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Kathmandu Patan and Bhaktapur

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October 2nd Patan, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

We left Kathmandu at a sensible time for a short 5km drive to Patan and for once the traffic was not too bad. Once a fiercely independent city-state, Patan is now a suburb of Kathmandu, separated only by murky Bagmati Rv. Many locals call the city by its original Sanskrit name Lalitpur (City of Beauty) or its Newari name, Yala. As we entered we saw one of the Ashoka Stupas which mark the four corners of Patan, symbols of the Buddhist Wheel of Righteousness (Dharma-Chakra). Located at Pulchowk, Lagankhel, Ebahi, Teta, these mounds are crowned with monuments by Ashoka, the Buddhist Emperor of India, erected 250 BC. Three mounds are covered in grass, the 4th (which we passed) is a white mound with a colourful monument. Parking near Durban Square we walked almost immediately into the pedestrianised area with our passes round our necks.
Patan is believed to have been founded in the 3rd century BC by the Kirat dynasty, expanded by Licchavis in the 6th century and again by the Mallas during the medieval period. There are many legends about its name. The most popular one is the legend of the God Rato Machhindranath, who was brought to the valley to overcome the drought. There was a strong belief that the God Rato Machhindranath would bring rain in the valley. It was due to Lalit's effort that the God Rato Machhindranath was settled in Lalitpur. Many believe that the name of the town is kept after his name Lalit and pur meaning township. Several historical records and many legends indicate that Patan is the oldest of all the cities of Kathmandu Valley. The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma-Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness). The four thurs or mounds on the perimeter of Patan are ascribed around, one at each corner of its cardinal points, which are popularly known as Asoka Stupas.
Durbar Square: the ancient Royal Malla Palace of Patan faces onto magnificent Durbar Square. A mass of temples, and the most stunning display of Newari architecture in Nepal. Temple construction was mainly during the Malla period (14-18th centuries), especially in the reign of King Siddhinarsingh Malla (1619–60). We entered from the left (Taleju restaurant), with the octagonal Krishna Temple/Chyasim Deval to our immediate left and statues in front of Sundari Chowk to our right. The traditional gateway to Sundari Chowk features 3 magnificent statues of Hanuman (barely recognisable beneath layers of orange paint), Ganesh with his wife Riddhi and Vishnu as Narsingha/ Narasimha, the man-lion, tearing out the entrails of the demon Hiranyakashyap.
We went past the statues to enter the doorway to the palace via Mul Chowk. Behind the extravagant facade with overhanging eaves, carved windows and delicate wooden screens, are connecting courtyards and 3 temples dedicated to the valley’s main deity, goddess Taleju.
In Hindu mythology the goddess Taleju, or Taleju Bhavani, is the tutelary and wrathful form of the Goddess Durga. Durga is the embodiment of power and source of all other goddesses. She was created by the gods. While they were resting afterr fighting the demons, a demon, Mahishasura, took advantage of their absence to declare himself Lord of Heaven and Ruler of the Universe. On hearing this declaration Vishnu was outraged and “shot forth a terrible light from his forehead” and all the other gods joined in. The light beams converged and from the blazing eruption the Goddess Durga (Manesvari) emerged. Taleju has also been referred to as Kali, another form of Durga known for her destructive nature. In Kathmandu Valley Durga, in the form of Taleju, has a special place of worship in Newar society. In the three cities of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur 5% of Nepal’s people live of which half are Newars. In this society the goddess Taleju is extremely important; she represents the political aspect of the society in
Kathmandu Valley. She is the most important deity, and the goddess to which all other goddesses pay homage. She is the tutelary goddess to the Nepalese Malla kings and the success, greatness, and prosperity of the kingdom is controlled by her. The Malla Kings used the Goddess Taleju to legitimise their rule and succession. The mantra of Taleju is a mark of the ruler’s succession and is very important to receive; if a ruler failed to receive the mantra, he was liable to lose his kingdom. When the Malla kingdoms were conquered by the Shah dynasty, the new king adopted Taleju as his new royal deity, in order to cement his legitimacy to the throne. The Kumari are another form of the Goddess Taleju and are young girls considered to be the human manifestation of the Goddess Taleju. The worshipping of the Goddess Taleju in the form of a young virgin, or Kumari, became a tradition in the Newar society and continues to this day. Many different girls can be worshipped as living Kumaris at the same time and there are three principal Kumaris in the three cities of Bhadgaon, Kathmandu, and Patan.
