Personality Of Kathmandu – Charming And Beautiful
It is hard to find words that do justice to wonderful Kathmandu. One ridge away from the highest mountains in the world, and thronged by a million Hindus and Buddhists, this pricely city is the archetypal mountain kingdom – mystical, magical and arcane. Temples loom out of the mist around every corner and the cobbled streets resound with the chanting of mantras and the chiming of temple bells. At dusk, the city is transformed into a cut-out of stupas, prayer flags and temple spires. On clear days, a wall of snow-covered mountains rises behind Kathmandu and eagles soar majestically overhead on the high Tibetan winds – it is like the special effects from The Lord of the Rings, but right there, alive in the real world.
The main reason for Kathmandu’s remarkable state of preservation is its unique geographical situation. There are only two roads out of the Kathmandu Valley, one going north to Lhasa in Tibet and the other winding down to the Terai plains – a five hour journey to cover a distance of 50 kilometers. Historically, this was Kathmandu best defense against foreign invaders. Unlike India and Tibet, Nepal was never conquered by the British.
The city’s meteoric rise to fame began in 1769 when Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah swept eastwards from his base at Gorkha, conquering the towns on the valley rim and isolating Kathmandu. Bhaktapur and Patan from the outside world. This marked the start of the golden age of Kathmandu architecture – temple-strewn Durbar Square has barely changed since. As the city grew, the natural fortifications of the valley walls became a hindrance rather an asset. Everything has to be trekked in from the plains of India and builders had nowhere to go but up, explaining the rather chaotic skyline of leaning brick towers.
Politics also played a role in Kathmandu’s status of suspended animation. From 1816 to 1950, Nepal was completely cut off from the outside world, vanishing into legend as another forbidden kingdom of the Himalaya. The Swiss explorer Toni Hagen was the first European allowed in and walked all over the country, setting a precedent for the 200,000 trekkers who now visit every year.