Patan: A medieval city packed with charm, life and history
Smriti Bajracharya makes a leisurely tour of Patan in order to explore more than what meets the eye
Someone once told me, in order to fully explore and experience a place, you need to immerse yourself in the surrounding — that you need to get lost. And, rightly so. I remember the day I decided to get lost in the alleys of Patan, and tried my best to take in every bit of the place as much as I could.
Testimony of the past
Patan is a city of narrow lanes going past countless temples to a wide Durbar Square filled with the country’s most iconic monuments and architectural artefacts. The medieval city is filled with art in every nook and cranny. Patan is home to countless artefacts that will fill your mind with wonder.
In the west corner of the Durbar Square stands a magnificent all-stone-made shikhara-style temple crowned with 21 golden pinnacles. Known as the temple of Lord Krishna, the temple built in the 1630s however enshrines lord Krishna on the first floor, lord Shiva on the second floor, and Lokeshwor on the third—a perfect example of religious harmony Nepal boasts of.
Scenes from the Ramayana narrated in Newari script decorate the interior of the temple. A day is not enough to understand the complex curiosities in Krishna mandir and so is the case with every temple and every courtyard in the square including Taleju Bhawani Temple, Bhimsen Temple, Keshav Narayan Chowk, Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, et cetera.
A day is not enough to understand the complex curiosities in Krishna mandir and so is the case with every temple and also every courtyard in the square
Glimpses of the present
Being a frequent visitor at Patan, having a kulfi (frozen dairy lollipop) while sitting on the stone steps and watching people pass by is a habit you’ll soon be fond of. I spent almost an hour watching people walk by, some elderly people talking leisurely, little kids buying balloons and artists closely observing their subject while sketching on their little notepads.
Alleys to life and history
After much pondering, I decided to visit the alleys that just don’t seem to end. I did not have a fixed destination in mind other than to choose any one of the lanes, and go wherever it took me. From a flower vendor selling her garlands and bouquets of seasonal flowers, to a souvenir shop with paintings, sculptures and handcrafted jewellery on display, the lanes were alive with people. Further down the road, one can immediately smell delicacies being prepared in some corner, and that was when I realised, I had reached the ever-famous local eatery, Honacha. I’ve been to the place many times, and every time I visit, the owners always welcome with a big warm smile, offering a plethora of their dishes.
As one lane connects to another, you will find yourself in the bahals (courtyards) very often, and while it might look all the same at first glance, each courtyard is unique and holds a story of its own. If you are really into mythology and have a lot of time to spare, come prepared and talk to the locals about the bahal. They will gladly share how it came to be and all the stories attached to it. From the Golden Temple in Kwa Bahal, to the pond of Pim Bahal, to Nag Bahal, a neighbourhood named after two serpent gods, you will be amused at how each bahal has its own exceptional feature that is out of this world.
If you are really into mythology and have a lot of time to spare, come prepared and talk to the locals about the bahal
As dawn turned into dusk, and the buzzing streets slowly started to give way to quiet, the busy streets sighed in solitude and gleamed with yellow hues from the street lights. With a few people still aimlessly wandering, the day came to an end, but the magic and beauty of Patan was still alive.
Once is not enough
Exploring all of Patan in one day is pretty much impossible. As the street life seamlessly blends into the daily lives of the locals there, we tend to forget how beautiful the place actually is. And in order to appreciate the medieval city of art in its full glory, you have to take a few days out of your schedule and dedicate your time just to Patan. Whether you want to visit the Palace Museum, or take in the art, or stroll around or actually get to learn about the city, there is nothing you cannot do or experience in Patan. As it is most certainly a massive pot of everything, you’ve a great many to explore.
For the first time I realised that getting lost also meant having mindfulness — a mental state achieved by being vigilant on the present. Once is never enough to explore Patan, and if you visit with mindfulness you will find new insights each time.
And in order to appreciate the medieval city of art in its full glory, you have to take a few days out of your schedule and dedicate your time just to Patan