DURA DANDA IN LAMJUNG - DURA JATI KO THALO - A NEPAL HERITAGE SITE
Dura Danda is blessed with the beauty of nature. At the altitude of 1500 metres above the sea level is a land of folklore passed down the generations through word of mouth. Here, music is an integral part of life; folk songs are sung eulogising and immortalising their ancestors, brave deeds of their forefathers, tragic and joyous love stories and their everyday hardships and happiness that touches one’s soul.
It is a land that represents unimaginable beauty, perfectly and naturally moulded for a breath taking experience. It is believed that Duras settled here first some 900 years ago and since the valley itself is the main dwelling place of Dura people, so the area is known as Dura Danda. The hill boasts a glorious history in establishing the Shah Dynasty and bringing educational awareness. At the end of the 15th Century, during the Baise and Chaubise (Twenty-two and Twenty-four) principalities era in Western Nepal, Duras were actually instrumental in the establishment of a Shah ruler in Lamjung by the removal of a Ghale King. It’s a perfect, picturesque hill station if you are looking for a quiet getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. It provides the right ambience as life here is laidback and slow providing a tension-free life. Dura Danda is an ideal place for adventurous activities like trekking, rock climbing, camping, photography or simply exploring lush rhododendron forests. It provides you with ample opportunity to learn in depth about the history of the local inhabitants. For many years people from different races and casts with their distinct cultural backgrounds have been living on this land in peace and harmony. Altogether there are 6 Village Development Committees (VDCs) that fall within the hill of and are predominantly populated by Duras. These VDCs are Chandreshwor, Dhuseni, Purankot, Sindure and Neta.
Chandreshwor VDCs, according to the 1991 Nepal census it has a population of 2357 people living in 488 individual households. Chyanpata falls within the VDC and is a booming market. It is a busy place where lots of small shops, government offices and schools have been established. Chyanpatta is one of the most flourished VDCs in Lamung. It is also considered to be the centre of educational awareness. During Panchayat System, when the government decided to open 11 middle schools in Lamjung, 10 out of 11 high schools were established within the vicinity of whilst only one was established in Baglungpani. Unfortunately, while people of so-called upper castes are educated, the people of so-called lower caste and ethnic groups are educationally backward. There are 8 schools altogether; Sarvodaya is a Higher Secondary School, Shree Panini Sanskrit is a Secondary School and there are 6 Primary Schools including 2 English Medium Schools. The Khaje Park is situated in this VDC and is a popular spot for picnic goers to enjoy its breathtaking landscape of Lamjung Himal and other peaks.
Dhuseni VDC, according to the 1991 Nepal census, has a population of 1384 people living in 267 individual households. There are total of 5 schools in this V.D.C. One of them is Shree Shauvhagya Sadan Secondary school and 4 Primary schools. Many social workers are devoting their time for the overall development of this village. Damodhar Adhikari, Bishnu Adhikari, Yubahari Koirala and Shivaraj Koirala are a few names that nobody can stop thanking for their lifetime contributions to all village development programmes in this region. The village is full of natural recourses such as green forests, beautiful falls. Overall, this is a small piece of heaven in a corner of Lamjung District.
Duradanda VDC, according to the 1991 Nepal census, has a population of 2135 people living in 430 individual households. It is a three hour walk form Sundarbazar, a village market. Facing east, it lies between river Kirenche in the east and Paudi River in the south and Chadreswar Village in the west .There are 4 Primary Schools and one high school named Sanskriti Sadan in the village of Archalyani.
Puranokot VDC, according to the 1991 Nepal census, has a population of 1666 people living in 330 individual households. Puranokot is comprised of two words, Purano + Kot (old + fort) and has a very important significance in establishing first Shah ruler in the lower part of Lamjung against the Ghale Rajas of upper Lamjung. This course of action has ultimately changed Nepal’s history. This historical village is a Gurung’s village situated on the lap Purankot peak.