Bhairab gateway leads to central Mul Chowk courtyard. Inside is flanked by stone lions and colourful murals of Shiva in wrathful incarnation as Bhairab. displays inside highlighted the wood carving for which Patan is famous. Mul Chowk is the largest and oldest of palace’s 3 main chowk (squares). The original buildings, destroyed by fire in 1662, were rebuilt in 1665 by Srinivasa Malla. In the centre of the square is small gilded Bidyapith Temple. The central deity is Yantaju, a form of Durga, and personal deity of Malla kings.
Bhairav gate; Bhairav door, courtyard with Yantaju post, Bidyapith
Gateway between Mul and Sundari Chow (KK in centre); Bidyapith Temple x2

On the south side is Taleju Bhawani Temple, flanked by statues of river goddesses Ganga (Ganges), on a tortoise, and Jamuna, on a makara. The upper galleries have fine carved wooden struts. The interior courtyard had amazing architecture; carved wood everywhere from lintels to latticework, as well as a magnificent central royal “bath” called Tushahity. Tusha Hiti is the highlight of Sundari Chowk, a superbly carved sunken water tank for ritual regal ablutions. Built in 1647, the renovated tank has 72 carved stone plaques depicting Tantric deities. These (in Hinduism, as Buddhists have a slightly different list) are Bhairab/Bhairav (Shiva), Dakini (fierce female spirits), Dattatreya (a 3-headed, 6-handed amalgam of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu), Kubjika (a strong female), Matrikas (fearsome protective mother goddesses), Shiva, Uchchhista ganapati (a unisex fierce form of Ganesha), Barahi (aka Varahi, a mother goddess with a sow’s head, she is the shakti or female energy of Varaha, the boar avatar of Vishnu) and Yogini (female yoga). Tantric deities are depicted as ‘wrathful’, looking angry, but are not evil. Their function is as fierce protectors.
Tusha hiti x2, palace tower. Yanuma, palace door (between goddesses), Ganga.
After circling Mul Chowk, we went past the statues of Ganga and Jamuna, and through a low passage to access Sundari Chowk, equally impressively carved. At the NE corner is tall Degutalle Temple, topped by an octagonal triple-roofed tower. The larger, triple-roofed Taleju Temple is directly north, overlooking Durbar Square, and dedicated to Taleju, the protective deity of the Malla kings. The Royal Palace, which forms the whole east side of Durbar Square, was a 14th Century Royal Palace, expanded in the 17/18th century by Siddhi Narsingh (Narasimha) Malla, Srinivasa Malla, and Vishnu Malla. Some scholars put the origins of Patan Durbar Square back to just after the Licchavi era ended in 879 AD when the Thakuri kings ruled parts of Nepal. The evidence is sparse but it is believed a royal palace of some kind was in Patan Durbar Square at that time. The Pradhana caste are believed to have been associated with the square just before the more famous Malla kings rose to power, but it is in the 1600s during the Malla period that Patan Durbar square truly rose to fame. Patan palace predates Kathmandu and Bhaktapur and is an architectural highlight of Nepal.
Architectural details of the palace; Bhandarkhal hiti
On our way out we noted the recently restored Bhandarkhal water tank, once the main palace water supply, charming meditation pavilion. As we left to return to Mul Chowk we could see Taleju Mandir (behind left) and tall Degutale Temple (behind right), topped by octagonal triple-roofed tower. The larger, triple-roofed Taleju Temple is directly north, looking over Durbar Sq, dedicated to Taleju, protective deity of Malla kings.
On exiting we came back through Mul Chowk into the main part of Durbar Square. Directly in front of us were several important buildings. These were Chyasim Deval aka the Krishna Temple, the Taleju Bell and the Harishankar Temple.
Chyasim Deval Krishna Temple was built in 1637-47 by Siddhi Narasimha. Like its Krishna counterpart to the north, it is built in the shikara style, imported from India. However it is almost totally intact and modest restoration only, now complete, was needed. The attractive octagonal solid granite temple is worthy of a walk around as it is one of the square’s best examples of solid stone temples. Do note the two stone lion guardians at the bottom of the platform steps leading to the first floor. Inside here is the statue to Krishna. Two stone floors above have unique balconies.
