SATURDAY. NOVEMBER 18. 2017   
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About Bandipur
 
Bandipur is located at 27.56 N, 84.25 E at an elevation of 1030 m. on a mountain saddle of the Mahabharat range. It is about 700m above the Marsyangdi River Valley. The town is 143 km. west of Kathmandu and 80 km. east of Pokhara. Since 1998, it has been connected by an 8km. access road out of the dusty village ofDumre along the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway. Before that there was only one unreliable road, usually not accessible during the monsoon season or accessible only by tractors. The mountain saddle, which is just 200 m. long, is barely wide enough to accommodate the main street that is lined by 2 –3 storey buildings on either side. At the rear of these houses the terrain descends steeply making the gardens accessible only by a series of steps.



History of Bandipur

Following its conquest in 1768 by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, Bandipur was established as a conduit for trade by Newar merchants originally from Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu valley. Taking advantage of its malaria free location, these traders developed it into an important transit point along the India-Tibet trade route. The Newar business community brought their distinct cultural and socialheritage as well as their unique architecture to Bandipur. This tradition remains basically unchanged to this day.

Originally a rustic Magar village, Bandipur developed into aprosperous trading centreduring the early 19th.Century. The neighborhoods consisted of town-like features: substantial buildings with neoclassical façades, shuttered windows, and streets paved with slabs of silver-hued slate. The township arrived atits prime during the autocratic Rana times (1846-1951), when, in recognition of its power and prestige, the municipality was granted special permission to establish its very own library which exists to this day.

During the 1970s, trade and commerce fell into a steep decline following the construction of the Kathmandu - Pokhara highway. For technical reasons it was logically built in the Marsyangdi valley, leaving Bandipur isolated up on the mountain. Additionally, as a result of its hazardous accessibility, the town alsolost its significance when the district administration headquarters of Tanahu was relocated to Damauli. The mercantile entrepreneurs of Bandipur were compelled to move down to Dumre or even further to the plains ofthe Terai region in order to continue plying their trade. Within a few years,Bandipur more or less turned into a ghost town. The population began to decline considerably. On two specific occasions, the inhabitants of Bandipur witnessed major turmoil, even though they were not that easily or readily willing to becircumvented by the construction of the highway.They lobbied intensively with the governmentfor a different route in the planning process. In the 1970s, when the first democratic movement engulfed the entire nation, the inhabitants of Bandipur, after beingthwarted in all their peaceful efforts,stormed the little armygarrison deployed nearby. Several people were killed and many others injured before the troops were eventually overpowered and compelled to flee. The second calamityoccurredwhen the district headquarters, despite all efforts from the locals, was relocated. The people demonstrated in unison once again and occupied the local administration office from where the civil servants had to takeflight during the night. Even the then incumbent king had to be flown in by helicopter in order to ease the potentially volatile situation. Sadly, the decline Bandipur could not be reverted. Some relics of its prosperous past remainto this day. And, while many houses are at this time in bad repair, the characteristics of the Newari architecture remain preserved. A distinctive aspect of Bandipur’s main street is the covered veranda extending along almost the entire length of the northern side. Most of the buildings still consist of little shops facing the main street where the slate slabs have more or lessbeen ruined by heavy vehicles for which they were not designed. But these slabs can still be recognized along the edges of the main street and in the smaller alleys. The library still exists because it was painstakingly renovated in 2000. Another relic that still remains is the soccer-field-sized ground“Tundikhel”. Situated on the northeast end of the town, its significance lies in the fact that, besides being the only area for outdoor recreation, it is also the centre of education that schools not only the locals but alsothe populace from all theneighboring villages surrounding the township.

Ethnicity of Bandipur
Although it was initially apastoral Magar village, present-day Bandipur is settled by an assortment of Nepali ethnicities, each with their own unique beliefs and tenets. The population consists of a harmonious blend of Bahuns, Chettris, Newars, Damais, Kamis, Sarkis, Kasais, Magars, and Gurungs.

Tourism and Economy of Bandipur

With its medium elevation, excellent views of the Himalayas (Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu, Ganesh, Langtang Himal, the Marsyangdi Valley, Mount Manakamana and the town of Gorkha with its high perched palace), relatively easy accessibility and, of course, old Newari town elegance, Bandipur is undoubtedly aninteresting tourist destination where a few guesthouses and a hotel at the northern end of the Tundikhel providesadequate room and board. It may well be that the seclusion of Bandipur saved the Newari architecture of its buildings which could otherwise have been replaced by faceless modern structures found in many other cities andtowns throughout Nepal. The distinct and diverse Newari and Magar festivals, which until recently had been celebrated several times a year solely within the individual communities, can now also be shared by the visitors fromfar and wide. Sorathi and Chutka dances are very popular. Due to its distance and poor accessibility from many of the home villages of students studyingat several Bandipur schools, a number of local residences have been converted into boarding houses simply to accommodate them during school days. Many Magar and Gurung men from this area have also been serving honorably as Gurkha soldiers in Britain and neighboring India.

Other attractions in the vicinity include the Bindyabashini temple, the library at the village centre, Thani Mai, Tindhara (“Three Taps”) – the community water fountain at the southeastern outskirts, Raniban (Queen's Forest), the downhill trek to the Siddha Cave and a hike to Ramkot village. From the shrine ofMukundeswari, situated on an elevated rise at the western end of the saddle, one can not only enjoy a bird’s eye view of Bandipur itself but also relish the panoramic view of the entire mid- Himalayan range when the weather is favorable.

Some villagers have begun growing oranges since they do quite well in the climate of that area. An hour’s walk to the west of Bandipur, there is also a silk farm operated by local residents.