Hats off to Panauti!
This delightfully picturesque town in the Kathmandu Valley is a survivor, not only of the earthquakes of April and May 2015, but also of the majority of major quakes which have occurred during the 20th century. It is widely believed its safety is more certain because it is built on one large rock.
Panauti a Newari town, one of the oldest in Nepal, some 32 kilometers southeast of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley on the confluence of the Rosi and Punyamati rivers. Originally a small state, it was given by King Bhupatindra Malla to his sister as dowry, and unified with Bhaktapur at the end of the 13th century. In 1763 King Prithvi Narayan Shah annexed Panauti into the larger and greater Nepal. Once a major trading centre with its own royal palace, today this town of about 10,000 people now has a thriving new area and a peaceful, serene old quarter. The French government has assisted in restoring some of the striking Rana era mansions which complement the ornate temples.
Most of the few visitors to the township come on day trips but staying a night or two is highly recommended. Panauti has a very pro-active community group whose aims are to promote the city as a cultural sightseeing destination and also as a green zone. To this end several householders have joined forces to offer visitors genuine Nepali homestays including food and lodging, and guided sightseeing around the old town.
All traffic to the town stops at the central bus park. On this side of the river the newer parts of Panauti township hames appear identical to most other valley towns with shops selling fabric, household goods, foodstuffs, and a growing number of motor repair shops.ve arisen, and businesses and ho
A nice approach to the collection of temples and sacred sites is to skirt the town to the left keeping to the base of the hill, along a leafy road, to the solitary three-tiered Brahmayani Temple constructed in the 17th century to honor Brahmayani, goddess of the town. From this peaceful viewpoint the historical heart of town is before you: Hundreds of ducks swim up and down and feed in the rivers; old men congregate on the steps of temples and shelter areas to play board games or cards or simply gossip; women do their laundry at the river edges; courting couples sit side by side and converse in whispers; students stroll happily through the complex remembering to acknowledge the gods as they do so and; sometimes, lines of mourners make their way to the funeral ghats. It is a visually beautiful and fascinating courtyard. Panauti’s most famous attraction is the late 13th century Indreshwar temple, being one of the largest and tallest pagoda style temples in Nepal. The present shrine was rebuilt in the 15th century.
Panauti has a lot going for it as a touristy heritage site with so many temples, Buddhist stupas and statues, but has the added charm of being surrounded by lots and lots of green paddy fields. It also has its fair share of cultural glory. One such glory is yo-mari, a delectable ethnic Newari delicacy made once a year during a festival called Yomari Punhi. Made from a mixture of treacle and sesame seed wrapped in stupa-shaped rice dough, yomari was the result of an experiment with a fresh yield of rice by a local married couple. It was immediately loved by all the villagers and they named it yo-stupamari (tasty bread) and it has since become a valuable addition to Newari cuisine and culture.
Panauti is also the birthplace of a Licchavi-era ruler, Prince Mahasatwo, who became a saint due to his great deed of supreme sacrifice in feeding a starving tigress and her cubs with his own flesh in the nearby jungle. Next door to his birthplace is the delightful Ananda Café and Guesthouse run primarily as a homestay. The rooms are clean, cosy and comfortable and one or two have lovely views to the temple area. There is a small flower garden containing an array of herbs and vegetables which form a basis of Moona’s excellent cuisine. She and her husband, Krishna, are wonderful hosts. They are part of a group organised by dedicated residents who are actively promoting the town and its surrounds in very positive ways by providing homestay accommodation, good food, guided tours of the town and the countryside, and encouraging visitors to participate in the Newari traditional lifestyle. They also believe visitors appreciate the “no admission fee” which applies to almost every temple complex. Panauti residents are exceptionally hospitable, friendly and welcoming.
Panauti is also an excellent base for hikes to such hilltop villages as Namo Boudha and Dhulikhel but as you stroll the cobbled streets through the town receiving nothing but kindness and smiles from the residents, you may not want to leave. Panauti also has a well deserved reputation for its many annual festivals, but that is another story.
By: Glennis Pallier
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