Sindure Village Development Council, according to the 1991 Nepal census, has a population of 1822 people living in 336 individual households. Sindure VDC has historical importance and was named after a stone (throne of stone) where King of Lamjung Yasobrahma Shah was married. This very stone reminds us of the beginning of the Shah Dynasty in Lamjung and is also highly revered by locals as a symbol of love. The village of Turlung comes under this VDC and is the oldest village in the valley where Dura took their first settlement. Just at the top of the Turlung village there are remains of a fort (Kot) therefore the village is also called Turlung + Kot = Turlungkot. At the summit of the valley there is a famous temple of goddess Kalika. This temple is very sacred to locals and ceaseless prayers are performed by devotees throughout the year. Sindure has produced great folksong singing legends like late Deo Bahadur Dura, the founder of Thado Bhaka also known as Lamjung Thado Bhaka, and living legend Bima Kumari Dura who has become a household name in Nepal. To the west of the temple you still find the remains of the fort (Kot).Sindure is the most popular, important and beautiful VDC within the valley and is a must visit destination.
Neta VDC, according to the 1991 Nepal census, has a population of 2017 people living in 395 individual households. There are 5 primary schools and one Higher Secondary School known as Shree Ganesh Malika Secondary School. Neta is a beautiful village between the hill of and Thansingswara. Prominent places are Thansing Malikaa Devi temple in the village of Thansing, which is a very popular destination. It is a sacred temple situated at the cliff opposite to the Thansing village. The temple is located in a difficult rock cliff, facing towards the villages of Handikhola Bardhan, Daduwa, and Medim Khola (river). A very small and unique temple of lord Ganesh is also placed on the main pathway in the heart of the village for the travelers to pay respect to. It is also customary for all travelers to keep the lord Ganesh on their right hand side whilst walking the pathway. In doing so it is believed that god Ganesh will be pleased and their journey will be accomplished. Neta is now developing into a booming market due to the recent addition of electricity and a road to the village.
ESTABLISHMENT OF SHAH DYNASTY IN LAMJUNG
History is evident that people of Lamjung especially from Dura Danda have played an important role in shaping the future of Nepal. It is not just well known in Lamjung but has carved a special chapter in the history of Nepal due to the process of establishing the Shah Dynasty. During the early days of the Shah Dynasty, there was no king in the lower Lamjung state and a suitable king was sought.
Then Khaje Dura, Dadhiram Dura and Madhav Dura, Chamu Dhingal, Sukraj Kepchha and Kusmakar Ghimire approached Kulamand Sahi the king of Kaski and asked for his son Kalu Shah. The second son of Kulamandan Sahi was taken to the Lamjung and was made King at Puranokot in Lamjung in opposition to the Ghale king of Ghanpokhara. After three months Kalu Shah was invited to meet the Ghale king on the pretence of there being a treaty established between them. Kalu Shah and Naran Dura together went to the forest of Sisi Dhunga near Baglungpani to hunt and, whilst hunting they were murdered.
On the premature death of Kalu shah, Yasobrahma Shah (also known as Jasmu Shah), another son of Kulamandan Sahi was placed on the throne by Khaje Dura on Saturday the 15 Asad 1550 BS. 21st of Kartik and 27th of Push are the two very important calendar dates. 21st Kartick is a Khaje Memorial day. On this day a grand celebration take place in his memory. 27th of Paush is equally important as this day is celebrated to commemorate the day on which Khaje Dura had offered Sindur/Abir to Yeshobrahma Shah as part of the process of establishing the Shah Dynasty. In addition to this, this day is also celebrated as the birthday of king Prithivi Narayan Shah, who is the symbol of national unity. Pritivinarayan Shah the founder of the modern Nepal was the direct descendant of Yasobrahma Shah.
There is no actual account of the ancestry of the Dura clan. It's still mysterious as to where they come from. Dura are considered as a sub cast of Gurung (16 Jate) by the Gurungs who live in the vicinity of in Lamjung, whereas some consider them as descendants from Magar. It is also said Duras were the product of the cross marriage between the Magar and the Gurung ethnic groups. A book has been written about the Dura raja in Parbate which indicates Dura might have migrated to another part of Nepal on the shrinking of their kingdom. The fact is that Dura is classified as a separate indigenous people and live mostly in, Lamjung. Lamjung is considered as the home of the Duras. But due to the changes in living standards, Duras have migrated and settled in different parts of Nepal and abroad in search of job.
