Lalitpur is the second largest city in Kathmandu valley in the Nepali language, ‘Lalit’ means art and ‘Pur’ means city. True to its name, this city is very rich in Newari arts and sculpture with lots of masterpiece decorations carved in stones, metals, and wood sculptures. This time is also called ‘Patan’ and, in the Newari language, it is also known as ‘Yala’. With around 600 Stupas and 185 Bahals, Lalitpur is the place to see marvel at the ancient temples, courtyards, and monuments built during the Malla period, the golden art era.
The Patan Durbar Square, which is enlisted in the UNESCO world heritage site, stands as proof of the great arts and craftsmanship achieved during the Malla civilization. During the Malla civilization, art flourished greatly with different cultural monuments erected by different Malla kings in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The four Stupas constructed on the four corners of the city by the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka during his pilgrimage to Nepal in 250 BC add to the historical appeal of this city of art.
Patan Durbar Square, Lalitpur, Nepal
Patan Durbar Square is the main attraction of the Lalitpur district. Enlisted in the UNESCO world heritage site, this courtyard has earned a distinct place for works in the field of arts and architecture that reflect on each temple, monument, and palace building that were mostly built during the Malla period between the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The square offers myriad opportunities for visitors willing to study and research the artistic and architectural masterpieces, history, and culture of Lalitpur. Foreign visitors are required to buy tickets to enter Durbar Square.
The ancient temples and monuments of Kathmandu date back to the period when the Lichhavi kings ruled the valley. The Mallas, who superseded the Lichhavi, however, were the ones who are credited for promoting arts in Nepal. During their reign, the Malla kings built palaces, temples, monuments, and plazas. These temples and palaces were influenced by various designs like a pagoda, Shikhara, and Stupa style. Each design had distinct features and they also held unique cultural and religious significance. The pillars walls, doors, windows, and cornices bear intricate designs.
The stone temple dedicated to Lord Krishna situated at Patan Durbar Square is unmatched for its finest caving in the Lalitpur district. The stone temple built in the Sikhara style of architecture was constructed by King Siddhi Narasingha Malla in the 17th century. The temple has 21 spires and enshrined inside is the idol of Lord Krishna. Krishna is one of ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu and there are ten different Avatars of lord Vishnu surrounding these temples. It is believed that worshiping this temple is equivalent to worshiping the entire Hindu gods and goddesses. On the first floor of the temple, one can see the carved images depicting the events of the Mahabharat and the second floor has a carving depicting the Ramayana. It is said it took 7 years to construct the temple out of different unusual items like legumes, sugar molasses, cotton, sawdust of Sal tree and vermilion powder, and stones. In front of this temple, there is the statue of Garuda, the mount of Vishnu, kneeling with folded arms atop a pillar facing the temple, and on the back of the statue of Garuda is Kothihom Mandap. Non-Hindus are prohibited from entering the temple. Every year, a huge number of worshipers throng the temple during the festival of Krishnasthami, Krishna’s birthday held in august/September (Bhadra).
Inside the courtyard of Keshav Narayan Chowk is a door leading to the Patan Museum. It is one of the finest museums displaying a collection of works of art from the ancient period. This museum served as the palace of King Siddhi Narsingh Malla in the 17th century. The museum has numerous stone and metal artifacts along with paintings and inscriptions dating back to the Lichhavi period. The object of art in this museum is the 17th-century throne of King Shree Niwas Malla. The museum gives an excellent introduction to Nepal’s Hindu and Buddhist iconography, arts, and craftsmanship. Gallery H inside the museum has a display of antique photos of Lalitpur and Kathmandu cities.
Among different courtyards within Patan Durbar Square, the Sundari Chowk is renowned for its exceptional works of woodcarvings and handicrafts. In the Newari dialect, this courtyard is known as the ‘Tusa Hiti’. In the middle of the courtyard, there is a waterspout and around it is magnificent idols of different gods and goddesses. On top of the tap, there is a replica of the Krishna Mandir, around four feet tall. It is believed that this replica of Krishna Mandir was built as a scale model for the construction of the actual temple. Nearby the stone tap is a huge stone bed. It is said King Siddhi Narsingh Malla used to observe penance by sleeping naked on this stone bed in the chilly winter and by lighting a bonfire around it during the summer. On the main entrance of this courtyard are different idols established by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla as protection from bad omens and evils.
The Golden Temple is located at the Kwabahal Tole of Patan, approximately 200 meters north of Patan Durbar Square. This temple is also known as the Hiranya Varna or Suwarna Mahavihar. It was built by King Bhaskardav in the 12th century. The temple with a copper-plated facade is surrounded by a courtyard and its entrance is guarded by two stone elephants. Inside this temple is a beautiful statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. Facing the main temple, there is a smaller shrine containing a Swayambhunath Chaitya. This temple is a magnificent example of courtyard temple architecture, and there lies Lokeshwor Gumba within the courtyard.
