To be able to stick with the lifestyle, which our ancestors practiced is probably the toughest challenge anyone could face. However, few miles away from the cosmopolitan city of Kathmandu, the time stopped many centuries ago and still these two villages flanking each other boast and practice the traditional lifestyle, as the inseparable legacy inherited to them by their ancestors. Yes, Bungmati and Khokana are typical Newari Villages inside Kathmandu Valley, traditional enough to surprise any new traveler with their ways to perceiving life and the lifestyle.
Bunga in Newari dialect and Amarapur is its ancient name- Bungamati the sixth century village inside Kathmandu Valley is the half home to revered God of Rain Rato Machhindranath. The center of Bungmati has the Shikara-style temple of Rato Machhindranath ringed by the traditional houses, where abundant traditional occupations and the signs of traditional lifestyle can be observed. Truly, speaking Bungmati is the living museum inside Kathmandu Valley, which preserves the prosperous legacy of arts and civilization of the ancient and medieval Nepal.
Nestling atop a slightly elevated land overlooking Bagmati, the village has been the hub of farming, livestocking and fishing throughout the reigns of different dynasties over Kathmandu Valley until the date. The first stele of Amshuverma that dates back to 605 AD was found here in Bungmati.
The carnival during the procession of Rato Machhindranath to his other home in Patan is the most interesting and important festival attached to the natives of Bungmati. In the close proximity, the temple of Karyabinayek adds religious significance to this historic site. Though, the existence of Living Goddess Kumari is only heard in three cities of Kathmandu Valley, the neighboring town Bungmati also has its own Kumari along with Rato Machhindranath and Ganesh.
While exploring Bungmati, travelers have the opportunities to witness the ongoing works of woodcarving, the rural lifestyle that manifests medieval time Nepal and they can peacefully observe the artworks carved in the walls, roof, doorways and windows of Rato Machhindranath Temple.
Not far from, Bungmati, a small traditional Newari Village and the more authentic Living Museum, Khokana lies. Khokana, has its own incredible history and has the most authentic Newari culture that has been preserved here in every house since the medieval era. Most of the households in Khokana depend on farming and traditional occupations like woodcarvings. It is wonderful to watch the natives spending their times in the yards of their houses working and gossiping, which has been the integral part of Newa Community for ages.
The sights like women spinning traditional wool-wheel (charkha) to weave the wool and men carrying kharpans (the circular boxes joined by a bamboo and stringed down to air to put their farm products inside it) are the most spectacular views in Khokana. Moreover, every sight the travelers get to see in Khokana is all traditionally authentic, which date back to medieval age Nepal.
An example of well-planned settlement of the medieval Nepal, Khokana has the proper drainage system throughout the village. With the Temple of Shree Rudrayani at its center, every crossroad in this traditional village has chaityas (a place to worship) and a small temple. Stone paved streets with traditional houses on both sides, Khokana is an ideal sight for life and people photography. Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khokana has been well known for industrial Heritage with its traditional way of producing the mustard oil.
This small town is at full swing of celebration during the August. The festival displays all unique and traditional Newari dances of Kathmandu that include Thimi dance and Devi dance. Few enthusiastic female entrepreneurs being the members of Sabah Nepal cater Newari foods like Newari pancake (woh), a sweet steamed dumpling filled with molasses and sesame (yomari) and strong Nepali wine (ayla). The traditional music and artistic displays of wood are also the major highlights of the festival.
Though criticized as cultural taboo by many animal rights activists, the Khokana Festival observes this unique festival with the sacrifice of young goat in a very dramatic way. The goat hanged upright down to the pond is tortured to death. We do not encourage such inhumane activity; however, the culture of Khokana boasts this activity as pleasing the Gods and Goddess for the safety of entire village.
Good and bad are everywhere. But, to explore these two magnificent medieval towns are worthwhile as they represent the most traditional culture of ancient Kathmandu, which still is at the full bloom in Bungmati and Khokana.
Khokana, a small Newari village surrounded by paddy fields lies on the outskirts of Kathmandu in Lalitpur district. This village is famous for its mustard oil (made the traditional way by pressing the seeds) and the temple of Khokana’s guardian goddess, Shekali Mai. You are greeted with wonderful sights of rural life as you walk down the village street – women sitting outside and spinning yarn, men busy with the mustard oil presser, families busy threshing or drying out their harvested paddy, old men sitting outside chatting or watching the children play. The street is lined with traditional houses festooned with garlands of dry chillies, corn and garlic hanging by the rafters. A visit to Khokana offers you a wonderful opportunity to experience rural life and Newari culture.
(Pictures: Explore Himalaya)