Splendors of the Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu

posted in: Asia, Heritage, Nepal | 82

Right! So far on my Epic Indo-Nepal road trip, I took you through the famous Pashupatinath temple, the Swayambhunath Stupa and shared the delights of the Nepal culture and cuisines with you. However, that is not all. I am saving the best for the last. You would have had a glimpse of the same in my last post. The royal heritage center in Kathmandu, a UNESCO heritage site – the Patan Durbar Square.

Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu

We started our Day two in Nepal with the Patan Durbar Square. Walking through this square had me frenzied. It is a senses’ overload with the various sights and sounds and you will soon know why. It is here that one gets a glimpse of the devastation caused by the Earthquake of April 2015. There are structures that are being restored and some which have been lost forever. However, the one thing that is certain – the beauty of the Patan Durbar Square still remains. It makes me wonder how much lovelier it must have been back then. Without much ado, let us plunge into this virtual journey of Patan Durbar Square.

Introduction of the Durbar Squares of Kathmandu

Essentially, Durbar Squares was a generic name given to the royal areas in Nepal. In Kathmandu, there used to be three smaller kingdoms and thus, there are three Durbar Squares that you can visit now. These are namely –

  • Kathmandu Durbar Square
  • Patan Durbar Square
  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
Patan street with Newari houses
Patan street with Newari houses

All these are now UNESCO World Heritage sites and while I would have loved to do all three, I could manage only two. Patan Durbar Square is the smallest, but the oldest of all these. It makes me wonder, that if the smallest was so lovely, what would the others have been!

History of Patan Durbar Square

A large part of what exists now in this Square is credited to the Malla kings. The kingdom then was popularly referred to as Lalitpur. The Malla dynasty was considered to be a Kshatriya or a Warrior Dynasty. The King Siddhinarasimha Malla is considered to be the foremost in terms of the contribution to the current monuments of this square. However, there is this theory that the structures here may be older than what evidence points to. And it is on these older structures that the Malla kings added their own legacy.

The royal residences at the Patan Durbar Square
The royal residences at the Patan Durbar Square

The Patan Durbar Square is considered to be one of the oldest Buddhist cities in the world. However, it is not just Buddhism that as practiced here. There is a fair bit of Hinduism that you will find here. The subjects in this area were popularly called as Newar people or Newari. The tribe was known for its skilled craftsmen, the proof of which still stands strong in the Patan Durbar Square. From the temples to the Royal Palace and even the homes of people here, everything about this square will leave you wide-eyed and open-mouthed. And if not, you will find the shutterbug in you incessantly troubling you to capture it all!. I sure had that happening to me!

Bird’s eye view of the Patan Durbar Square

Bird's eye view of the Patan Durbar Square
Bird’s eye view of the Patan Durbar Square

This was the view that I was treated to from a rooftop right opposite the entrance to the Patan Durbar Square. Our guide for the day explained the basic layout of the place where on the left were the various temples of this square and the right was all about the royal residences. Further on were the Newari houses. What seems simple enough was really not, for when you start walking down that road, there are just tons of things trying to grab your attention. The Patan Durbar Square is a true test of your skill of staying focused. I know I failed miserably. 🙁

Temples of Patan Durbar Square

The temples of the Patan Durbar Square are largely Hindu ones. There are a few Buddhist ones but we could not manage those as we were short of time. They say there are over 50 Hindu temples here – some that are still standing tall, some that are lost forever, some active and some undergoing restoration! Sharing the key ones from my tour –

Chyasin Dewal

Chyasin Dewal
Chyasin Dewal

I consider this as the landmark of the Patan Durbar Square. It sets your awe-levels to a scale with is impressive octagonal structure and the high roof that stands out against the clouds. I must have taken umpteen pictures of this while waiting for our guide to start his tour.  I thought I would venture into it after I finished the entire tour but alas! I missed it.

Taleju Bell

Taleju Bell - Warning bell or the Bell of justice?
Taleju Bell – Warning bell or the Bell of justice?

