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.
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.
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 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
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 –
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Giant statue of the Yogendra Malla
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
- 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.
- 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