Valley hamlets that tell tales
Hardly a village in the Valley is without a history of a hundred legends. They sat across trade routes, faced invaders, were commissioned by kings or inspired by gods. So Sangma owes its legendary origins to the God Bhim Sen, who, when the Valley was a lake, used to moor his boat where the village is now. Bhim Sen is the patron saint of traders and so Sangma, straddling the trade route to Tibet, built him a shrine. A Malla king of Bhaktapur, while out hunting, met and loved a girl of Pyangaon who bore him several children. To them in time he gave exclusive rights to manufacture the bamboo measuring pots called hapa. To this day Pyangaon goes on making hapa which are used throughout the Valley.
For centuries Thankot has guarded the trade route to India where it enters the Valley. Its ancient name is Shonitapur which commemorates a battle fought between the son of Krishna and the demon brother of a legendarily beautiful woman who lived here. Much was the blood spilled and Shonitapur means the place of blood. The Gurkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah realizing the strategic importance of the village posted a military garrison there and changed its name to Thankot – a place of garrison. the quiet beauty of Lubha attracted a Malla queen so powerful that she abandoned her palace in Patan and settled in the village. there she sold a golden dish to raise the money necessary to expand the village. Her endowment is remembered in the name Lubhu which means dish of gold. Royal passion of another kind gave the village of Sanagaon its popular name Thasi. The settlement was infamous for its destructive malaria: so much so that political prisoners of the Malla era were sent there to perish. When a king once visited Sanagaon the inmates of this penal colony begged him to settle them elsewhere to which the king said Sisa thasi which translates more or less, “I do not care if you die or not. The word Thasi stuck but happily, the malaria disappeared.
I remember Sankhu on a rich northern trade route as a handsome village of five houses and four gates. It is greatly changed but the story
of its origins remains. Above the village on a wooded hillside and approached by a long flight of stone stairs is a temple to Goddess Bajra Yogini. She once lived there and legend has her inspiring the Saint Manjusri to visit the holy Kathmandu lake and drain the water from
the Valley. An early king of the Valley humbly offered himself to the goddess to sate her great hunger. She obligingly ate him and later one of his sons build Sankhu in her honour which makes one wonder whether he particularly liked his forbear or not.
Self-sacrifice gave Namo Buddha, a beautiful spot actually outside the Valley, its name; it seems that in the dawn of time three princes were out hunting near the spot when they happened upon a tigress and her cubs that were so starved they were near death. The youngest prince fed them his own flesh until he himself died, an act of such grace that the Buddha himself recognized the prince as Boddhisattava.
One of my favourite hamlets, distinguished by a small Rana palace, is Nagarkot from where one can see Everest and almost forever. Apart from being the retreat of an endearing Rana Prime Minister, Nagarkot has a connotation of happy indolence one cannot help appreciating. It seems a ruler of Kathmandu once imported a large force of mercenaries from the Punjab for defence against the encroaching Gurkhas. He settled them at Nagarkot where these staunch and valiant fighters soon succumbed to the local air,
local wine and local beauty. so much so that when the Gurkhas invaded and were at the city gates, the imported stalwarts were merrily useless.
The years have reduced their shame and identity. They now pass as Nepalis but to this day are known as Nagarkotis. In this story lies the moral; those who taste of the delights of the Kathmandu Valley are forever blissfully enslaved.