Seen from a distance in the early morning light, the long stretch of ochre brickwork blends perfectly with the landscape of gentle hills. Roofs are a double line of gray and a single temple rises into the sky like a beacon. At the foot of the hill, the sacred Hanumante River draws the southern border of the city of Bhaktapur.
Bhaktapur - which is almost as well known by its alternate name of Bhadgaon - is said to have been designed sometime in the 9th Century in the shape of Vishnu's conch by its legendary founder. King Ananda Malla. in fact, the backbone of the city is a double S-shape, directed east-west, opening here and there on squares with temples, shrines and sunken fountains. These open spaces were old village centers established along the ancient trade route to Tibet. Chroniclers of the time recall locations like Khopo, Khuprini bruma and Bhaktagrama, the latter name implying village (grama) status. After the 8th Century, these villages joined and grew into a town. This urban growth was the result of an evolutionary process rather than voluntary planning, or so legend would have us believe. Certainly, a concentric growth pattern, such as that of Patan, is absent in Bhaktapur.

The original center of Bhaktapur was the eastern square around the Dattatraya Temple. When the city became the capital of the whole Kathmandu Valley between the 14th and 16th centuries, there was a shift from east to west with the develop ment of a new palace area. There are in dications that the town was fortified by the mid-1 5th Century, as the new focus of the city moved to Taurnadi Tole with its Bhairav and Nyatapola temples.