History of Bhaktapur- Connection to Nepal’s History

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You might be surprised to know that the smallest district “Bhaktapur” of Nepal has a high connection to the History of overall Nepal. Today, I will be talking about the History of Bhaktapur that is connected to Nepal’s History.

Nearly around the 15th century during the Malla’s Period, Kathmandu valley is divided into three independent kingdoms i.e. Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. Three kingdoms were well-governed and have a high level of culture. In addition, the three kingdoms were prosperous with their fertile land, Better irritation facility, and fertile land, clays for making bricks and equipment, with clean environments. (Source: Welcome Nepal, nd)

Talking about the history of Bhaktapur there are some important dates and events took place in the development of Kathmandu valley and Bhaktapur city.

C300-900It is an ancient Lichhavi Period with the development of the culture and establishment of the Changunarayana temple.
1147-1156Ananda Dev established the City Bhaktapur city layout with the establishment of various palaces, temples, and around 12,000 houses.
C1200Malla kingdom established in Kathmandu valley separating into three kingdoms into Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur.
1382-1395In this time, King Jayasthiti Malla codifies the elaborate Newari caste system
1453Yaksha Malla moves the royal palace to the present site. For the next 300 years, the Malla kings enrich Bhaktapur with fine buildings.
1696-1722King Bhupatindra Malla Builds 55 window palace, Nyatapola Temple, and also develop Newari culture.
1768-1769King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s ruler of Gorkha overthrown Malla rules in Kathmandu valley.
1849-1950Nepal was ruled under Ranas’ family. In those periods, Bhaktapur city was neglected backwater.
1934An earthquake with an 8.4 hectors scale with lots of destruction of temples and buildings and palace.
1950Ranas was overthrown. Restoration of Shah dynasty.
1974-86Bhaktapur Development project
2008Nepal becomes a republic.

Formation of Name- “Bhaktapur”

In general, the city is named as the “Bhaktapur”, which literally means “CITY OF DEVOTEES“. In the past, with the time and different people habitat, the city was called with different names, however, the meaning shows the same. Newari and Tamang are knowns as the main habitat of the city. The people of the Newari community called the city “Khwopa”, and people of Tamang called the city as “Khobang”. Both names came from the formal word “Khopring”- the non-Sanskrit and oldest name of Bhaktapur. “Khopring” is the ancient name called for the present Bhaktapur, which is first mentioned during 477 AD. as “Khopringgrampradesha” during the rule of Mandeva- Lichchhavi Dynasty. According to Vajracharya, the Kirat word “Kho” means Cooked Rice- “Bhaat” and with time, the city was translated into Sanskrit word “Bhakta” and the word “Pring” means a village- which is called as “Gram” in Sanskrit.”

With the course of time “Khopring” transformed into “Bhaktagram”. ” And is transformed to “Bhadgaon”. “Bhadgaon is the taken from or modified from “Bhaktagram”, due to frequent use after the end of the Malla Period. According to the Sanskrit word “pur” means a well-developed town. and in present, the city’s name formed to Bhaktapur.

History of Bhaktapur District

History of Bhaktapur District
History of Bhaktapur District

Bhaktapur- which also means “Bhadgaon” is knowns as the city of devotees. Newari People of Nepal still call the city as “Khwopa” as the shape of the city is like a conch-shell. Bhaktapur city is also known as the city of culture or living museum of Nepal because of their culture, traditions, and festivals. However, it’s ancient name was “Khwopring”- the non-Sanskrit name of Bhaktapur- City, mentioned in an inscription during 477 AD. and “Khwopringgrampradesha” during the rule of Mandeva- Lichchhavi dynasty. Also, Tamang people in Nepal also called as “Khobang”

Geographically, Bhaktapur is the smallest district of Nepal. However, the history of Nepal is inevitably connected with the History of Bhaktapur. The history of Bhaktapur, shows, the remarkable civilized and developed in political history, religious history, socio-cultural and economic history, and of course development art and architecture.

Neolithic stones and tools discovered from two places i.e. Nankhel- south-east, and Tathali- North-east of Bhaktapur indicate that Bhaktapur city is one of the most appropriate places for settlement in the valley. However, we still lack the record to be known more about the city and the country.