Now Duras can be found in 12 different districts of the country. But most of them are living in Dura Danda such as Turlungkot, Bhangu, Thuloswanra, Khajegaon, Kaneswanra, Baspani, Neta, Kunchha, Jeeta, Tandrang, Bardhan, Handikhola, Bhorletar, Chisangkhu, Amdanda, Sundar Bazaar, Paondi Khola and Simle within the district of Lamjung. Similarly, Duras are found in Shishaghat, Ramche, Dharapani, Tanahusur, Ramthumki, Kyamin villages of Tanahun. Today Duras have scattered over 12 districts from to places like Pokhara, Chitwan, Bhairawa, Tanahun, and Kathmandu. However, of Lamjung district is the main habitat of Duras in Nepal.
Duras are rich in cultural and folkloric values. Dura people are Mongolians but both Aryan and Buddhist religions and culture have influenced them and they practice both partially. They have their own language but it is on the course of extinction. A handful of other Dura sources exist in the form of word-lists and government reports. Since Dura people have lived and interacted with the people of other religions and culture there has been a mixed impact on the religion and culture of Duras. Duras are of five different clans. Marriage does not take place among the clans (Thar) like Dhingal, Pache and Dorde. Similarly, marriage does not take place between Puhi and Kyausa. However, People of Dhingal, Pache and Dorde clans can establish marital relations with the clans of Puhi and Kyausa and vice versa. Marriage is usually conducted by arrangement but love marriages are equally respected within the clans.
Duras by natures are lover of fun and are very friendly, socially active and well known for their singing and dancing aptitude. Dura Bhaka is incredibly popular in Lamjung and it was also believed that the Dura Thado Bhaka was once so popular that King was entertained in his palace by the founder of Thado Bhaka Mr Deu Bahadur Dura. He was born in the village of Bardhan of Neta VDC. During customary functions and festivals, especially in the evening, hoards of young and old people, girls and boys gather in groups for singing and dancing events.
Once Rodi was an integral part of the Dura culture. It was a recreational in nature and could be defined as a game too. After a days work, young and old people, males and females used to assemble at a certain place called "Rodi Ghar" to forget their worries and anxieties. There they used to share jokes, and enjoy singing and dancing to overcome the exhaustion from the day's work. Nowadays this system has wiped out due to the impact of modernization.
Ghumaune Ghar, the round shaped house is a typical and traditional Dura house which can be found in many Dura villages. Usually round in shape, it is a one storey house with a thatched roof (Khar), with a wall built of stone and mud approximately 1.5 feet thick. It’s cheap, strong and reliable enough to give shelter from heat, cold, rain and wild animals. It is so strongly built that these houses last for many centuries if good care is taken. Houses are minor earthquake-proof. The top floor of the house is used as barn (ration store), where food is stored such as rice, wheat, millet, mustard seed, corn, buckwheat, potatoes, dry meat and many more. The bottom floor on the ground floor is fitted with a fire pit in the middle of the room, where a fire is lit all the time for cooking, light and keeping the house warm. There is no chimney; smoke disappears from the thatched roof. Only one or two small widows are fitted for light. Even the main door is quite narrow and low which is the only passageway. At the flank of the main entrance to the house are rooms called KHOPI for guest to sleep. Further adjacent to the Khopi are small rooms for animals called (Khor) where small domesticated animals are locked at night like chicken, ducks, goat and recently born kids (Patha-Pathi) and calves (Pada-Padi). Khor is designed to store such animals to protect them from wild animals like Hyenas, foxes, Leopards, wild cats and Jaguars at night.
