Whether it is the rustic charm, the simplicity of the people or the palpable spirituality there is something magical about Lalitpur or Patan. After Kathmandu and Pokhara, it stands as the third-largest city in the Kathmandu valley. Known for its rich artistic heritage, it has a plenitude of traditional arts and is a hub for sculptures who specialize in intricate stone carvings. Walking on the narrow cobbled pathways opens the ethos of the city – the bustling street markets, the temples, the hustle-bustle of life and the rich arts and crafts that it is well known for. And it also leads the way to the beautiful Patan Durbar Square.
The Durbar Squares in Nepal were attributed to royal areas. Since three smaller kingdoms ruled Kathmandu, three Durbar Squares are found namely –
- Kathmandu Durbar Square
- Patan Durbar Square
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square
All three Durbar squares are listed as UNESCO Heritage sites and are a must-visit. The Patan Durbar Square is the smallest and the oldest of the three.
The Many Moods At The Patan Durbar Square
The courtyard of Patan Durbar Square is the liveliest and this is where all the flutter of the medieval city can be seen. People in different moods and walks of life collect to enjoy the monuments, chit chat or simply get lost in thoughts. The concentrated cluster of temples in the Durbar Square display stunning Newari architecture. It is like a dramatic canvas where man and the monuments transcend onto one plane. Conversations are heard, lovers speak in whispers, school children can be seen returning from school, the men with their Dhaka topis sit and gossip, a loner gazes into the oblivion and a group of women enjoys their ice cream cone – all in the midst of ancient palaces, temples and shrines that exhibit exquisite carvings.
The Durbar has plenty of Hindu temples and Buddhist monuments with bronze gateways, guardian deities, and elaborate architectural structures. The carved wooden columns and temples with intricate carvings add to the architectural beauty. The construction of the temples is said to have actively taken place during the Malla period from the 14th to the18th century. Patan Durbar Square was then home to Malla kings and occupied a vital place for the royal family of Nepal.
When the devastating earthquakes hit Nepal, it affected both the people and the landscape. A few monuments collapsed at the Durbar square and as I strolled through the courtyard I could see dozens of people rebuilding the monuments and the restoration process well underway. The 2015 earthquake damaged the Jagannarayan Temple, Hari Shankar Temple, Mani Mandap pavilions and statue of King Yoganarendra Malla. The Krishna temple, Chyasim Dewal, Taleju bell, Patan Residential Palace and Bhimsen temple survived it and stand erect in all their glory. Nature sure has a way of turning man’s efforts into rubble in a matter of seconds.
Patan Residential Palace / Museum
The Patan Residential Palace made by King Vishnu Malla in the year 1734 A.D. has been converted to a museum. It contains a stunning assortment of bronze statues, religious objects and traditional sacred arts of Nepal. It is a must-visit for a better understanding of the history of the country and an hour must be kept aside for a leisurely view of the artifacts.
Courtyards at the Patan residential Palace
Step inside the complex to explore the three courtyards
Keshav Narayan Chowk: A temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Keshav Narayan stands at the center of the courtyard. The chowk is named after the lord. The section of the Royal palace surrounding the chowk now holds the finest collection of religious art. Keep aside an hour or two to enjoy the exhibits at the museum.
Mul Chowk: It is both the central and the largest chowk. One can visit temples such as Vidhya temple and the Taleju temple here.
Sundari Chowk: Sundari Chowk is arranged around a sunken water tank known as the Tusha Hiti and is a masterpiece of stone architecture and stone sculptures of Hindu Gods.
Things to know:
- Patan is approximately 30 minutes from the city center. Taxis and buses ply to and fro from the destination.
- The cost of the ticket is 250 Nepali Rupees for citizens of SAARC countries. For the others, it is 1000 rupees. The ticket also includes the visit to the museum.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes since the visit entails walking and exploring the square, it’s cobbled streets and shopping areas.
- Take a face mask if allergic to dust.
- Patan is known for its exotic metal statues. Do explore the streets to make the right choice and bargain to settle at the optimum price
- To enjoy the panoramic view of Patan Durbar Square, drop in many restaurants around the square that are situated on a higher floor. These also provide good photography opportunities.
- Keep aside a half-day trip to Patan to enjoy it at leisure.