Splendors of the Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu

posted in: Asia, Heritage, Nepal | 97
First Published on June 8, 2017

The first time I visited Patan Durbar Square was during my Epic Indo-Nepal road trip. The Nepal part of my trip took me through the famous Pashupatinath temple, the Swayambhunath Stupa, Bhaktapur Durbar Square and allowed me to experience the delights of the Nepal culture and cuisines with you. However, the visit to Nepal Patan Durbar Square was left incomplete and as fate had it, I returned back to finish what I had left unseen. The royal heritage center in Kathmandu, a UNESCO heritage site – the Patan Durbar Square delighted me, even more.

Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu

Both my visits to the Patan Durbar Square Kathmandu had me equally frenzied. Even though I had seen some of the attractions of Patan Durbar Square earlier, they still had me in awe. Walking through this square is a senses’ overload with the various sights and sounds. A lot of the monuments are in ruins owing to 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.

I am pretty sure that from the first time you walk into Square, you will feel as if you are lost. Just so that you don’t, let me share the best things to see in Patan Durbar Square. In a lot of ways, this post is going to be your 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 –

All these are now UNESCO World Heritage sites and Patan Durbar Square is the smallest and the oldest of all these. Frankly, this is also, according to me, the prettiest of the three and hence, my favorite. I am pretty sure that by the end of this travel guide to Patan Durbar Square, you might agree with my choice. So, let’s get started.

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. It is believed that before the Mallas, were the Pradhanas and even before them – the Thakuri Dynasty.

The royal residences at the Patan Durbar Square

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!

Things to see in Patan Durbar Square

Bird's eye view of 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 starting with the left that was full of various temples of this square. The right side of Patan Square was all about the royal residences. Further behind were the Newari houses. What seems simple enough is really not. 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 they are comparatively smaller. 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 both my Patan Durbar Square Tour.

Chyasin Dewal

Chyasin Dewal - the first temple attraction of Patan Square

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.  The temple was built by King Siddhi Narsimha in the 1630s and has an idol of Lord Krishna on it. The 2nd floor of this gives a view of the surrounding Patan Square. It is one of the few structures that has survived the earthquake.

Taleju Bell of Kathmandu Patan Square

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 inside Mul Chowk.

The destroyed temples of Patan

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 is the stone elephants that are said to be the guardians of this temple.

Krishna Temple at Patan Square

The Char Narayan Temple that is completely destroyed and Krishna temple next to it under restoration

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.

The restoration work happening at Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square

The temple has three storeys of which level two is dedicated to Lord Shiva and level three to Lord Avalokiteshvara. Lord Krishna is the main deity on Level one. Another unique feature that I discovered on my 2nd visit is that level two had carvings from the epic tale of Mahabharata while the 3rd level carvings told the story of Ramayana. 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

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. The temple as you might have guessed from its name is devoted to Lord Shiva and is said to have a stone linga within in with the characteristic Nandi facing it.

Bhimsen Temple

Bhimsen Temple in Patan
Carved pillars of the Bhimsen Temple, Patan

This is still a functional temple and is considered auspicious for the start of any good work or business. The deity within is none other than the famous Pandava – Bhima. 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 iron lion atop a pillar, opp the Bhimsen temple.

The Giant statue of the Yogendra Malla

Statue of Yogendra Malla in Patan

One of the key Patan Durbar Square attractions 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

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. Let’s start with the first one that you will encounter if you are still near the Chyasin Dewal – Sundari Chowk.

Sundari Chowk in 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. One of the key deities here is that of Lord Narasimha killing the demon Hiranyakashyap, The gates are generally closed but what I did not realize is that there is a way in from Mul Chowk (which I describe below). It was during my 2nd visit that I found this entrance and managed to get through to see what these pretty doors hid within.

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 alone. Here he was with one of his twin wives – Riddhi. His wife Siddhi was conspicuously absent.

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

PROTIP: To visit the Tushahiti in Sundari Chowk, you have to enter through Mul Chowk. So make a note of the same, else you might miss it like I did the first time around. 

Tushahiti stepwell with the two wooden pillars in Sundari Chowk

The carved courtyard that lies behind the closed doors of Sundari Chowk is home to a stunning stepwell. This is called the Tusha Hiti. It was built in the late 1640s by King Siddhanarsimha Malla. The place was used for ceremonial baths by the royal family. There are two pillars in front of the stepwell that I presume were erected to hold a curtain. What makes it so gorgeous are its carved walls with statues of various deities (they say there are 72 of them). A golden tap with a statue of Vishnu and Garuda allows water into the stepwell. The water for the well is said to come from the Bhandarkhal tank behind this very complex.

