Thimi: the forgotten heritage town in Kathmandu

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ October 19th, 2016. Updated on October 21st, 2016. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Siddhikali temple in Thimi

Thimi is home to the impressive and highly important Siddhikali temple

The “middle place” in Kathmandu known as Thimi

Thimi or Madhyapur, as it was once called and wants to be known as again, is a small township sandwiched between Kathmandu city and Bhaktapur. Ironically Madhyapur means “Middle place”.

Thimi used to be the fourth largest city in the Kathmandu Valley but was basically squashed out of the running in terms of popularity and size by its two more famous neighboring cities.

Very few people visiting Nepal know of Thimi and much fewer have visited the township. This is a shame as it’s very easy to visit and contains some of the most interesting heritage buildings in the country. Best of all there are no entrance fees to visit Thimi!

Interested in this forgotten middle place? Let’s take a closer look.

The Lokeshwor temple in Thimi

The Lokeshwor temple in Thimi is nearly always locked to prevent thieves getting in

Thimi today

I’ve spent a lot of time in Thimi. The heritage there is fantastic. Untouched Newari and tantric temples line the main road and the side streets.

However, theft has bereft the town of many important statues formerly in place. Due to this the people in Thimi seem like a rather dour and suspicious lot. I can’t blame them. A once impressive tourism initiation seems to have been abandoned and their township has a statue stolen there on average every 3 months.

Don’t get me wrong. Thimi is not dangerous for tourists. It just seems to have been forgotten by the tourism and culture industry in Nepal. The result is that many thieves come here to pilfer precious heritage that hasn’t been documented.

So what’s great about Thimi then? Well, there’s probably more unique buildings and temples here than in many other places. What’s more, they are easy to see.

Things to see and do in Thimi

The entrance to Thimi is right on the main Kathmandu to Bhaktapur road. You literally just jump of the bus and walk 5 minutes up the steep road to first junction where the Balkumari temple is. Or, if driving you can park right by the temple.

Balkumari temple in Thimi

Yes, Thimi is the location of the second main Balkumari temple in Kathmandu. You can read about the Balkumari temple in Patan here.

The Balkumari is a goddess who is the sister of Laxmi and rides a peacock. She has a devoted following that are both Hindu and Buddhist who are closely related to the Newari people.

Inside the Balkumari Temple in Thimi

Inside the Balkumari Temple in Thimi

The temple itself is enclosed in a heavy metal fence to prevent any theft from it as the original Balkumari statue was stolen here several years ago. It’s worth going inside the fence to get a close up view of the intricate metal paneling around the building. This includes a peacock on the right hand corner securely fastened in by metal rods. Again, to prevent theft. Another is perched high on a stone column in front of the temple.

Balkumari Jatra (festival in Thimi)

Every year in around the time of the Nepali new year (April – Bisket Jatra) Thimi hosts one of the most colorful festivals outside of Holi dedicated to Balkumari called the Balkumari Jatra. 32 impressive khats or palanquins are carried around the temple as red dye is thrown at them and at the surrounding people.

It becomes incredibly crowded in Thimi that day so do be prepared if you go! Most of the activity happens early in the morning. The following day in a nearby village known as Bode you can witness man putting a metal spike through his mouth which brings good luck to the village should he manage to keep it in all day.

You can read more here about festivals in Nepal.

Lokeshwor Temple

Just up the road on the right hand side is another fenced in temple devoted to Lokeshwor. There are actually two fences here and the building is nearly always locked up tight.

This is a prime example of the rightful paranoia around Thimi. Thieves have tried to break into this temple on three occasions. Further ahead is a small white stupa and a vajra.

Streets of shrines

All of Thimi’s streets are filled with small shrines, temples and monuments. It’s a treasure of Newari cultural heritage and most of it is available on the main road. They are all listed in my guidebook to the Kathmandu Valley and guidebook to Nepal. For now, we’ll skip ahead to the next main attraction.

Small shrine in Thimi

Thimi is filled with little known shrines and statues

Vishnu’s courtyard

I really like this area and for heritage lovers there’s a bevy of small original statues dotted around here. The main Vishnu temple is to the right. While in front of it is a very well preserved Shiva Lingam and many more small shines.

There’s also a unique looking Ganesh temple here by the road. It’s raised up off the road and unusually, very slim.

Bhairab temple in Thimi

Up past the pokhari tanks that used to supply water to Thimi is a massive Bhairab temple. There’s a little personal history here as I was lucky enough to take the only known photograph of the gold Bhairab statue inside before it was stolen in late 2015.