The impressive bell is said to be a warning beacon for the King when enemies approached. Even people with grievances rang this to get the attention of the King. Taleju was considered to be the family goddess or Kuldevi of the royal family. She is supposed to be an incarnation of Mother Durga. And if you have heard of the Living Goddess of Nepal Kumari – she is said to be an incarnation of Taleju Bhawani. The temple stands opposite to the Taleju Bell.

The destroyed temples of Patan

Harishankar Temple, Patan Durbar Square
Harishankar Temple, Patan Durbar Square

Soon after the Taleju Bell are two temples that are now just rubble. These are the HariShankar temple and the Jagan Narayan temple. What they looked liked can only be seen from the picture that hangs at the gates.  The only significant thing left in the Harishankar Temple are the stone elephants that are said to be the guardians of this temple.

Krishna Temple

The restoration work of the Krishna temple in Patan
The restoration work of the Krishna temple in Patan

Our guide told us that this was one of the most impressive temples of Patan Durbar Square. The same was damaged considerably during the earthquake but there is a fair bit of restoration that is in progress. A golden Garuda on a pillar faces this temple. The story behind the Krishna temple is quite interesting. It is said that the King Siddhinarasimha Malla dreamt of Lord Krishna and his consort standing at the very place that the temple was built. Following this, he ordered the construction of a huge temple with beautiful carvings of Lord Krishna, his consort Radha and his wife Rukmini. Hopefully, after the temple is restored, we will be able to witness this for ourselves but for now, I was content with the story and the efforts to revive this place.

Viswanath Temple

The remnants of the Viswanth temple, Patan
The remnants of the Viswanth temple, Patan

Another partially destroyed temple but with an impressive Elephant and his mahout still standing tall. There was a fair bit of work going on but I managed to snap a quick picture of the guardian of this temple.

Bhimsen Temple

Bhimsen Temple in Patan
Bhimsen Temple in Patan

This is still a functional temple and is considered auspicious for the start of any good work or business. Being a Hindu, I was privy to the insides, which is not very large but you can see evidence of the devotion that it experiences. The outsides of the temple, especially the roof and the carvings are quite impressive. Another proof of the infamous Newari art!

Don’t miss the giant Lion pillar opposite this temple.

Carved pillars of the Bhimsen Temple, Patan
Carved pillars of the Bhimsen Temple, Patan
The iron lion atop a pillar, opp the Bhimsen temple.
The iron lion atop a pillar, opp the Bhimsen temple.

The Giant statue of the Yogendra Malla

Statue of Yogendra Malla in Patan
Statue of Yogendra Malla in Patan

One of the things that you will see when you walk along the Patan main street is this huge pillar with a statue of a king. This is outside the destroyed Jagan Narayan temple. The statue is that of King Yogendra Malla and is said to face the Taleju temple. The statue was said to be partially damaged but has now been restored to its current form. It is quite impressive to look at, especially if you have had a clear day like me. 🙂

Close up of the statue of Yogendra Malla at Patan
Close up of the statue of Yogendra Malla at Patan

The Newari Houses in Patan Durbar Square

The Newari houses were a pleasant discovery and made this whole square more realistic. These homes are now either converted to Thangka art schools or shops while some of them are still homes. The artistic details of the windows and doors had me spell-bound and this wasn’t just the case with me. The entire ScoutMyTrip gang had a bug attack – the Shutterbug attack!

Newari homes at Patan
Newari homes at Patan

Seemed to me as if each home was trying to outdo the other with its artistic details. Or possibly, it showcased the status of the homeowner. Whatever being the case, they sure left a legacy behind for us to enjoy.

Newari Homes
Newari Homes

The Royal residence of Patan Durbar Square

Remember that right opposite the temples were the quarters and the courts of the ruling family. There are three distinct squares within this Royal structure -each with their own characteristic.

Sundari Chowk

Gateway to Sundari Chowk, Patan
Gateway to Sundari Chowk, Patan

This is the first one that you encounter with an impressive gate that has huge carved deities outside it. The gates were closed but are said to lead to a step well. One of the key deities here is that of Lord Narasimha killing the demon Hiranyakashyap,

The statue of Lord Narsimha slaying Hiranyakashyap at Patan Durbar Square
The statue of Lord Narsimha slaying Hiranyakashyap at Patan Durbar Square

Next to this are statues of Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesha. The Ganesha statue caught my attention as typically in India, he is represented along. Here he was with one of his twin wives – Riddhi. Again. his wife Siddhi was not represented.

