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The Gorkha Durbar - Nepal's Historical Palace

Gorkha is situated in the western region of Nepal is the ancient district of Gorkha which is regarded as the land of the brave Gorkhali soldiers. About five-hour drive from Kathmandu and the four-hour drive from Pokhara is the district of Gorkha where the brave King Prithvi Narayan Shah was born. With headquarters in the Gorkha bazaar, there aren’t any buses going directly to Gorkha, the travellers change bus or micros from Abu Khaireni.

Nestled in the mountains at the distance of about eighteen kilometres from Kathmandu-Pokhara highway is the ancient district of Gorkha which is the ancestral home of the Shah rulers of Nepal. This small town, no matter how popular or culturally and historically rich it is, does not target the adequate facilities available here for the tourist. Most of the lodges in Gorkha are found near the bus stops and the rates are relatively cheap.
One of the best places for sightseeing in Gorkha is King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s old palace, known as Gorkha Durbar that stands on a mountain ridge overlooking the ancient capital. The road from the bus stop passes through the town’s Tundikhel and an army camp. A pond surrounded by some temples is also there and most of the ancient buildings of Gorkha were made by Newar craftsmen who were brought by the King to Gorkha during his return from Kathmandu. A structure standing close to the town centre which was built in the 18th century is known as the Tallo Durbar and is believed to be the original site of the Gorkha palace before the rule of the Shahs had started. The palace that stands on the ridge above the town is known as Upallo Durbar and is the home of the Shah Kings. A long flight of stone stairs needs to be climbed to reach the Upallo Durbar which takes about thirty minutes. From this palace built by Ram Shah in 1600s, the views of the mountain ranges look splendid. Later the palace had been restored and much has been added to its sprawling intersections. The palace also houses the famous temple of Kali known as Gorakhkali, who is also considered as the guardian deity of Gorkha and Gorkhalis. The temple lay inside the fort and you have a feeling of standing on the Great Wall of China, only smaller.
Another great attraction of Gorkha is Manakamana temple. One of the most popular pilgrimages in Nepal, Manakamana is said to be the manifestation of the Hindu goddess Bhagwati and is believed to have the power of fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. You can reach the temple by three-hour hike uphill from Abu Khaireni or can take the cable car ride and reach there in 10 minutes, both the modes of transportation have their own unique and interesting attractions.
Besides these, other major attractions here are the Budhi Gandaki River, Chepe River, Daraundi River, Marsyangdi River, Trishuli River, Pokharithok, Bhimsen Thapako Ghaderi, Gorakhnath, Mahademandir, Bishnumandir, Ganesh mandir, Hanumandhoka, Bhimsensthan, Nala Gumba, Karjuchhiling Gumba, Rinji Gumba, Manaslu Gumba, Seti Gupha, Siddha Gupha, Bakreswar Gupha, Sano Dudh Pokhari, Thulo Dudh Pokhari, Tatopani and Bhulbulekhar among others. The district is accessible via roadways from Abu Khaireni.
The Gorkha Durbar
Gorkha-Durbar
Gorkha-Durbar
It’s a half-hour-plus 300m slog up a stone stairway to the Gorkha Durbar from Pokharithok, the junction just east of Tallo Durbar. With a 4WD vehicle, it is possible to drive most of the way up, circling round via the western side, but the walk is half the pleasure – and provides a properly testing approach. After a landmark Swami (weeping fig) tree, the path forks: the most direct route ascends steeply through the old, pleasantly rural village, where there are opportunities to buy cold drinks and cups of tea; the longer, gentler left fork leads towards the ridgetop a short distance to the west of the palace.
The twin buildings of the palace sit atop the steepest, highest point of the ridge, buttressed by serried ranks of stone walls, and approached by a royal staircase worthy of any prince. It must have cowed visiting vassals into submission – a neat trick for a tin-pot realm that could barely muster 150 soldiers at the time of Prithvi Narayan’s first campaign. Entrance to the Durbar is through a doorway towards the western side, reached by a path to the left of the retaining wall. No leather is allowed in the compound.
THE KALIKA MANDIR
Conceived as a dwelling for kings and gods, the fortress remains a religious place, and the first stop in any visit is the revered Kalika Mandir, occupying the left (western) half of the Durbar building. Its interior is closed to all but priests – who say that any others would die upon beholding Kali’s terrible image. Sacrifices are made in the alcove in front of the entrance daily except on Ekadasi (which falls every fourteen days, following the lunar calendar). After the observance of Ashtami (again, twice monthly on the lunar month), which is celebrated with special gusto in Gorkha, the paving stones are sticky with blood. Most worshippers arrive cradling a trembling goat or chicken and leave swinging a headless carcas. Chait Dasain, Gorkha’s biggest annual festival, brings processions and more blood-letting in late March or early April, as does the tenth day of Dasain in October.
THE PALACE
The right (east) wing of the Durbar is the historic palace, site of Prithvi Narayan’s birthplace and, by extension, the ancestral shrine of the Shah kings. Though pre-dating the Gorkhali conquest of Kathmandu, the exceptional eighteenth-century brick- and woodwork palace bears the unmistakeable stamp of Newari craftsmanship. You can peer through the latticework of the door at the eastern facade and see the flank of what is claimed to be Prithvi Narayan’s throne.
THE CAVE OF GORAKHNATH
The space within the fortress walls is fairly littered with other Hindu shrines. By the eastern exit is a small temple built around the holy cave of Gorakhnath, the centre for the worship of the shadowy Indian guru who gave Gorkha its name and is regarded as a kind of guardian angel by the Shah kings. Sadhus of the Gorakhnath cult are known as kaanphata (“split-ears”), after an initiation ceremony in which they insert sticks in their ear lobes – a walk in the park compared to some of the other things they get up to in the name of their guru. Kaanphata priests sometimes administer ashen tika from the shelter above the cave.
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