Best known for its rich cultural heritage and tradition of arts and crafts, Patan is the oldest and the second largest of the tri-cities of Kathmandu valley. It is probably one of the earliest Buddhist cities in the world which has historically been known by its Sanskrit name Lalitpur (City of Beauty) and its Newari name, Yala. Situated on a plateau across Bagmati River, Patan is about 5 km south east of Kathmandu city. It stands at an average elevation of 1350 m from sea level and sits on a raised plateau that dips along the borders. The city is mainly populated by Newari people who are known as skilled artisans. Patan is now almost a suburb of Kathmandu and almost everyone who comes to visit Kathmandu visits Patan mostly on day trips for its finest collection of temples and palaces in the whole of Nepal.
Describing the beauty and charisma of Patan, a western writer said – “Patan means eternity itself”. Highlighting its importance this city of festival and feast is a UNESCO world heritage site. Filled with wood and stone carvings, metal statues, ornate architecture, including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and over 1200 monuments, Patan is a must see destination for connoisseurs of fine arts. The main highlight of the city is its durbar square (enchanting melange of palace buildings, artistic courtyards and graceful pagoda temples), Royal Palace complex (former residence of Malla kings of Lalitpur), Krishna Mandir (Nepal’s finest piece of stone architecture) and a cluster of fine pagoda temples and stone statues reflecting consummate skills of Nepalese artists and architects. Another good reason to visit Patan is its fair trade shops, selling superior handicrafts at fair prices and its famous restaurants and hotels where you can stay and explore the myriad squares and courtyards at your leisure.
Once a fiercely independent city-state, Patan is believed to have been found in the third century BC by the Kirat dynasty, later expanded by Licchavis in the sixth century and further expanded by the Mallas during the medieval period. It is said that Kirat KingYalamber or Yellung Hang named this city after himself. There are various monuments and inscriptions that prove its antiquity, namely the four Ashok stupas at the perimeters of the city which have been erected by the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka around 250 BC. 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. The town was ruled by local noblemen until King Shiva Malla of Kathmandu conquered the city in 1597, temporarily unifying the valley. Patan’s major building boom took place under the Mallas in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. It became part of the expanding Gorkha Kingdom in the 18th century after the defeat to Prithvi Narayan Shah. The city also has a long Buddhist tradition which is highly influential on the town’s temples, squares, courtyards and lifestyle itself.
Since antiquity to the present, Patan is one of the places in Kathmandu valley where the medieval arts and architecture still remain in its original state. The city of fine arts is 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. Every palace building, artistic courtyard and graceful pagoda temple of Patan has stored the history of 600 years and the story of city’s journey through time and civilization.
Patan has remained as a living city where time has stopped in its craftsmanship and traditions.