Tuesday, January 22: Taumadhi Tol is the center of Newari culture in Bhaktapur. It’s a lively square that contains two of Bhaktapur’s most distinctive pagodas.
The graceful, five-tiered Nyatapola is Nepal’s tallest and most classically proportioned pagoda, and it dominates Bhaktapur. Since the pagoda was completed in 1702, all but priests have been barred from the sanctuary. Apparently, this is because its tantric goddess, Siddhi Lakshmi, is so obscure, that she has no devotees. Rather than being named for its goddess, it’s named for its architectural shape: in Newari, nyata means “five-stepped” and pola means “roof.” On the steep stairs going up the pagoda are five pairs of guardians: Malla wrestlers, elephants, lions, griffins and two minor goddesses. Each pair is supposed to be ten times as strong as the pair below (Lonely Planet Nepal).
I climb up the steep and narrow-depth stairs, and the view from the top is dizzying. Coming back down is quite scary as the stairway is precipitous and has no handrails. I look down on the square below and see the more squat pagoda: Bhairabnath Mandir.
The other pagoda on the east side of the square is the thick-set Bhairabnath Mandir. Leaning against its north wall are stacked solid wood wheels used on chariots during the Nepali New Year’s celebration called Bisket Jatra. According to Highland Asia Travel: Nepali New Year and Bisket Jatra, the legend goes that every man who married the Bhaktapur Princess died the night of the honeymoon, so no one dared to marry the Bhaktapur Princess again. Finally, there was a brave prince who vowed to solved the mystery. He married the princess and he stayed awake the night of their honeymoon. As the princess fell asleep, two giant serpents crawled out of the two nostrils of the princess. The prince quickly took out his sword and chopped the snake heads off. The next morning, the two serpents were publicly displayed on a pole. Even today, in the traditional ceremony of Bisket Jatra, serpents are carried in the form of long ribbons.