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Best of Butwal, Nepal

Butwal is one of Terai's most important crossroads. Equidistant from Tansen and the Sunauli border with easy connections to Lumbini, it is the gateway to West Nepal and lies within a day's bus journey of both Pokhara and Kathmandu. In the early 1950s, Butwal was little more than a village on the west bank of the Tilottama River in the shadow of the Churia Hills. With the construction of the Mahendra and Siddhartha Highways, however, it grew rapidly (1991) and most of the now spread unprepossessingly to the east and southwest of the river, a product of the laissez-faire growth that increasingly typifies many South Asian towns and cities. The main area with all the town's accommodation lies to the north of Hospital Chowk. The Siddhartha Highway continues south from here to Bhairahawa and the border. The innovatively named Traffic Chowk is a busy intersection on the Siddhartha Highway and the stop for long-distance buses passing through Butwal.

Butwal's main claim to fame is as the site where what was thought to have been the oldest known humanoid bone was discovered in the 1960s. the fossilized bone was of the Ramapithecus genus of ape which inhabited the areas around the Indus and Ganges plains between 25 and 10 million years ago. Bhutwal shares a proud history with Tansen as one of the last territories in central-western Nepal to fall to the Gorkhas. The Sen dynasty that had ruled from Palpa (Tansen) ended when king Mani Mahadutta Sen, son of King Mani Mukunda Sen, was lured to Kathmandu by Rana Bahadur Shah on the pretext of mutually beneficial discussions but was arrested upon arrival in the capital and imprisoned. On hearing the news Mahadutta's son and heir, Ratna Sen fled to Gorakhpur where he died without issue.

There are plans to establish a park at Phulbari, on the west bank of the Tilottama, on the 10-acre site of the ruins of King Mani Mukunda Sen's winter palace. There is an oral tradition, reaffirmed by the town's oldest resident before his death in 1995 aged 98, that there exists an underground tunnel connecting the winter palace with the fort of Jit Ghar, also on the west bank of the Tilottama, and with another of Mukunda's forts on Nuwakot Hill, eight km west of Butwal. No archeological investigations to verify the existence of what would have been a major feat of engineering have as yet been undertaken.

Other than its role as a convenient place to rest after a long bus journey, there are few compelling reasons to visit Bhutwal. There are a couple of minor temples in the area north of Hospital Chowk. A small though eye-catching Buddhist Chaitya on Amar Path is painted as a lotus and has carved images of the Buddha set into the harmonica. Some 200 meters south of traffic chowk is the Durga Panchayan Mandir, dedicated to Durga in the company of four other gods. The three-storeyed concrete temple contains a huge and lavishly decorated central image of Durga surrounded by smaller representations of Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, and Surya. There is a small park at the northern end of the town.


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