Taleju Bell: Facing the palace is a huge, ancient cast iron bell between two pillars by King Vishnu Malla in 1736. Petitioners rang the bell to alert the king. Mounted between two stone pillars it was rumoured to terrify the king’s enemies when it was rung. More likely it was used to signal incoming invaders and later city announcements. Close to it is Hari Shankar Temple, a 3-storey temple to Hari Shankar, a hybrid deity with attributes of both Vishnu and Shiva. Although this sounds odd to us, amalgam deities are not especially unusual in Hinduism (or for that matter in Buddhism and Jainism). Think perhaps of Christians Holy Trinity of God as father, son and spirit, and it’s not such a different concept.
The roof struts (now inside Sundari Chowk where we saw them being conserved) show carved scenes of the torture of the damned. The temple was built in 1704 by Yogamati, the daughter of King Yoganarendra Malla. Although almost destroyed in 2015, the restoration work is going well. We particularly liked the 2 stone guardian elephants standing in front.
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Chyasim Deval; Vishwanath (foreground) and Bhimsen Temples; Taleju Bell; Harishankar Temple (closed for restoration)
Also on the left were two statues on huge pillars, the column of King Yogendra Malla (1685-1704), and the column to Narasimha, the 4th avatar of Vishnu, who incarnates in the form of part lion and part man to destroy evil and end religious persecution and calamity on Earth, thereby restoring Dharma. His Large Vishnu Temple was just behind. Next to it was the tiny Small Vishnu Temple. People all over Nepal grow up believing that Vishnu is the source of all beings and is the ultimate form of benevolence. Vishnu works relentlessly for the welfare of all beings and in doing so takes various forms or incarnations (avatars). The general belief is that Vishnu has so far taken nine avatars, in chronological order are Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasuram, Rama, Krishna and Buddha.
Malla Statue with temple roofs behind; Malla statue with Large Vishnu Temple; statue Narasimha; Taleju temple
The tenth that is yet to come is Kalki. The Narasimha incarnation is based on the legend that a demon king called Hiranya Kashaypu was granted a boon by the gods in return for his long and hard penance. It ensured that he could not be killed during the day or at night, on land nor in the air, nor with any weapon. Furthermore, no man or beast could kill him. Protected by invincibility, he began a reign of terror. Prahlad, the king’s son, happened to be a devotee of Vishnu and with deep faith and prayers, began to challenge his father. The king asked his son where Vishnu was, so he could fight him. patan-museum_50109155782_o.jpgThe son waited till the sun was about to set and took the opportunity to reply that Vishnu was everywhere and in everything. The furious king struck a nearby stone pillar with his sword. Vishnu leapt out of the pillar in the form that was partially god, man and lion - Narasimha. He took the king on his knee, halfway between earth and sky, and disemboweled the demon king with his lion claws, just when it was twilight, neither day nor night.
Large (behind) and Small (foreground) Vishnu Temples; Keshav Narayan Temple in Keshav Narayan Courtyard (now the museum
building); exhibits from Patan museum

The larger Jagan Narayan Temple next door was almost flattened in 2015. This major temple was once the oldest in the square, built in 1566. It used to be used for political speeches.
From here we had an excellent view of the Golden Gate (Sun Dhoka) 1734, an engraved and gilded gate topped by a golden torana showing Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh, and Kumar (an incarnation of Skanda, god of war). Directly above the gateway is a window of gold foil wrapped around a timber frame, where the king once made public appearances.
Golden Gate and Balcony
This part of the palace was rebuilt after conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah 1768, and the 1934 quake. Walking into the north courtyard gave us access to Patan Museum in the section of palace surrounding Keshav Narayan Chowk. This houses one of the best collections of religious art in Asia, an invaluable introduction to the art, symbolism and architecture of Nepal. The collection is displayed in a series of brick and timber rooms, linked by steep/ narrow stairs. Information on each statue, carving, votive object, allows you to put a name the many deities at temples. Interesting displays on techniques, inc repoussé and lost-wax casting. For highlights www.asianart.com/patan-museum. We spent quite a while in here and it was indeed very interesting.
