Introduction – Patan (Photo Gallery)

Patan is considered as an oldest among the three cities of Kathmandu Valley. It is known by different names from ancient to the modern time- Yupagram, Yala, Lalitpattana, Lalitpuri, Maningala and Patan.
There area very few historical materials which shed light on the antiquity of Patan. Some chronicles (Vamsavali) even mention Asoka’s stupas, four in four cardinal directions and one at the middle of Patan city by him. A mound situated at Kwalkhu Tole is regarded as the remain of Kiranti palace by some scholars. But all these theories have to be tested by further research and excavation.    
But there is unanimity among the scholars that Patan was a well established and developed town since ancient time. During the Lichhavi period thatsite was called as Yupa grama. From the findings of inscriptions and the icons one can easily assume that the site was well developed during that period. There is a mention of the abolition of some tax from Yupagrama during the reign of Narendra deva (643-679 A.D.) in an inscription executed in 643 A.D. in the course of time Yupagrama was changed into Patan and Lalitpur. The place complex is located at the centre of city.
There is even lesser amount of the historical accounts on Durbar Square before sixteenth century in comparison to the city as a whole. All the artworks and architectural buildings scattered around the Durbar Square are from sixteenth century and onwards. The Manga Hiti and and inscritpiton inside the Keshav Narayan Chowk are best evidences of its historical city and antiquity. But there is a hint of the existence of royal palace even before sixteenth century. Some chronicles mention that during the eleventh century, a Thakuri King Vara Deva by name did not like to reside in the Durbar located in Madhyalakhu left vacant by his father after renouncing the world. Therefore Vara Deva started to live at the palace in Maningala of Patan. The Maningala Durbar was constructed by his grand father. Similarly, some accounts mention about the construction of a courtyard within the palace complex in 1167 A.D. by Rudra Deva and another one in 1170 A.D. to the north of Panchipuri. But due to lack of tangible (physical) evidence, all these remains merely a here say and legend.
Some historians are of the opinion that Patan was the capital city before the rise of Jayasthiti Malla in 1380 A.D. the Mahapatras of Patan used to handle all political affairs themselves and whole Patan city was divided administratively into Dakshinvihara, Uttarvihara and Pimvihar. All those areas under the viharas were ruled by different Mahapatras and these Mahapatras were thus called Tribhaya Mahapatras (three brother Mahapatras). In the Bal Kumari inscription of 1447 A.D. by Yakshya Malla, there is a mention of Patan ruled by three Pradhans. In one of the manuscript Jaya Singh is shown as the Pradhan Mahapatra of Dakshinvihar. Similarly, Vishnu Singh is addressed to as Maningladhipati and Mahapatra as well.
After the death of Yakshya Malla in 1480/81 A.D. his second son Ratan Malla decalred Kantipur as an independent principality and also subdued the Mahapatras of Patan and brought them under his control in 1482/83. But it did not last for long. Patan was ruled again who was defeated by Vishnu Singh in 1527 A.D. and himself declared as the King of Patan. After Vishnu Singh, his sons Nara Singh became all in all who was finally vanquished by the King of Kantipur Shiva Singh Malla. In this way, Patan was also come under the rule of Malla dynasty. Shiva Singh Malla sent his son Harihar SinghSingh to rule in Patan who died in 1618 A.D. and his son Siddhinarasingh Malla declared Patan as an independent Kingdom. In such a circumstance, three petty kingdoms of Bhaktapur, Kantipur and Lalitpur came into existence officially. It was already before the establishment of independent Patan that there was a royal palace in Maningala (present Mangal Bazar) and it was the seat of administration and the rulers living there were called as Maningaladhipati (the master of Manigala).
As in the other royal palaces of Kathmandu Valley, Patan Durbar is also embellishes with numerous chowks (courtyards), royal buildings, art and architectural monuments and the religious temples in different styles. All those historical monuments in collective is called the Patan Durbar Square. It was not only royal seat but the centre of administration also. All the monuments, temples, chowks and the royal buildings scattered around the Durbar Square were not built in a day. They were the creations of hundreds of years and the contribution of thousands of people during the reign of various kings. There are the concentrations of the monuments mostly made during the reign of King Siddhinara Singh Malla. But there is no concrete evidence that who laid the foundation stone of this royal palace. Although the area occupied by the Durbar Square is less in comparison to other Durbar Squares. This palace complex comprised more than thirty monuments. Another attraction of this Durbar Square is the retaining of its original look in comparison to other two Durbar Squares of the Kathmandu Valley.
