Nepal has become one of my favourite holiday destinations. It is a perfect destination for the travel photographer, both in terms of scenery and the people’s friendliness and approachability. This article recounts my visit to two of the most interesting and historic cities: Kirtipur and Patan.
Kirtipur, “the city of glory”, was one of the defensive outposts of the Mella capital city of Latipur, known today as Patan. The Mella and Shah dynasties ruled Nepal from 1200 to 1846.
The city was built on a hill in the twelfth century. Later, in 1769, it was conquered by a Gurkha king, Narayan Shah, after a terrible six-month siege. Because the Shah king was infuriated by this difficult conquest and looking for revenge, he ordered his soldiers to cut the nose and lips of each male inhabitant of Kirtipur. Only the wind instrument players were spared. Today as a reminder of those darker times, the locals still forbid the entry of their city to any member of the royal family,
Kirtipur is outside the traditional tourist route but is worth a visit. The 2015 earthquake has spared the city, and the medieval streets have kept their charm. The sacred cows still wander in the street, and people go about their business at a snail’s pace.
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The city is home to traditional craftsmen, mainly weavers and joiners and truly nice people we met during our visit. Today Nepal’s most important university has been built outside its wall, but we just had a glimpse of a local primary school outside the ramparts.
Latipur, “the city of beauty” and today’s Patan, is the Kathmandu valley’s oldest city. It was one of the three Mella royal cities with Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. It is linked with Buddhism and, according to local legends, was founded by the Indian emperor Ashoka (third century BCE). Four stupas mark the boundaries of the city. It developed largely between the 16th and 18th centuries under the control of the Malla dynasty. The Durbar square and the royal palace are some of the finest examples of Newari architecture.
What was particularly striking were the sculptures that decorate the temples and palace. The Newari are renowned for their carving abilities: wood or stone or bronze and even gold. Their works can be seen on display either in the museum, Nepal’s finest museum or on the monuments in Durbar Square or the royal palace.
Not far from Durbar Square are two magnificent temples. The Kumbeswar is dedicated to Shiva and attracts many Hindus. We were fortunate to visit it during religious celebrations, and families were gathered to celebrate.
The Golden Temple lies about 200 yards from Durbar Square. It houses a small Tibetan Buddhist temple on the first floor. Despite the small size, it displays beautiful copper sculptures, prayer wheels and butte-lamps.
As usual, I shot these images with my favourite travel camera, the Ricoh GR2. I mostly shot at 400 ISO and f /5.6 with single-point autofocus followed by recomposition. I used the positive film preset, but I’m aware the reddish hue might unsettle some of you. However, I think it lends a certain character to the images and a nice grainy texture