Durbar Square, Patan
In Malla times Durbar Square already provided a splendid stage for religious ceremonies and festivals, as it still does today. Like the palace squares of both the other royal cities, that of Patan is also on the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites.Towards the end of the 16th c. Hariharashima Malla of Kathmandu became ruler of Patan, installing himself in the royal palace in Manikeshwar Chowk. With him came worship of the goddess Degutale, the Malla family deity, to whom he erected a temple. Siddhi Narasimha Malla extended the palace, building Mul Chowk and Sundhara Chowk and creating the Bhandarkhal Fountain in the east of the garden. In order to build Mul Chowk, the Hatko Vihara was moved.
One of the highlights of Patan's Durbar Square, the Krishna Mandir is a 17th C temple, significant both for its architecture and stone reliefs.
The fountain, Mani Dhara, is unquestionably the oldest structure in Durbar Square, possibly dating from the 10th c. or even Licchavi times. Situated at the northern end of the square it is impressive both in size and sunken depth. From the first gallery, already almost 2 m (61/2 ft) below street level, steps descend a further 2 m (61/2 ft) to where water emerges from three makara-shaped spouts. The goddess Lakshmi presides over the spring, attended by two mythical beings called barumes.Mani Mandapa, the northernmost of the pair of mandapas flanking the entrance to the fountain, was renovated in 1701 in the reign of King Yoganarendra Malla. The stone throne with its guardian nagas and inscription also dates from that time.Most unusually for so early a period, the mandapas are aligned not only with the fountain but also with the Vishwanath Mandir across the square. Such symmetry is generally not found prior to the mid 17th c. That the individual elements in the ensemble belong to different periods makes the arrangement all the more noteworthy.
Ganesh, Narasimha and Hanuman guard the entrance to Sundhara Chowk, the most southerly of the palace courts. Erected in 1627 as residence of the royal family, it too fell victim to the fire; it was rebuilt by Srinivasa Malla. Roughly translated Sundhara Chowk means "beautiful court", an apt description of this delightful little quadrangle. The surrounding three-storied buildings are adorned with fine wood-carvings on the door and window frames.
The show-piece of Sundhara Chowk is the Tusa Hiti, a sunken bath built for the Malla kings. Water flows from gilded makaras into the octagonal tank, so shaped in honor of the eight nagas, deities of fertility and rain. Immediately above the makaras, Vishnu and Lakshmi are borne aloft on Garuda's back. A miniature version of the Krishna Mandir on Durbar Square graces the head of the pool.The sunken bath is encircled by a double, sculpted frieze, intricately carved with spreading foliage. Filling the arbor-like recesses are figures of Tantric deities, including the Ashta Matrikas, the eight Bhairavas and the eight nagas. The pantheon extends onto the paving of the court. Two nagas, their heads raised towards bathers leaving the pool, form a nagh bandh - a garland of snakes warding off evil spirits - around the rim.
Bhimsen, a hero of the Mahabharata epic whose exploits are illustrated on a wooden plaque on the temple's south side, is the patron deity of merchants. Appropriately enough his shrine is richly endowed. The temple was erected at the time of Srinivasa Malla and rebuilt after a fire in 1682. Although the site is believed to have been consecrated as long ago as Thakuri times, nothing is known about earlier buildings.The large, platformless three-storied pagoda has the traditional rectangular plan of a Bhimsen or Bhairava shrine, the devotional image being housed on the first floor. The furnishings are particularly opulent. Small bells hang from the widely jutting roofs, the struts of which are superbly carved. The gilded upper roof supports a pataka, a metal strip by which the gods ascend to the Heavenly Fields.Generous gifts from merchants and trades people ensure the temple is well maintained, though not every "improvement" is strictly in keeping. The roof struts, for example, have been painted silver, the lower floor clad in marble tiles, and the entrance marred by the use of gold paint.
Mul Chowk was built by Srinivasa Malla in 1666 to house the Taleju Shrine. The shrine itself, topped by the traditional triple pagoda roofs, occupies the south side of the court. A torana crowns the entrance. The goddesses Ganja and Jamuna, aspects of Shri and Lakshmi, appear in embossed-work flanking the courtyard gate. Borne on their respective vehicles, a makara and a tortoise, the figures of Taleju's companions date from the 17th c. A tall four-tiered pagoda with octagonal roofs dominates the north-east corner of the court. Mul Chowk's exceptionally fine wood-carvings include roof struts embellished with the Ashta Matrikas and eight Bhairavas. In the center of the court stands a small empty shrine where at one time mystic spells are said to have been cast. Although certainly modest compared with those of the other two royal cities, Patan's Mul Chowk has a definite character of its own. Sadly, since being opened to the public it has suffered from vandalism and theft.
