Bungamati: An Ancient Village with a Rich History

Bungamati is a Newari village atop a ridge overlooking the Bagmati River

26, Mar 2023 | nepaltraveller.com

Although having aesthetic or cultural significance, they are still quite attractive due to their increased commercial value. The Bungamati Machindranath Temple could be a good example.

Bungamati is a Newari settlement situated on a ridge overlooking the Bagmati River. It is 12 kilometres south of Kathmandu and 6 kilometres south of Patan. On the route to Bungamati, we can observe the Karmanasa River, Nepal’s only river that flows from south to north. The old village covers an area of 7.2 square kilometres. Bungamati is a traditional settlement from the 16th century. People continue to live in traditional ways, where 80% of people participate in wooden carving.

Bungamati is worth visiting at any time of the year, but the Matya festival is particularly interesting. The exact date varies from year to year (as the lunar calendar is consulted), but it is normally near the end of August and the beginning of September. The major attraction of this festival begins in Bungamati’s main square. Women dress brightly and uniquely and lead a parade through Bungamati, making offerings to each temple. The parade normally begins at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. It’s a colourful display of customs and butter lamps, and it’s less congested. 

The ancient Bungamati town was located up hills around Chunikhel. Today’s ‘Bungamati’ is a place of cremation surrounded by a massive forest. The original spot is still known as ‘Bugal’. After Red Machhindranath was brought into the valley, the hamlet was moved to the current location of Bungamati after the temple of Red Machhindranath was built.

Rato (Red) Machhendranath, the mighty rain and fertility god, spends six months at Bungamati. There is a large festival once every year. The deity’s chariot procession is drawn along the road from Bungamati to Patan and then back to Bungamati. Bungamati is said to be the location where the bee drought was born as a protector-rainmaker. Huangriva Bhairavnath temple is located behind the Machhendranath temple. He represents rage, fury, and devastation. Kumari is worshipped as one of the manifestations of Adi Shakti Durga in Bungamati.

Bungamati was severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake, and its main square is currently being rebuilt. This is intriguing in and of itself, as fascinating attempts to complete reconstruction using traditional methods are being made. Many of the great temples, including Rato Machhindranath, are in good condition. 

History behind the name ‘Bungamati’

Bungamati is also known as Amarapur. At least three different legends suggest its name. According to one legend, the name ‘Bungamati’ was formed by merging the terms ‘Bunga’ (Bunga dyo) and ‘Mati’ (River). Another myth tells of the fusion of three terms in the local ‘newari’ language: ‘Bu’ (agriculture field, ‘ga’ (lower land), and ‘mati’ (river). It literally means agricultural land in the lower land with many rivers.

Some modern mythological historians believe that Bungamti existed prior to the start of civilization in Kathmandu when the valley was a lake. The Swayambhu Purana cites a kingdom called ‘Bundhumati’ near the lake. Historians believe the name ‘Bungamati’ is derived from the word ‘Bundhumati,’ which evolved over time.


Numerous artefacts, such as Salibanjika struts of temples, door frames of monasteries, and stone spouts mimicking the type used in the traditional period, indicate that the settlements existed during the mediaeval period. Numerous records of King Sri Niwas Malla (the 1680s) related to the construction of courtyards, water spouts, and restrooms imply that the Guthis system was in charge of cultural heritage preservation and urban management.

Bungamati has been a prominent pilgrimage location in Asia since the mediaeval times. Even the valley’s rulers used to come to Bungamati to pay their respects to Bunga-dyo. Bunga is listed as an important pilgrimage site in the 11th-century writings of Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, along with Wutai Shan in China, Srivijaya in Indonesia, and the temples in Sri Lanka. Bungamati is also mentioned in several Tibetan pilgrimage guides and biographies.

Compiled by: Nikita Gautam

photo credit: Trip Adviser, Thamserku Trekking,Inside Himalayas

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