Besides monument conservation efforts, the Kirtipurians are at their best to conserve the traditional values of intangible cultural heritages.
Many civilizations around the world have disappeared due to natural and man-made disasters that have occurred over time. Even so, the medieval town of Kirtipur survived to help keep the Newa civilization of the Kathmandu Valley intact. Kirtipur, known locally as Kipoo, is one of the three medieval and ancient settlements in the Kathmandu Valley, which is nominated on the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.
Kirtipur corresponding to the literal meaning of its name is indeed a “city of glory”. The present form of Kirtipur’s history, with its tangible and intangible legacies, dates back to the 11th century. The panorama of the Kathmandu valley can be seen from all directions from the slopes and top of the hill town.
The Department of Archeology of Nepal made a submission to UNESCO on January 30, 2008 to include Kirtipur in the list of World Heritage sites. Since then it has been kept in the indicative list of UNESCO cultural heritage sites.
The medieval settlement was developed with the characteristics of a fort with 12 gates. According to Bir Bahadur Maharjan, a local intellectual, out of 12, the location of 11 gates, as well as the city wall, have been located. He further believed that the restoration of these city gates would help further recover the medieval architectural values of the hill town.
According to Ramesh Maharjan, mayor of Kirtipur, the authority of the municipality is constantly making efforts to preserve and recover the authenticity of the medieval settlement. He invited the younger generation to participate in efforts to conserve heritage sites.
Kirtipur is an outstanding example of the medieval art and architecture of the Newa civilization of the Kathmandu Valley. Besides the hundreds of street shrines, listed monuments including ChilanchoVihar, Jagat Pal Vihar, Buddha Dharma Sangha Shikhara, Baghbhairab Temple, Layaku (Durbar premises), Umamaheshvar Temple, Indrayani Pith, Chitu Bahal, Lokeshwar Shikhara, Buddha Temple, Chve Bahal and Kwe Bahal are the material inheritances of Kirtipur.
The iconic Bagh Bhairab temple, known locally as Dhumba Aaju, is one of the most popular temples dedicated to the angry tiger-like god Bhairab. This god is considered to be the guardian of Kirtipur and therefore the locals call him Aajudya, which means the respected grandfather. The premise of the temple is the center where locals hold important ceremonial ritual events like rice feeding, puberty, and marriage.
The three-story temple of Dhumba Aaju (Bagh Bhairab) is said to have been built by King Licchavi Shiv Dev III during the period 1099-1126. There are small shrines and stone idols in the rectangular courtyard surrounded by rest houses.
The two roofs of the temple are tiled while the third is covered with gilded copper. Wooden poles with carving of Hindu gods and goddesses adorn the temple in addition to support its roof. There are eighteen pinnacles inside the temple: one on the main roof, six in the center, and eleven on the highest part. Currently, a debate continues among the inhabitants as to whether to replace the tiles of the main and secondary roofs of the temple with copper sheets.
Chilancho Vihar (monastery), a Buddhist shrine, is located east of Kirtipur. An inscription from Nepal Samvat 635 (1516 AD) found in the Chaitya is evidence of claiming the authentic values of the Chiatya as one of the most important historical stupas in this region. In Nepal Bhasa, the word Chilan means immortal and the word Cho means hill. Therefore, its literal meaning is the immortal god located on top of the hill.
Uma Maheshwar Temple (locally Kwacho Dega) is one of the important heritage sites in Kirtipur. This three-story pagoda-style temple is located at the best point (1414m) of Kirtipur. Since this temple is at the top of the hill town, one can enjoy a picturesque view of the Kathmandu valley and mountains like Langtang, Dorge Lakpa, Chobhu Bhamure and Gaurishankar.
The temple was built in 1655 by Rautra Vishwanath Babu, a son of King Sidhhi Narsinga Malla. The temple had been destroyed in the earthquake of 1832. After remaining dilapidated for over a century, it was restored in 1933. The doors, pillars and wooden beams are adorned with artistic figures of various gods and goddesses like Astamatrika and Asta Bhairav. Likewise, erotic figures are also carved into wooden struts.
Most of the residential houses along the narrow stone and brick paved lanes of medieval settlements have been renovated and rebuilt. They reflect the art and architectural values of the Newa civilization. Besides monument conservation efforts, the Kirtipurians are also at their best to conserve traditional values of intangible cultural heritage.
Narayan Maharjan, a former teacher, says that the involvement of the younger generation to accompany the efforts of the municipal authorities is necessary to launch an advocacy and lobbying campaign for Kirtipur to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites.