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Bandipur, Nepal

View of Bandipur village, Nepal
Characterful main street, Bandipur, Nepal
Above: View of Bandipur village, Nepal
  • View of Bandipur village, Nepal
  • Characterful main street, Bandipur, Nepal

Bandipur was established as a funnelling point of trade by Newar traders from Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu valley after it had been conquered in 1768 by Prithvi Narayan Shah. They took advantage of its malaria free location to develop it into an important stop along the India-Tibet trade route. With them they brought their cultural heritage and architecture which basically has remained unchanged to this day.

Bandipur has only recently surfaced on the traditional tourist map, but is well worth a visit and it is only a short drive away from Pokhara. These days, the main reason people come here is for the views. The main bazaar of the town sits 1000m beneath limestone hills, while the view to the north is stunning, looking out to the dramatic Marsyangdi valley with the Annapurna and Manaslu ranges behind. There are good rural village walks available, and caves to visit nearby.

Originally a simple Magar village in the early 19th. Century Bandipur developed into a prosperous trading centre and a community with town-like features: substantial buildings, with their neoclassical façades and shuttered windows and streets paved with silverish slate. Bandipur had its heyday in the Rana times (1846-1951), when, as a measure of its power and prestige, it was granted special permission to have its own library (still existing).

In the 1970s, trading fell into a steep decline with the construction of the Kathmandu – Pokhara highway. For technical reasons it was logically built in the Marsyangdi valley, leaving Bandipur isolated up on the mountain. In addition to that, as a result of its poor accessibility, Bandipur lost importance because the district headquarters of Tahahu were moved to Damauli. The tradesmen of Bandipur were forced to move down to Dumre and many even left for the Terai; Bandipur turned into a semi-ghost town. The population declined considerably. On two occasions Bandipur has witnessed some turmoil. The people were not easily and readily sidestepped by the construction of the road and fought for a different route in the planning process. In the 1970s, when the first demonstrations for democracy took place in Nepal, the people of Bandipur stormed the little garrison. Several people were killed and the soldiers fled. Again, when the district headquarters were to be moved, the people demonstrated and occupied the administration. The civil servants fled during the night. Even the king was flown in by helicopter to calm the situation. However, the decline of the little town could not be reverted. Some relics of its wealthy past remain. Although many houses are in bad repair, the typical Newari architecture is preserved. A distinctive aspect of Bandipur’s main street is a covered veranda extending along almost the entire length on the northern side. Most of the buildings still have little shops in them. The slate slabs in the main street have been destroyed by heavy vehicles, for which they were not made, but they can still be made out along the edges and in the smaller alleys. The library still exists and was carefully renovated in 2000.

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