King Siddhinarasingh Malla, who ascended the throne in 1618 A.D. had embellished the palatial complex and expanded it as well. Also he constructed small temple for his tutelary deity, the Taleju. In 1646 A.D. he dug the pond of Bhandarkhal and constructed a stone spout for the royal use only. He consecrated the Degutale temple of Patan, but could not stand for long due to the destruction by fire. Similarly, the most beautiful and famous courtyard of the Patan Durbar known as Sundari Chowk was also his contribution. The chowk is further decorated with a spout called Tusahiti. Tusahiti is famous for its collection of intricately carved stone icons of different Gods and Goddesses. The lover of the Malla art should not miss this place. Being the residential buildings of the kings, the courtyard is more important and equally famous as well. The vuilding is made in three storeys and is fully decorated with intricate wood carvings. In addition to all these contributions, king Siddhinar Singh Malla’s another greatest contribution is Krishna Mandir, made of stone. It was inaugurated in 1636 A.D. the temple is in Sikhara style and has twenty one pinnacles. This is one of the great attractions of the Patan Durbar Square. In this way King Siddhinara Singh Malla made a grand Palace and made it more attractive.
After Siddhinara Singh Malla, his son Shreenivas Malla ascended the throne of Patan. He had also great hand in developing the Durbar Square of Patan. First of all, he completed the construction of Mul chowk which was started by his father and enlarged the temple of Taleju which was also made by his father in smaller scale.
The temple of Degutale built by his father was gutted by fire ten years after its completion and Shreenivas Malla restored to its original size. The temple of Bhimsen is also the creation of Sreenivas Malla. In this way, he enlarged the Durbar Square and embellished it with more temples and courtyards. In addition to that there are a lot of his artworks and architectural buildings scattered all around Patan, Pharping, Bungamati and Kritipur. A manuscript of 1663 A.D. mentions about a large scale firing in Patan area which destroyed most of the monuments. They were renovated immediately by him in short span of time.
There was some sort of competition among the contemporary kings of Kathmandu Valley in building, enlarging and decorating their royal complexes, Pratap Malla in Kantipur. Jagat Prakash Malla, Jitamitra Malla and Bhupatindra Malla of Bhaktapur and Siddhinara Singh Malla, Sreenivas Malla and Yognarendra Malla of Patan were the good competitors.
Shreenivas Malla was succeeded by his son Yognarendra Malla in 1684 A.D. his creations, we see at present, are Manimandap and his own statue with his family members on the capital of a stone pillar.
The northern most courtyard known as Keshav Narayan Chowk is his most important and famous addition to the Durbar. It is one of the oldest courtyards of the palace complex and was famous with the name Chaukwath Durbar. In almost all the historical documents, there is mention of Chaukwath Durbar. Chaukwath Durbar in vernacular means a palace having four towers in four cardinal directions. The local people are of the opinion that before the construction of Chaukwath Durbar the site was occupied by a monastery called Ratnakara Mahavihar (Hakha Bahal in Newari). It was removed to other part of the town and Chaukwath Durbar was erected in place of it. The construction of the palace was initiated during the time of Laxmi Kamadeva (1024-1040 A.D.). The courtyard is surrounded by artistic four storied buildings on all the four sides. Historians are of the opinion that this part of the Durbar was erected in order to shelter the army and security officers in medieval time. The building was further renovated and decorated by Vishnu Malla in 1733 A.D.
Patan Durbar has got three main courtyards at the moment but during the medieval time, there were even more. The name of the other Chowks (Courtyards), as we know from the literatures, were Nhuchhe Chowk, Agam Chowk, Kisi Chowk, Sahapu Chowk, Nasal Chowk, Dafoswan Chowk, Kumari Chowk and son on. But there is no account left on those chowks about who and when they ere constructed anyway there are still some parts left, made by Siddhinara Singh Malla and Shreenivas Malla. All the historical buildings, and the religious temples erected during a long span of time by different kings are the main attraction of the Durbar Square now.
Actually Patan was subdued by Prithvi Narayan Shah without any bloodshed in 1768 A.D. after the surrender of six Pradhans who were the king makers then. A kingdom for centuries was turned into an administrative unit and now has turned into merely a business centre. Although there were lot of additions and alterations made in Kathmandu Durbar Square after 1769 A.D., there was no major alteration in the Patan Durbar complex. It would have been a great effort if we could save what were left, after unification. Many monuments have been collapsed and lost but only one monument the Maharani Hiti was added to Patan Durbar after the Malla period.
When one enters the Patan Durbar Square, he/she feels as if he/she is entering into a pilgrimage site. This site has got the best example of Sikhara style temple the Krishna temple. This temple has enhanced the beauty of entire palace complex in Patan. On the Krishnastami (the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna), even the King pay homage to the temple and also thousands of pilgrims thong to this temple to pay homage to Lord Krishna. Besides, there are other many festivals when this palace complex would be crowded with the people. This palace has the least number of altered monuments in comparison to other monument zones of Kathmandu Valley. Thus this place can be considered as a living open museum.
In one way these monuments are to be considered as examples of the excellence on architectural designs, and the token of art, architecture, and sculpture. Kanu Sharma, a medieval Nepalese writer has even gone forward describing Patan city as “is not it like a Part of Heaven?” Similarly Professor A. Seckler of Harward University has compared this palace with San Marco of Italy. In this words-Patan Durbar is rich, beautiful and attractive and can be called “San Marco Square” of the east. Any descriptions about those monuments will not be exaggeration whatever number of volumes is written about them.
      Listing in the World Monument List       
This site had been listed in the World Monument List in the year 1979.