Patan Durbar Square: The City of Art and Architecture

Published on: March 2, 2020
patan durbar square

About Patan Durbar Square

Patan durbar square is situated at the heart of Lalitpur district preserving a huge collection of fine art and architecture carved and inscribed on woods and metals by our ancestors. This city is very famous for temples, shrines, statues, monuments, festivals, culture, etc. that reflects our ancestor’s crafting skills. Even now, if we walk the small alleys of Patan we can hear the tapping of tiny hammers as craftsmen work on various ornaments and idols. Lalitpur is the second largest town of Kathmandu valley and is separated by the Bagmati River from Kathmandu. It is around 5 km away from Kathmandu. One can reach Patan in around 30 mins from Thamel depending on the traffic.

The boundary of Patan is marked by the ancient Buddhist stupas that were built in 250 BC by King Asoka during his visit to the valley. There are four small ancient stupas resembling four corners of Patan. It is believed that after King Asoka built these stupas, Buddhism flourished in the valley. The stupas stand firmly at Gwarko (East), Pulchowk (West), Kumbeshwor (North) and Lagankhel (South) till now. Three of the stupas are just mounds of earth with prayer wheel and the northern one is a beautiful concrete stupa.

Patan is considered as the oldest among the three cities of Kathmandu valley. Just like Kathmandu Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square is also one of them. It is believed that Lalitpur was founded in 299 AD by King Veer Deva. Lalitpur is a Sanskrit word which means “City of Beauty”. There are many ancient names for this city like Yala, Manigal and various stories behind the given names. There are various stories behind the names of Patan.

One of them is the Red Machhindranath. It is believed that once the valley suffered the worst drought. So, three representatives (including Lalit; a farmer from Patan) from three kingdoms of the valley went Assam, India to bring the God Red Machhindranath. There was a strong belief that the god will provide rain and the drought will be overcome. Lalit carried the god all the way to the valley from India and settled it in Patan. The belief came true and the valley overcame the drought that is why it is named after Lalit; Lalit, the farmer and ‘pur’ means ‘township’.

rato machindranathChariot of Rato Machhindranath with Chyasim Dega: (Patan Durbar Square)

‘Yala’ is the most used and ancient Newari name of Patan. It is said that around 2nd century BC when the first Kirat king Yalamber conquered the city, he named it ‘Yala’ after himself.

Scholars believe that Patan was a prosperous city since ancient times. Patan was believed to be founded by the Kirat dynasty, expanded by the Lichhavi dynasty and then further expanded and modified by the Malla kings. Patan Durbar square is situated at the center of Lalitpur which was once an independent Newari kingdom before the 17th century. Patan Durbar square served as the royal palace of the Malla kings who ruled over Patan for several centuries. Malla kings are credited for the establishment of the royal square palace of Patan. After Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered the three kingdoms of the valley and unified it with the Gorkha kingdom, later to Nepal. The last king of Patan was Tej Narasimha Malla before getting merge with the Gorkha kingdom.

Patan is a very ancient Newar town. Patan Durbar Square is a marvel of Newari architecture that includes ancient monuments, temples, shrines, statues, and idols. More than 600 stupas, 136 courtyards, and 55 major temples are located around Patan durbar square. The floor of Patan Durbar Square is well paved with red bricks since the ancient period.

A large group of Newar people live around Patan and are very successful to conserve and preserve their culture and tradition till now. They celebrate numerous festivals, ceremonies, and traditions like their ancestors. Most of the Newar people are engaged in agriculture, handicrafts and local business. Handicrafts and artworks from Patan such as Thankas Paintings, Healing Bowls, Pashmina, small statues, and idols are very popular and often taken by foreigners as memory or symbol of the place. Photography and Filming can be done around the heritage site with great architectural background.

Some popular temples and monuments around Patan Durbar Square.

  • Taleju Bell

Taleju bellBig Bell (Taleju), Patan Durbar Square.

