an ensemble, the Durbar Square in Patan probably remains the
most picturesque collection of buildings that has been set
up in so small a place by the piety and pride of Oriental
man." - Perceval Landon, 1928.
Durbar Square, the center of Lalitpur, "The City of Fine
Arts," is one of the places in the Kathmandu Valley,
where the medieval arts and architecture still remain in its
original state. It maybe so because, comparatively, less destruction
occurred here during the great earthquake in 1934 that left
most of the Valley in ruins; and the reconstruction of the
dilapidated complexes was successful to bring back its seventeenth
century antiquity. The red bricked, three- storied palace
dominates the east side as it runs along the entire length
of the Square. Facing at this palace are the temples and sikharas
of various sizes and styles. These complexes were added at
different times through the history, without any plans, but
they perfectly blend together to form the Square. The entire
Square is paved with brick, which usually get crowded with
people during different festivals.
chronicles shows that the location of Patan Durbar Square
lies at a very ancient crossroad. The settlements of indigenous
communities surrounded the Square and before the Mallas were
properly established in 1300 AD, the Pradhanas, principal
nobles, settled around the crossroads. There are inscriptions
linking the Pradhanas with the Durbar Square, telling about
mansions and temples they built around the Square but don't
stand today. Purandarasimha, a Malla King who ruled Patan
in the late sixteenth century, established two temples in
the Square. One is the Cara Narayana, built in Newari architectural
style in 1566. The other temple is dedicated to Narasimha,
the mythical incarnation of Visnu in half lion and half human
form, made in sikhara style in 1589. It is said that Purandarasimha
built the latter temple in memory of his brother with the
same name Narasimha. In 1597, Sivasimha Malla, built Degutale
Temple. He rebuilt old temples made by the Pradhanas
Sivasimha; but his work is said to have been better than the
old architecture. The palace mansion Chaukot, the four cornered
palace, was established before the seventeenth century. It
stood at the northern end of the Square and after the mid
nineteenth century, the mansion was started to be called layku.
According to Gopalaraja Vamsavali, chronicle of Gopala Kings
compiled by 14th century AD, a Taleju Temple was already built
by the Pradhanas before the Mallas.
many efforts put together by many kings, the present architectural
state is mostly the result of Kings Siddhinarasimha Malla
(1619-1661) and Srinivasa (1661-1684), father and son. Siddhinarsimha
Malla was made a king when he was young. It is only after
twenty years that he started with constructions. In 1641,
he rebuilt the Degutale Temple, which made the temple better
than before with five roofs as inscription refer to his temple
as nyatapola, five-roofed temple. Six years later, he gilded
the topmost roof of the temple as an offering to the goddess
of the temple.
remarkable courtyard, Sundari chowk, with its sunken bath
was added in 1646. Sundari chok had been an extension of the
palace towards the south. Before that time at the location
of Sundari chok was a vihara, Hatkobahal, which was donated
by Laksmikamadeva in late twelfth century. The vihara was
relocated at the west of the Square, which is presently the
Kaha bahal also known as Ratnakaraj Mahavihara. Sundari chok
is surrounded by three-storied palace in the four sides. This
palace is one of the best examples of seventeenth century
Neplali architecture. Its entrance, facing the Durbar Square,
had a golden gateway and a golden window over it. Similar
to other Malla kings, Siddhinarsingh Malla also tried his
best to please his clan deity, goddess Taleju, with extensive
donations. He built in her name a tank and fountain in Bhandarkhal,
adjacent to the Sundari chok, was added in 1647. It is said
that the King during his daily offering to the goddess offered
lotus that grew in the pond in Bhandarkhal. He was very pious
and spent time in meditation and worships instead of royal
pleasures. Before his abandonment of the throne to his son,
he had already added two more monumental temples in the Durbar
Square. One is the marvelous stone sikhara temple of Krishna
Mandir made in 1637. It is four storied but the main shrine
of Krishna along with Radha and Rukamani at the sides is in
the first floor. Almost entire walls on this temple are filled
with carvings of Lord Vishnu in his different incarnations.
There are altogether 21 pinnacles arranged at different heights
on the temple. The other temple is a newari style temple dedicated
to Shiva, better known as Visveswara. During the completion
of each temple, a koti hom, fire ritual, was performed for
the celebration and expensive donations were made to the temples.
In 1652, he gave up his throne and left for a penance in Benaras.
Though he returned from Benaras, he didn't take over the throne,
but helped his son, Srinivasa, rule Patan. Srinivasa started
his career in masonry since 1661. From that year, he started
the renovation of the palace from one end to the other at
Patan Durbar Square. Unfortunately the Degutale temple, which
Siddhinarsingh had built, was completely destroyed by a fire
during in Srinivasa's early years as a king. Rebuilding the
Degutale Temple was one of his first projects. But he didn't
give the temple its original five-storied style, he reduced
it to three, which is more convenient for a Newari style temple.
This temple was again dilapidated during the earthquake in
1934 and reconstructed and again extensively reconstructed
1666, he had also renovated the Mul chok and the palace courtyard.
During this reconstruction he also built a temple for goddess
Taleju at the south end of the palace. From then onwards,
the ritual offerings during Dashera were made in the temple.
A golden doorway to this temple was fixed by Riddhinarshimha
Malla in 1716. But the chief Taleju Temple in the Patan Durbar
Square, which stands at the northeast corner of the Mul chok,
was the restoration of a previous temple and was completed
in 1671. He also built a new temple dedicated to agama deities
at the northwestern corner of the Mul chok. Though completely
destroyed in 1934, the inscriptions and pictures of the temple
state that it was very peculiar with three types of roofs,
one rectangular, one octagonal, and one round. In 1680, he
erected a Bhimsen Temple in the Square. His minister, Bhagiratha
Bhaiya, also built a Visvanatha Temple in the Square in 1678
as a substitute to Visvanatha Temple in Banaras. Destroyed
during 1934, it was restored with a dome for a roof and is
popularly known as Bhaidewal, after its donor.
Siddhinarsimha and Srinavasa Malla, their successors also
continued to make donations to the Patan Durbar Square but
most of them were outside the palace. In 1701 Yoganarendra
Malla added a pillar and Manimandapa, his royal council hall.
His sister, Rudramati, in 1706 added the Narayana Temple.
His daughter built the Chyasing Devala, an octagonal stone
sikhara temple in 1723. Then Vishnu Malla and his wife donated
a huge bell to the goddess Taleju in 1737, which is said to
have replaced a smaller bell donated by Yoganarendra Malla.
Patan Durbar Square was constructed by the pious devotions
of the kings, queens, princes, princesses, and ministers to
satisfy the gods. The temples, courtyards, and palaces were
constructed and after damage they were reconstructed in the
fashion of that time. After a temple was built, there was
a constant flow of donations in the form of paintings, money,
decorations, and mostly extensive restorations, all which
were done in the belief of pleasing the deities in the temple
resulting in a prosperous life of everyone in the family.