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Kathmandu, Nepal, Chaos. There is an oasis, a few hundred square meters has been set apart from smoke and noise and pollution and poverty. Where man-made beauty still reigns and the gardens sprawl. Where birds can rest free and you can get an idea of what could be.
In 1934 the great Bihar earthquake -magnitude 8.1- destroyed a large portion of the buildings and houses in Kathmandu, and it has never quite recovered. In the decades following, most locals oped for reconstruction in a more ‘modern’ concrete style. The traditional architecture was thought a reflection of poverty, and the intricately hand-carved door frames and windows were seen insomuch as their ability to burn. This great purge would have seen the entire architectural heritage of this Himalayan city go up in smoke, had it not been for Dwarika Das Shrestha and his family.
During the late 1950’s Dwarika Das Shrestha acquired the land where the majestic Dwarika’s Hotel lays today, and commenced the construction of his family home. Integrating the ancient hand-carved windows, columns, frames that he had been acquiring and collecting. Thus starting the preservation of Nawari craft-work – the Newa are the indigenous people of Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley – and more importantly Nepal’s cultural heritage as a whole.
In 1964 Dwarika Das Shrestha (DDS), in order to fund his growing collection of traditional Newari wood carvings, added a rental apartment to his growing estate. In the following years DDS, realizing that the technique as well as the objects themselves were becoming extinct, he hired three of the few remaining Master Newari wood carvers. To ensure that this intricate craft would not be lost to time, he also created an apprenticeship, to confirm this important knowledge was passed on to new generations. This heritage workshop extended beyond the woodworking, into the other ancient crafts of Nepal such as terracotta sculpture and brick-works.
To sponsor his growing crafts passion and workshop, DDS started renting rooms at his ever expanding compound. Adding new buildings with the new and restored pieces now coming out of the workshop. As an hotel, it grew slowly, organically and it had not yet reached its peak when DDS passed away in 1992. His wife and daughter continued the development based on his original concept sketches. Today the Dwarika’s Hotel is still managed by the family.
There are three different restaurants situated in the hotel: Mako: featuring Japanese cuisine. Toran: with a little of everything from Nepali bbq to sandwiches and pastas, set as a perfect outdoor lunch in the hotel’s courtyard. And Krishnarpan, probably the best restaurant in the country and an experience untoward itself. We recommend leaving a stay at Dwarika’s and this finest of meals for the end of your trip, ensuring you leave full of contentedness and hope.
The multi-course dinner at the Krishnarpan Restaurant begins when the traditionally adorned server brings that evenings menu, individually addressed with your name, printed on hand made paper.
First to arrive was a Samaya Bajee, an assortment of hors d’oeuvres which are usually served during religious ceremonies; representing good luck and prosperity. Included are tender lentil patties, puffed rice, toasted soy beans, stewed tomato and salad. After so many weeks of Dal Bat, the change is welcome and heart-warming. Just being in the ambiance, one can feel great things ahead.
Then was Chatamari, a Nepali rice crepe filled with vegetables along with vegetable Momos (traditional Himalayan dumplings) accompanied by a sweet-spicy mango chutney. At this time was also the serving of the traditional alcoholic Rakshi poured from a copper decanter. While this millet based alcohol is integral to Nepalese religion and tradition, it is not enjoyable, except as a test of your inner strength; which might be what it is used for in ceremony!
The courses kept manifesting and would need an entirely separate article to do them justice
– Gundruk Ko Jhol – a curry made from fermented mustard leaf broth with soybeans; accompanied with Sada Bhuja, steamed Himalayan rice; and Dal Jhaneko, spiced red lentils.
– Aloo Tareko, a signature Newari Dish of fried potatoes and peppercorn
– Tarul Ra Lasun Ko Tarkari, stir fried yam with spring garlic chives
– Saag Jhaneko, sauteed spiced spinach
– Pharsee Ko Tarkari, pumpkin curry
– Golbheda Ko Achar, stued tomatoes
– Lapsee Ko Achaar, plum pickles
After all of these dishes, you are in a state of near bliss, contemplating gastronomic enlightenment when arrives the mind-bending Panchamrit: a mixture of five nectars used in Hindu worship, milk, sugar, yogurt, ghee, and honey.
Dwarika Das Shresth legacy to Nepal is unequaled; and he is one of the world’s great men. Thanks to his passion for preserving Nepal’s cultural heritage, the government and other entities started restoring semi-forgotten sites along the Kathmandu valley. Had it not been for his steadfast belief and desire to see his country regain its former glory, we would not even have know what the world had lost.