King Siddhi Narsingh Malla was the first King from the Malla dynasty to rule Patan. He was the creator of the Krishna Mandir. He was born in 1606 and became the ruler of Patan at the young age of 12. He went on to live till the age of 104 years and ruled Patan for 42 years. King Siddhi Narsingh Malla was extremely religious and for penance, he was known for sleeping naked on a stone bed during the chilly winter nights and using the same bed to sleep in during the summer by lighting a bonfire around it. The legendary stone bed is still at the Sundari Chowk. During his regime, King Siddhi Narsingh Malla ordered the construction of a number of temples, ponds, gardens, etc. in Patan.
This statue of King Yog Narendra Malla atop a huge stone pillar is located near the Jwala Narsingh Temple. It was built in 1692 AD by King Yog Narendra Malla. Along with his statue is the statue of his son, Siddhi Narsingh Malla II. King Yog Narendra was the successor of king Shree Niwas Malla. King Shree Niwas Malla had revolted against his own father, King Siddhi Narsingh Malla, to claim the throne. In an ironic twist of fate, his son Yog Narendra Malla, too, revolted to take the throne from him. King Yog Narendra Malla was a wise king and had a strong faith in religion. Like other Malla kings, he also established many temples and initiated many festivals. He was born in 1667 and died in 1705. It is said that he was poisoned at the age of 38. Other stories about the king, however, suggest that he relinquished his throne and left the kingdom after the death of his beloved son.
The Banglamukhi area of Kwati locality is one of the important districts. The temples of Banglamukhi, Kumbheshwor Mahadev, Manakamana, Harishankar, Haratimate, Gaurikunda, etc, make this site an important religious site. Some of the idols and statues found in different shrines in the area are believed to have appeared out of thin air during the ancient period. Banglamukhi area is about 10 minute walk from Patan Durbar Square.
In Lalitpur district, there are five historical Stupas built by the great Indian emperor Ashoka during his pilgrimage to Nepal to spread the message and wisdom of Buddha. These Stupas are located at Yampu Thur on the way to Sankhamul; Lagankhel; Gwarko Teta and Pulchowk and Pim Baha. Three Ashoka Stupas in Lagankhel, Gwarko Teta, and Pulchowk are made out of mud, whereas the remaining two Stupas are made out of cement inspired by the design of Swayambhunatha Stupa.
The Temple is the first Buddhist temple for Nepal commoners and connoisseurs of arts and crafts. The temple dates back to 1508 AD, and it took 36 years to complete. Pundit Abhaya Raj Shakya, a follower of Buddhism, got the inspiration to build the temple after seeing the huge Mahaboudhdha temple in Bodhgaya, India. The temple was restored after it was damaged in the earthquake of 1934 AD. There is a small shrine dedicated to Buddha’s mother, Maya Devi, in the corner of the courtyard.
The Rudra Varna Mahavihar is situated at Okubahhal to the south of Mahabuddha temple. This monastery is one of the ancient Buddhist monasteries of Lalitpur. It is adorned with different statues of peacocks, elephants, lions, Garudas, and vajras (thunderbolts) placed inside the small yard of the monastery. Tourists from abroad and the SAARC region should pay a small fee to enter the monastery. Located nearby this monastery is the magnificent Shikhara-style Mahabouddha temple also known as the ‘Temple of nine thousand Buddhas.’
Rato (red) Machhindranath Temple is located in the middle of the courtyard of Tabaha which is 200 meters west of the Mananath Temple. This temple is constructed in a three-storied pagoda style with metal roofing. The entrance to the temple holds ten stone columns of different gods, goddesses, and animals. In the Newari dialect, the deity is also known as Bunga Deow. Rato Machhindranath is regarded as the god of prosperity, rain, and harvest. The two-month-long chariot festival of Rato Machhindranath also starts from this temple. The Rato Machhindranath idol is transferred to Bungmati every six months.
Rato Machhindranath is revered as the god of prosperity, rain, and harvest. It is believed that this god was brought from Assam of India to end the 12 –year-long drought in Kathmandu valley.
The Kathmandu valley is known as the abode of many gods and goddesses. In the Sanatan religion, Kumari is respected as a living goddess and is regarded as an incarnation of Goddess Taleju. There are four Kumaris in the Kathmandu valley, the Kumari is one of them. Only a young girl from the Bajracharya clan of the Newar community is eligible to become a Kumari. The girl should possess all 32 specified qualities and features to be eligible for becoming a living goddess. A Kumari has to cede her position after he first menstruation or if she suffers from any wound. Since there are four Kumaris, the rules and rituals of worshiping them differ in the case of each living goddess.