While entering from the south side of the durbar square (ticket counter), one can easily notice a big bell hanging between two stout pillars. This big bell is known as Taleju Bell. This big Taleju bell was placed by King Vishnu Malla in 1736 after the earlier bell donated in 1703 was moved to the Rato Machhindranath Temple. During the ancient period, common citizens could ring the bell to alert the king to their grievances.

The building under the big bell is occupied by coffee shops, book shops, and other small shops. There is a beautiful small lotus-shaped pool with a water fountain and bridge over it.

  • Hari Shankar Temple

Just after passing the big Taleju bell, stands a 3-storey magnificent piece of art which was destructed completely during the earthquake of April 2015 but the temple has been reconstructed and completed.

hari shankar templeNight View of Hari Shankar Temple, Patan Durbar Square.

Hari Shankar temple was built in 1704-05 by the daughter of King Yoganarendra Malla. This temple is dedicated to Hari Shankar, a hybrid deity with half an attribute of Lord Vishnu and half of Lord Shiva. A glimpse of tortures and punishment one faces in hell after death is carved on the roof of this temple.

  • Yoga Narendra’s statue

There is a tall column in front of the Narsingha temple just like the Pratap Malla’s column in Kathmandu durbar square. This tall column of Patan is known as the Yoga Narendra’s column as there is a brass statue of King Yoga Narendra Malla and his queen with a cobra looming over the king’s head. There is a bird made up of brass on the head of the cobra.

yoga narendra statueYoga Narendra Malla’s Statue, Patan Durbar Square.

Legend says that until the bird remains on the cobra’s head, the king may still return to his palace. In the belief of this, a door and window of the palace are left open and a hookah pipe is kept ready. Another myth says that if the bird flies off, the elephant in front of the Vishwanath Temple will walk down the Manga Hiti for a drink.

This column of Yoga Narendra Malla was demolished during the earthquake of April 2015 but was the first monument of Patan to get complete reconstruction after the earthquake.

  • Jaggannarayan Temple

Built-in the Shikhara style during the Malla period, the Jaggannarayan temple is also popular as Char Narayan Temple. Jaggannarayan temple was built in 1565 and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Narayan. Various idols of God, Goddess, and deities are carved around the temple with positions of Kama sutra.

jaggan narayan Jaggan Narayan Temple, Patan Durbar Square.

This temple was completely destroyed during the earthquake of April 2015 but the construction work has completed and the temple is restored now.

  • Krishna Mandir

This octagonal-shaped Krishna Mandir is a famous and important temple of Patan. This temple was built by King Siddinarsingh Malla in 1637. It is believed that this temple is made up of a single stone and there are 21 golden pinnacles on the top of this temple.

krishna mandirKrishna Mandir, Patan Durbar Square.

Legends say that one night King Siddinarsingh Malla saw Lord Krishna and Radha in front of his palace in a dream. The king ordered to build a Krishna temple on the same spot. The pillar on the first floor of the temple recounts events of Mahabharata and the 2nd floor shows the scenes from Ramayana.

A large number of Hindu pilgrims come to visit this temple and worship Lord Krishna (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) on the auspicious occasion of Krishna Janmashtami. The whole durbar square is full of Hindu pilgrims from different parts of the country.

  • Vishwanath Temple

Vishwanath temple is located just in front of the Manga Hiti guarded by two large stone elephants at the front entrance and a bull’s idol on the other side. Vishwanath temple was built in 1627 during the reign of King Siddhinarsingh Malla. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva as there is a lingam inside this temple. Large destruction was done by the earthquake of April 2015 but it is restored now and stands firmly with the best view during night time.

Vishwanath Temple, Patan Durbar Square.

  • Bhimsen Temple

Bhimsen temple stands at the northwestern side of Patan durbar square. This temple was built in 1680 during the reign of King Srinivasa Malla. This temple has an unusual design with rectangular-structured plans. Bhimsen temple is dedicated to Bhimsen. Bhimsen is a great personality and one of 5 pandas of Mahabharata and is regarded as the god of trade and business.

