To the east of Kathmandu lies the triangle formed by Dhulikhel, the Buddhist monastery of Namo Buddha and Panauti. To get there, follow the Araniko Highway, which takes about two hours to reach Dhulikhel. On the way out of Kathmandu, you pass Bhaktapur and further on you will see a number of pottery kilns where the classic Nepalese bricks are fired. The route begins to climb to reach a small mountain pass presided over by the figure of Kailashnath Mahadev, the world’s tallest sculpture of Shiva at 44 metres. Further on we cross the important village of Banepa, where the turn-off to Panauti is located, and soon we reach Dhulikhel, again gaining altitude.
Dhulikhel, sited on a mountain pass, is one of the villages known for its Himalayan views, as is the more famous Nagarkot. But Dhulikhel is less visited and is also a true Newar town, a village where people work and live beyond tourism, with an old town full of red brick and carved wooden buildings, the Dhulikhel Bazar. It is a town that, although it welcomes tourism, perhaps we wouldn’t call it touristy. As you will see, many of the houses in the old town seem to be surprisingly well preserved. Dangerously inclined façades, large cracks, … and yet all these old buildings withstood the 2015 earthquake that was felt so severely in this area. It is worth strolling through the narrow streets of the centre, which is not very large, or, if you have more time, discovering the surrounding area, such as the “1000 steps” path which, passing by a large golden Buddha, climbs to the top of a hill with a good 360º view.
The Namo Buddha Buddhist Monastery, about 45′ from Dhulikhel by road, or about 4 hours walk on what is one of the stages of the small Kathmandu Valley trek.
Strategically located on a mountain also with very good views over the surrounding valleys and the Himalayas, it is an important monastery. Tradition says (with different variants also found in other places) that Buddha, on his way to nirvana, stopped here where he found a tigress with her hungry cubs. Buddha, out of pity, gave his arms to feed them, and this is the reason why this monastery was built here.
It is free to visit, both inside and outside, which will take you to some stupas and where the walking trail to Panauti begins. Like most Buddhist monasteries, at around 4 pm there is usually the “puja” in the temple, the prayer of sutras by the community of monks.
Panauti, further south, is a small town anchored in the past when it was an important trading centre during the Rana era.
It is considered especially sacred as it is situated at a confluence of two rivers, the Roshi and the Pungamati, which it’s believed to be joined by an invisible third river, the Padmabati. It has many ancient temples of all sizes, especially at the confluence of the rivers. Panauti survived several earthquakes unscathed for centuries, although the 1988 earthquake did cause some damage to its rich cultural heritage, as well as the latter, although not too serious.
It is very interesting to stroll through its streets among brick houses, people casually doing farm work, children going to or coming from school, and ancient temples of all kinds.