Situated some eight kilometers south of central Kathmandu on a plateau across the Bagmati River is a lovely little city called Lalitpur, the city of fine arts. This city also known as Patan, once an independent Newari Kingdom before the present dynasty took over, is the best known for its finest traditional crafts and rich artistic heritage.
Patan in fact is the only town in entire Nepal that has produced the highest number of the most talented artists and finest craftsmen ever recorded in Nepalese history. The most famous Newar artists and master craftsmen like Araniko, Abhay Raj and Siddhi Raj were all born in Patan.
It is said that city was designed and built after the Buddhist Dharma Charka (the wheel of righteousness). It is surrounded by four big stupas- one at each corner of its cardinal points. These monuments are said to have been built by the Indian Emperor Ashoka when he came to Kathmandu Valley on his pilgrimage tour some 2250 years ago. When we look at the size and shape of these stupas, in many ways they seem to breathe their antiquity from a real remote past. It is interesting to note that there are more than 1200 Buddhist monuments of various shapes and sizes scattered in and around the city. However, the most important monumental center of this city is of course, Patan Durbar Square, Which to our great delight has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
A British traveler, Percival London, who was highly impressed by the sight of this beautiful square wrote in 1928,” As an ensemble, the Durbar in Patan probably remains the most picturesque collection of buildings that have been set up in so small a place by the piety of oriental man.”
In fact, Patan Durbar Square is the only monumental area in all the cities of Kathmandu Valley that still outstands with its most magnificent architectural splendor and unique artistic beauty. Patan, in its long chequered history, has undergone many socio-political upheavals. Even so, this lovely little city seems to have fairly well preserved its glorious cultural heritage and the history of its finest craftsmanship.
Lalitpur is said to have been founded by King Veer Deva in 299 A.D. has many old names such as Yala, Yupagram, Lalitpatan, and Maningal. Several historical records plus many other legends also indicate that patan is the oldest of all three cities of Kathmandu Valley.
According to very old Kirat Chronicle edited by a noted research scholar Prem Bahadur Subba, Patan was founded by Kirati rulers long before the Lichhavi rulers came into the political scene in Kathmandu Valley. According to him the earliest known capital was most possibly shifted from Thankot to Patan afrer the Kirati King Yalamber came into power sometime around the second century A.D.
It must be mentioned here that one of the most common and typical Newari name of Patan is Yala. It is said that King Yalamber named this city after himself and ever since this ancient city was known as Yala.
Major Sites of Patan
The Kumbheshwor Temple in Patan and Nyatapola temple in Bhaktapur are the only temples in the Valley with five roofs, with exception of the round five tiered Pancha Mukhi Hanuman of Kathmandu’s Hanuman Dhoka palace. This temple of shiva was built during the reign of King Jayasiddhi Malla. Later a golden finial was added to it. A religious fair held here on the Janai Poornima day in August.
Three Mains Chowks:
The main attreaction of Patan Durbar Square is the ancient Poyal Palace indeed. It consists of three main chowks ( courtyards) Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Mani Keshab Narayan chowk. In the northeastern corner of the Mul chowk is the three-storied octagonal temple of Taleju Bhawani built by King Shree Niwas Malla in 1667. The sundari chowk hold its centre a masterpiece of stone sculpture popularity known as Royal bath. Between the central Mul chowk and Mani Keshab Narayan Chowk lies a temple of Degu Taleju looking out into the main Square.
About 10 minutes walk from Patan Durbar Square lies this Buddhist temple made of high quality bricks in which thousands of images of Lord Buddha are engraved. The terracotta structure is one of the 14th century Nepalese architectural masterpieces. It was constructed by and architects Named Avay Raj.
Rudra Narayan Mahavihar:
This unique Buddhist Monastery complex contains an amazing collection of five images and a statue in metal, Stone and wood. Many Kings of ancient times were crowned in this monastery. Many of the treasures offered by the devotees can be seen here even today.
It was established towards the beginning of the 6th century to house and idol of Lord Buddha.. The Mahavihar was reconstructed not too long ago.
It has altogether 30 rooms in this complex including “ Dhyankuti” research room, training room, library and review room, guest room and so on. Situated behind the Ashoka Stupa at Pulchowk, the mahavihar commands a beautiful view of Kathmandu Valley.
Hiranya Verna Mahavihar ( Golden temple):
This three storey golden pagoda of Shakyamuni (lord Buddha) was built in the 12th century by King Bhasker Verma. It was locatd in the courtyard of Kwabahal. Inside the upper storey of this pagoda, placed on the pedestal, are the white image of Amoghpash Lokeshwor and a large prayer wheel. There is a wealth of gem like beautiful carvings on its walls and paintings depicting a complete life history of Buddha.
This temple of Lord Krishna built in the 17th century by King Siddhi Narshingh Malla, holds a commanding position in the Durbar Square of Patan. It is supposed to be the first only temple in Nepal having 21 golden pinnacles. Most of the important scenes from the ancient Hindu epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have been engraved on its friezes.
It is a tall imposing temple of Lord Vishnu in red brick. Situated on thebank of Bagmati river ( Sankhamul), the temple has many fine images of stone and fine artistic metal image of Garuda on a stone pillar right in front.
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