Khaje Park is the only park within the Dura Danda and is a beautiful spot for picnics, sightseeing and photography in the village of Chihanpata. Here in the park a statue has been erected in loving memory of the brave forefather Khaje Dura. On the premature death of Kalu shah, Yasobrahma Shah, another son of Kulamandan Sahi was placed on the throne by Khaje Dura on Saturday the 15 Asad 1550 BS. Khaje Dura had to carry the child king in his bag for he was very young to walk from Kaski to Lamjung. Everyone within the valley of and Lamjung are aware of this historical event. Although this event has not been properly documented in writing by any historian but a little trace has been found in some history books of Lamjung and is mainly passed by word of mouth for many generations.
Khaje Gaon is a village named after Khaje Dura. It is believed that he was born and died in this village. The village is situated between the villages of Turlungkot and Chhyanpata. It is terribly sad that there is no historical account of his birth, other activities and death. In the middle of the village you can still find the remains of actual temple which is in a dilapidated state. That was the actual temple where Dura ancestors from the vicinity of used to conduct pujas for many centuries especially Dura Kalaratri in Dashain. You can clearly see the old temple on the right hand side and the replica on the left hand side of the photograph. It is believed that gradually when the population increased in the villages and in the valley, the tradition of Maar on Kalaratri during Dashain was moved to Manag Danda on the summit so people had space to perform pujas. However Moula from the temple was placed in the temple of the Village of Turlung Kot.
Turlungkot is to the Northwest of Khaje Gaon and is approx 20 minutes gentle uphill walk at an altitude of approx 1300 metres.
Turlungkot is a small but a very beautiful village at the height of 1300 metres above sea level. It is located at the very top of the hill. This village is famous for its perfect location and size and is the oldest village in the valley where Duras took their earliest settlement. It is believed that Duras settled here some 900 years ago. Just at the top of the village you could still find the ruined fort from the 15th century during the Baise and Chaubise (Twenty-two and Twenty-four) principalities era. Turlungkot comprises of two words Turlung and Kot. It is interpreted as Turlung = village and Kot = Fort. It is believed that Duras migrated from the neighbouring villages of Durlung in Parbate and in their memoir Turlung was named after them. Durlung village still exists in the Parbate District and has been found mentioned that many Duras migrated from Parbate and still it’s unclear if it’s true of or a fictional. In a book called “Pun haru ko lok katha” you find the story of Dura Raja mentioned in it.
From the top of the village you can see the spectacular view of the Himalaya ranges wide stretching from north to the east. The summit of the valley is approximately 1 kilometre gentle uphill walk from the village of Turlung. On the summit you can find a famous temple of goddess Kalika.
Kalika temple (Mandir) is situated at the top of the hill range. It’s a very popular holy place where thousands of devotees visit every year to offer prayer. Animals are sacrificed during Dashain. While sacrificing Buffalo in Kalaratri in Dasahain, timing has to be synchronised between the temples of Kalika and that of Turlungkot Maula.
There is a tale about the Kalika Mai (Kalika Goddess) came into being, which is as follows: A woman was cutting grass alone in the middle of the jungle between the villages of Bhangu and Turlungkot. There she stumbled on a stone and it was strange in shape, almost like a human but small in size. In curiosity she poked the stone with her sickle and suddenly milk started to follow constantly from that poked wound. She runs away from the scene in fear. Later in the village she passed this incident to the villagers. Villagers named it as Kalika Mai and established a small temple later shifted from the middle of the jungle to summit of the hill.
Kalika Mandir is about 1 Kilometre east from Sindure Dunga, a gentle uphill walk to the summit of the hill. At the right hand side of the temple approximately 200 metres north, you still find a dilapidated fort at the edge. The area is wide and open and a very popular spot among the picnic goers, because you can see a lot eye candy scenes including Himalayan ranges to the north, covering from east to west. And, the scene is just breathtaking.
Sindure Dhunga still exists at the top of the village of Bhangu at Sindure VDC. Locals regard this stone as very sacred and it is the symbol of love. It was believed King Birendra Bir Birkram Shah Dev and his forefather often used to visit this divine place to pay homage to their forefathers. Yasobrahma Shah, the new king of lower Lamjung, was married on this very stone and this stone was the testimony of their marriage then. The King decorated his newly married wife’s forehand with Sindur (vermilion) thus this very stone is called Sindure Dunga.
