Located about 8 km south of Kathmandu, on a plateau across the Bagmati River, Patan is called the city of fine arts. It is one of 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu valley, the others being Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.
Lalitpur, historically Patan, is the third largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara. It was founded by King Veer Deva in 299 A.D.
Turn anywhere in this city and you’ll see an abundance of wood and stone carvings, metal statues, ornate architecture, including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and over 1200 monuments.
The city was once an independent Newar kingdom before the Shah dynasty took over and is best known for its rich tradition of arts and handicrafts and as the birthplace of master craftsmen, like these woodcarvers, we met in the Patan Durbar Square.
Patan Durbar Square
One of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Patan Durbar Square is situated at the centre of Lalitpur city. One of its attractions is the ancient royal palace where the Malla Kings of Lalitpur resided.
There’s a lot to see in Patan Durbar Square, including ancient palaces, pagoda temples, stone baths, Hindu and Buddhist statues, bas-relief and engravings, and bronze carvings. The Patan Museum houses bronze statues and religious objects, some dating back to the 11th century.
Ever since I found out that Patan Durbar Square was one of the locations for shooting the Marvel movie, Dr Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (the other location is the Pashupatinath Temple), I was very eager to go there.
The Durbar Square is a marvel of Newar architecture. The floor is tiled with red bricks, like the ones we saw in Bhaktapur. There are many temples and idols in the area.
The Square also holds old Newari residential houses. There are various other temples and structures in and around Patan Durbar Square built by the Newa People.
The Patan Durbar Square was heavily damaged by the 2015 earthquake and many of its historical structures are still being repaired and reconstructed.
Patan Durbar Square’s Golden Temple
The Golden Temple (Bhaskerdev Samskarita Hiranyabarna Mahavihara), built in the 12th Century by King Bhaskar Verma, was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever seen.
I could have spent all day here exploring, appreciating the intricate carvings and metalwork and taking photographs. Unfortunately, we were a bit rushed and didn’t have the time to do justice to this marvel.
This three-roof Buddhist monastery is adorned with a golden facade, four large gateways, a clock tower, and two lion sculptures. Inside are golden images of Buddha, wall carvings, and a prayer wheel.
The Vajra – A Symbol for Hindus and Buddhists
But by far, one of the most prominent and fascinating objects in Patan’s Golden Temple was the vajra – a ritual object associated with Tibetan Buddhism, and also called by its Tibetan name, Dorje.
In Hinduism, the vajra is the weapon of the Vedic rain and thunder-deity, Indra. In the tantric traditions of Buddhism, the vajra is a symbol for the nature of reality, or sunyata, indicating endless creativity, potency, and skilful activity.
It is the symbol of the Vajrayana school of Buddhism, the tantric branch whose rituals help attain enlightenment in a single lifetime, in a thunderbolt flash of indestructible clarity.
In Tibetan ritual, the vajra is often used with a bell (ghanta). The vajra is held in the left hand and represents the male principle — upaya, referring to action or means. The bell is held in the right hand and represents the female principle — prajna, or wisdom.
The vajra is used symbolically by the dharma traditions of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, to represent firmness of spirit and spiritual power.
In fact, so enraptured was I by this object which, to me, represented an otherworldly power, that I bought my own vajra in the gift shop at the Kathmandu airport before I left Nepal.
After interrupting a Buddhist ceremony being held in the monastery upstairs, we were kindly invited inside by one of the monks so we could look around.
My tour of Patan Durbar Square was far too short. I really wish I had all day to spend here. But our group had just returned from our Bhaktapur walking tour and we were tired.
My Kathmandu valley tour and the monuments we visited were a captivating glimpse into the history, culture, art and architecture of Nepal.
On my next trip, with family this time, I hope to explore Nepal’s other cities, like Pokhara and hopefully, visit the Chitwan National Park.
If you do go to Nepal, please be a responsible tourist and be mindful of your environmental impact.
Also look at staying in a community homestay so that you can give back to the people of this country, who are still recovering from the devastating 2015 earthquake.
- Kathmandu Temple Tour: Doorways To Nepal’s Art And Culture
- Bhaktapur Tour: Following The Red Brick Road In Nepal’s Cultural City
- Nepal Adventure Tour Packages: 9 Things To Do Near Kathmandu