Tucked in the Valley’s southwestern corner is the medieval town of Pharping. is a predominantly agrarian community, a vestige of Kathmandu’s past that has remained largely unaffected by the capital’s frenetic growth. The area has numerous ancient sites sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike. A trip to Pharping, however is not just an opportunity to see these holy places; it is a chance to enjoy the many gifts of the countryside.
The sights change dramatically beyond Chobar gorge. Kathmandu’s ugly congestion is blocked from view. The road going to Pharping bends and climbs gently, and in front of you, below in the valley, terraced fields stretch into the distance. The Bagmati seems to be recovering from the horror of flowing through the city. It flows faster here as it meanders between hills.
The scenic – and dangerous if you keep looking at them while riding or driving – views keep getting better as you proceed on the road to Pharping. Barely a kilometer from the Chobar gorge is Taudaha. It is the ideal place to rest your tired hands and feet (all that braking and pressing down on the clutch). According to the Valley’s mythology, when Manjushree drained the lake that was Kathmandu the nagas (serpents) living in it were left homeless. Taudaha was where the serpents were relocated. Today, the pond is a refuge for Kathmanduites fleeing the city’s noise and pollution. Snakes, normal not mythical ones, can still be seen here occasionally.
People usually travel to Pharping for religious reasons: it’s either to visit the Dakshinkali Temple or the many temples and monasteries in the area. The monasteries here attract with their beauty and enrapture with their peaceful atmosphere. Perhaps the most eye-catching of them all is the huge, pagoda-style monastery in Bhanjhyang. This gargantuan building is like a signpost signaling the beginning of an area gripped by a feverish zeal to build big monasteries.
This sprouting of monasteries is not only good news for the pious but also for those looking for quiet places. The further you go toward Pharping, the better the views and the older the temples. Sheshnarayan Temple is the next sacred site on this trip through a religious landscape.
On seeing Pharping you will be delighted to find that a place this quaint and idyllic could exist so close to Kathmandu. The succession of old temples and monasteries is momentarily halted at the Pharping Bazar, which has a mini mart and several restaurants and clothing stores. But two roads go past it, both leading to sacred places. The one going south takes you to Dakshinkali and the westward one goes to an area that has a holy cave and several shrines. Whichever one you take, you will once again be out in the countryside, flanked by terraced fields, and the rejuvenation of the senses will resume.
Special Things to Remember
The temples and monasteries of Pharping are charming places. But you have to remember that these are places where at any time several people are meditating, teaching, or praying. You need to be sensitive to this and remember not to act in any way that disturbs such people or other visitors. Also pay attention to signboards to ensure you’re not violating any rules.
If you’re going to Pharping on a cycle or motorbike, you need protection against the sun: hats and sunscreen are essential. Carry binoculars to enjoy the opportunities for birdwatching that begin at Taudaha.
Cap: Ripcurl, 9849081251, Durbar Marg
Bike: Yamaha FZs, 01-4268252, Tripureshwor
Binocular: Gift House, Bishal Bazar, 4228116
Cycle: Commoncal Bikes, Epic Mountain Bike,
The places mentioned here appear in this order when going to Pharping.
Seti Devi Temple
This small shrine is situated on a knoll behind the big monastery at Bhanjhyang. The graveled road to the temple skirts the western wall of this monastery. The road is too narrow for four-wheelers, so leave them at Bhanjhyang’s small market. After 400 meters there is a small flight of stone stairs on the left. These climb to the recently renovated temple. Besides its religious importance, the temple also has wonderful views of Kathmandu and Pharping. Bhanjhyang is 16 km from the Old Bus Park.
Sheshnarayan Temple and Rigzin Drubte Ghatshal Monastery
Hindus and Buddhists alike revere the Sheshnarayan Temple area. Sheshnarayan is one of the four important Narayan (Vishnu) temples of the Kathmandu Valley. Beside the temple, its major attraction is a cluster of cow’s udder-like stalactites hanging from a cliff face. It is said milk used to flow from them. On the same cliff is a serpentine formation, which devotees take as the image of sheshnaga, the seven-headed serpent of Hindu mythology. The area is sacred for Buddhists because it is believed that Padmashambhava meditated here. A few steps from the temple is a tiny cave with a hole in its ceiling, which devotees believe to be the imprint of Padmashambhava’s head. Contiguous to Sheshnarayan is Pharping’s oldest monastery, Rigzin Drubte Ghatshal. The temple without a roof, a deliberate feature to allow easy access to the deity, and the three small pools of crystal clear water and colorful fish are Sheshnarayan’s other attractions.
Asura Cave and Old Dakshinkali Temple
The cave in Sheshnarayan isn’t the only place where Guru Rinpoche is believed to have meditated. Asura Cave is yet another site of the famous saint’s rigorous retreats. The cave is located within the premises of the Ngagyur-Nyingmapa Rigzin Phodrang Monastery. To get to the monastery, take the road that forks right (west) from Pharping Bazar. The cave is a short climb from the monastery’s entrance. Further up the hill from the cave, at the summit, is the old Dakshinkali shrine.
At the end of the first set of steps going up to the Rigzin Phodrang Monastery, there is a small room. This is the Ganesh-Saraswati Temple. The temple houses images of Ganesh and Saraswati, both of which are said to have surfaced from a rock face on their own.
The temple is dedicated to Kali, the fierce incarnation of Durga. Worshippers throng this ancient site to seek the blessings of this powerful goddess. What is worth witnessing is the daily puja, during which the inner shrine is closed to visitors.
To Get there
Buses leave frequently from the Old Bus Park for Pharping. The fare is 30 rupees. After crossing the Ring Road at Balkhu, take the road toward Tribhuvan University. However, do not turn toward the university but continue straight. Pharping Bazar is almost 19 km from the Old Bus Park.
Where to Stay
Family Guest House is a good option if you want to stay near the Pharping Bazar. Hotel Ashoka and Dakchhinkali Village Inn are both south of town, on the road to Dakshinkali Temple.