piątek, 28 października 2011
Patan, once named Lalitpur, which literally means ‘The City of Beauty’ is one of three former sub- metropolitan-cities of the Valley. It is situated north of Kathmandu, on the other bank of the Bagmati River. The population of the city is estimated to be more than 200 thousand inhabitants and thereby it is the third largest city in Nepal, after the capital city and Pokhara. It is a popular tourists’ destination primarily due to the Royal Palace and its surroundings. It is due to the unique value of buildings and monuments located here. Together with six similar sites of the Kathmandu Valley Patan has been listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Durbar Square in Patan is located circa 5 kilometers away from its equivalent in Kathmandu; tourists can cover this distance even on foot. The taxi fare is about 200–400 rupees and a bus ticket costs 20 rupees. Certainly, one has to pay for the admission to the Royal Palace of Patan as it is the case with Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. In 2011 the admission tickets cost 200 rupees.
As a legend says, the city was founded by the Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. According to other sources it shall have been founded by the king Veer Deva in 299. Regardless of which date: the first, second and maybe even another one is correct there is a general agreement that Patan is one of the oldest cities in the Kathmandu Valley. Some argue it is the oldest one.
As it was the case with Kathmandu and Bhaktapur (also Bhadgaon or Khwopa) the greatest prosperity (the golden age) of Patan came at the time the region was ruled by the Malla Dynasty. During their reign the vast majority of the most prominent buildings of the city were built or substantially reconstructed. An example is the oldest courtyard of the Palace – Mul Chowk or the Taleju Temple. By order of the dynasty the probably oldest temple on the Square dating back to 1565 – the Narayanan Temple as well as the most valuable palace decoration – a beautiful Krishna Mandir made completely of stone and built by order of the king Siddhi Narasimha Malla ruling in the years 1619–1661. Patan owes its current appearance even to him and his son Srinivasa Malla (1661–1684).
The Royal Palace built of red brick is stretching alongside the Royal Square. Its construction was begun as early as in the 14th century, but it was finished by order of the king Siddhi Narasimha Malla as late as in the mid 17th century. Part of the Palace is i.e. the Taleju Temple which existed here, according to the chronicle of Gopalaraj Vamsavali, already in the 14th century. Rebuilt and elevated by Siddhi Narisimha Malla to a five-tiered pagoda it was unfortunately consumed by flames but it was reconstructed by his son; however, only three roofs have preserved till the present day. The temple was again destroyed by the earthquake of 1934. It can be visited though since in 1969 it was reconstructed once again.
While entering the Royal Square from its eastern side we will see on our left an octagonal Krishna Temple (Chyasim Deval) made of stone. It was built in 1723 by order of the daughter of the king Yoga Narendra Malla. It was supposed to commemorate the eight wives of the father who were cremated together with him on a funeral pyre.
The Big Bell dedicated to the Goddess Taleju was founded by Jaya Vishnu Malla and his wife in 1737 at the site of the former smaller one founded by the king Yoga Narendra Malla.
Behind the Big Bell we will see the Hari Śankar – a pagoda from the 17th century covered by a three-level roof with beautifully carved pillars. The entrance to the temple is protected by two small elephants made of stone.
The Temple of Vishnu is a brick sikhara dating back to 1590. Its patron is Narasimha, a Vishnu incarnation portrayed as a half-man and half-lion. In front of the temple there is a column placed here around 1700. The king Yoga Narendra Malla who ruled in the years 1685–1705 is sitting on it and is facing the palace while being protected by a cobra with an umbrella.
Further north we will see the Char Narayan Temple, probably the oldest one situated on the Square since it dates back to 1565. The pagoda was built by order of the king Purandara Singha, the first king from the Malla Dynasty ruling Patan.
The Krishna Mandir completed in 1637 is the most famous temple on the Durbar Square. It was built by order of the king Siddhi Narasimha Malla after he had seen Krishna and Radha in his dream vision. This beautiful sikhara-topped building erected entirely of limestone is obviously dedicated to Krishna, the Vishna incarnation. This is why Garuda – his white horse ready to fly to the heaven is kneeling on a column in front of the sanctuary. It is also the only temple in Nepal which is crowned by 21 golden peaks. Actually the entire temple was richly ornamented by Newar stonemasons with sculptures which are considered to be ones of the most beautiful sculptures in the whole of Nepal. The craftspeople were inspired in their work by Ramayana and Mahabharata – two major epics of ancient India and Nepal. Who has read these works, will notice well-known scenes on the walls of the sanctuary – on the first floor these ones from Mahabharata, and on the second floor – these ones from Ramayana. Who knows Nepal Bhasa (Nevari language) can even read the inscriptions below them. The other ones, like me, for example, who have neither read Ramayana nor Mahabharata can feast their eyes on the form of the performances themselves.
