Living in the past, ‘in’ the present

There is nothing quite like exploring a new city, with a map in your hand and a plan. At the same time,  there’s nothing quite like exploring a new city with a friend (also, a sort of a map, I reckon) who was born and lives there; it is the quickest way to know the soul of a city in a short time. On our trip to Kathmandu valley  a good old friend took M and me for a meal to a boutique hotel.

Dwarika’s is one of those places that enamors you instantly – with its freshness, aesthetic appeal, authenticity, food, hospitality and just the ‘right’ vibe. We went for a meal, but ended up rejigging our plans to spend the last day of our trip here. And we loved it.

You get to see a lot of heritage and history in the streets, alleys and Durbar squares in Kathmandu. But, it still doesn’t compare to experiencing Nepali culture in its entirety – and that is the experience that Dwarika’s has recreated to perfection.

The inspiration and philosophy behind this endeavour is noble and worth a mention. When change was entering Nepal in 1952 century-old mud, brick, and wood houses were being replaced by concrete structures. On a cold morning, Dwarika Das Shrestha was jogging past some ruins of an ancient palatial complex of Kathmandu’s Newar kings. What he saw catalysed his vision for heritage conservation and the hotel as it stands today : two carpenters sawing off the intricate carvings on an old wooden pillar and using it as firewood to keep the fire burning. The reduction of heritage into firewood.

He started collecting antique carved wood and set up a restoration workshop, which employed master craftsmen and hired apprentices to learn the craft. Eventually, he conceived of a project to recreate a 15th-16th century environment where one could have a sensation of the original. Dwarika’s as a commercial enterprise, became a vehicle to finance and carry forward his dream for heritage conservation. 

And so, Nepali cultural heritage has been replicated in every aspect and minute detail of this boutique hotel – in its architecture, decor, service, cuisine, environs and more. The intelligent use of Nepali crafts, such as handwoven monochromatic textiles and linen, fine pottery, rendered red bricks, terracota, restored carved-windows, doors, panels and figurines, is highly remarkable.

As much as it recreates the past beautifully, Dwarika’s has also blended the old with the new and so, has a universal appeal. I highly recommend a stay at Dwarika’s – for heritage and craft conservation enthusiasts like myself, it will be your comfort zone and inspiration to say the least. For other travellers and visitors, a perfect place to bask in some comfort and goodness.

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The centre-piece : the courtyard 

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Restaurants and wings of rooms 

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Carved pillars with an expanse of glass give the lobby a perfect blend of old and new

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Stone storage for grains, modelled as a garden accessory

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Carved-wooden windows and foliage

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An antique chest

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A peak into the room interiors

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Nepali elements in the room : Handwoven fabric and ‘Bagh-chal’, a two-player traditional board game

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Pancha Kosha Himalayan Spa with…

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… antique pieces and motifs from the Terai region of Nepal

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Decor elements : A brass bell in canopy, a large copper utensil and a wooden cupboard featuring a variety of spaces

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The eclectic Fusion bar that features excellent live music.

And don’t you love that decor?

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A meditative corner in the courtyard

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A confluence of art and utility : A traditional handmade brass lamp and oil container

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Peaks & perspectives

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Beautiful use of carved wood and Nepali textiles in the Reading Room

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The Reading Room

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Earthern lamps light up the terracota and wood-carved facade in the central courtyard

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Evening invocations to Lord Ganesha


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Night light at Dwarika’s

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Of Stupas and a meditative atmosphere

{All photographs taken by me. Kindly credit or link back, if using.}

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2 responses to “Living in the past, ‘in’ the present

  1. Wow! I am adding this to my bucket list of places to visit. The place is dripping with old world culture and heritage!

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