Royal throne of patan; Manga hiti
Coming out we continued past Manga Hiti on our right (remarkably still in use today for locals to bathe and fetch water), to Mani Mandap, and opposite to some excellent Newari wooden houses. Manga Hiti, one of the water conduits with which Patan is liberally endowed, is a cruciform-shaped pool and 3 wonderfully carved dhara (water spouts) in the shape of makara (mythical crocodile-elephants). Heading back we first came to Bhimsen Temple, dedicated to the Newari god of trade and business, and has a prosperous appearance. It was built in 1680 when all three Malla kingdoms were at peace. One of 5 Pandavas from the Mahabharata, Bhimsen is credited with superhuman strength, and is often shown as a red muscleman, lifting a horse or crushing an elephant under his knee. This 3-storey pagoda with unusual rectangular plan is unlike other temples in Patan. Current temple rebuilt 1682 fire, 1934, 2015 earthquakes. Once repairs are complete, non-Hindus should again be able to climb to the upper level (the inner sanctum is upstairs in Bhimsen temples) to view wild-eyed statue of Bhimsen. In front is a ritual fire pit and tall pillar. Next came the larger Vishwanath temple. Vishwanath is a manifestation of Shiva. The 2-tier pagoda temple was built between 1676-78 during a time when King Siddhi Narsingh witnessed the moguls destroy the Vishwanath Temple in Banaras. Today you can view two stone riders on elephants. On west side statue of Shiva’s loyal mount, Nandi, on east 2 stone elephants with mahouts, one crushing a man beneath its foot. When doors open, view the enormous lingam inside. Opposite it is a beautiful Garuda mounted on a column. Next was Krishna Mandir. One of the most remarkable stone temples ever built only took six and a half short years to construct it in 1637. This elaborate temple is dedicated to Krishna and was built by King Siddhinarsingh Malla. Constructed from carved stone, rather than the usual brick and timber, the fabulous architecture was influenced by Indian temple design and is the earliest stone temple in Nepal. The distinctive temple is often depicted on the ornate brass butter lamps hung in Nepali homes. The temple stayed intact from the 2015 earthquake. The temple consists of 3 tiers, fronted by columns and supporting a north Indian–style shikhara. Non-Hindus cannot enter to view the statue of Krishna the goatherd, but you can hear temple musicians playing upstairs. Vishnu’s mount, the man-bird Garuda, kneels with folded arms on top of a column facing the temple. The delicate stone carvings along the beam on the 1st floor recount events from the Mahabharata, while the hard-to-see beam on the 2nd floor features scenes from the Ramayana. The Festival Krishna Jayanta (Krishnasthami) is held here in Nepali month Bhadra (Aug/Sept) for Krishna’s birthday.
Krishna Mandir (with Viswanath behind); Ganesha Temple (north end); Bhai Dega (great vantage point for our photos)
When we got back to the entrance we crossed the road and climbed up a ruined building for a birds eye view of the whole square. Steve bought a little prayer wheel, cheap but good quality.

As we left by car (having been well and truly blocked in and grabbed by a beggar woman) we passed some other interesting buildings. Mahaboudha Temple (Temple of 1000 Buddhas) is modelled after Bodhgaya, India, where Buddha reached enlightenment. Each tile bears the image of Buddha. Built by a priest, Abhaya Raj, in 1585, it was felled by the 1934 earthquake but rebuilt in Indian shikhara style. Next to it Rudra Varna Mahavihar (Ukubahal) Buddhist monastery with temple and courtyard has fine wood, bronze and stone statues. Kings were crowned in this temple in ancient times. The courtyard is jam-packed with statues and metalwork; dorje (thunderbolts), bells, peacocks, elephants, Garudas, goats, kneeling devotees, a Rana general and a pair of Victorian-style British lions that look like they came straight from Trafalgar Square. Golden Temple (Kwa Bahal / Hiranya Varna Mahabihar) was untouched by the earthquake. This unique Buddhist monastery was founded 12th century, and its current form dates to 1409. The temple name is from the gilded metal plates that cover its front, the most beautiful in Patan. Tortoises, the temple’s guardians, potter around the compound. From the east, note the gaudy lions and 1886 signature of Krishnabir, the master stonemason who sculpted the doorway with its frieze of Buddhist deities. A second doorway leads to the main courtyard of the Golden Temple. The main temple priest is a boy under 12, who serves for 30 days before handing the job over to another boy. Two elephant statues guard the doorway and the facade is covered by gleaming Buddhist figures. Inside the main shrine is a beautiful statue of Sakyamuni. Kumbheshwor Temple; 300m north of Golden Temple, is one of two 5-tier temples in Nepal, built by Jayast Hiti Malla in 1391. Two ponds are believed to contain water directly from the holy lake Gosainkunda north of Kathmandu Valley (as we flew over returning from Tibet). Tall, thin mandir (temple) features artistic woodcarving, and seems to defy gravity as it towers above the surrounding houses. Amazingly, this precarious structure survived the earthquake, though the tower now leans slightly. A large Nandi statue and central lingam indicate the shrine is sacred to Shiva. Surrounding square dotted with temples to Bhairab and Baglamukhi (Parvati).