The Nepalese version of Lord Ganesha with Riddhi at Patan Durbar Square
The Nepalese version of Lord Ganesha with Riddhi at Patan Durbar Square

Mul Chowk

Entrance to Mul Chowk , Patan Durbar Square
Entrance to Mul Chowk, Patan Durbar Square

I could not explore this one from inside as we were running short of time. Within this square lies the Taleju temple and one more temple along with impressive bronze statues of the Goddess Ganga and Jamuna. No doubt the whole entrance is so grand and beautiful.

Keshav Narayan Chowk

Lion guarding Keshav Narayan Chowk
Lion guarding Keshav Narayan Chowk

The further away and by far the most attractive was this square. Guarded by these huge male and female lions, you are ushered into a lovely space that is accentuated by its numerous carved pillars – the exemplary example of Newari art. The art that you see is carved onto wooden pillars that have stayed this way for years together.

Sculpted wooden pillars of the Keshav Narayan Chowk, Patan Durbar Square
Sculpted wooden pillars of the Keshav Narayan Chowk, Patan Durbar Square

Right in the center of the square is the Keshav Narayan temple while around it are the royal residences. Again, the doors and windows are just stunning.

Keshav Narayan temple, Patan
Keshav Narayan temple, Patan
Doors and windows of Keshav Narayan Chowk
Doors and windows of Keshav Narayan Chowk

The Patan Museum can be accessed through here and as I understood from our guide, the place has some gorgeous displays of bronze statues and artifacts. However, I think we spend so much time admiring the outsides that we ran short of some to visit the museum.

Doorways of Keshav Narayan Chowk at Patan Durbar Square
Doorways of Keshav Narayan Chowk at Patan Durbar Square

Here is a fun thing, rather a naughty thing for you guys to figure. Remember the lion couple guarding the Keshav Narayan doorway. How do you think you figure their gender? It is kind of obvious, isn’t it? And if you have finished being naughty as I was, then spare a few glances at the impressive wall art of Kali behind the guardians. Street art did exist back then!

The female lion with the wall art of Kali in the backdrop - Patan
The male lion guarding the entrance of Keshav Narayan Chowk.
The female lion with the wall art of Kali in the backdrop - Patan
The female lion with the wall art of Kali in the backdrop – Patan

Time was short as you can see – there is plenty that I have left for my next time here. Not just with what I saw, but also, with the ones that I missed – like the Mahaboudha Temple, the Golden Temple and more. Hey! It’s not easy keeping to the frenzy of seeing it all. If you are a history buff like me, the closed doors, the secrets it holds, the fantastic art of yesteryears….all of it is bound to just keep you so busy that you will not know where time flies.

Did I end my day here? 

Nope – ScoutMyTrip had one more stop before headed back to India – and like I said the best saved for the last! And that my friends, is coming up shortly in the next post. Clue – it is one of the other durbar squares I talked of. Give your poor senses a rest and absorb this one for the time being. Message me and let me know which was the most impressive of these monuments. I bet you cannot pick just one!

Patan Durbar Square

Getting here

  • Try a road trip from India like we did with ScoutMyTrip.
  • If that is not possible, fly into Kathmandu from anywhere in the world.
  • Patan Durbar Square is around 30 minutes from the city center. You can reach here by a public bus from any of the main depots or just take a taxi to and fro from the destination.

Travel Tips

  • The entrance tickets for the Patan Durbar Square is Nepali Rupees 250 for residents of SAARC countries while it is Nepali Rupees 1000 for others. Charges for the guide vary between Nepali Rupees 1000 to 2000
  • There is a lot of walking to be done here. Flat shoes and comfortable cotton wear are advised.
  • If you are allergic to dust, please carry a face mask as there is plenty of it in the air.
  • There is a fair amount of shopping that can be done here. From curios to singing bowl and Thangka art, you can buy it all here. Remember to bargain hard.
  • The guides tend to insist on you visiting their favorite shop. They also, tend to waste your time getting you to visit these. Please decline the same politely if you find that is not of your interest.
  • There are plenty of restaurants and public restrooms available for your use.

