Matsyendranath Area, Patan
The district in the south of Patan is defined best by it's focal point, the Matsyendranth Mandir. This is a prime place from which to explore the area.
This popular deity, Raato Matsyendranath, can be found in the Matsyendranath Temple in Patan from December to July.
The so-called Golden Temple (Kwa Bahal or Hiranyavarna Mahavihara) is the richest monastery in Patan, the chief source of its wealth being trade with Tibet. A free-standing shrine with a gilded roof tapering to a gajur (bell-shaped top) occupies the center of the temple court. Beyond it the broad-fronted three-storied temple with its gilded and silvered façades stands in all its splendor.A beautifully worked silver torana representing some of the finest craftsmanship anywhere in the Kathmandu Valley embellishes the entrance. Until the beginning of the 20th c. its place was occupied by an older, almost identical work in copper gilt. This can now be seen above the entrance to the bahal itself.Around the courtyard, in which no shoes or leather goods are allowed, runs a raised veranda, its railings hung with oil lamps and prayer wheels. Guarding the corners are four magnificent bronze Bodhisattvas, of which three, including the unfortunately damaged 9th or 10th c. image in the north-west corner and the image in the north-east corner with a figure of Amitabha embellishing the ornate crown, are statues of Padmapani Lokeshvara. The fourth, in the south-east corner, is a statue of Manjushri which, like the third Padmapani Lokeshvara in the south-west corner, is believed to date from the 14th c.
Maintaining a long standing tradition arising from Patan's close and venerable links with Tibetan Buddhism, the upper floor of the north wing is occupied by a Tibetan gompa (monastery) with typical wall and ceiling paintings. Benches in the middle of the chapel are where the monks sit to chant their Tibetan prayers. Along the west wall there are volumes of Tibetan scripts and devotional images. As well as being the most numerous, members of the gompa are also the most active section of the Buddhist community.The monastery's devotional image, a large silver figure of Aksobhya, is said to have been recovered from the ruins of an old monastery. To whichever new abode the image was taken, Aksobhya resolutely refused to stay. Consulted by the king as to his wishes, the Buddha declared he would reside only where a mouse could frighten away a cat. Some time later the king saw a golden mouse chasing off a cat and so built a monastery there.The monastery's foundation is nowhere documented but is thought to have been in either the 11th or the 14th c.
The Bhimche Bahal or Mayuravarna Mahavihara is located a minute or two's walk north-east from the Sundhara (Golden Fountain). The monastery is said to have been founded by a monk who stayed true to his Buddhist faith at a time when Hinduism was fast displacing it. Fleeing persecution he took refuge south of the Bagmati, building the bahal on a spot to which a peacock led him.A Chinese moon gate gives access to the monastery on the north side, the entrance to the courtyard being south of the gate near a fountain and a small shrine to Ganesh. The heart of the spacious, well-maintained complex is a three-tiered pagoda, built in 1939, containing a religious symbol of Aksobhya. Beyond the temple are two smaller shrines, the more northerly housing a figure of Hanuman, the other statues of Mahakal and Manjushri. There are in addition a number of votive stupas.Two sculptures are particularly noteworthy: a statue of a standing Buddha, with unmistakable Gupta-style features, making the visv vyakarana mudra; and a 7th or 8th c. figure of Padmapani Lokeshvara with Amitabha portrayed in his crown. Beside him stand the Arya Tara and the Bhrkuti Tara. Although unfortunately very worn, the image adds weight to the view that the bahal was founded in Licchavi times.
The Guita Bahal, a second major monastery in this part of east Patan, actually consists of three monastery courtyards linked together. Of the three the north-west court is certainly the oldest, but little remains of it except in legend. Guita means "nine roofs" so it was probably once the site of a splendid nine-roofed temple. The earliest inscription in the monastery, seen on the large stupa outside the court, dates from the 11th c.When, long ago, Buddha visited Patan, he was greeted by a poor elderly widow bearing a meager gift for which she had scrimped and saved. The king in contrast brought sumptuous presents and was much taken aback when Buddha accepted the widow's offerings and ignored his. The message however was not lost on the king, who worked for many days as a smith, distributing his wages among the needy. Thereafter Buddha accepted his gifts and blessed him too. The thankful monarch built the Dipavati Stupa to commemorate these events. Now every year, on the day of Pancha Dana in the month of Gunla, sacrifices are brought in the old widow's name to Guita Tole where she lived. Her image is then displayed at a window on the upper floor of the bahal.