Bhimsen temple has overcome multiple reconstruction works due to various reasons. It was rebuilt in 1682 after a devastating fire, after 1934 and 1967 earthquake and is still under construction after the destructive earthquake of April 2015.    

  • Golden Temple

Golden temple is one of the most stunning and beautiful Buddhist temple located at the northern side of Patan Durbar Square. It is also popular as Hiranya Varna Mahavihara. Legends believe that this temple was founded in the 12th century, though the record of the current existing temple dates back since 1409.

Golden temple is a masterpiece of courtyard architecture with railed walkways inside the courtyard. The entry is protected by two stone elephants. Shoes and leather articles are not allowed inside this temple. In the center, there is a small but richly decorated temple with a golden roof and pinnacle. Inside the main shrine is a beautiful statue of Sakyamuni.

  • Kumbeshwor

Walking for like 4-5 minutes north from the golden temple, there is this five-storey temple popularly known as Banglamukhi or Kumbeshwor. A two-storey temple was built by King Jayasthiti Malla in the 14th century (1382). King Srinivasa Malla later added other three-storey to this temple during the 17th century and since then it has been dominating the surrounding street with its beauty and importance. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consent Parvati. A large bull idol is placed facing the temple.

There are two ponds in this temple complex and water inside the pond is said to come straight from the holy Gosainkunda Lake. The water source is only opened during Janai Purnima. Thousands of pilgrims visit Kumbeshwor on this festival to worship the gold and silver lingam of this temple which is placed in the middle of the pond on that day for sacred bathing.

The Three Courtyards

3 courtyard
Three Courtyard (Chowk), Patan Durbar Square.

  1. Sundari Chowk

This is the smallest courtyard and the first one to reach while entering the durbar square from the southern side (Ticket counter). This courtyard was built in 1647 during the reign of King Siddhi Narsingha Malla. In front of the entrance are 3 idols of Hanuman, Narsingha, and Ganesh.  Inside this Sundari Chowk is a professionally carved sunken water tank known as Tusha Hiti. The Royal Bhandarkhal Garden and Kamal Pokhari water tank are located behind Sundari Chowk.

  1. Mul Chowk

This courtyard is the central courtyard situated between Sundari and Keshav Narayan Chowk. This is the largest and oldest courtyard among the three. Built during the reign of King Siddhi Narsingha Malla, it was destroyed in a fire during 1662 and was rebuilt by King Srinivasa Malla in 1665-66.

Mul Chowk is home to Taleju temples. Vidhya temple is located at the center of the courtyard. The five-storey Degutale Temple lies in the northeastern corner of the square and triple-roofed Taleju Temple on the northern side. Goddess Taleju was the personal deity of the Malla kings.

  1. Keshav Narayan Chowk

This northern courtyard of the royal palace is entered by a magnificent golden gate. The construction of this courtyard was completed in 1734 making it the youngest courtyard among the three. There is a Keshav Narayan Temple at the center of the courtyard and Patan Museum is situated inside this courtyard.


The Patan Museum is situated inside Keshav Narayan Chowk. This museum was inaugurated by Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1997 and probably the first museum for the public.

Patan MuseumPatan Museum, Patan Durbar Square.

The entrance gate of Patan Museum and Keshav Narayan Chowk is the same. The entrance gate is attractive and eye-catching with its gilded golden name tag on both sides mentioning Patan Museum with carvings of deities on the door. The museum is segmented in different Gallery. Patan Museum has an outstanding collection of cast bronze and gilt-copper works, mostly of Hindus and Buddhist deities. It has preserved various ancient metal works, woodworks and information about the history of Lalitpur. Photos showing Patan back in the 19th and 20th centuries are also preserved here.

There is a small café at the backside of the courtyard which was a place for dance and drama during the Malla Period. There are gift shops and souvenir shops inside the museum.

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