Patan Tourist Attractions
Patan (Lalitpur)Situated to the south of Bagmati this town has for some time officially been named Lalitpur. Popularly, however, it is still called by the old name of Patan.
Once it was separated from Khatmandu by fields, but today with a population of 146,000 it has merged imperceptibly with the city. After Bhaktapur and Khatmandu, Patan is the third of the three royal cities. A row of monuments indicates the importance of Patan for Buddhists. In the 1990s Tibetan exiles established the suburb of Jawlakhel.Although many devotional images bear inscriptions from the Licchavi period, this need not imply any urban development at that time. A chronicle records that the city was founded by Bir Deva around ad 650.Very few traces survive from the early Malla period before 1480. The only documentary reference is to the sacking of the city by the Moslems in 1346. Having for the most part been ruled by the kings of Kathmandu, Patan is thought to have become independent in 1618 under Siddhi Narasimha. The change ushered in the city's heyday, which continued under Siddhi Narasimha's successors Srinivasa and Yoganarendra. During this period the palace precinct was extended, the urban area was systematically enlarged, and 18 major monasteries (bahals) and 32 lesser ones (bahils) were founded.Trade links with Tibet, firmly rooted in Patan's long Buddhist tradition, were strengthened. Images made by Patan's outstandingly skillful metal-workers were in particular demand. When the Gurkhas captured the city in 1768 its period of brilliance came to an abrupt end. The Hindu conquerors plundered the treasures from the temples and dispossessed the Buddhist monasteries.The roads radiating from what is now the palace precinct to the four Ashoka stupas were evidently intended to form a cross, still clearly recognizable. But the claim that the stupas were founded when the legendary King Ashoka visited Patan has no historical support. More plausible is the theory that the stupas are arranged in a mandala, the mystic Buddhist diagram symbolizing the order of the cosmos and the place of gods and men. If so, it is likely that a fifth stupa once stood at the center. The basis of this theory is the doctrine of the five Jinabuddhas, or Pancabuddhas as they are known in Nepal. Representing the fivefold revelation of wisdom, they are guardians of the cardinal points (north, south, east, west and center) and personify the five elements, colors and seasons, etc. Given the great age of the stupas it is unlikely they were built to mark the boundaries of a settlement. More probably they defined a sacred area, almost certain to have been the center of Buddhism in the Valley - which position the city of Patan still holds today (as witness its many monasteries).Patan's strict adherence to a grid pattern of streets is truly remarkable, any winding thoroughfares, survivals from older settlements, being few and far between. The districts are clearly laid out and spacious, the wide streets more meticulously paved than in the other royal cities. Of the two main axes defined by the stupas, that from north to south is the most important. On it lie the three focal points of the city's religious life, the Kumbeshvara Mandir (north), the Degutale Pagoda (center) and the Matsyendranath Mandir (south). Intriguingly these three temples illustrate the mystic reconciliation of opposites symbolized in the mandala: the lower-lying Kumbeshvara Temple has five stories, two more than the Matsyendranath and Degutale Temples which are built higher up. They were evidently constructed so as to be visible together from a single point.
Raato Matsyendranath Jatra Festival
The major festival in Buddhist Patan is the Raato Matsyendranath Jatra to which ritual ablutions, usually performed in late April, are a prelude. Raato Matsyendranath is transferred to a sacred water-vessel whilst his image is repainted and repaired. Then the god is drawn through the city in his chariot, accompanied by numerous other deities. The chariot halts each night for worship in a different part of the city. At the end of May the procession reaches Jawlakhel. The Bhoto Jatra (Bhote Tibetan) is the highlight of the entire festival.
Of the four stupas around the perimeter of Patan, the northern is best preserved. It has been whitewashed - the others are overgrown with grass - and a number of old Buddhist sculptures survive.The southern or Lagan Stupa is the largest of the four, the eastern or Teta the smallest. The western or Pulchok Stupa on the main road from Kathmandu to Jawlakhel is completely overgrown.
The Lubhu-Kathmandu road, cutting diagonally through Patan, is believed to follow the line of the original trade route. Konti and Cyasah squares, hiatuses in the strict grid pattern of the city's streets, were probably village nuclei on either side of the old road, which ran along the plateau 15 m (49 ft) or so above the Bagmati's alluvial plain.
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