Lal­it­pur - The Gem of The Moun­tains

Distinguished Magazine - - CONTENTS - PRATIK ROY CHOUDHURI

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.

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