Just outside Patan marketplace we saw Rato (Red) Machhi/endranath Temple to the god of rain and plenty. Down an alley, a white columned gateway leads to open square with Rato Temple. Temple, which like many in Nepal, blurs line between Buddhism and Hinduism.
Buddhists regard Rato Machhendranath as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, Hindus see him as an incarnation of Shiva. Tthe towering 3-storey temple dates from 1673, but a temple has been on this site since 1408. Four ornate doorways are guarded by stone snow lions and
at ground level the four corner plinths have yeti-like demons known as kyah. Mounted on freestanding pillars at the front is a collection of metal animals, a peacock, Garuda, horse, buffalo, lion, elephant, fish, snake. Look up to see richly painted roof struts showing Machhendranath standing above figures being tortured in hell.

Bhaktapur We drove 12 km along the Kathmandu Valley to arrive at the much quieter Bhaktapur. The old part of the city is forbidden to traffic, so we were able to walk up the hill in safety to a restaurant, the Boudha Stupa rooftop restaurant of Hotel Sweet Home http://www.sweethomebhaktapur.com/. We sat on the roof to enjoy the view while eating lunch. Not only did we have a good view of the old city, but in the distance we could see the faint outline of the mountains from Mt Kanchenjunga in the east to the Annapurna Massif in the west. Naturally we finished with the famous juju dhau or Kings curd, a sort of sweeten yoghurt.

Bhaktapur http://bhaktapurmun.gov.np is the best medieval city in Kathmandu Valley. It has narrow stone streets, red brick houses, and hidden temples, boasting the best religious architecture in the area. In fact, there are more temples per foot in Bhaktapur than Kathmandu or Patan. Bhaktapur (भक्तपुर) means "city of devotees" in Nepali, although it can also be translated as "Ancient Newari Town." Other names are Bhadgaon or Khwopa (Newari: ख्वप Khwopa). Founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla, Bhaktapur rose to be a city renowned for culture, crafts and
trading due to its position on the ancient trading route from India to Tibet. Bhaktapur's old city is in four main areas. The most famous is Bhaktapur Durbar Square, followed by Pottery Square, Taumadhi Square and the oldest square, Dyattraya. Bhaktapur was the largest of the 3 Newar kingdoms of Kathmandu Valley and capital of Nepal during the Malla Kingdom until the late 15th century. It’s population is majority Newar. Historically more isolated than the other two kingdoms, Kathmandu and Patan, Bhaktapur has a distinct form of Nepal Bhasa language. It has the best preserved palace courtyards and old city in Nepal. A Magnitude 7.8 earthquake on 25 April 2015 damaged 116 sites in the city; of which 67 were completely destroyed, and 49 damaged including Durbar square and Taleju Temple. Khwapa are masks believed to have been worn by gods/ goddesses and Bhaktapur is famous for mask dances based on the lives of these deities. Bhaktapur's approach to rebuilding has been different than the rest of Nepal. They have concentrated on repairing and rebuilding damaged temples one at a time (roughly). It meant faster repairs. Furthermore, as it's been community driven for funding there's been no waiting for national funding.
After a couple of Gourka beers we set off walking a 5 minute walk to the first part of the old square and Phasidega Temple (Fasidega, literally Pumpkin based on its distinctive, but now lost, roof) Temple. Sadly this Shivan temple was destroyed in 2015. However, the plinth with its 2 guardian elephants, 2 guardian lions and 2 cows, all in beautiful condition. In front were the famous Stone Lions and a Siddhi Laxmi Temple. This 17th century stone temple was badly damaged in the earthquake, but has pretty much now been restored. Stone guardians protect the temple. In pairs they appear on either side of the central staircase on surrounding platforms leading to the small shikhara style temple at the top. What's interesting here is that you will notice that the first pair of male and female human guardians are each holding a child by the hand and a dog on a leash. The children seem to be sheltering slightly while the dogs look eager. The successive platforms have pairs of horses, rhinos, man-lions and camels made from the same pale stone as the rest of the temple.
