After the chaotic streets in Kathmandu the city of Patan seemed positively tranquil by comparison. Just an hour from Nepal’s capital, Patan is a World Heritage Site and has some of the most fascinating architecture and history in the country. Separated from Kathmandu by the Bagmati River this is a wonderful place to spend a day exploring.
The Heart of Patan
Durbar Square is the central part of Patan and is the ideal place to begin any walk around the historic part of this city. Here there are some of the most stunning displays of Newari architecture in the world. During the 14th to 18th centuries this was a glorious place and particularly so during the reign of King Siddhinarsingh Malla. Patan’s Royal Palace flanks the Eastern side of Durbar Square and the carving of the buildings and doorways is magnificent. There are connecting courtyards, areas where the women lived and a real sense of the past here. This was a Newari city and typically homes were built around a Chowk or courtyard.
Temples and Carvings
There are a number of temples in and around Patan. At the northern end of Durbar Square the Bhimsen Temple is dedicated to the god of business and trade. The ornate pillars in the Vishwanath temple are typical of the craftsmanship in this area, and the temple is guarded by two large stone elephants at the entrance. Carvings in wood decorate the roof of the Jagannarayan Temple, dedicated to one of Vishnu’s reincarnations. The places of worship have offerings and are places of tranquillity as well as being very busy. Everyday life goes on as visitors come to stare. It is the Golden temple that is most well-known with its splendid interior. This Buddhist monastery is renowned and famed for its sacred tortoises as well as the statues decorating it.
Take a walk through the back streets and alleys in Patan and there is a whole world of artisan work and craftsmanship. Here a man beats copper, whilst in another poky shop someone is chipping away at a stone block. There are dimly lit places where exquisite carving goes on, the clang of metal being beaten is in the air and bicycles piled high with oranges for juicing glide by. Patan has been a centre for crafts for centuries and there in the back streets are the very descendants, working away in conditions not unlike medieval times. This is a very atmospheric part of Nepal and a joy to visit and see a very traditional way of life.