narayan Shah finally conquered Kirtipur, incorporating it into his kingdom. The road to victory, however, was far from easy.
Kirtipur valiantly defended itself against the Gorkhali troops in two initial attempts. The first attack claimed the life of Gorkha’s commander, Kalu Pandey, while the second attempt left Surpratap, another Gorkhali leader, blinded by an arrow. It was only in the third and final attempt that the relentless Gorkha forces conquered Kirtipur.
Local legends recount the extraordinary tale of Kirti Laxmi, a Newar woman who played a pivotal role in Kirtipur’s resistance. Disguised as a man named Bhairab Singh, she fearlessly fought against the invading Gorkhali troops, becoming an inspiring symbol of courage for her people. Even after the Gorkhalis seized control of the town, Kirti Laxmi continued her unwavering battle, armed with a bow and arrows. She personified bravery and served as a beacon of hope, never allowing her spirit to falter. Some even regard her as an incarnation of Goddess Ajima, the revered deity of the Newars, believing she saved the town from destruction. Tragically, Kirti Laxmi took her own life after being captured, leaving behind a legacy that forever shaped the city’s identity. It is from this valiant woman that Kirtipur derived its name.
Kirtipur not only embodies bravery but also holds the distinction of being a place where peaceful mass demonstrations unfolded in 2006, leading to the collapse of the king’s power. The city carries the weight of a bitter history with the Shah dynasty, earning its reputation as an anti-monarchy city.
Embark on a remarkable journey through time as we delve into the rich and resilient history of Kirtipur. This city echoes the tales of fierce resistance and the enduring spirit of its people.
Reaching Kirtipur: A Convenient Journey from Kathmandu
Kirtipur, situated a mere 45 minutes drive from Kathmandu city, offers convenient access for visitors. There are a couple of transportation options to consider when planning your trip to Kirtipur.
By Car or Taxi
The most common and convenient way to reach Kirtipur is by car or taxi. From Kathmandu, you can hire a taxi or arrange for a private car. The journey typically takes around 45 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. It’s advisable to negotiate the fare or use a taxi meter to ensure a fair price.
For adventurous souls, biking to Kirtipur from Kathmandu is an excellent option. The distance is not too long, and the route is filled with enjoyable moments. Renting a bicycle in Kathmandu and pedaling your way to Kirtipur allows you to immerse yourself in the surrounding scenery at your own pace. Remember to wear appropriate safety gear and follow traffic rules for a safe and enjoyable ride.
Whichever mode of transportation you choose, Kirtipur awaits its rich history, cultural heritage, and warm hospitality. Enjoy the journey as you embark on an unforgettable exploration of this ancient city.
Places to visit in Kirtipur
Kirtipur, a historic city in Nepal, offers numerous attractions for visitors to explore. Here are some of the noteworthy places to visit in Kirtipur:
Bagh Bhairab Temple: A Sacred Haven of Strength and Devotion
Nestled within the historic city of Kirtipur, the Bagh Bhairab Temple stands as one of the oldest and most revered shrines in the region. Known as the Guardian deity, the temple holds the affectionate title of Ajudeu, meaning the grandfather of the gods, among the local people. It’s significance and mystical aura attract devotees seeking blessings and solace.
The centerpiece of the temple is a magnificent clay statue, adorned with a grand silver mask, representing the formidable form of Lord Shiva known as Bhairab. Lord Bhairab is renowned as the epitome of fierceness and is revered in various ceremonies such as rice feeding and marriages.
The Munsi Newar community predominantly worships and pays homage to the revered Bagh Bhairab. This three-storied temple believed to have been constructed in the 16th century, stands as a testament to the rich architectural heritage of the era. As you approach the temple, you will be greeted by a serene courtyard adorned with small shrines and stone idols, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and spirituality.
The temple itself boasts three intricately designed gates, each inviting devotees and visitors into its sacred premises. One of the temple’s roofs is adorned with exquisite gilt copper, while the other two are crafted from wood. The wooden pillars that support these roofs are skillfully carved, depicting various Hindu gods and goddesses, adding a touch of artistic grandeur to the temple’s ambiance.
