Patan: An Ancient City of Culture
Patan is the second largest of the tri-cities of Kathmandu valley. It is a medieval city that bore witness to the rise and fall of numerous regimes and kingdoms. Flush with intricate wood carvings, traditional sculptures, terra-cotta deities, tiered Hindu temples with red trims on its yellow brass roofs, red mud houses with tiled hats slung low over their windows, here is an exceptionally well preserved slice of history.
Specifically the Patan Durbar Square next to the busy marketplace of Mangal Bazaar with its royal palace, open courtyards, brick tiled streets, temples with wooden pavilions and stone balconies are a visual treat. With more temples, patis and architecture here per sq meter than both Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, it is truly a city of the arts and crafts.
Take a pleasant walk through the back alleys of Patan Dhoka and Sotha to the heart of the royal square past dhungedharas with stone steps leading down to exquisitely carved stone taps that was the main source of water in the city in past times, crumbling old houses with carved wooden windows and low hinged doors, galleries selling local art and paintings and shops selling fabrics by meters. This is the city’s ancient trade hub and today, still remains the centre of furious bargaining.
Patan is believed to be the oldest city in the Kathmandu valley and founded in the 3rd century B.C. by Kirat Rulers. The city derives its name from King Yalamber who named it Yala after himself. There are various monuments and inscriptions that prove its antiquity, namely the four Ashok stupas at the perimeters of the city. Most of the well preserved and celebrated architecture of Patan dates back to the latter half of the Malla rule. During this period, the Kathmandu valley was divided into four principalities under the Malla confederacy that competed with each other in trade, arts, architecture. Patan was renowned for its rooster of talented artists, sculptors, carvers, and painters; their skill and class evident still today in the vestiges of the golden era of Lalitpur, the City of Fine Arts. Patan became part of the expanding Gorkha Kingdom in the 18th century after the defeat to Prithvi Narayan Shah.
Getting to & Around
Public transportation run on fixed routes through Patan to Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Buses, Tempos, Micros operate regularly from 4.30 in the morning till 8.30 in the night, although not on a fixed time table. Minimum fare is Rs 14 per person and a student discount of 45% is applicable for those with valid ID cards. Taxis are available from all main chowks and the only option available after dark.
Located 5 kms south east of the Kathmandu city, the city of Patan is spread over 16 sq kms. The Bagmati River flows along the northern border of the two towns and the city is bordered by the Imadol VDC in the east, Kirtipur in the west and Dhapakhel VDC in the south. It stands at an average elevation of 1350 m from sea level and sits on a raised plateau that dips along the borders.
For a detailed history of the Durbar Square take guided tours offered at the site. As a city renowned for its art, Patan is home to several museums and galleries, most of which charge a nominal fee at the door. Take your pick from ancient religious relics, sculptures of historical importance, stone inscriptions, rare documents and contemporary art of local artists. Being only a 35 minutes drive from Thamel through traffic congested streets of Kathmandu, it makes for an ideal culture centric day-trip.