Home Kathmandu A close encounter with the Bagmati

A close encounter with the Bagmati

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Pachali Ghat near the Kalo Pul bridge is densely populated with Hindu and Buddhist artifacts, including a collection of stone images that depict the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Pachali Ghat near the Kalo Pul bridge is densely populated with Hindu and Buddhist artifacts, including a collection of stone images that depict the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Pachali Ghat near the Kalo Pul bridge is densely populated with Hindu and Buddhist artifacts, including a collection of stone images that depict the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Right next to the Thapathali bridge are several public shelters that were built to serve as lodges for religious wayfarers.
Right next to the Thapathali bridge are several public shelters that were built to serve as lodges for religious wayfarers.

Cultural historians attribute the Bagmati Civilisation of Kathmandu Valley to that of the Indus and Nile. Having had to cross the Bagmati twice a day for most of my life, I have come to know the river intimately. But I also saw its decline and decay, and with my colleagues Rajni and Suneeta decided to photograph the important but forgotten heritage sites along a 2.5 km stretch of the Bagmati’s north bank from Teku Dovan to Thapathali.

PAST-PRESENT

Bagmati 3

Bagmati 4

Some of these sites were built as early as the 7th century CE, and are hidden from public view by tall new buildings of Tripureshor and Teku.

PRESENT-FUTURE

Bagmati 5

Bagmati 6

The terrain between the ‘link’ road along the southern bank of the Bagmati and the river is soggy and overgrown with tall, thick bushes. There is garbage everywhere and the swampy, inky waters evaporating in the midday sun made the stench unbearable.

Teku Dovan, where the Bagmati meets the Vishnumati
Teku Dovan, where the Bagmati meets the Vishnumati

We set up the tripod on the no man’s land of a muddy embankment just before the clouds parted and gave a bright blue backdrop to the panoramas. Its reflection turned the muddy river into a lapis-coloured lake, making it impossible to come to terms with reality.

The riverbank is dotted with underground springs that provide potable water right next to the thick toxic flow of the river. Not long ago, the Bagmati’s water must have been as clean as what flows from these springs. Our goal must be to bring the river back to its pristine, holy state.

Bagmati Heritage Walkway

Bagmati 8

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) and Department of Archaeology have started work on creating a promenade along the north bank of the Bagmati from Teku to Thapathali. The plan is to revive the rich cultural heritage along the bank and create a green promenade for the people of Kathmandu and Patan.

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By Alok Tuladhar

The writer is a visual documentarian specialising in the preservation of culture and heritage.