Patan is said to be one of the oldest Buddhist cities in the world. It is also known as Lalitpur, which means the City of Beauty. The name recognises its tradition of arts and crafts which continue to define the city.
Rato Machhindranath, the highly revered deity, was brought from Assam in India by three inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley. One of these three gentlemen was Lalit, without whose efforts the God would not have been established in the present-day Patan. And Kathmandu Valley would continue to face a dry drought. It was believed that Rato could bless the valley with raindrops.Source: https://nomadenroute.com/patan-the-age-old-buddhist-town-in-nepal/
We only had a few hours here at the end of our Nepal trip so didn’t have time to properly explore. Added to that, many of the streets in the centre were undergoing rather chaotic repairs, with rubble everywhere making walking a challenge! But we did have a few hours to visit a few key sites with our excellent guide Pritik, who had been our guide in Kathmandu at the start of the trip. Perhaps Jo would like to join me for a Monday Walk?
Patan’s Durbar Square
This is the third of the Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley. We had already seen Kathmandu itself and Bhaktapur, now it was time for one final Royal Square. The 2015 earthquake caused significant damage here. Many of its temples were reduced to rubble, but some have since been restored. Before the earthquake, the square had 55 temples; now relatively few remain.
We walked past a line of these typical old ornate Hindu temples, each dedicated to a different god. I enjoyed seeing and photographing the details without really taking in which was which! A bit of digging around on the internet later tracked down most of the temple names.
The Royal Palace
Facing the line of temples is the Royal Palace with a series of lovely courtyards full of beautiful intricate carvings. It was striking how tranquil it seemed the moment we entered, in complete contrast to the noise outside in the square. I spent ages wandering around the first courtyard, Mul Chowk, taking photos of all the details.
In another of the courtyards, Sundari Chowk, Pritik showed us the sunken area, ringed with nagas, where one of the kings used to meditate, naked even on the coldest winter day (well below zero)!
Off yet another courtyard was a small gallery showcasing Newari architectural styles and off another a museum devoted to carvings of the Hindu gods.
We also saw where the kings used to bathe, in the Bhandarkhal Water Tank.
The Golden Temple, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar
After we’d finished exploring the palace Pritik led us down a road off the square to the Golden Temple. The temple was built in 1409 and is a Newari Buddhist monastery. Despite the popular name, the temple’s gold colour comes from the polished gilt copper used for its construction.
Unlike the Hindu temples, visitors are allowed inside. Our attention was caught in the entrance area by a display of photos of the Kumari of various places, including Kathmandu’s – the same young girl we had seen briefly at her window on our first morning in Nepal but not been permitted to photograph ourselves.
Inside we saw the prayer wheels, the main Buddha statue and many others. A couple were being photographed in front of the Buddha, clearly celebrating something (I thought maybe a wedding anniversary). And we were permitted to visit the attached small monastery where a man was preparing butter lamps.
When we emerged from the monastery there were people pouring into the courtyard below us, men first then women. They were all in traditional dress, and there were drums and music playing. They circled the central temple and then started to gather in small groups for informal photos. It was clear that they didn’t mind at all that we were also taking photos. Pritik explained that it was a typical celebration for a person reaching a significant age. In this case there was a man marking his 78th birthday.
As we left one man thanked me for coming, as though we had been honoured guests! That was a great note on which to end our sightseeing in Nepal.
I visited Patan in November 2022