 

P.S: I visited this grand site as a part of my road trip with ScoutMyTrip.com

 

 

 

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82 Responses

  1. Pictures are awesome in the blog.

  2. Veronica

    I never knew about the three kingdoms located just in Kathmandu. I loved it so much when I visited it almost 10 years ago! So unbelievable

    • It must have been lovely then…when it was completely intact. Sigh! Glad that at least I got to see it now.

  3. I truly admire you for posting such a detailed description of these beautiful place and temples. I like how they all look like and the intricate design is something that enticed me to come and traipse my feet here. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and for touring us around through your blog.

    • Thank you. Glad you enjoyed this virtual tour with me. This place is so worth visiting in Kathmandu.

  4. Oh, thats a place I always wanted to visit. Your post makes me wanna go even more! Love the photoes. The nature and those temples looks amazing. Thanks for sharing from what seems to be an awesome trip:-)

    • Thank you. This place is un-missable when in Kathmandu. Would highly recommend it.

  5. From your snippet title on FB, I thought the post was about our Patan in Gujarat! Interesting to know the existence of another Patan in the opposite direction! And the co-incidence – both are UNESCO sites!!! The carved pillars look fantabulous. I guess they’re made of wood, right?

    • I know…I was also, surprised with this name. Goes to show how close together these things are. Yes, those pillars are wooden. And amazing right?

  6. That is quite an informative post! I’ve been to Nepal in my childhood and I have vague memory of the place. I don’t remember most of it 😛 Looks like, I need to put it in my travel list!

    Cheers

  7. Really love the architecture of the temples .It’s sad to see some of them destroyed during the earthquake.But good to know they’re being restored!

    • Thanks Karie. There is a fair bit of work going on to restore some of these and I hope when you go you get to see them.

  8. I love how you’re the expert of these temples 😀 I always feel like I’m in a fairytale when I read about these sites. I’m happy to hear about your insider tips like the pushy sales guides – always good to know these things in advance 🙂 I feel like I could spend the entire day walking around Patan Durbar Square and not even see all of it! I find the history of these places alluring too — let me open those doors!!

    • Thank you Chantae. I assure you that I am no expert but I sure am a wanderer. Loved figuring some of this stuff . Am sure you will love it too.

  9. I will probably never get to Nepal but thanks to the magic of the Internet and your blog, I feel like I’ve been there. I’ve pinned this to my “Places I’d like to go” board on Pinterest. I love places of history!

    • I hope you do go there Alana. Glad that my blog helped you get a tour of the place but you must see it in real. It is amazing!

  10. The images of parts of the Durbar Square being devastated in the earthquake that shook Nepal some years back, still haunt me. I know that the place has moved on from that nightmare. Happy to see that it still retains its magnificence.

    • Yes, it does pain you to see what is lost but am glad that a few of them can be restored. Thanks Sandy and Vyjay for stopping by

  11. Beautiful pictures Ami. Particularly the birds eye view of Patan Durbar. I was so saddened when many historical and beautiful heritage buildings in Nepal got destroyed in the cruel earthquake. Happy to see a lot of restoration work in progress!!

    • Thanks Neha. This was still an amazing place despite the devastation. Hoping to go back there again.

  12. No wonder this place is very spiritual and very precious. I love the sculptures and the designs. Yet it is sad that some of the old buildings are affected by the eathquake. Hope they could still restore them.

    • The ones that are there are just magnificent and worth the visit Blair. While they do restore the others, you should head over and check it out.

  13. Wow this is such a mesmerizing place. Nepal road trip is in my wishlist!

  14. Natasha

    You just took me down to a trip to Nepal. Thank Ami:)

  15. Amazing place to visit .

  16. I savoured this post. Slowly. Such beauty!! No wonder you remembered me! the doors are just my kind:) Intricate and so so beautiful! Thanks for documenting it Ami. In love with the facades and the stunning architecture!

    • Cannot say more Divsi. I hope you get down to visit this place sometime and see it for yourself. 🙂

  17. Really a very informative blog, Liked it.

  18. I basically know nothing about Kathmandu so it’s really cool to be able to read posts like this and experience it virtually. Hope to get there one day!

