Published On: December 18, 2017 08:02 AM NPT By: Sonam Lama

A bountiful hub for culture and trade Basantapur

A bountiful hub for culture and trade Basantapur

KATHMANDU, Dec 18: Since its construction by the Malla and Lichhavi rulers, Basantapur has been a hub for tourists, youths as well as the local residents, and has established itself as a cultural representation of Kathmandu: the 'city of temples'. 

Attracting thousands of Nepalis as well as foreign tourists on a daily basis, Basantapur has been maintaining its impression as a youthful and vibrant tourism spot located at the heart of Kathmandu. Basantapur Durbar is not only enlisted as world cultural heritage site by UNESCO but also harbors a number of local businesses, which have in definite ways added to the beauty and soothing atmosphere of Basantapur. Ranging from the ancient hippie shops to handicraft works, antiques, Nepali clothing stores and artsy eateries, Basantapur has morphed into a vibrant hub for both the natives and tourists alike.

Forty-eight-year-old Ram Giri has a book shop at Basantapur, which he has been running for 25 years now. He has decorated his shop lavishly with post cards, cultural books, magazines and travel maps printed in Nepal and translated in various other languages. Dangling on the outer walls of his shop, books and postcards depicting deities, heritages and vibrant photographs catch the eyes of passersby. However, he says his shop is visited by only a few numbers of people after the rise in various online shopping outlets. Cultural books and magazines compiling the history and festivals of Nepal are high in demand among the flock of tourists who travel to the country every year in search of serenity and calm. To the convenience of a diverse numbers of buyers, the materials have translated copies in German, French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and English. 

Similarly, 62 year old Prakash Ratna Shakya runs a Tibetan mask shop at Freak Street of Basantapur. Different masks of deities like Vairab, Buddha and Ganesh, among others are available at his 20-year-old shop. 

The wooden masks are brought in from Sindhupalchok which are colored and furnished locally for sale. The colored masks then are applied with a special chemical that eventually ends up giving them a classic and antique look. These works of wooden crafts are popular among the tourists from across the globe though their tastes slightly vary sue to their different cultural backgrounds. "Our multicultural background thus contributes to a variety of masks that attract the tourists." 

The authentic shops that date back to decades look ancient as compared to the eateries and coffee houses which have currently secured a prominent space at Basantapur market. Seventy-year-old Govind Bhai, a local from Basantapur, owns a 30-year old embroidery and cloth shop based at Basantapur. Originally from Delhi, he settled in Nepal as a tradesperson of handmade bags and decorative. Due to the lack of craftsmanship on embroidery and human resources, most of the products that he sells are imported from  India while only a few of them are produced in Nepal. 

“Since the rise in demand of handmade products, many Nepalis as well as foreign buyers have been visiting my shop recently. Handmade bags and embroidery has been major highlights for the seasonal tourists." 

Though many heritage sites and temples located at Basantapur sustained damages, and are currently on the process of reconstruction, after the devastating earthquakes of 2015, the tiny shops carrying decades-long legacy have kept their way of living unaffected. This is the evidence that Basantapur has never failed to impress its visitors with its authenticity and humility. 

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