Tansen (Palpa)

Tansen (Palpa)

Tansen, an ancient hill town, with architecture strongly influenced by Newari migrants from the Kathmandu valley is waiting to be discovered a colorful hill town is situated at an altitude of 1,450m. It is the most popular summer resort in western Nepal on account of its location and climate. It has the most extensive views of the country’s chief attraction the Himalaya; from Dhaulagiri in the west to Gaurishankar in the north east. Walking around Tansen town is interesting or short day hike to Ridi can be a rewarding experience. It takes just five hours by car from Pokhara to reach Tansen or just a couple of hours drive from Lumbini.

Situated at the southern slope of the Mahabharat range the town offers an opportunity to experience genuine Nepalese culture, away from westernized places like Thamel in Kathmandu or Lakeside in Pokhara. Though the Newar community forms one of the major communities in this place now, the place originally belonged to the Magar community, one of the most delightful ethnic groups of Nepal. Old artistic Newari houses and cobbled streets shape the townscape. The town’s hill, Shreenagar, allows breathtaking views of the Himalayan range from Dhaulagiri in the west to Ganesh Himal in the east. Tansen is the district administrations headquarter of Palpa district, and is itself often referred to as Palpa, and its people as Palpalis.

Amar Ganj Ganesh Temple is a beautiful three-storey pagoda style temple. The large rest house has been converted into a school and within the grounds is a small old temple of Bhairab. The mask of Bhairab, which is worshipped here, was snatched from Kathmandu by Mukunda Sen, King of Palpa.

Amar Narayan Temple is one of the largest temples in Tansen. The whole temple complex, including the temples, the ponds and the park was built under the reign of Amar Singh Thapa, the first governor of Palpa. According to a legend, a holy spring (or lake) is hidden under the three-storey pagoda style Narayan Temple. The two other temples of the ensemble are dedicated to Vishnu (to the west, next to one of the ponds) and to Shiva (to the south, next to the staircase). The remarkable huge dry stone masonry wall surrounding the whole premises is called “The great wall of Palpa”.

Sital Pati (shady rest place), near Ason Tole, is the most popular square in Tansen and is named for the white octagonal shaped building at its center. The Sital Pati was built under the order of the governor of Palpa (1891-1902) an ambitious politician who was exiled from Kathmandu after plotting against the Prime Minister The gate opposite to the palace leads to Makhan Tole, the main bazaar of Tansen that focuses the town’s commercial activity, notably the sale of Dhaka cloth. Of woven cotton or muslin, this cloth is characterized by jagged, linear designs originally made famous in Bangladesh. With principal colors of red, black and white, the cloth is used to make saris as well as “topis” (Palpali topi), the hat that is an integral part of the national dress for men.

Taksar is an interesting area where, for centuries, the famous bronze and brass works of Tansen were produced. One can have a look at how the famous ancient articles such as Karuwa (water jug), Hukka (water pipe), Antee (jug for Nepali brandy) etc are produced.

Shreenagar Hill (1525m) is about an hour from the town center. The top reveals a breath-taking panoramic view of the Himalaya from Dhaulagiri in the west to Ganesh Himal in the east. The hill is covered by forest, pine plantations and beautiful rhododendron flowers. At the eastern end of Shreenagar ridge there is a statue of the Buddha with a monkey and an elephant, donated by Thai monks, which commemorates one of the eight great events in the Buddha’s life.In the past Tansen was on the trade route between the plains and the hills. Tansen is between Pokhara (5 hr, 110km) and Sunauli/Bhairawa (2 hr, 55 km), just off the Siddhartha Highway, and is a pleasant place to stop on the way between the two places. It is the administrative center for the area. It is known for metalware and dhaka, the material made into the Nepali topis hats. Not many visitors come here. It is also known as Palpa and Tansing, the original Magar name.There is great views of the Madi Valley from town. There are some interesting walks in the area. It is a good two hours walk to the Kali Gandaki River and the large, deserted Ranighat Palace. From the close by hill call Srinagar Danda, there are excellent views of the Himalaya Mountains.Most of the people in Tansen are Newars who mainly migrated in the 19th century when trade opportunities opened up here. Most of the people in the surrounding area are Magars and there are also Chhetris and Bahuns.