    • Thank you Danielle. I do hope you manage a visit there. It is amazing. Till then, of course, enjoy the posts.

  19. आपका यह लेख देखकर, खासकर फोटो और विववरण, मन कह रहा है कि अबकी बार नेपाल जाना ही पडेगा।

  20. I think I’ve visited all these places with my parents as a kid. Though I have a very little memory of it but I got a virtual tour from your eyes! Hope to see these magnificent architectures some day again!

  21. Your photos are amazing! You make me want to visit!!!! How long do you think is a good time to stay in Kathmandu? Is it safe? Did you book trips on your own?

    • Thank you. This trip was courtesy ScoutMyTrip.com and they did all the arrangements. But from what I experienced, it is not difficult to do one on your own and it is perfectly safe here. I would say at least 3 days in Kathmandu is required. There is just so much to do and see here.

  22. I just visited all three Durbar Squares and they are all unique and grand – I do think this one was more interesting since I was there during the twilight hour and also walked the various historic streets in the area

    • I envy you for having done the one that I missed. Lucky you. But yes, each one is special. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. Those temples are amazing. I love the photos you included.

  24. Your post reminded me of the severe devastation by earthquake. I really wish i could have visited Kathmandu prior that. Still the place has retained its beauty and the remains tell so much that existed. I hope that tourism industry will help the place to flourish again soon. Your pictures are awesome and I loved your descriptive post. The carvings on pillars, doors, windows, sculptures all are amazing,

    • I know what you mean. I too, wish I had seen it earlier. But am glad that I did it now at least. It is a lovely place even with what remains. You should definitely go Suruchi.

  25. I’m feeling inspired and so excited to be heading to Nepal at some point! We simply cannot wait to explore these intricate temples and go trekking!

  26. Hi Ami,

    LOVED our time in this square. Fabulous pictures! Weirdly enough, a wild man punched me in the arm, in this square. He was high on something. Saw it in his eyes, as he grinned like the Cheshire Cat while he punched me LOL.

    Ryan

    • Eeks…how horrible. Now that you mention, there were a few people that seemed off their rockers.

  27. Ami! Gorgeous and awe inspiring pictures with history that I ignored so far. Love the bird’s views. Magic and impressive country Nepal is.

    • Thanks Vishal. Glad you liked it and found it interesting. It sure is a lovely place.

  28. Patan Darbar square looks amazing. You have taken some brilliant pics to describe the experience! Thanks for an enlightening post.

  29. Great pictures! I loved the Patan Darbar 🙂

  30. Amazing pics! Love how you’ve taken us, the readers through a virtual journey through Patan Darbar. It’s as if we were right there with you!

  31. Kathmandu is a beautiful place. I have been there before. I love the temples and really simple people with very simple living. It is a great run away from the city life.

    • Yes, the simplicity of the people here is quite endearing. Glad you felt the same too Sona.

  32. Nepal has been on my mind from quite sometime. Looks like I have all the reasons to visit this country now. Closely followed your posts and travels of Nepal.

  33. Stunning shots! I can’t believe there are more than 50 temples in this square – I last visited Kathmandu more than a decade ago and I’d love to go back soon!

  34. I love your photos! So beautiful. I also had NO idea there were three Durbar squares. That is so interesting to me!

  35. This is a spectacular place, Ami! The pictures you provided are stunning!

  36. your photos are gorgeous! And I love the vibe of this place.. I’ve never heard of it before!

  37. What an amazing adventure you are on. So many temples. We have thought about going to Nepal. So much culture and history to explore.

    • Would say thumbs up for this trip… And I hope you do it soon. It’s gorgeous. Cheers

  38. Milijana

    This post is a true virtual fairytale tour. While reading it, I was transported to another time and space. Congrats for the amazing post, Ami!

  39. I really enjoy this Kathmandu series of yours! As always, your photos are great. Love those Newari homes, just lovely! 🙂

    • Thank you so much. I am glad that my enthusiasm during the trip shows in my post.:) Cheers

  40. I absolutely love the history and architecture here, thank you so much for sharing! Looks like i have yet another MUST VISIT location to add to my list 🙂

Would love to know what you think