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Durbar Square, engraving after a photograph by Gustave Le Bon, 1885

Patan, Lalitpur, or "Yala" as it is known by the Newar, its main inhabitants, (Tib. Yerang, wyl. ye rang) is considered to be the oldest of the three cities of Kathmandu Valley. It lies now in the South of the Kathmandu agglomeration, within the ring road. Its official name is Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City, and is one of the largest towns in Nepal. The heart of this ancient city, Patan Durbar Square, has been listed by UNESCO as one of seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. Of the three main cities of Kathmandu valley which are historically Newar, Patan is mostly Buddhist, containing more than 160 Nepali Buddhist monasteries known as baha, Bhaktapur is primarily Hindu, whereas Kathmandu is mixed. Patan is the main centre of metalcraft for the region, where numerous small workshops produce most of the statues sold in the other parts of the Kathmandu valley, such as around the Boudhanath stupa.

According to mythology Patan was created in the 6th century by King Birdeva. He was instructed by Sarveshvara, a form of Shiva, to establish the city.

There is an inscription on the hill of the Swayambhunath stupa, which was laid down to commemorate the restoration of the stupa in 1349, after Nepal was invaded by the army of the Muslim sultan Shams Ud-din, of Bengal. Besides seriously damaging Swayambhunath, and breaking the Pashupati lingam into four pieces, the army burnt the town of Patan, the principal town of the Valley, and its monasteries.

The Golden Temple

In the centre of Patan, at a place called Nag Bahal, sits the Golden Temple (Skt. Hiranyavarna Mahavihara; wyl. ye rang thub pa'i lha khang) the Vihara of Shakyamuni Buddha. The temple is said to have been erected in the 12th century by King Basakara Warma. It enshrines an image of Buddha known as the the 'Patan Shakyamuni' (Wyl. ye rang shakya thub pa), which is considered extremely sacred. To the left of the temple is a remarkable image of Tara, and above to the left is a Tibetan temple dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, where Nepali buddhists gather on the 10th and 25th lunar days to do prayers in Tibetan.

The Mahabodhi Temple

The Mahabodhi temple, also known as the Thousand Buddhas of Patan (wyl. Ye-rang sangs-rgyas stong sku) is a small replica of Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, made of bricks and stones. It was built in the 17th century (1601) by a Brahmin who, in order to increase his power and wealth, went to the Bodhgaya, and after he returned from his pilgrimage built a replica of the main temple where he enshrined a stone image of Buddha that he brought from Bodhgaya. It is said that the temple, which took 34 years to be completed, contains 9,999 images of the Bhagavan.

Patan Museum

The Patan Museum contains numerous remarkable Buddhist images, together with Hindu religious representations. The museum is the result of 14 years of renovation work thanks to the funding and technical support of the Austrian Government. It was inaugurated in 1997, and is located in the Keshav Narayan Chowk aisle of the Mala kings of Patan.

Ashoka Stupas

In the four directions on the great trade routes that brought the city prosperity are four stupas built by the great Indian Buddhist king Ashoka in the 3rd century BC.

Further Reading

Patan Museum Guide, Patan: Patan Museum, 2002. Besides presenting images and description of the Hindu and Buddhist collections, the book gives a short presentation of Nepali metallurgical art of statue making.