Nepal’s traditional history starts, from the tribal rulers i.e. from the Gopal and Mahisapals dynasty. It is believed that the expansion of human habitation in the valley started from their time and consecration of Lord Pashupatinath etc. Both tribal areas is known as Abhiras in Kathmandu valley. Then they were succeeded by Kirats. and came to power and start to rule in Nepal. The three dynasty- Gopal, Mahisapals, and Kirats dynasty do not have much contemporary epigraphic evidence, due to which the information is insufficient, to know more about the history of Nepal. But the later rulers after the end of the Kirat dynasty, the Lichchhavi dynasty emerged with other valuable sources that provide information about the history of Nepal and Bhaktapur. Various Lichchhavi inscriptions are found in different places of Bhaktapur District written in non-Sanskrit words about the places, and they belonged to Kirat languages. Some of the words in inscriptions such as Khopring, Khripung, Makodulu, Makhopring, Themring, and Bosing, etc belonged to Kirat words for the name of the city of Bhaktapur which they formally called as Khopring. For example, during Kirat rule, The present Madhyapur Thimi- city was called Themring, and Bode was used to calling as Bosing. During the time of Kirat rule, the Bhaktapur city was interpreted to be well- an organized city with the development of various cultures and civilizations.

Kirats are the great follower of Lord Shiva- the universal god of the valley. Therefore, there are few numbers of Shivalingas that are quite different from Lichchhavi Shivalingas are built during the Kirat time. Buddhism was also introduced during the time or Kirat rule which is one of the important events taken place in the history of Nepal as Nepal a nation of Buddhism and Hinduism living together peacefully.

The written epigraphic evidence is the best source to know about the history of Nepal. And the recorded inscription found in the Changunarayana pillar of around 464 AD. which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu by the first historical ruler of Lichchhavi dynasty King Mandeva, provide the best evidence to know the History of Bhaktapur and it is connected to History of Nepal.

In a single city, there are more than two hundred Lichchhavi inscriptions, and stone sculptures found in the valley, which reflects the highly advanced socio-culture and religious development. Development of two main religion- Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal was co-existing in a proper manner in Nepal. This is the basic fundamental and characteristics of the religion people adopted in Nepal.

Though Nepalese art and Architectures during Lichchhavi period is influenced highly by the Indian arts such as Mathura, the Gupta, and Pala art schools, Nepalese artist never forgets to add their own identity or indigenous style and provide new and unique art style which also shows the high point of development of arts and architecture. For Example, the archetypes found in Changunarayana Temple namely Visvarupa- Vishnu of the 7th century, Vishnu Vikranta of the 8th century, Vishnu with Laxmi and Garuda of the 9th century are the most unique and beautiful sculptures from Bhaktapur district showing corroborate the aforesaid fact.

Let’s talkback about the religious belief during the period of the Lichchhavi period. During that time, Hinduism was the predominant religion in Nepal and is still in present. However, there was popular growth of Buddhism and people were still preserving Lord Buddha’s teaching and was moving to his path. even before 1 BC., Buddhism was divided into two parts i.e. Hinayana and Mahayana. Hinayana is those followers who believe in Buddha as a normal human being, therefore, they follow his path with basic teachings and philosophy. and Those followers who believe that Lord Gautam Buddha as a supreme being and follow his greater path are known as Mahayana or Mahayanist and is believed to have prevailed in the northeastern region of Bhaktapur district. Sankhu is one territory of Bhaktapur district. The inscription found during the time of the Lichchhavi period clearly mentioned “Mahasanghik Vikshu Sangha”, that and explains “Mahasanghik” Buddhist monks used to practice in the valley in those time and were called ” Mahayanist”. Similarly, another inscription was found in Chyamhasimha, Bhaktapur which proves that “Vikshunisangha”- the earliest Buddhist inscription explains the Mahayanist practice in the Valley.

Another inscription during the Lichchhavi period found at Baghhiti in Bagesvori of Bhaktapur discovered that the word “Udhyotak vihar” which is no longer available but was known as the Buddhist habitation with very old monasteries in Bhaktapur even during pre Lichchhavi period.

The maximum rural city of Bhaktapur slowly moves towards urbanization during the 6th century AD. Makhopring city is situated in the center of Bhaktapur city which is presently known as Golmadhi tole. An inscription found in Golmadhi tole during the time of the Lichchhavi period mention two kings name Shivadev and Amshuvarma sited Makhopring as a “Dranga”. Dranga is a Sanskrit word which explains the city as a well-developed city with custom offices and also a trade center practicing various economic activities.