Fasidega, Stone lions, Fasidega, Siddhi Laxmi, details Siddhi Laxmi steps
This then gave access to the main Durbar (Layaku) Square, filled with beautiful temples, buildings and carvings. Directly in front of us was the Vatsala (Batsala) Durga Temple, which contained the Taleju and Barking Dogs Bells. This was very badly damaged in the earthquake, but has been restored to quite a good point, so we could see it well. This stone temple was constructed by King Jagat Prakash Malla and based on the Krishna mandir in Patan (though much smaller). Vatsala is a sandstone temple dedicated to the goddess Vatsala Devi and includes many carvings. The 3-stepped based leads to a colonnade of 14 octagonal pillars (now re-erected), and 8 octagonal turrets in the form of mini temples (intact but on the ground in front) and 4 small pavilions.The whole structure is shikhara style and was topped with finials (amalakas, kalasha, trident), again on the ground ready for re-erection. It is most famous for its silver bell, known to local residents as "the bell of barking dogs" as when it was rung, dogs in the vicinity barked and howled. The colossal bell was hung by the last King, Ranjit Malla in 1737 AD and used to sound the daily curfew. It was rung every morning when goddess Taleju was worshipped. Despite the Temple being completely demolished by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, the bell remains intact. In front of the temple is a the stone King Bhupatindra Malla's Column.
Malla Column; Pashupatinath exterior, detail and interior shrine.

The Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla in the act of worship facing the palace, is considered the most magnificent of the square’s many statues. On the other side was Pashupatinath Temple (Yaksheswor Mahadev), a ‘mini’ temple to Shiva, built according to a royal dream. The large two-roofed Pashupatinath temple was once part of the royal palace. Built in 1475 by by King Yaksha Malla as a respective replica of the main Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, it however looks nothing like it! Our guide, Keshav, took us towards this wooden building so we could see the wooden struts leading to the first roof up close. They were filled with erotic wooden carvings. These carvings here depict scenes that make the karma sutra seem quite amateurish! Included in all these is a water vessel being held under one person, but no one knows who! The carvings are even more visual than the erotic elephants near the main gates.
Then back to the other side of Vatsala Temple to see the small Chyasalin Mandap (Pavilion of Nine Corners).
Chyasalin, Bell, 55-window palace
Chyasalin is a small 2-storey wooden pavilion. Interestingly guidebooks often labelled it a temple, which is in fact incorrect. It is fact a pavilion. The temple which is in core small temple which was used incorrectly in the past and stuck. Chyasalin Pavilion was originally built in the 17th century Malla Kingdom. Its main purpose was to deflect a powerful ‘force’ coming from the nearby Shiva temple. It was later used as a meeting place, a platform to watch plays/ poetry and a tax office. In the 1934 earthquake Chyasalin was completely destroyed. It was restored during the 1980's. It survived the 2015 earthquake with no damage, due mainly to the decision to insert metal struts (lambasted at the time as inauthentic, but a building saver in the event). King Bhupatindra Malla originally had Chyasalin built to protect 55-window palace as local custom dictated that the Shiva temple had a powerful force emanating from it. Chyasalin pavilion was built with eight sides which means Chyasalin. This was done as it was thought that the octagonal sides would deflect the Shiva temples emanating force from hitting the palace. Chyasalin Mandap's most prominent claim to fame is recorded on a stone plinth beside it. The inscription tells of a poetry competition held there between Bhupatindra Malla and his court.
Although the Palace was right next to us we actually continued first around the square, passing the smaller Shiva Temple and heading to the Krishna/ Dwarka temple, with Badri (Badrinath) Temple (Badrinarayan) behind (both intact). The Krishna Temple houses 3 deities, Satyabhama, Krishna and Radha. Their stone images parade the city in November. Badrinath was one of the first temples restored, in 2016. It is believed that every Wednesday, Badri (a form of Vishnu) Narayana from Badrinath visits this place. So milk pudding (Sweet rice or payasam) is offered on this day. There is an unfinished stone carving of elephant which sweats occasionally when uncalled upheavals and disasters are going to happen in the valley. In front as a Garuda column.