Sindure Dunga is approx 1 Kilometre away from the Kalika temple to the west. It’s a gentle downhill walk through the rhododendron forest following the track on the ridge of the hill. If you look at the north side of the hill, you see a Gurung village. Nalma, to the front you see Manag Danda and to the left you see the dales of Baspani, Neta and Thansing.
Manag Danda, a plateau, is situated at the top of the village of Thuloswara in Sindure VDC. It is about 400 metres to the west of the Sindure Dhunga passing through lush rhododendron forest. At the altitude of 1400 metres it’s a beautiful hill station at the western edge of Sindure Dhunga. It’s a wide and open place and a very popular spot among the picnic goers and sightseeing lovers. From there you can see all the Himalayan ranges to the north, covering from east to west such as Fish tail, Machhapuchhre, Annapurna, Dhaulgiri and Ganesh Himal. On a clear day the scene is just breathtaking and one can clearly see Pokhara and Kathmandu valley at a far distance. You can see a 360 degree majestic landscape view as if you are flying up in the sky like a bird and looking down on earth. Manag Danda is one of the most picturesque places of this area and is regarded as heaven on earth.
Rani Odar is also an important place within the vicinity of the valley of Dura-danda. It is situated to the west of Manag Danda at the foot of the Dura-danda valley where two rivers Ramche and Midim meets. From Manag danda you have to walk down about 3 miles through lush Sal forest. The landscape of villages like Bhorletar, Karputar, Daduwa and the ceaseless tributary of the river Midim is just breathtaking. Walking down the hill listening to the birds’ song and a gentle breeze of Midim is an added bonus. Rani Odar is also regarded as a sacred place for many for the queen of Lamjung had to take shelter in this cave during war between neighbouring states of upper Lamjung and lower Lamjung.
Sisi Dhunga is again an important place that falls within the VDC of Baglung-pani and has a prominent place in the history of Lamung, Nepal. It is believed that this is the place where Kalu Shah the first Shah king of Lamjung and his body guard, Prem Dura were murdered by the Ghale king.
Lamjung is a jewel of Nepal history and famous for it boundless natural beauty. Villages like Gilung, Pasgaon, Bhujung, Ghanpokhara, Khasur, Ghalegaon, Bahundada and Banglungpani are renowned for its natural beauty and so is Duradanda. There is a lot to understand, learn, and enjoy within the hill of Duradada alone. People of have played a vital role in establishing Shah Dynasty. It is still unknown to millions of Nepalese people who Khaje Dura was and what his importance in modern Nepal was. It is due to a lack of consciousness, and the responsibility of individual people, society and the government of Nepal. For the development of the country as a whole, it is our responsibility to try to preserve our culture and heritage and spread its existence and importance to the wider community. I am hopeful that one day would definitely become a major Tourist Destination for its historical importance and natural beauty.
ROUTE TO DURA DANDA
Lamjung is about 170 kilometres west from Kathmandu and 33 Kilometres from Pokhara. Follow Prithivi highway from Kathmandu and Pokhara, until you reach Dumre a small town on the Prithivi highway. At Dumre Bazaar, get off from the Bus and take a bus heading to Beshi Sahar, the district headquarters of Lamjung. Distance from Dumre to Besihishar is approximately 34 kilometres, Follow the road, passing through the bazaars like Dumre Bhansar, Turture, Kalimati, Baisjangar, Paundi Dhik and finally stop at Siundibar. From Siundibar take a bus for Dura Danda passing through Sundar Bazaar, Khatri Thanti and finally reaching your destination. It’s a one and half hours memorable bumpy ride. If you prefer to walk, it’s a 3 hours gentle up hill walk from Khatrithanti, and 2 hours from Kirinche Besi enjoying the magnificent sight of ceaseless valley. Lamjung is blessed with favourable climate where visitors can have fun throughout the year.