The first major town you reach heading east out of the valley, Banepa is a lot more attractive once you get off its hellish highway and into the brick-paved backstreets snaking north from the highway. It’s worth spending an hour or so exploring, with a number of Hindu and Buddhist temples. Most were built in the 14th and 16th centuries, when Banepa was an important stop on the trade route to Tibet, boasting trade links as far afield as the Ming dynasty on the east coast of China.
Legend has it that the people of this valley were once terrorised by a demon known as Chand, who was defeated by one of the fearsome incarnations of Parvati, earning the goddess a new title – Chandeshwari, ‘Slayer of Chand’. The Chandeshwari Temple has an enormous mural of Bhairab on its wall, and is a popular pilgrimage spot where animals are sacrificed here on feast days.
Located in front of the temple is a row of columns supporting statues of a menagerie of animals, and the struts supporting the triple-tiered roof show the eight Ashta Matrikas and eight Bhairabs.
On the north side of the approach road is a smaller temple dedicated to the ‘Mother of Chandeshwari’.