Lying to the southeast of Bhaktapur, Ghyampe Danda is a potential tourist spot to be explored. The beautiful green hill that is just 14 kilometres away from the heart of Kathmandu is home to some of the famous temples and shrines such as Suryabinayak, Pathivara, Pilot Baba Ashram and Anantalingeswor. An open National Zoological Garden that is being developed and historical Ranikot Gadhi lie in the area. Surrounded by lush green forests, Ghyampe Danda is located at a height of around 2,000 metres above sea level. One can have incredible view of the entire Kathmandu Valley and many snow-capped mountains. The recent declaration made by the Government of Nepal to make it a tourism spot has enhanced its popularity among prospective visitors. One can start his/her journey after receiving blessings from the Gods in Suryabinayak and Anantalingeswor temples. If you choose the way from Suryabinayak temple, you can reach Ghyampe Danda through Pilot Baba Ashram and the Doleswor Mahadev temple that lies on the other side of the hill. One can travel by a vehicle along the blacktopped road that climbs up through a dense forest leads you to the destination smoothly. The forest that spreads the areas of 245.165 hectares is home to various faunal and floral species. The entire forest becomes mind-blowing when the colorful rhododendrons blossom blanketing the whole forest in April and May. The higher you go through the forest road, the deeper you lose yourself into the ecstasy on seeing the unique natural beauties, sereneness, calmness and chirping of birds. When you reach Pilot Baba Ashram, you will find yourself in a piece of heaven. There is a temple in a beautiful Shikhara-style atop the hill. The temple is dedicated to Som Nath Mahadev. The story behind this temple is interesting. After giving up his materialistic life, Kapil Singh, who was a pilot in Indian Air Force, became a saint. He is now well-known as the Pilot Baba, a spiritual Guru. He had a close connection with Nepal as he had received grace from Gorakhnath and Hari Baba in the Narayani River near Devghat where he had lived for many years. There are many disciples in Nepal who have contributed to building the Som Nath Mahadev Temple atop this scenic and tranquil hill. Many people from all ages and walks of life visit the temple to pay their homage. Many residential students pursue religious and spiritual knowledge in this temple. This place has now been a popular meditation spot for some whereas many come here for observing the eternal astonishing scenes, excursion, getting together and having a picnic. You will get to Ghyampe Danda after about half an hour’s uphill ride. With the creation of physical infrastructures and other facilities such as blacked road, drinking water, electricity, schools, health post, hotels and resorts and police station, this place has now grown as one of the tourist attractions in the Kathmandu Valley. Gyampe Danda is named after a Ghyampo, a big soil-pot in which water used to be reserved collectively and shared it when in urgent need. When there was an extreme scarcity of drinking water, people around this locality installed a Ghyampo. This is the point from where a spectacular view of many high mountains can be observed. Half an hour further uphill ride takes you to another historical spot called Ranikot which is now extremely popular for the fossil or debris of a Lichhavi-era palace and its historical importance. It is believed that during the Lichhavi era, there used to be a beautiful palace where a beautiful queen of a Lichhavi king used to reside. Among the many wives of the king, the youngest one was the most loved and beautiful whom he hid in this palace fearing she would be eyed by his enemies. The king used to visit her frequently where there around 250 long stone-steps leading to the palace. The Lichhavi coins found around is a proof referring to that era. There are also many fossils of sub-palaces. Later, the then king Prithvi Narayan Shah used the palace as a fort while entering the Kathmandu Valley. “There are many mysteries behind this place. Further excavations and purposeful observations and archeological studies are required to answer many questions and curiosities about this place”, said Prof. Dr. Purushottam Lochan Shrestha, a renowned local historian. Ranikot is now gaining more popularity day by day for its historical, cultural and natural significance. The temperature of this place is cool in summer and cold as snow falls sometime in winter. People come here mostly for observing, relaxing and having picnic, especially during holidays. A fair is observed during Bala Chaturdashi in which a large number of people come from around. There is a temple dedicated to Bagh Bhairav. The temple lies some 200 metres to the west of Ranikot which is named after the natural stone that is found here in the shape of a tiger and it has its own interesting mythology. Almost half a dozen restaurants, hotels and resorts have been established in this area and the number is still growing owing to the gradual increase in the number of people visiting Ranikot. This area links Bhaktapur to Kavrepalanchowk. Settlements of Tamang and Newar communities are there. “We will soon equip this place with the amenities of the smooth, drinking water, electricity along with other modern facilities of paragliding, zip ride, jungle safari, cycling and hiking routes. We are dedicated to developing this area as one of the best tourism spots in the Kathmandu Valley,” said Mahesh Basnet, a lawmaker and former minister.
(A freelance writer, Phuyal writes on social issues. He can be reached at email@example.com)