For the locals of Kirtipur, the Bagh Bhairab deity symbolizes more than just religious devotion. It represents knowledge, productivity, and strength, serving as a source of inspiration and empowerment.
Prepare to be captivated by the aura of devotion and spiritual energy as you step into the sacred Bagh Bhairab Temple, where history, tradition, and faith intertwine to create an extraordinary experience for all who visit.
Chilancho Stupa: A Timeless Buddhist Marvel near Kirtipur
The Chilancho Stupa is situated atop a stepped platform, adding to its visual allure and architectural grandeur. As you approach the stupa, you will discover four smaller stupas encircling the central structure. These smaller stupas, too, boast intricate designs and are adorned with statues of the revered Dhyani Buddhas. These representations of enlightened beings enhance the spiritual ambiance of the shrine, captivating all who behold them.
Adding to the allure of the Chilancho Stupa is an inscription dating back to Nepal Sambat 635, etched into its sacred walls. This inscription serves as a testament to the historical and cultural significance of the stupa, connecting present-day visitors with the distant past.
Embark on a serene journey to Chilancho Stupa, where time seems to stand still amidst the tranquil surroundings. Allow yourself to be immersed in the spiritual energy and architectural marvels that grace this sacred site, offering a glimpse into the profound Buddhist heritage of the region.
Dev Pukku: A Tranquil Pond of Historical Significance
Dev Pukku serves as a vital water source for the town of Kirtipur, providing sustenance and vitality to the local community. Surrounded by a backdrop of quaint local accommodations, the pond retains its timeless appeal. During the summer months, the scene becomes even more captivating as the local Newar inhabitants emerge from their traditional Newari-style windows, adding a touch of authenticity and cultural vibrancy to the surroundings.
Visiting Dev Pukku allows you to immerse yourself in a serene atmosphere, where the tranquility of the pond harmonizes with the rich historical legacy of the area. As you explore this charming location, you will be captivated by the interplay between the natural beauty of the surroundings and the vibrant local life that unfolds before your eyes.
Indulge in a moment of respite as you witness the allure of Dev Pukku, a place that continues to hold a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors alike. Experience the magic that emerges when history, nature, and cultural authenticity converge in this extraordinary destination.
Taudaha Lake: A Serene Haven of Natural Beauty and Spiritual Significance
According to local legends, Taudaha Lake is believed to have originated when the revered Manjushree, a bodhisattva associated with wisdom, wielded his mighty sword to carve the Chovar gorge. The lake is said to have provided shelter to majestic serpents, including Karkotak, the king of Nags (serpents). On the auspicious day of Nag Panchami, devotees flock to the lake’s periphery to pay homage and offer prayers to the serpent king, creating a vibrant and deeply spiritual atmosphere.
Beyond its religious significance, Taudaha Lake is also renowned as a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts. With binoculars and cameras in hand, bird lovers flock to this mesmerizing site to catch glimpses of a diverse array of avian species. The lake’s tranquil environment and rich ecosystem provide a perfect habitat for a variety of birds, making it a true paradise for nature enthusiasts.
As dawn breaks, Taudaha Lake unveils a breathtaking sunrise that casts ethereal hues across the water, creating a sight of sheer beauty that lingers in the memory. The lake’s crystal-clear waters are home to numerous large fish, adding to the ecological richness of the area. However, please note that fishing, boating, and swimming are prohibited within the pond, allowing the natural ecosystem to thrive undisturbed.
Uma Maheshwar Temple: A Majestic Pagoda-style Shrine
Standing tall in all its grandeur, the Uma Maheshwar Temple is a remarkable three-storied pagoda-style temple that was constructed in the year 1655 A.D. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati, this sacred abode also features images of other deities such as Saraswati and Mahismardini. The temple’s intricate doors, pillars, and beams showcase exquisite artwork depicting various gods and goddesses, captivating all who visit.