Related: History of Nepal
Related: Lichchhavis Dynasty and their Rulers

Lichchhavi period was ended around the 10th century AD. during the early medieval period with great changes in the history of Nepal. The city which explains Makhopringdranga as one of the most urbanized cities of Nepal during the Lichchhavi period was converted to the Capital city of Nepal-(Nepal Mandala) during the Medieval period in 12 century AD. by Ananda Dev (1146- 1167 AD. ), and built the city. He built a royal palace as Tripura Rajkula which is no longer is present. Various available sources explain that the goddesses name Tripurasundari who is known as the leading deity of nine mother goddesses namely the ‘Navadurga’ existed in the heart of Bhaktapur District. Therefore, King Ananda Dev established his palace in the same position. He also built Navadurga in different proper places of the inner and outer city in order to protect his new capital city and his loving country peoples from intruders and other danger. The wide popularity of the mother goddess cult during the high time of the Tantric Shaktism of the early medieval period was defined to be one of the most tumultuous of all the time. This took the form of calamities, repeated invasions and also the breakdown in law and order situation with a decline in prosperity that people started neglecting the male deities and worshipping and expecting such blessings from the bloodthirsty ferocious female deities. In that time, Common people believe that female deity was the true protector of king, nation, and countrymen. The mother goddess cult of the nine with the other counterparts such as Ganesha, Bhairava, Bhimshen, Kumara, etc. as the basic tantric protection and was installed not only in Bhaktapur but also another town of the valley within the half of 12th century.

During 12 century, the capital city of Nepal – Bhaktapur become the political center and also the center of religious, cultural and educational activities for more than 3 centuries. During that period, In India, the Muslim invaders were ruthlessly suppressing the Buddhist and Hindu. Because of the crucial condition, Buddhist and Hindu tutors and their disciples entered the Nepal valley with their valuable manuscript in order to protect their necessary documents and in those days Bhaktapur was the supreme power of center, it plays an important role to protect and enhance Hinduism and Buddhism tantric.

Bhaktapur during the medieval period was the homeland of tantric Shaktism in the valley. The high divinities i.e. Taleju, the Dumaju, and Manesvori were the manifestation of goddess Durga/Bhagavati, in general, also corroborated this fact. Malla rulers were staunched supporter of the divine power or supreme – Shakti. They reached a high degree in religious and cultural development in the valley. And the royal palaces were not just the palace but was also became the god-houses and holy places of cultural and religious life.

The city of Bhaktapur was suffered from the attack, counter-attack and intrigues, and counter-intrigues between two groups. Plus in that situation Sultan Shamasuddin of Bengal attacked Kathmandu valley from the east. and was attacked by the Muslim army in Bhaktapur during 1349 AD. as it was the capital city during that time. They captured Bhaktapur, Looted the property and destroyed cultural heritage in Bhaktapur and was the great property loss to Bhaktapur.

During the period of King Yaksha Malla (1428-1481 AD.), the Kathmandu valley marks as an important period in the history of medieval Nepal. he fortified his capital surrounded with great walls and strong gates in the cardinal point with a strategic purpose to protect from outsiders and invaders. The Golden gate inscription dated 1453 AD., explain the great walls and gates was completed by the cooperation of all caste of people for the initiation of the King.

After the demise of Yaksha Malla, there was political instability in Nepal Mandala. which to which the valley was divided into three different kingdom i.e. Bhaktapur, Kantipur, and Lalitpur. Politically Bhaktapur becomes on the smallest kingdom and known as one tiny kingdom. During the rule of Jitamitra Malla and his son Bhupatindra Malla, Bhaktapur suffered the massive destruction and loss form the earthquake including their newly built Durbar Tanthu Rajkul. With the great efforts, not just ruined heritages was recovered but also new heritages were built. The effort made by king Jitamitra Malla and Bhupatindra Malla brought fruitful achievement in the history of Nepal’s Beauty or Bhaktapur Beauty. Bhupatindra Malla King builds the five stored temple i.e. Nyatapola Temple only in 8 months and Fifty-five window palace showing the development of the city.

After the defeat of the Gorkhali army, during 1769 AD., Bhaktapur city lost its political importance and just remained as one ordinary district with development and advancing art and architecture, rites and rituals, and festivals. However, Bhaktapur city still has pride and glory as of the city of Culture and Living Museum of Nepal. And will be in the future as well.

One Response

  1. Gypsy tamilrockers
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    Nice clear information !!! helpful

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