ancient name of Patan is Lalitpur, meaning city of beauty. It is
indeed a city of beauty and grace and is planned on a circular format
with Buddhist stupas at each of the four points of the compass.
The city is three kilometres south-east of Kathrnandu across the
southern bank of the river Bagmati. Like Kathmandu, its most photogenic
centre of attraction is its Durbar Square complex, situated right
in the middle of the market place. The city is full of Buddhist
monuments and Hindu temples, with fine bronze gateways, guardian
deities also and wonderful carvings. Noted for its craftsmen and
metal workers, it is also known as the city of artists. The city
is believed to have been built during the reign of Vira Deva in
299 A.D. Some of Patan's more important mounments are as follows:
whole square is a cluster of fine pagoda temples and stone statues;
it is at the same time the business hub of the city. At every step
one comes across a piece of art or some images of various deities,
testifying to the consummate skill of Patan's anonymous artists.
The ancient palace of the Malla kings and the stone waterbaths associated
with various legends and episodes of history are especially interesting
to visitors. The stone temple of Lord Krishna and the Royal Bath
(Tushahity) with its intricate stone and bronze carvings are two
other masterpieces in the same vicinity.
Hiranya Varna Mahavibar-This
three-storeyed golden pagoda of Lokeshwar (Lord Buddha) was built
in the twelfth century A.D. by King Bhaskar Varma. Located in the
courtyard of Kwabahal, this temple belongs to a class of its own.
A golden image of Lord Buddha and a big prayer wheel can be seen
on the pedestal of the upper part of the Vihar while intricate decorative
patterns, worked out on its outer walls, add charm to the mellow
richness of the shrine.
Kumbheshwar-This is a five-storeyed
pagoda-style temple of Lord Shiva. Inside the courtyard is a natural
spring having its source, it is said, in the famous glacial lake
of Gosainkunda. This temple was built by King Jayasthiti Malla while
the golden finial was added later in 1422 A.D. He also cleaned the
pond near Kumbheshwar and installed various images of Narayan, Ganesh,
Sitala, Basuki, Gauri, Kirtimukh and Agamadevata around the pond
and in the courtyard. Ritual bathing takes place here every year
on the day of Janai Poornima.
Jagat Narayan temple is a tall Shikhara-style temple consecrated
to Lord Vishnu. The temple is built out of the red bricks on the
bank of the Sagmati at Sankharnul and enshrines many stone images.
The fine metal statue of Garuda placed on a stone monolith is quite
eye-catching along with similarly placed images of Ganesh and Hanuman.
temple of Lord Krishna holds a commanding position in Patan's palace
complex. Though its style is not wholly native, it is reckoned to
be one of the most perfect specimens of the Nepalese templecraft.
The three-storeyed stone temple continues to elicit high praise
from lovers of art and beauty. It was built by King Siddhi Narasingha
Malla in the sixteenth century A.D. Most of the important scenes
from the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics have been carved in bas-relief.
The minute details of this relief work clearly show the high level
that the art of stone carving had attained in the sixteenth century.
temple of Mahaboudha is a masterpiece of brick and tile. Like the
Krishna Mandir, it reveals an art tradition which evolved outside
of Nepal; it also shows that the native craftsmanship of the Nepalese
can do proper justice to any art form. This temple was built by
Abhaya Raj, a priest of Patan and is sometimes referred to as the
temple of a million Buddhas because every single brick depicts a
small image of Buddha an astonishing total of nine thousand bricks.
It was levelled to the ground in the great earthquake of 1933 but
was rebuilt exactly to the original specifications, thus proving
that templecraft is still one of the living arts of Napal.
Rudra Varna Mahavihar-This is one
of Patan's oldest Buddhist monasteries. Adjacent to the monastery
there is a temple that contains a fine image of Lord Buddha. The
courtyard of this temple is like a gallery of different bronze and
stone art works.
Popularly believed, though not scholastically endorsed, to have
been built by Ashoka, the Buddhist Emperor of India, these stupas
stand at four different corners of Patan giving the whole city a
monastic character. All these Buddhist mounds were built in 250
A.D. at the time when Buddhism was making headway to the Kathmandu
temple of Machchhendranath is another centre of attraction in Patan.
The temple lies in the middle of a wide spacious quadrangle just
at the outer rim of the market place. A fine clay image of Avalokiteshwar
or red Machchhendranath is housed here for six months every year
after which it is taken round the city of Patan in a colourful chariot
festival beginning in April-May and lasting sometimes for several
months, (see festival section).
Tibetan Camp-An attraction of a different kind is the
Tibetan Camp on the outskirts of Patan. The small Tibetan population
living here has set up a number of shrines and stupas as well as
several souvenir shops offering authentic Tibetan handicrafts such
as prayer wheels of wood, ivory, silver or bronze, long temple horns
made of beaten copper, belt buckles, miniature thunderbolts and
jewellery. In this area, one can also see the Tibetans weaving carpets