Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tour of the city: Patan

By Sabin Chakradhar

Patan city is one of my favourite cities in Kathmandu valley. In today’s blog I am going to discuss about some key features of this city. Patan is also known as Lalitpur, which means City of Beauty. The Newari name of this city is “Yala” which bears resemblance to the name of the first Kirati King Yalamber.
Patan is said to have established during the Lichhavi Period and the Manga Hiti (water spout) which dates back to 590 AD supports the fact. This hiti has an effective water supply system, which led to the expansion and development of the city. There are many other water spouts in the city dating back to Lichhavi period, but most of them has dried long ago. One of them is the Golden water spout, which lies at a higher level than other water spouts and is in good condition till date. The four corners of the city are marked by stupas, which dates back to 250 BC and are said to have been erected by Emperor Ashoka. The largest and most ornamented of these four stupa is on the Northern side, commonly known as stupa of Sankhamul.
As we explore this city, we find many temples and idols belonging to the Hindus and many more devoted to Buddhism. As we reach any junction of the city first idol we see is the Ganesh (1st god to be worshipped according to mythology) Temple. This temple is an integral part of the Newari community be it Hindu or Buddhist. Also another interesting part about this city is the courtyards. These courtyards are accessed through alleys in the street and one courtyard opens up to another smaller courtyard belonging to individual families termed as Nani.
Patan has many temples and idols; all built in different centuries and carries their distinct architecture and charm. The Patan Durbar Square is one of the exquisite beauties of the city. This square was laid in the Lichhavi period but was developed during the reign of King Siddhinarsingha Malla. This rectangular square has its longer axis running North- South with the palace in the eastern sides of the square which is now used as a museum and diversely styled continuous row of temples on the western side. Apart from the architecture in the durbar square Patan has many other temples and Vihars around its precinct.
Vihars or monasteries are the Buddhist institution for learning, back in the old days. The Bhaskar Varna Mahavihar is the largest bahal in patan and was built in the Kirat period, but most of the shrines date back to to Lichhavi period. Nagbahal is another bahal just next to Bhaskar Varna Mahabihar and inherits a stone water spout making it a unique Bahal. The Golden temple, Hiranya Varna mahabihar, built in the 12th century has three storeyed golden pagodas, where the upper storey hosts the golden image of Lord Buddha and a large prayer wheel. Maha Boudha, is popularly known as the 1000 buddha Temple, built in Shikhara Style. This temple is covered with terra cotta tiles, each tiles carved with the image of Lord Buddha. The architecture of this temple is similar to the Mahaboudha temple at Boudhgaya in India where Buddha gained enlightenment.
All of these vihars, temples, Hitis and the traditional Newari buildings dating back to various centuries makes the city of Patan a historical place and visiting a place as such, rolls one back to the ancient culture and history.

Pic 1
Caption: Mahabuddha Temple, also known as "temple of thousand buddhas"

Pic 2
Caption: Patan Durbar Square

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