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One of the most striking features of present-day Kathmandu Valley is its vibrant urbanism, notably at Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon (also called Bhaktapur), which apparently goes back to ancient times. During the Licchavi period, however, the settlement pattern seems to have been much more diffuse and sparse. In the present-day city of Kathmandu, there existed two early villages--Koligrama ("Village of the Kolis," or Yambu in Newari), and Dakshinakoligrama ("South Koli Village," or Yangala in Newari)--that grew up around the valley's main trade route. Bhadgaon was simply a small village then called Khoprn (Khoprngrama in Sanskrit) along the same trade route. The site of Patan was known as Yala ("Village of the Sacrificial Post," or Yupagrama in Sanskrit). In view of the four archaic stupas on its outskirts and its very old tradition of Buddhism, Patan probably can claim to be the oldest true center in the nation. Licchavi palaces or public buildings, however, have not survived. The truly important public sites in those days were religious foundations, including the original stupas at Svayambhunath, Bodhnath, and Chabahil, as well as the shrine of Shiva at Deopatan, and the shrine of Vishnu at Hadigaon.

There was a close relationship between the Licchavi settlements and trade. The Kolis of present-day Kathmandu and the Vrijis of present-day Hadigaon were known even in the Buddha's time as commercial and political confederations in north India. By the time of the Licchavi kingdom, trade had long been intimately connected with the spread of Buddhism and religious pilgrimage. One of the main contributions of Nepal during this period was the transmission of Buddhist culture to Tibet and all of central Asia, through merchants, pilgrims, and missionaries. In return, Nepal gained money from customs duties and goods that helped to support the Licchavi state, as well as the artistic heritage that made the valley famous.

Data as of September 1991

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