History before Nepal was united, Tansen was the capital of the Palpa kingdom ruled by the Sen Dynasty. The history of Tansen dates back to the 16th century. Prithvi Narayan Shah, who united Nepal, mother was from the Sen Family. For years the Gorkha and Palpa kingdoms were in alliance and combined them took control of western Nepal. In 1806, Prithivipal Sen, the last king of Palpa, was asked to come to Kathmandu and he was beheaded. Palpa became parted of the Kathmandu kingdom and Tansen became the administrative city for the area. Members of the Shah and Rana family have ruled the region, often after being exiled from Kathmandu trying to overthrow the king of the time.

Orientation and InformationThe town is built on a steep. Many of the main streets are too steep for vehicle traffic. In the old part of the city there are traditional Newari buildings along cobbled streets.Either Nepal Bank or Rastriya Banijya Bank may be able to change US dollars travelers’ cheques, but may not be able to change anything else.There is a place a little uphill of Shitalpati that does email.

Tansen DurbarThis former palace of the provincial governor was built in the Rana style and is now government office. It has an impressive but run-down eastern gate called Baggi Dhoka, or Mul Dhoka. Outside the gate is a public square called Sitalpati.

Amar Narayan Temple This temple is a traditional three-tiered pagoda-style temple built in 1806. It has well carved doors and has some intricate woodwork. It has erotic figures on the roof struts. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful temples outside of Kathmandu Valley. The temple was built by Amar Singh Thapa, who annexed Tansen to become part of Nepal.There are some tanks near the temple, and many bat in the years nearby.

Bhagwati TempleThis temple, near the Tansen Durbar was originally built in 1815 to commemorate the victory over the British at Butwal. It was renovated in 1035 and 1974 after earthquakes. In the area there are small temples dedicated by Ganesh, Saraswati and Siva.

Where to StayThere are some undesirable, basic hotels near the bus station for around Rs 100.

Hotel The Bajra (20443), a little up the hill, has clean rooms with common bath for Rs 100/150 and with bath and hot water for Rs 250/350.Hotel Gautam Siddhartha (20280), up the hill, has basic, quiet, clean rooms for Rs 160.Hotel Srinagar (20045; fax 20467), on the ridge above town 2km away, is a comfortable place that has rooms for $30/40. It is well located and has great views. It is best to call in advance to make sure that have a room available. It is used mainly by tour groups. It is a good way above the town, and you can call and have them pick you up.Hotel the White Lake (20503, 20291), up the hill, has comfortable rooms for Rs 400/600. It has good views and is a good value.

Where to EatNanglo West, a branch of a Kathmandu-based restaurant, has a pleasant indoor and outdoor seating area. It serves really good Nepali and Newar food, and decent Western food. Doko Restaurant has Tibetan and Newari food.Hotel Srinagar has a good restaurant.Travel There are many buses to Butwal (Rs 25) and to Sunauli/Bhairawa (Rs 44). There is one government Sajha Yatayat bus daily to Kathmandu (Rs 140). There is one bus to Pokhara (Rs 95) and others coming from Butwal. There is a bus to Kakarbhitta. To go to other place in the Terai, you change buses at Butwal. You can also take one of the more comfortable and faster semi-tourist buses that go between Pokhara and Sonauli. These buses run along the Siddhartha Highway, so you have to get off at Bartun, which is the village three km from Tansen at the road that turns off to Tansen. From there you can either get a bus to Tansen or you can walk up the steep 1km short-cut that begins north of the intersection.The highway running north–south has some great views, so you may want to ride on the roof. If you are coming here from Pokhara for the best views sit on the right side of the bus.There are no rickshaws or taxis in Tansen. The better hotels can usually arrange a vehicle or a motorcycle hire. You can rent a bicycle at some guest houses.

Near TansenSrinagar Danda Srinagar Danda is a 1600m high hill just north of Tansen, from where there are excellent views over the Kali Gandaki River of the Himalaya. You can see Kanjiroba in the west to Annapurna and to Langtang in the east.If you know of information that is not listed here, or if you would like to help update our listings, please e-mail us at: info@royalnepalholidays.com

Ranighat DurbarThis huge fantastic ruined palace was built Khadga Shamsher Rana in 1896. After plotting to become prime minister he was exile to Tansen and made governor. It is referred to as the Taj Mahal of Nepal, because it is believed to have been built in memory of his wife, Taj Kumari. In 1921, 25 years after building the palace Khadga tried again to become the prime minister. After this he was exiled to India. After this the valuable furnishing were taken from the palace and it has deteriorated over the years.You get here from Tansen by taking the trail that is east of the Hotel Srinagar, as the border of the pine forest. It is a pleasant 7km walk down to the river, around a two hours walk in each direction.Land Rovers are more expensive.

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