Locally referred to as Kwacho Dege, the Uma Maheshwar Temple holds immense significance as one of the most revered sites in Kirtipur. Perched atop a hill, the temple offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Kathmandu valley, with majestic mountains like Langtang, Dorge Lakkpa, Chobhu Bhamure, and Gaurisankar standing tall in the distance. Visitors are treated to a captivating vista that truly encompasses the natural beauty of the region.
The temple’s storied history includes a period of destruction during the earthquake of 1832 A.D. However, it was painstakingly reconstructed to preserve its cultural and historical heritage. Fortunately, the temple stood strong and remained unscathed during the devastating earthquake of 2015 A.D., further solidifying its place as a timeless testament to the resilience of the people and their devotion.
Prepare to be enchanted as you step into the awe-inspiring Uma Maheshwar Temple, where divine beauty, artistic marvels, and breathtaking views converge to create an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the rich history and spiritual ambiance of this revered shrine, where past and present intertwine to offer a glimpse into the cultural tapestry of Kirtipur.
Newa Lahana: A Gastronomic Delight of Newari Cuisine
When venturing into the captivating Newar city of Kirtipur, indulging in the flavors of Newari cuisine is an absolute must. And there’s no better place to embark on this culinary journey than Newa Lahana, renowned for its authentic Newari dishes. Prepare to be transported to a world of culinary delights, where tradition, taste, and culture come together in perfect harmony.
As you enter Newa Lahana, you will be greeted with a unique dining experience. Seated on the floor in traditional style, you will be served by a team of beautifully attired Newari women, who effortlessly weave their way through the restaurant, creating an atmosphere steeped in cultural charm.
The menu at Newa Lahana offers a wide variety of mouthwatering dishes that showcase the richness of Newari cuisine. From the signature Baji set, which includes a delightful combination of beaten rice, marinated boiled meat, barbequed meat (Sekuwa), fried intestine (Bhutan), roasted/marinated meat (Choila), to the savory Chatamari (a Newari pizza-like dish prepared from flour) and many more, every dish promises a unique blend of flavors and textures that will leave you craving for more.
Even if you are new to the city or unfamiliar with Newari cuisine, there’s no need to worry. The menu at Newa Lahana is thoughtfully presented in English, Nepali, and Newar, and features vivid pictures of each dish, allowing visitors to easily make their selections and embark on a culinary adventure.
Prepare to have your taste buds tantalized and your senses awakened as you savor the exquisite flavors of Newa Lahana. Discover the essence of Newari culture through its delectable cuisine, and allow yourself to be transported to a world of gastronomic bliss that will leave an indelible mark on your culinary journey.
Champa Devi Hill: A Majestic Hiking Destination in Kirtipur
Rising proudly to an elevation of 2,285 meters, Champa Devi Hill stands as a magnificent natural wonder in Kirtipur. This hill has gained acclaim as a popular hiking destination, particularly during the New Year festivities, attracting adventurers and nature enthusiasts from near and far.
Embarking on a journey to the summit of Champa Devi Hill promises an unforgettable experience. The hike, known for its accessibility and enjoyable terrain, can be completed within approximately four hours, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a rewarding outdoor adventure without an extensive time commitment.
As you make your way up the hill, a well-developed trail will guide you through lush pine forests, creating a tranquil atmosphere that invites a sense of connection with nature. Along the way, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the majestic Langtang, Gauri Shankar, Jugal, Dorge Lakpa, and other magnificent mountains. The panorama that unfolds before your eyes serve as a constant reminder of the awe-inspiring beauty that awaits at the hill’s summit.
Atop Champa Devi Hill, you’ll encounter a harmonious convergence of Buddhist and Hindu shrines, adding a touch of spiritual serenity to this remarkable natural setting. Take a moment to immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance and appreciate the cultural and religious significance of these sacred sites.
