In an era where progress often means out with the old and in with the new, Dapcha Bazar stands as a poignant testament to the relentless march of time. Nestled in the district of Kavrepalanchok, my journey to this ancient town was initially sparked by the mundane task of obtaining citizenship papers. Little did I know, this venture would unfold into a profound exploration of a place deeply entwined with tales of resilience, tragedy, and the inexorable passage of time.
Departing from Banepa at the break of dawn, a mere hour's journey transported me into the heart of Dapcha. Unlike the dispersed settlements of Tamang and Newar that dotted the landscape en route, Dapcha greeted me with its orderly array of buildings lining the elongated street. This visual harmony belied the town’s current state of desolation, a stark contrast to its once-vibrant marketplace. Today, Dapcha languishes, a mere shadow of its illustrious past, yet the remnants of its Medieval Newa architectural heritage proudly defy the encroaching modernity.
Historically, Dapcha served as the commercial nucleus for eastern Nepal, thriving as a bustling hub where traders from distant districts such as Bhojpur, Okhaldhunga, Sindhuli, and Ramechhap would converge. The bazar, reputedly opened by Juddha Shumsher, was once alive with the footsteps of merchants journeying for days to procure goods. It was the eastern gateway, as local Sudil Das Shrestha reminisces, a pivotal entrepôt for the Bhaktapur Newas whose migration patterns seeded the marketplace’s genesis.
The narrative of Dapcha Bazar commenced with a singular shop established by seven enterprising individuals from Banepa, embarking on a commercial adventure. This marketplace, positioned at the terminus of the trading route, was where every commodity from the east found its buyer, obviating the need for further travel. The valley's retailers flocked here, drawn by the allure of essentials like salt, clothes, grains, and the occasional indulgence of tobacco procured by Kathmandu Valley’s denizens.
Yet, the once-teeming streets of Dapcha now witness a sparse population—children, the elderly, and housewives. Sudil, who runs a grocery shop inherited from his father Yagya Das Shrestha, stands as one of the last bastions of the marketplace. His narrative weaves a tale of dedication and continuity against the backdrop of a fading bazar. Yagya, having established the shop in the early 1950s, laid the foundation for a family business that Sudil upholds to this day, even as he witnessed the exodus prompted by the advent of the BP Highway and the turmoil of the Maoist insurgency.
The narrative darkens as Dapcha, ensnared in the conflict, became a theatre of violence. The insurgency painted the streets with the blood of the innocent, turning the village into a ghost town. Tales of kidnappings, extortions, and forced recruitments echo the painful memories of a community caught between two fires. The tragic demise of individuals like Min Bahadur Lama and Arjun Bahadur Lama underscores the brutal reality that gripped Dapcha, compelling many to seek refuge elsewhere.
As the village reels from these blows, Sudil and a few like him cling to hope, watching the roads that once brought prosperity to their doorstep. Dapcha Bazar, with its storied past and uncertain future, stands at a crossroads, a relic of time waiting to see what tomorrow brings.