Travelling to Bungmati and Khokana is like a trip back in time. Though only around 45 minutes on the outskirts of Kathmandu, it feels like you are transported to a time of around 200 years ago!
Both villages, Bungmati and Khokana, are typical Newari style villages and it seemed to me that further development or exposure to modernity might have stopped at around 1850 here.
The architecture is totally different from Kathmandu. Instead of colorful painted houses with roof tops and modern windows you will find red brick houses.
All the windows, doors and even balconies are made from wood having detailed design work done on them. I met a young man carving out designs for doors and windows. I saw his machinery and his workshop. He shared with me many pictures of work he had previously done by contract.
I was quite impressed to see such amazing results produced by using simple methods and machineries. The work is very methodological. Firstly, a rough structure is cut out with a saw following which, small details are placed. Thus a regular window frame may take around 2 months of work and cost around Nepalese Rs. 40,000. If you see beautiful architecture in Bungmati and Khokana you should remember the hard work of the craftsmen that went into it.
Newari people are very famous for traditional craftsmanship, their architecture and food. Although I did not try the food, I understood why they were famous for architecture and craftsmanship.
I visited a very small traditional oil refinery. The worker told me that he is still using 200 year-old machinery; and it still works. In Khokana, there are a few larger, better equipped facilities, but mostly you will see a lot of handicraft shops. You will come across women weaving yarn or doing laundry by the street.
One lady was pressing lentils in a small manual handmill to prepare lunch. I went across the street and she saw me and smiled and said something to a lady nearby. She was nice and showed me every detail of her work. The preparation was for Bara, a Newari dish which is basically fried lentil mash.
Most of the people in these traditional towns seemed to be wary of foreigners. Although I met some very friendly people at Bungmati and Khokana; I felt I had many other eyes questioning and judging me.
I was told that even Nepali people from the city tend to be outsiders in these Newari villages as the locals here, especially the older ones, don’t speak Nepali language much, if at all.
Behind the houses were wide fields and rice terraces. Agriculture was mostly done by women. As monsoon had not started yet, there was nothing in the fields yet. A few people were preparing for rice plantation, which would begin in June or July, depending on the monsoon. You could also see women and men carrying lots of weight and it seemed very common to use baskets fastened with straps around the forehead to carry heavy weight. Even this I felt, underlined the very traditional way of living in these villages.
Story & Photography: Christian Wilk
(Christian Wilk is a German citizen, currently working as a photography intern, under the guidance of professional photographer Mr. Kumar Ale at NepalSutra™).