The Newari town of Kirtipur is situated on a ridge in the Kathmandu Valley, only 5km from Kathmandu. It’s a town rich in history, nature and culture, with many activities and sights for visitors to experience.
History of Kirtipur
The area of Kirtipur is steeped in legend. The entire Kathmandu Valley was once a giant lake and it was only when Manjushree (an enlightened being) came to the area, that the valley was created. He took a sword to one of the hills near Kirtipur, carved out Chobhar Gorge, and the lake drained from there, creating the valley as it’s known today. Taudaha Lake in southern Kirtipur is all that remains of the once-huge Kathmandu lake.
The Newari settlement of Kirtipur, meaning the ‘City of Glory’, dates back to Medieval Times, and many examples of traditional Newari architecture can still be seen today, along with rituals that have been practised for hundreds of years.
During Nepal’s unification in the 18th century, Kirtipur became known as a staunch defender of its territory. On his mission to unite Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah and his Gurkha army attempted twice unsuccessfully to conquer the town. As a sign of his frustration after eventually gaining control of Kirtipur, it is said he ordered the noses and lips to be cut off all the men in the town (except those who were able to play woodwind instruments for his entertainment). A number of Gurkha weapons taken during these battles are hanging at Bagh Bhairab Temple.
In more recent years, Kirtipur became the seat of education when Tribhuvan University, Nepal’s oldest university, was established in 1959 and there is a buzzing student scene that continues today.
Nature in Kirtipur
Kirtipur is geographically diverse for its small size. The main town is situated 5km southwest of Kathmandu on a rocky hilltop, and offers superb views of Kathmandu, the entire valley and the Himalayas beyond.
Kirtipur is bordered in the west by Champa Devi hill, the third highest peak in the Kathmandu Valley at 2,278m and a great spot for a day hike. To the east is the Bagmati River that flows through the ragged cliffs of Chobhar Gorge, and Kathmandu Valley’s only natural lake, Taudaha, is situated in the southern part of Kirtipur.
These natural features, in addition to caves and trails, make Kirtipur an ideal location to explore on foot or by bike.