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Lalitpur also known as ‘Patan’ literally, the City of Artisans, lies 5km southeast of Kathmandu, and is home to the valley’s finest craftsmen who preserve ancient techniques such as repoussé and the lost wax process, still producing exquisite pieces of sculpture. The city retains much of the old charm with its narrow streets, brick houses and the multitude of well-preserved Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries (Vihars). The predominant sound in Patan is not motor vehicles but the tinkering of craftsmen bent over the statuettes they are shaping. As in Kathmandu, Hinduism and Buddhism have co-existed here for ages, influencing each other and the religious harmony is exemplary.
Hiranya Varna Mahabihar: Dating back to the 12th Century A.D. the three storied golden pagoda of Lokeshwar in Patan was built by King Bhaskar Varma. Located in the courtyard of Kwabahal, this temple is in a class of its own. On the upper floor is a golden image of Lord Buddha and a large prayer wheel on a pedestal. Intricate decorative patterns on its outer walls add charm to the mellow richness of the shrine.
Kumbheshwar: The temple of Kumbheswar is the only five storied pagoda in Patan and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that a natural spring within the courtyard of this temple has its source in the very popular glacial lake of Gosainkunda. Built by King Jayasthiti Malla, the golden finial was added later in 1422 A.D. During his time the pond was cleaned and various images of Narayan, Ganesh, Sitala, Basuki, Gauri, Kirtimukh and Agamadevata were added around the pond and in the courtyard. A large gathering of devotees arrive here for ritual bathing on the day of Janai Poornima each year.
Jagat Narayan: The Jagat Narayan temple on the banks of the Bagmati River at Sankhamul is a tall shikhara-style temple consecrated to Lord Vishnu. Built of red bricks, the temple has many fine images. An attractive metal statue of Garuda mounted on a stone monolith is accompanied by several images of Ganesh and Hanuman.
Mahaboudha: The famous temple of Mahabouddha in Patan is unique for its thousand little images of Buddha in terracotta. This artistically built shikhara-style temple is a fine specimen and owes its existence to a priest named Abhaya Raj. Every brick on the surface of this shrine bears a small image of the Buddha. After it was completely destroyed during the great earthquake of 1933, a new one was built replicating the original to the exact specifications. Mahaboudha is one of the major attractions of Patan.
Ashoka Stupas: Although there is little evidence that the Emperor Ashoka ever visited Kathmandu valley, there are four stupas supposedly built by him in 250 AD. Marking the four corners of Patan, three of these stupas are merely mounds of earth with prayer wheels around them while the fourth near Shankamul is a beautiful concrete stupa. At the time they were built, Buddhism flourished in the Kathmandu Valley.
Machhendranath Temple: The temple of Red Machchhendranath, the God of Rain is of great importance in Patan. The temple lies in the middle of a wide, spacious quadrangle just at the outer rim of the market place. A clay image of Red Machchhendranath or Avalokiteshwar is kept here for six months each year, after which it is placed on a chariot and taken round the city of Patan in a boisterous colorful procession as part of a festival that begins in April-May and lasts for several months.
The Tibetan Refugee Camp: A large number of Tibetans fled their homeland in Tibet and settled in Nepal during the early 1960s. To shelter these homeless people the government of Nepal set up the Tibetan Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Patan. The Tibetans brought their carpet weaving skills to Nepal and soon a carpet industry was thriving in the valley. The camp has become a tourist attraction with its souvenir shops that sell carpets and handicrafts such as prayer wheels made of wood, ivory, silver or bronze along with an assortment of belt buckles, wooden bowls and jewelry. A stupa and a number of shrines have also been built within the camp.