Despite its height the shikhara of the Mahabuddha Temple (Temple of the Thousand Buddhas) stands concealed in a courtyard, scarcely visible from the street. It is one of many copies of the Mahabuddha Temple in Bodhgaya (Bihar, India) where Buddha achieved enlightenment. The Patan temple is said to have been erected in the 16th c. by an Indian pilgrim Jivaraja, who visited Bodhgaya with the express intention of recreating the Mahabuddha Temple in the monastery founded by his grandfather Abhayaraja in Patan. It took 36 years to build, being completed in 1585. Reconstruction following the 1934 earthquake was hampered by lack of a detailed plan. As a result enough materials were left over to erect the little shrine to Maya Devi, Buddha's mother, which can be seen on the south-west side.The tall shikhara, crowned by a small gilded stupa, is covered with floral decoration and terracotta reliefs of Buddha. The view from the narrow courtyard is somewhat restricted, a better vantage point being the roof terraces of the shops at the rear of the court.
The god Minanath, whose shrine is situated not far from the Raato Matsyendranath Temple, is also closely associated with Padmapani Lokeshvara and is often referred to as the Little (Saano) Matsyen- dranath. The Minanath cult actually goes back further than that of his nowadays more popular "big brother". The votive stupas by the fountain date from Licchavi times, testifying to the great age of the site.Minanath is known to have been honored with a chariot procession as long ago as the 7th c. though that particular festival was later dedicated to a different god. Today Minanath's smaller chariot follows in the wake of Raato Matsyendranath's much larger one. Their two images, both red faced, are confusingly similar. The two-storied Minanath Mandir dates from the 15th c. Recent renovation has tended to camouflage the ancient structure, hiding the woodwork beneath layers of brightly colored paint. The buildings of the Tamgah Bahal have also disappeared, their place taken by new concrete housing.
Bal Kumari Mandir
The Bal Kumari Mandir is one of those shrines to the Ashta Matrikas (the eight mother deities) which normally stand outside a town. Here the temple lies actually within the eastern sector of the city, traditionally the preserve of the goddess Brahmayani. Bal Kumari, the child Kumari, is Patan's principal mother deity. She has a cremation ground dedicated specifically to her. This used to be at the confluence of the Bagmati and Manohara rivers until, it is said, a 14th c. Kumari decreed the rivers should change their course. In those days Ashoka Malla's palace stood near the shrine.An inscription records that the rectangular three-tiered pagoda was built in 1622 - at the time, that is, of Siddhi Narasimha Malla - though the site itself is evidently much older. The cult of the mother deities was poorly supported in Buddhist Patan. In order to stimulate it Shrinivasa Malla introduced the Dance of the Ashta Matrikas in which Buddhist priests participate as dancers.
Probably founded in the 5th or 6th c. the Uku Bahal (or Rudravarna Mahavihara) is one of the oldest monasteries in Patan. The courtyard contains an assortment of different kinds of bronze-work, by courtesy of the numerous bronze foundries located here in the eastern corner of the city. This most curious of collections includes dorjes (thunderbolts), bells, flags, Garudas, peacocks, lions (almost Victorian in style) and the statue of a Rana general. Note also the fine 13th c. roof struts on the right-hand side of the court. Originally gracing the rear of the east wing they were re-positioned during recent restoration.
In addition to some large palaces dating from the Rana period, the suburb of Jawlakhel in south-west Patan also contains a zoo. Following the Chinese invasion of Tibet many Tibetan exiles made their homes here, bringing their skills in carpet-weaving with them.Like other Nepalese crafts carpet making is carried on in the streets, a marvelous opportunity to watch the nimble fingers at work and to learn something about the different patterns and qualities. This apart, Jawlakhel is principally a new district with undistinguished concrete housing.
This small square on Patan's main east-west thoroughfare boasts a shrine dedicated to Narayan. The figure of Shankara Narayana dates from the 5th or 6th c.; the stele depicting the sun god Surya was erected in 1082.