Lalitpur - The Gem of The Mountains
Patan or Lalitpur as it is better known, is believed to have been built over two millennia ago during the reign of the Kirat dynasty.
For all that mankind has achieved, rivaling the beauty and majesty of the Himalayas is an impossible feat. The mountains refuse to be tamed! However, that did not stop the efforts of settlers who repeatedly tried but in the end succumbed to the mighty mountains. And in some parts of the mountain range, people did find a middle path, but, quintessentially human in nature. In Nepal, the men of the mountain settled in the valleys and there, they carved out their empire. Amidst the ravenous terrain, bloomed Nepal’s brightest culture, that of Patan.
Although its actual age has been a subject of contention, Patan or Lalitpur as it is better known, is believed to have been built over two millennia ago during the reign of the Kirat dynasty. Like its age, the city’s name also throws up several stories and theories. The most popular belief is that a farmer named Lalit carried God Rato Machhindranath to the city all the way from the Kamakhya temple in Assam. Years of drought had ended once the god had reached the city, all with the help of a simple farmer, Lalit. Ever since then, Lalitpur has been a bustling, flourishing city. Historians have suggested that the city has at least once been the capital seat of power in all of Nepal. And like the present capital, Katmandu, Lalitpur too boasts of a Durbar Square.
Like the one in Katmandu, Lalitpur’s Durbar Square is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its origins have been debated but most of the architecture suggest, that it along with the ones in Katmandu and Bhaktapur, were built by the Newar people during the 12th and 18th century. The chief attraction is the palace building which housed the ruling Malla kings during their reign. With three main chowks or courtyards surrounded by numerous temples, the Durbar Square is perhaps the best example of quintessential Newari style and architecture. Decorated with elegant carvings, most of them were built in the 16th century under Malla king, Sidda Narasimha Malla.
The techniques and influences reflect the cultural convolution of the time. Ornate works reflecting both Buddhist, as well as Hindu styles and influences can be seen all over the city. Religion played a major role in lives of the people of Lalitpur. All over the city, reflections of a deeply religious past can be seen in sculpture as the city is nestled among beautiful temples dedicated to various gods, mostly Hindu and Buddhist. Of them, the Mahaboudha temple is one of the most popular. The temple is covered with being over a thousand mud-baked terracotta tiles depicting the images of the Buddha and draws in thousands of footfalls. A tour of the Mahaboudha temple is not complete without a visit to its neighbor, the Rudravarna Mahavihar, one of the oldest in Nepal.
The artistic side of a rugged mountain life is fairly reflected in the walls and carvings of the ancient city. However, in Lalitpur, art is not just restricted to structures. For centuries, the city has been famous for its wooden and metal handicrafts. Renowned for its quality, they have been and still are exported all over the world. Along with woodworks, Lalitpur is known to excel in creating magnificent thankas or traditional Buddhist paintings.
Traveling to Lalitpur is fairly easy with it being situated just a few kilometers from Katmandu. The rise in tourism has led to the growth of a buzzing hospitality industry which caters to all kinds of tastes and preferences. On 25th April, 2015, a massive earthquake ravaged the mountain nation and with it brought all sorts of destruction and chaos. Amidst the ruination, major sections of Lalitpur’s Durbar Square, as well as other significant places in the city were severely damaged, some beyond repair. Along with countless homes and lives, the city lost a significant part of its culture and heritage. But even as the wounds begin to heal, the city has shown tremendous strength and resilience in their effort to restore themselves to their rightful place, as the gem of the mountains.