Although Manikeshar Chowk is considered the original nucleus of the present palace, no clue exists as to its date of origin. Formerly modest in size, the court as seen today was probably built after the 1663 fire. Since 1977 the Patan Museum has been housed here and much valuable Newari art is on show. It is one of the loveliest of all Asian museums. Note in particular the rich ornamentation on the central axis of the façade. Flanked by a pair of lions the portal is capped with a gilded bronze torana tilted forward, above which is a triple window over a low balustrade, the center section forming a lion throne beneath a baldachin-like stone arch. The carved panel which replaces the middle window shows Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, amid intertwined snakes. The removable panel enabled the king of Patan to appear in the opening in place of the Bodhisattva.
Yoganarendra Malla's Column
In 1700 Patan's King Yoganarendra emulated Pratapa Malla of Kathmandu by erecting a column topped by statues of himself and his son. Protected by nagas both kneel in prayer in front of the Degutale Temple, shrine of the Malla family deity Taleju. Following the death of his son the grieving Yoganarendra is said to have renounced his kingly life for that of a wandering ascetic, declaring on leaving that he would live just as long as the face on the statue remained untroubled and the bird continued to sit on the cobra's head. For a long time thereafter his bed was made up every evening, a hookah (water-pipe) was prepared, and a door and a window were left open in case the master should return.Vishnu Malla had the Taleju Bell installed in front of Mul Chowk in 1737.
Narayan Mandir, a two-storied pagoda on a low platform, stands directly across the square from Manikeshar Chowk; thus the oldest surviving temple in Durbar Square faces the oldest section of the palace. The shrine, commissioned by Purandarashima in 1566, was modeled on the Jagannath Mandir in Kathmandu, constructed three years earlier. Purandarashima's temple was built as a memorial to his father Vishnushima. The carvings on the portal and roof struts are some of the most exquisite in the Valley. Several exceptional pieces of sculpture can be seen near by.
The two-tiered Vishwanath Mandir, dating from 1626, is dedicated to Shiva "the Lord of All Being"; images of the god adorn the toranas above the columns. The beautifully carved roof struts depict Surya, Ganesh, Annapurna, Shiva again, and Parvati. Shiva's bearer, the bull Nandi, guards the temple entrance on the west side. The east façade overlooking the main thoroughfare is however the most decorative. Two elephants, whose riders have been identified as Siddhi Narasimha and his wife, flank the steps.
The Cyasilim Deval was founded by Princess Yogamati in memory of her son. Dedicated to the young Krishna and his lover Radha, the temple takes its name from its octagonal shape. Following the death of Yoganarendra Malla, his daughter Yogamati acted as regent on behalf of her son, a minor, who died just a year later. As first lady of the kingdom Yogamati ruled with great decisiveness, several times dismissing ministers and making and deposing kings.
Hatko Vihara (a vihara is a Buddhist monastery) was the Mahavihara of the Patan Kumari. It was built, so legend has it, by Lakshmi Kamadeva in the early 11th c. on a spot where a flame flared out of a stream. Although there are special rituals ratifying the removal of a shrine, the original site always remains sacred. So at the end of every year a water-filled copper vessel with an image of Buddha inside is placed in the palace precinct where the monastery stood.
The three-storied Harishankar Temple was built in the 17th c. at the time of Siddhi Narasimha Malla. One of the largest buildings on Durbar Square, it dominates the southern end. Carved toranas crown the openings between the columns of the arcade. Various deities are represented with great skill and artistry on the roof struts.
The Degutale Mandir, its three stories rising directly from the upper floor of the palace, was built in about 1600, at roughly the same time as its equivalent in Kathmandu. Destroyed by fire in 1663 it was rebuilt to an identical plan. Figures of Ganga, Jamuna and Mahishamardini appear on the carved roof struts.
Lakshmi Narayan Mandir
Built above a row of single-storied shops at the southern end of the square, only the bell-shaped dome of the 17th c. Lakshmi Narayan Temple is visible from the street. The temple affords an excellent view of Durbar Square.
The Ganesh temple stands among houses on the north side of the square, distinguished from its neighbors only by the carvings at the entrance and on the sills and window frames.
Map - Durbar Square
Map of Patan Attractions