Although Kathmandu valley leaves no room for monotony, you need to escape the dust and chaos every now and then. To find this escapade, you need not go too far as the valley has abundance to offer. You can find a beautiful village to camp out just a few minutes outside the city. One such place I went to was Bungamati village.
Bungamati is a very traditional Newari village located in the south of Lalitpur district. As you pass the ring road and head towards Bhaisipati and beyond, the atmosphere starts to become peaceful and air begins to get cooler and fresher. Once you get there, it is unbelievable that one can leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city in just few minutes. It is a completely different world out there. Contrary to the city, the only sounds you can hear in Bungamati are chatting of the people and chirping of the birds. Everything seems to come at a standstill, in a good way.
According to some locals, this village existed as early as the 7th century, but its official founding date is in the 16th century. Bungamati is the home of many creative wood carvers and sculptors. You will come across several small workshops where these artists handcraft their items and sell them at a bargain price. In fact, if you are looking for souvenirs, you can buy them here at one-third the price they sell at touristic places.
Fortunately, Bungamati is unheard of to the tourists yet, so not many visitors arrive here. Also, the streets here are too narrow for a car to move around, so it is not crowded by vehicles. It also gives you and opportunity to take a walking tour of the village.
Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine an old-fashioned Newari village on a hill in sepia tone - a place where hardly anything has changed over the past few decades. As you walk in, you will find people outside their houses doing their regular chores. Old men soaking themselves in the sun, reading newspapers, playing cards; old ladies – all dressed in traditional newari attires weaving, knitting, chatting; many faces peaking out of their beautifully hand carved wooden windows, all greeting with a smile; and on goes the list of the daily activities happening in this village.
I have visited several Newari towns before, but none are as medieval as this one. Bungamati is almost like a living museum. Moreover, the people are extremely warm and they happily welcome you in their homes.
Other than the people and its culture, Bungamati is known for the very important temples, the Karya Binayak Temple and the Rato Machhendranath Temple, especially amongst the locals. In fact, a classical and devotional music performance is held every month at Karya Binayak organized by the Karya Binayak Asharam. This can be a good time to visit Bungamati.
Text & Images: Mithila Jariwala