KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
I don’t usually provide so much background information about a group of photos, but there are some interesting tidbits about the buildings in Patan’s Durbar Square and I wanted to share them with anyone who has a little extra time to read about them.
I am so glad we made the extra effort to make our way out to Patan to see the sights. We had been so busy in Delhi with family that we hadn’t had a chance to read much about Kathmandu and all the glorious things there are to see in and around the city.
For that reason, when we were approached by a soft-spoken young man to offered himself as a guide to the sites in Patan, we decided to hire him for an hour or so. We don’t usually team up with guides when we are travelling, but it made a lot of sense that day. He was very knowledgeable and we ending up spending an hour and a half, listening and learning.
He started by taking us to the rooftop of a building facing the southern entrance to the Durbar (Palace) Square. It was a great vantage point, as we could see more of the buildings off in the distance, and get a sense of the relative size of the structures. Having a guide also meant that we could ask him to take a photo of the two of us without having to worry about losing my camera to a thief.
Once we were back on the ground, I didn’t want to be distracted from his commentary so I took very few photos while we were with him. After we said goodbye, and stopped for a break at the Patan Museum Café, we retraced our steps and I took photos to my hearts content.
Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Nepal chapter on Kathmandu has to say about Patan’s Durbar Square:
“Once a fiercely independent city-state, Patan is now almost a suburb of Kathmandu, separated only by the murky Bagmati River. Almost everyone who comes to Kathmandu also visits Patan’s spectacular Durbar Square – arguably the finest collection of temples and palaces in the whole of Nepal.
Patan has a long Buddhist history, which has even had an influence on the town’s Hindu temples. The four corners of the city are marked by stupas said to have been erected by the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka in around 250 BC.
The town was ruled by local noblemen until King Shiva Malla of Kathmandu conquered the city in 1597, temporarily unifying the valley. Patan’s major building boom took place under the Mallas in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
As in Kathmandu, the ancient Royal Palace of Patan faces on to a magnificent Durbar Square. This concentrated mass of temples is perhaps the most visually stunning display of Newari architecture to be seen in Nepal.
Forming the whole eastern side of the Durbar Sq, the Royal Palace of Patan was originally built in the 14th century, but expanded massively during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Patan palace predates the palaces in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur and it was severely damaged during the conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768. More restoration was done after the great earthquake of 1934, but the palace remains one of the architectural highlights of Nepal.
Behind the extravagant facade, with its overhanging eaves, carved windows and delicate wooden screens, are a series of connecting courtyards and three temples dedicated to the valley’s main deity, the goddess Taleju. The Bhairab gateway leading to the central courtyard is flanked by two stone lions and colourful murals of Shiva in his wrathful incarnation as Bhairab. Strings of buffalo guts are hung above the door in his honour.
The northern courtyard is reached through the Golden Gate, or Sun Dhoka. Installed in 1734, this finely engraved and gilded gateway is topped by a golden torana showing Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh and Kumar (an incarnation of Skanda, the God of War). Directly above the gateway is a window made from gold foil wrapped around a timber frame, where the king once made public appearances. The gateway now forms the entrance to the Patan Museum.
Formerly the residence of the Malla kings, the section of the palace surrounding Keshav Narayan Chowk now houses one of the finest collections of religious art in Asia is a national treasure, and a visit should form part of any trip to Patan’s Durbar Sq. You need at least an hour, and preferably two, to do this place justice, and it’s worth taking a break at the excellent Museum Café before diving in for another round.
To take a look at what we missed seeing, follow this link and then click on the ‘Collections Highlights Link’ near the bottom of the Home Page: Patan Museum
This unique Buddhist monastery is just north of Durbar Square. The monastery was allegedly founded in the 12th century, and it has existed in its current location since 1409. Entry is via a narrow stone doorway to the east or a wooden doorway to the west.
Entering from the east, note the gaudy painted lions and the signature of Krishnabir, the master stonemason who sculpted the fine doorway with its frieze of Buddhist deities. This second doorway leads to the main courtyard in front of the Golden Temple, so named because of the gilded metal plates that cover most of its frontage.
Shoes and other leather articles must be removed if you enter the inner courtyard. Look for the tortoises pottering around the compound – these are the temple guardians. The main priest of the temple is a young boy under the age of twelve, who serves for 30 days before handing the job over to another young boy.
The temple itself is a magnificent example of courtyard temple architecture. Two elephant statues guard the doorway and the facade is covered by a host of gleaming Buddhist figures. Inside the main shrine is a beautiful statue of Sakyamuni (no photos allowed).
Facing the main temple is a smaller shrine. The four corners of the courtyard have statues of four Lokeshvaras and four monkeys, which hold out jackfruits as an offering.
At the northern end of Durbar Sq, the Bhimsen Temple is dedicated to the god of trade and business, which may explain its prosperous appearance. Bhimsen is credited with superhuman strength – he is often depicted as a red muscleman, lifting a horse or crushing an elephant under his knee. The three-storey pagoda has an unusual rectangular plan, which marks it out from other temples in Patan.
Immediately across from Bhimsen Temple is the sunken Manga Hiti, one of the water conduits with which Patan is liberally endowed. The tank contains a cruciform-shaped pool and three wonderfully carved dhara (deity) in the shape of a makara (a sea-creature that is half terrestrial and half aquatic). Overlooking the tank are two wooden pavilions known as the Mani Mandap, which were built in 1700 for use in the elaborate ceremonies at royal coronations.
South of the Bhimsen Temple stands the Vishwanath Temple, sacred to Shiva. This elaborately decorated two-tiered pagoda was built in 1627 and it features some particularly ornate woodcarving, particularly on the friezes above the colonnade. Also noteworthy are the fine stone carvings of Ganesh set into the brick walls. On the west side is a statue of Shiva’s loyal mount, Nandi the bull, while the east side features two stone elephants with mahouts, one crushing a man beneath its foot.
Fronted by a pair of barrel-chested lions, the two-storey Jagannarayan is dedicated to Vishnu as Narayan, the creator of the universe. Dating from 1565, it is said to be the oldest temple in the square, and its roof struts are alive with carvings of couples engaged in saucy goings-on.
Hari Shankar Temple
The three-storey temple to Hari Shankar, a curious hybrid deity that has half the attributes of Vishnu and half the attributes of Shiva, has roof struts carved with scenes of the tortures of the damned. This is a strange contrast to the erotic scenes more commonly seen on temple roofs. It was built in 1704–05 by the daughter of King Yoganarendra Malla.
This attractive, octagonal stone temple completes the ‘front line’ of temples in the square. It has strong architectural similarities to the Krishna Mandir at the north end of the square. The tiered structure was built in 1723 in a style clearly influenced by the stone temples of northern India.
King Yoganarendra Malla’s Statue
South of the Jagannarayan Temple is a tall column topped by a striking brass statue of King Yoganarendra Malla and his Queens, installed in 1700. Above the king’s head is a cobra, and above the cobra is a small brass bird – legend has it that as long as the bird remains the king may still return to his palace.
Accordingly, the door and window of the palace are always kept open and a hookah is kept ready should the king ever decide to come back. A rider to the legend adds that when the bird flies off, the elephants in front of the Vishwanath Temple will stroll over to Manga Hiti for a drink! ”