Strung out along a ridge 5km southwest of Kathmandu, the small town of Kirtipur retains an unhurried, timeless air despite its proximity to the capital. Its impressive but little-visited temples point to a golden age that has long passed.
During the 1768/9 conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah it was clear that Kirtipur, with its superbly defensible hilltop position, would be the key to defeating the Malla kingdoms, so it was here the Gorkha king struck first and hardest. Kirtipur's resistance was strong, but eventually, after a bitter siege, the town was taken and the inhabitants paid a terrible price for their courageous resistance. The king, incensed by the long struggle his forces had endured, ordered that the nose and lips be cut off every male inhabitant in the town. Fortunately for a small minority, he was practical as well as cruel, and those who could play wind instruments were spared.
At one time there were 12 gates into the city; traces of the old city wall can still be seen. As you wander through Kirtipur, you can see dyed yarn hanging from upstairs windows and hear the background clatter of the town's handlooms. Many of the town's 9000 inhabitants are weavers or farmers; the lower-caste people generally live outside the old city wall, lower down the hill. Kirtipur's hilltop position offers fine views over Kathmandu, with the Himalaya rising behind.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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