Whether you are a seasoned hiker or simply seeking a memorable outdoor experience, Champa Devi Hill offers an adventure that will leave you invigorated and inspired. Embrace the beauty of nature, relish the picturesque surroundings, and create lasting memories as you ascend this majestic hill in Kirtipur.
Shri Kirti Bihar: A Tranquil Haven of Buddhist Spirituality
At the heart of Shri Kirti Bihar lies the main temple, a sacred sanctuary dedicated to Lord Buddha. Here, amidst a tranquil ambiance, devotees and visitors alike find solace and inspiration. The temple’s serene atmosphere and enchanting beauty provide the perfect setting for meditation, reflection, and the deepening of one’s spiritual connection.
Adjacent to the main temple, a small building awaits, adorned with an array of intricate Buddhist paintings. These artistic masterpieces serve as windows into the rich tapestry of Buddhist philosophy and offer a visual journey into the depths of spiritual wisdom. Immerse yourself in the colors, symbols, and narratives that grace the walls, allowing the teachings of the Buddha to unfold before your eyes.
Shri Kirti Bihar offers a haven of peace, tranquility, and spiritual rejuvenation amidst the bustling energy of Kirtipur. It serves as a gentle reminder of the universality of Buddhist teachings and the enduring quest for inner enlightenment. Whether you are a devotee seeking solace, a spiritual seeker on a quest for knowledge, or simply someone in search of a serene and culturally significant destination, Shri Kirti Bihar warmly welcomes you to embrace the essence of Buddhist spirituality.
Main Festivals in Kirtipur
Bagh Bhairab Jatra: Honoring the Guardian of Kirtipur
The vibrant Bagh Bhairab Jatra is a joyous festival celebrated at the Bagh Bhairab temple in Kirtipur. The temple is home to Bagh Bhairab, the fierce tiger manifestation of Lord Shiva, who serves as the guardian deity of Kirtipur. The festival holds immense significance for the local residents, symbolizing their devotion and reverence towards their protective deity.
The festivities take place on the first day of Bhadra in the Nepali calendar, which typically falls in August. On this auspicious day, the people of Kirtipur gather to offer their prayers and pay homage to Bagh Bhairab. One of the cherished traditions of the festival is the circumambulation of the Bagh Bhairab temple. Devotees believe that completing 108 rounds around the temple brings blessings of good health and success.
Gai Jatra: Commemorating Loved Ones
Gai Jatra, also known as the Festival of Cows, holds a special place in Nepali culture as a time to remember and honor loved ones who have passed away during the year. The festival spans eight days and is often referred to as Nepal’s own version of the Day of the Dead.
During Gai Jatra, families who have experienced the loss of a loved one participate in processions through the town, carrying photos and mementos of their departed relatives in beautifully decorated chariots. The streets come alive with vibrant parades featuring numerous chariots, and it’s a sight to behold. Children also play a significant role in the festivities, dressing up as cows, gods, or yogis and donning mustaches. Dancing, comedy performances, and satire shows, known as Dey Guthi, add an element of joy and entertainment to the celebrations. Gai Jatra takes place over the course of eight days, during the month of Bhadra on the Nepali calendar, which usually falls between August and September.
Indrayani Jatra: A Chariot Festival
The captivating Indrayani Jatra is a three-day chariot festival dedicated to Indrayani, one of the Ajimas (protective deities) guarding the Kathmandu Valley. This vibrant festival typically takes place in November or December, adding to the cultural tapestry of Kirtipur.
During the Indrayani Jatra, a grand procession featuring a beautifully adorned chariot is carried through the streets, accompanied by jubilant devotees. The chariot, symbolizing the divine presence of Indrayani, is a centerpiece of devotion and reverence during the festival. The atmosphere is filled with spiritual fervor, as people come together to express their devotion, offer prayers, and seek blessings.
These festive occasions bring communities closer, fostering a sense of unity, spirituality, and cultural heritage. By participating in these vibrant celebrations, visitors and locals alike can immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Kirtipur’s traditions and experience the joyous spirit that permeates these unique festivals.