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The placenames around Bandipur indicate that the surrounding region, known as Tanahun, was originally inhabited by Magars, whose chieftains ruled numerous principalities of Today’s central Nepal. When Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha set out to expand his dominion, Tanahun was a powerful adversary which was overcome only with a hard fight.

As the Gorkha king completed his conquest of Kathmandu Valley in 1768, many of its Newar inhabitants fanned out to establish trading posts in the hills, Some Bhaktapur traders made their way to Bandipur, from where they began to cater to trade between an increasingly mercantile British India and the Himalayan hinterland.

An obscure mountain village was transformed into a bustling commercial centre. Bandipur served as a funneling point where all trails from central Nepal (and Tibet to the north) joined to head southward, crossing the great Narayani river and the chitwan jungle to reach the Indian railhead of Narkatia Ganj.

Over the 1800s, the bazaar town grew in wealth and importance. All goods were carried on porter-back, and from dawn to dusk the stone-paved thoroughfare echoed with the sound of walking sticks and the babble of tongues. From Tibet came traders with musk pods, mountain herbs, animals skin and horses. From British India, it was calico, tobacco, glassware and kerosene.

The good times were to last until the advent of motorised transport. Even as Nepal opened its doors in the 1950s, the town of Pokhara with its airfield began to gain in im

portance. The final straw was the 1972 opening of the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway, whose road alignment bypassed Bandipur altogether.

The trading families immediately forsook their ancestral town to seek economic opportunities elsewhere. Even as their hometown became a ghost of its earlier self, the Bandipur Newars prospered, becoming some of Nepal’s foremost businessmen, professionals and bureaucrats.

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Author: Anand Godar
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