Bandipur – A Newar Town Outside the Valley
Bandipur is a historical route and many merchants have passed this way in ancient times. It takes you to Tundikhel and on to Bandipur Bazaar.
On the way to Pokhara on the scenic Prithvi Highway, you will come across a small town called Bimal Bazaar in Tanahun District. A half hour from here will take you to the largest cave in the country, the Siddha Cave, which is also said to be the largest cave in all of South East Asia. Ten meters wide and over 750 meters long, it was discovered in 1980. The cave’s entrance is narrow but it opens up into a vast vaulted chamber full of stalactites, stalagmites and bats. Further inside are spectacular undulating limestone formations.
After you have had your fill of this fascinating cave, you can walk up to Bandipur, a walk that will take about an hour and a half. It is a historical route and many merchants have passed this way in ancient times. It takes you to Tundikhel and on to Bandipur Bazaar. The Tudhikhel is a flat, spacious area that now serves as the local stadium where football matches take place.
Bandipur has an interesting history. After the conquest of Kathmandu Valley by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in the late 18th century, many Newar merchants left the valley to look for better opportunities outside. Bandipur was chosen as a suitable trading post for trade between the northern hills and the southern Terai, not least because it did not have the dreaded malaria as did most of the Terai. The Newars being superb craftsmen soon built houses reflecting their high aesthetics—houses with pagoda roofs, wooden lattice windows and carved wooden doorways. Today, these fine dwellings still stand proud and one could be forgiven for forgetting that Bandipur was originally a simple Magar village.
Bandipur Bazaar became an important centre of commerce especially during the Rana period (1846-1951). However, in the 1950s, as malaria began to be eradicated from much of the Terai, this led to the development of many commercially important towns. As a result, Bandipur began to lose its sheen as a trading post and in the 1960s, the district headquarters was moved to Damauli which grew as a thriving bazaar.
In 1973, the Prithvi Highway, which by-passed Bandipur along the lower lands, was completed. This more than anything else rang the last death knell for Bandipur, which more or less became a ghost town for many years after.
Rejuvenated, Bandipur has started to flourish again and is now a great draw for visitors, wanting to break their journey between Pokhara and Kathmandu, or just for somewhere to go and relax for a few days and admire the terrific scenery. Not only can you feast your eyes on the spectacular panorama of the entire Annapurna Range along with Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Langtang peaks as well as the Marsyangdi Valley, but the town itself is fascinating.
The beautiful ethnic Newar architecture is being constantly restored. Working with the local community, the Old Bandipur Inn has been helping with restoring some of the main buildings in the bazaar. Considerable restoration work has been completed and the town has managed to retain much its ethnic charm, at the same time as incorporating modern facilities to make the visitors’ stay comfortable.
There are several very pleasant day hikes to surrounding villages, and during the late spring and summer, the place bursts into colour with the many species of orchids that can be found here.
A visit to the town is a wonderful opportunity to get a closer look at Newar cultural life outside the Kathmandu Valley.