Transplanting Urban Design of Bhaktapur into Newari Settlement of Bandipur
Situated on a hilltop, yet fitted into the mountain topography and adopted to local culture, Bandipur is a small ethnically diverse settlement, originally inhabited by ‘Magars’ and ‘Bhattarai’ from Rampur followed by ‘Brahmins’ from the surrounding districts and ultimately by the ‘Newars’ in the early nineteenth century from Bhaktapur. Crisscrossed by trading routes between the north (Tibet via Gorkha) and the south (India via Chitawan) coupled with excellent climate and malaria free location, the permanent settlement of Newars, particularly in the main bazaar area, has not only caused the development of Newari art, architecture and culture but also flourished the trade and commerce. However, combination of numerous events - emergence of new prosperous trading venue in the southern Tarai belt after the end of ‘Rana’ regime in 1951, shifting of the district headquarter to Damauli in 1968 and opening of new Prithvi Highway in 1973 linking newly established business centres such as Narayanghat, Damauli, Bimalnagar etc. but isolating Bandipur - has converted this area, once most vibrant business centre of Tanahu district (western Nepal) into the ghost town. A community of elders and young school going children supported by their relatives working somewhere else and a society without leadership and entrepreneurship had emerged. Three strategies – construction of 8km road to link to the Prithvi Highway, establishment of numerous colleges and schools such as Notre Dame School in 1985, and the recent works of Bandipur Eco-tourism project focusing on conservation of few buildings and training of local community – were taken to reverse the demising trend of the town. This initiated regeneration process with clear spatial implications needs urban design interventions, otherwise the faith of Bandipur will go on the path of other similarly destroyed market towns of Nepal. First, the unique features of the urban form and building character – fitting urban design of Bhaktapur in the rural setting of the mountain topography in line with local lifestyle of Bandipur – needs to be explored to establish urban design principles and traditional architectural vocabulary so that the transformation process and new construction can be guided. Gradual destruction of such unique features as well as erosion in religious beliefs and faiths is being increasing not only due to poor community bond, absence of leadership and low level of awareness on cultural properties but also because of lack of financial support and poor public participation on development works. Second, the community space infront of the building and utilitarian space at the backside is part and partial of building and hence the architecture of Bandipur is not limited to the building structure only but extended to community spaces. Vertical division of such building stocks and their haphazard renovation and reconstruction including new construction, often with different materials, technology and architectural detailing has disturbed such relationship, destroyed local streetscape and intensified earthquake vulnerability. Such activity is continuously unabated due to the lack of development control and building regulation. Third, natural aesthetic of Bandipur is yet to be explored and to be integrated into the development work. An urban design plan and program – exploiting natural resources, responding to the mountain topography and conserving cultural heritage - is essential to recover the lost past glory as well as to fulfill the present days needs. This program should be implemented by formulating flexible urban design guidelines and using different urban design techniques including establishing a new implementing agency that also includes private sector and local community. Development of academic institutions and health centre for quality education and public services including upgradation of the local slate and silk industries is crucial for socio-economic development whereas promotion of physical infrastructure, recreation facilities as well as cultural centre is recommended for community development and tourism industry. Last but not the least, there is an urgent need for a common platform which provides ample opportunity not only to unite the disintegrated society and isolated individual but also to revive and continue the unique traditional cultural and religious functions.
Keywords: Newari Settlement, Bandipur Town, Natural Resources, Cultural Heritage, Urban Design
Dr. Bijaya Krishna Shrestha
Head of Department, Post Graduate Department of Urban Design and Conservation, Khwopa Engineering College
Ar. Sushmita Shrestha
Assistant Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Khwopa Engineering College