Behind the Krishna Mandir one can admire an equally richly ornamented Shiva Temple (Vishwanath Temple). This pagoda covered with a double-roof was built in 1627. Unfortunately it collapsed in 1990 during heavy monsoon rain, but it still remains a proud of the Royal Palace. The entrance to the sanctuary is guarded by two huge elephants; inside there is a lingam. Relieves with erotic motifs decorate the roof pillars.
While walking along the Royal Palace from the south, we will see the Bhimsen Temple at the lower end of the square. Bhimsen, a strong man described in the Mahabharata, was later admitted into the pantheon of Hindu Gods where he was the patron of merchants. It was probably due to the protection of this group why the temple ornamented with silver and gold is one of richer temples on the Square. The pagoda topped with three roofs was built of brick at the end of the 17th century, but the facade on the ground floor was later covered with marble. Destroyed by the earthquake of 1934 it was reconstructed. Its last renovation took place, as we can easily guess due the scaffolds visible on the picture, in 2011.
Opposite the Bhimsen Temple we can see the Manga Hiti – a water inlet situated beneath the square. My guess is that this place serves the inhabitants also as a public communal bath but I had no opportunity to make sure that was the case. What is certain is that the water flows out of three beautifully carved makaras (built into the wall) – mythological sea- creatures with a crocodile’s maw.
Hiranya Varna Mahavihar is a famous Buddhist monastery located circa 200 meters north of the Durbar Square (walking from the north-western corner). Its major part is a beautiful, gold-plated pagoda – the Golden Temple – one of the holiest places for the Nepal Buddhists.
The construction of the complex was begun in the 12th century by the king Vaskar Deva Varma. The entire complex is surrounded by a high wall and the entrance is guarded from the street side by two lions which undoubtedly helps to find this place. Walking further along a narrow passage we are approaching another gate guarded by Shiva and Vishnu carved on two wooden pillars. Behind it there is a small courtyard in the middle of which there is the already mentioned gold-plated pagoda. Inside there is a small stupa connected with the famous Swayambhunath stupa in Kathmandu. As they say it is the oldest part of the complex.
Elephants, monkeys, Naga people protecting the temple on all sides, bells, prayer wheels… One would probably have not time enough to take a closer look at each detail to be found here within just one day. Some of them I can already recognize, the other ones still remain an enigma, such as a strange, low board stretching alongside the wall. It is covered by some signs written, as I think, in chalk…. Is this a duty roster or maybe a holy prayer… I haven’t a clue.
Walking from the Golden Temple further in the northern direction we will reach the Kumbeshwar Mandir built in 1392 and dedicated to Shiva. It is one of only three pagodas in the Kathmandu Valley which can boast as many as five roof levels, being at the same time, one of the oldest ones in Patan.
It is surrounded by some smaller temples such as Bhairava or Parvati Temple and many rare, old statues. There are also two public baths in here which are allegedly powered by water from holy oligotrophic lakes of Gosaikunda. I have read that they serve as a place for ritual cleansing baths but what I personally saw was an ordinary daily care with use of soap. One the other hand, it might be also true that each bath in this holy water is a ritual one.
While visiting Patan or one of other beautiful cities of Nepal we should not basically focus on admiring beautiful monuments, on ‘hurry-scurry passing by’ all the most important places worth seeing. We should rather enjoy the opportunity that we organize our trip on our own and account and that we are not ‘supervised’ by any guide making us just walk forwards quickly in order to visit the particular places as soon as possible. Let’s have a seat on the stairs of one of the pagodas. Let’s make a sandwich or eat some bought fruits. Let’s take a look at the policewomen laughing and keeping an eye whether everything is going right and finally – let’s listen to the calming sound of the city. Let’s live in here… – just for one hour.
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