Stolen Bhairab statue in Thimi

The only known photograph of the stolen Bhairab statue that was never recovered in Thimi

The temple itself is intact and well preserved. The Digital Archeology Foundation have digitally preserved the building along with many more in Thimi. It’s just a shame that this did not happen before the Bhairab statue theft.

Pottery squares

Women tending to pottery in Thimi

Thimi makes more pottery than Bhaktapur! Most of it is commercial.

If you thought Bhaktapur was famous for pottery then I’ve news for you. Thimi makes more pottery than its neighbor. The pottery here is more for commercial usage though. But, you can still buy pottery from any of the potters tending their ware all along these side streets.

Siddikali Temple in Thimi

Perhaps upstaging even the Balkumari temple the majestically impressive Siddhikali temple sits behind Thimi’s backstreets. With countless Patakas streaming down the front you instantly recognize it as an important temple dedicated to Shiva.

There’s a rest-house opposite it and several smaller shrines to the rear. The artwork around the Siddhikali temple is fantastic and worth a close inspection. If you are here on a Saturday then the area is often filled with locals who eat together.

Last thoughts on Thimi

I’m not afraid to say that Thimi is quite different to other heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. It is certainly strange to walk through so much heritage and not be bombarded by touts or tour guides.

On the other hand the people of Thimi are slightly dour. They are suspicious of tourists. This is mainly due to the amount of theft this township has endured. That said, saying hello to the locals and acting respectful of their heritage will entice some smiles.

Man smiling in Thimi

The people in Thimi are friendly, you just have to smile first!

I read a paper on a failed tourism initiative that was meant to happen here years ago. Grants for hotels, restaurants and renovations were all proposed. But nothing ever came about.

It seems Thimi really does suffer from being in the middle of two large, more well-know cities. The only way forward for Thimi is for people to actually “discover” it and let others know that it’s not forgotten.

The main street in Thimi

The main street in Thimi: while it won’t currently win best tourism town in Nepal, Thimi is untouched which brings to it a unique charm for a township right beside Kathmandu

If Thimi is so great why isn’t it more popular?

Thimi has missed out on tourism initiatives on numerous occasions. Due to its location people either stick with Kathmandu or go to Bhaktapur. Travel agents don’t make any commissions because there are no hotels or restaurants there and no souvenir stalls.

Lastly many guides don’t know the details about the heritage buildings around Thimi other than what god they are dedicated to. It takes work to research all this so it’s easier to just take tourists to Bhaktapur.

Here’s my free online guide to Thimi or for more details and better maps my guidebooks to Nepal cover all of Thimi for you in much greater detail!


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23 Great responses to Thimi: the forgotten heritage town in Kathmandu

  1. Samantha says:

    I never thought of going out of Kathmandu and making things so easy. Thimi is a such an easy trip to make with so much to see. Two thumbs up from me. And it’s Free!

  2. Barry says:

    Such a shame tourism boards don’t promote places like this. I understand from your writing but having an “undiscovered” section in promotion would help.

  3. Su Xi says:

    Out guide did not take us here but we mentioned it. He said it was too far. But I am reading from you it is very close!

  4. Mike says:

    Question. Is it better than Patan? On a day trip?

    • Patan is a lot larger and has better known monuments. A tour in Patan would ultimately garner you more. However, if you are on a budget, Thimi is free. Or if you were on the way to Bhaktapur then Thimi is on the way. Or again if you had an hour or two free in Kathmandu then a quick trip to Thimi would fill some time positively.

  5. Jeff says:

    Never heard about Thimi before. This is a great find. Well done.

  6. Tiffany says:

    How much would a taxi cost to go there?

  7. Cruz says:

    Amazing post! Thanks a lot for sharing this .I really, really appreciate your time and efforts for writing such article.
    I just loved it.

  8. Christoper says:

    Such a shame these shrines are not protected or documented. I imagine none are ever found again?

  9. Bipin Prajapati says:

    I would like to suggest you to change the name of temple Siddhilaxmi to Siddhikali.

  10. Shweta says:

    Amazing post! I really, really appreciate your time and efforts for writing such article. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  11. Giovanna De Ferrari says:

    Dave, I’d like to know whether your long way home stops here in Nepal,then decide.In case, happy you found your Home.

    • Hi Giovanna,

      No the journey does not stop. Nepal cannot be home as much as I would like it to be. A “Foreigner” cannot own land or vote or have residential rights in Nepal. What’s happening now is basically after 13 years one does also need to earn a living. The search continues.

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