The carved step well of Sundari Chowk
Close up of the golden tap of Tusharahiti

As luck might have it, the back door was open for me to see the Bhandarkhal tank. The tank served as a water resource for the entire Patan area. It is built like a stepwell with various levels but is not as intricately carved as the royal Tushahiti. It is nonetheless, pretty with its green overgrowth of hydrophilic plants and a central shrine along its walls.

Bhandarkhal Tank behind the Sundari Chowk at Patan Durbar Square

Don’t miss the restoration work that happens around the Tushahiti. You might spot gorgeous door frames and other woodwork being restored here.

Mul Chowk in Patan Square Kathmandu

Entrance to Mul Chowk , Patan Durbar Square

Mul Chowk is akin to the common area square of a palace. It was rebuilt by King Srinivasa Malla in 1666 – 3 years after it got destroyed by a fire. At the center, you will be able to see Bidya Mandir Temple. This is dedicated to a form of Goddess Durga. The temple has seen plenty of animal sacrifices on the wooden pillar outside it.

Mul Chowk with the Bidya Mandir in the center and the triple-roofed Taleju Temple

The main attraction of the Mul Chowk is the Taleju Temple. It is the biggest structure here and is conspicuous with two golden deities guarding its entrance. These are Ganga and Jamuna. To identify the two – Ganga rides on a tortoise while Jamuna has a crocodile under her feet.

Ganga and Jamuna Statues in front of the entrance to Taleju temple

Keshav Narayan Chowk

Lion guarding Keshav Narayan Chowk

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.

Carved pillars of Keshav Narayan Chowk in 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
Doors and windows of Keshav Narayan Chowk

Patan Durbar Square Museum

The Patan Museum can be accessed through here.The place has some gorgeous displays of bronze statues and artifacts. From coins to wooden frames and broken body parts of statues dating back to 7th century, the museum is one place in Patan Durbar Square that will keep you engaged for a while. Here are some interesting exhibits that I found.

Exhibits in the Patan Durbar Square Museum
Bronze hands of a broken statue

Walking through the museum also gives you a good feel of life in a palace. After all, this was the palace of the Malla Kings. The low wooden roofs, the open corridors and the beautiful Newari windows make excellent photo opportunities in Patan Square. Upon my second visit, we had a blast discovering the play of light and shadow created by these windows.

Picturesque windows of the Royal Palace of Patan

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.

Well, in terms of the key places to see in Patan Durbar Square, these are the main ones. If you have the time, see if you can head to the Mahaboudha Temple, the Golden Temple and the small stepwell around there. Hey! It’s not easy keeping to the frenzy of seeing it all.

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. Anyone who visits here gets a bug attack – the Shutterbug attack!

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.

Posing against the Newari Doors in Patan Square Nepal

As I walked along these lanes, I discovered more temples, hidden stepwells, quirky cafes and forgotten doors. Over the two visits that I made here, I chose different lanes to get lost. I am sure if I get another chance, I will be discovering more of these treasures. However, for now, I am sparing your senses and allowing it to absorb all that I have shared in this Patan Durbar Square Guide. Pin this up on your board so that you have it as a ready reckoner on what to see in Patan Durbar Square.  Message me and let me know which was the most impressive of these monuments. I bet you cannot pick just one!

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How to get to Patan Durbar Square Kathmandu?

  • Try a road trip from India as I managed from India
  • 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. You can even hire a cab online (refer to the Booking resources below)

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 it is not of your interest.
  • There are plenty of restaurants and public restrooms available for your use.

Booking Resources:

Please note that the links below help me earn a commission that helps me to keep my website running. Clicking and booking through these will not cost you anything additional but will benefit me.

  • Book a guided tour of Patan and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares through Klook.com. You can use the same link to browse through the website and book your local SIM for Nepal. 
  • GetyourGuide.com offers a 6 hour private tour of Bhaktapur and Patan Squares. This includes a pick-up and drop to your hotel. The same link gives you access to numerous cooking classes, Nepal trek packages, day-trips from Kathmandu and even airport transfers. 
  • Kathmandu has tons of hotels of every possible budget for you. However, if you are looking for something close to Patan Durbar Square, consider clicking through this link of Booking.com 
  • Do click through this Amazon India Link for any of your shopping needs. Maybe you need a new travel bag or a camera or even things to gift, you can use the link to help me earn a little commission.
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