Friday, 18 May 2007


Today Kathmandu Valley is a quite urbanised place where there is never very far between towns and cities. But in old times it contained several rival empires each based in their own capital city. One of Kathmandu's rivals was Patan on the other side of the river Bagmati. Today they have grown together to form one metropolitan area.

Kathmandu is not the only town to have a Durbar Square. This is Patan's Square which is even more filled with history. On the left you see a number of temples, most in classical Newari style. To the right is the Royal Palace now home to the excellent and highly recommendable Patan Museum. I will get back to that in my next post. As you can see I went to Patan on a bit of a dark and dreary day, but that did not take away from the beauty of the place, although it doesn't translate as well into pictures as it would with a clear blue sky.

Even more so than Kathmandu every square metre of Patan is packed with a rich historical, artistic and architectural heritage. I especially took note of a long series of fierce and gruesome statues and masks. Here is one of a fierce green Hindu goddess. Would any of my readers happen to know who this is? (Update: In comments Jeet has told me that it might be Kali, and I think he is right)

Personally I find this carving of an extremely skinny goddess with a garland of decapitated human heads around her neck even more frightening. Click to enlarge and see the horror up close. Again I ask if anyone knows who this is? Probably Kali like above.

Torture of thee damned shown at Hari Shankar Temple, which has many such carvings. This one shows a man being hit in the head by a big axe.

Nearby mythical crocodiles, called makara, dispense water for the thirsty at the water tank of Manga Hiti.

It's not all scary scenes. This is the Kwa Bahal, also known to traveller's as the Golden Temple making it the second Golden Temple I have seen on the subcontinent. The first one was in Amritsar.

Some charming old buildings by the water.

A typical and charming house facade of Patan. Click to see all the little details including the Buddhist frescoes over the small door.

Another view of Patan's Durbar Square. This picture shows the interesting mix of temple architecture here. Most is in traditional Newari style, but there are a couple of clearly Indian-inspired temples here also, including the Visnu Temple to the extreme left and the big stone Krishna Temple to the right of the tall column.


Oxhomiya Jeet said...

Hi Esben, I'm guessing that is the goddess Kali (third pic from the top).


Esben said...

I think you are right on! Thanks.

Oxhomiya Jeet said...

The entry on Kali in Wikipedia is quite informative. Check it out.


Oxhomiya Jeet said...

Looking closely at the last pic (Patan Square), I can see posters on the pillar in the centre. Crazy huh? Even more upsetting was the grafitti you photographed in some ancient temple in India.

Esben said...

Yes, there are some posters there, but I must say that on the whole I think Nepalis are MUCH better at respecting and preserving their heritage than Indians. Nowhere did I see any young Nepalis carving their name on old temples, and neither did I see any traces of such vandalism, unlike in India where there is hardly any monument where you DON'T see thid.

In fact when I caught some young guys in the act of vandalism at Golconda I could feel my blood boil and I angrily confronted them. They stopped for a while, mostly out of sheer surprise over this upset foreigner talking to them, but there was not the slightest trace of embarrassment or regret in their eyes, and I KNOW that they continued doing it as soon as I left. Unfortunately the staff there didn't seem very interested in doing anything about it. Very sad experience.