This brought us to the Rameshwar/or Temple, now completely restored. This small temple is an open shrine topped by an ornate dome held up by four pillars. In Gum Baja style it is dedicated to Shiva. The name comes from Ram as an incarnation of Vishnu who built the original temple of Mahadev Rameshwar in South India. Attached to it is a small Gopi Nath/ Jagannath Temple, in 2-roof pagoda style it houses the deities of Balaram, Subhadra and Krishna. Like Rameshwor all repairs, which were minor, are complete.
Shiva temple (scaffolded), Krishna Dwarka Temple, Old Gate
We continued to the Old Town Entrance Gate (Khauma Dwaar), intact, and through to the Shiva Temple. The nearby Shiva Parvati Temple contains the iconic Erotic Elephants. This tiny double-roofed Shiva-Parvati Temple has erotic carvings on its struts, one of which shows a pair of copulating elephants, in the missionary position: Kisi (elephant) Kamasutra. Other animals in romantic state include tortoises, horses and what looks like two llamas!
Re-entering through the entrance gate, aka Lion Gate, we learnt the sad story of the artisans whose hands were said to have been severed
upon completion by the envious Bhadgoun king so that no more of such masterpieces(specifically the 2 lion statues, now moved to outside the Phasidega Temple where we saw them earlier) could be reproduced. Outside the palace buildings, now to our left, were two famous statues, to Ugrachandi Devi and (Ugra)Bharib in Basantapur Chowk.
bhairab-chowk-bhaktapur_50108377278_o.jpgTo the left is the goddess Ugrachandi Devi and to the right is Bharib (a form of Shiva) who features heavily in the Kathmandu Valley. King Bhupatindra Malla commissioned the Ugrachandi sculpture in 1707. It is said that the king was so besotted with the sculpture that he ordered the artists hand to cut off so it could never be duplicated by another king. The sculptor continued to work and made the Bharib sculpture. Sadly after this the king ordered his other hand to be removed! The reasons behind this are that there was a great rivalry between the kings of the valley to have the greatest works of art in their cities. The pair of multiple-armed statues of the terrible god Ugrabhairab and his counterpart Ugrachandi, are the fearsome manifestations of Shiva and his consort Parvati. Ugrachandi has 18 arms holding weapons, and she is in the position of casually killing a Buffalo demon. Bhairab has 12 arms and both god and goddess are garlanded with necklaces of human heads.

This brought us back to the Palace of Fifty-five Windows, a masterpiece of wood carving. We admired the world famous Golden Gate, one of the most intricate and well decorated gates in the world. The 55-Window Palace was the royal seat to 1769, and has elaborate carved windows and doors. Part is now the National Art Gallery.
Key to plan (italics are ruined or destroyed)
1.West Gate 2.Jagannatha tirtha 3.Rameshvara tirtha 4.Kedamatha tirtha 5.Badrinatha tirtha 6.Basanpur pavilion 7.Bhandarkhal +well
8.Shiva 9.Kumari Chowk 10.Malatai Chowk 11.Mul Chowk/Taleju temple 12.Thanthu durbar 13.Golden fountain 14.Bhairava Chowk
15.Golden gate 16.Malla column 17.Taleju Bell 18.Vatsala temple 19.Yaksheshvara temple 20.Octagonal Pavilion 21.55-window palace 22.Siddhilakshmi Shikhara 23.Vatsala Shikhara 24. Shiva temple 25.Harishankar temple 26.Nyatapola 7.Bhairav temple 28.Til Mahadev narayan

Golden Gate and Fifty-five Window Palace. The entrance is flanked by the figure of Hanuman, the monkey god in Tantric form as the 4-armed Hanuman Bhairab, worshipped for strength and devotion.
The Palace of Fifty-five Windows (Pachpanna Jhyale Durbar) was built during the reign of Malla King Bhupatindra Malla 1696-1722 but not completed until 1754 by his son Ranjit Malla. It is still used for ceremonies. Lu Dhowka/ Golden Gate is said to be the most beautiful and richly molded of its kind in the world. The door is surmounted by 4-headed, 10-armed figure of Hindu goddess Kali (as Taleju Bhawani) and Garuda (Vishnu’s griffin mount) dispatching serpents, attended by two heavenly nymphs. It is embellished with monsters and other Hindu mythical creatures of marvellous intricacy.
The gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla and is the entrance to the main palace courtyard. We had to put away our cameras as we went through to the inner courtyards. Around the corner was the entrance to Taleju Chowk and Temple (forbidden to non-Hindus, although we could see everything from the entrance anyway). Interestingly the statues are mainly Tibetan in origin! From Bhairab Chowk we went through to the magnificent royal water tank Naga Pokhari in Mul Chowk. Built in 1678 by Jitamitra Malla from a natural spring the Naga Pokhari (Royal Bath) is also considered a hiti as water pours from a gilded stone water spout into a sunken basin. There are Nagas (god-snakes), encircling the bath. A Hiti is a water basin that is filled from a natural spring through a spout. In 1678 it was a part of a much larger compound which disappeared through the years.
We headed back out of the palace, directly past Pashupatinath Temple, and down the narrow stone lanes to Pottery Square to watch Bhaktapur's famous pottery as it is traditionally made in this idyllic square filled with potters and their wares. Sadly, all the pieces were far too big to take
-worked potters home, so we just admired their skill on the traditional footwheel. Then back up the side streets enjoying handicraft stores, artisans, local cafes and countless ancient buildings. We ended at Taumadhi Square, a huge square with the tallest temple in Nepal. This was Nyatapol(a) Temple with a five-tier roof and ornate exterior stone staircase. Nyatapola in Newari language means five stories, symbolic of the five basic elements. This is the biggest and highest pagoda in Nepal, built with architectural perfection and artistic beauty. The temple's foundation is said to be made wider than its base.
This temple is dedicated to Goddess Shiddhilaxmi. and as bodyguards, statues are in five layers of the base. It is said that it took 3 generations to complete the temple. The temple is famously known as pancha tale mandira. Built between 1701/2 in just 6 months by King Bhupatindra Malla. The struts, doors, windows, and tympana are decorated with carvings of divine figures. The story goes that in 1702 the god Bhairava (Hindu -Bhairab) became angry and caused havoc among the local community. King Bhupatendra Malla prayed to Parvati for help and she came in a dream in the form of Siddhi Laxmi and took Bhairab in the palm of her hand. She then began the construction of a temple (Nyatapola) dedicated to Siddhi Laxmi which would be much larger than Bhairav’s temple and stand close by (actually opposite). Along the stone staircase leading up to the Nyatapola temple are several guardians on either side. The first are Bhaktapur’s strongest men, Jayamel and Phattu, (famous wrestlers) who allegedly had the strength of ten men. Next are two elephants. Then two lions followed by two griffins. Finally there is “Baghini/Toyahagrini” and “Singhini”, the tantric tiger and lion goddesses. Each guardian is said to have ten times the strength of the previous. At the top of the temple is a locked shrine where there is a statue of Siddhi Laxmi said to be the fiercest in all Nepal. The only people every allowed to view it are local priests. You can however view carvings of her on the Torana above the door. Likewise there are 180 roof struts which have depictions of her along with Hindu and Buddhist carvings in line with Newari traditions. Interestingly the Bhairab temple nearby has a highly decorated statue of him but very small in comparison. Many people doubt how such a magnificent temple could have been built in only 7 months, but the Nyatapola temple is one of the few buildings in Nepal with very accurate daily records (Siddhagni Kotyahuti Devala Pratistha manuscript) which documented its construction.
Nyatapola Temple; Bhairav Nath temple
Opposite was the Bhairab Nath temple of Bhairab (the dreadful aspect of Shiva). Built by King Jagat Jyoti Malla in pagoda style, it was later remodelled by King Bhupatindra Malla into 3 stories with a broad front. Dedicated to Kasi Bhairav, the temple of Bhairavnath has a 15cm disembodied head of Bhairav in the inner sanctum. Legend has it that Kasi Bhairav’s head was cut off by a tantric expert in order to keep him in Bhaktapur. Casually stacked against the north wall of the temple are enormous wheels and runners from the chariot used to haul the image of Bhairab around town during Jatra festival. The first temple on this site was a modest structure built in the early 17th century, but King Bhupatindra Malla added an extra storey in 1717 and a third level was added after the 1934 earthquake. A small hole in the temple's central door (below a row of carved boar snouts) is used to push offerings into the temple’s interior; prior to the 2015 earthquake, priests accessed the interior through the small Betal Temple, on the south side of the main pagoda, but this collapsed entirely. The temple’s facade is guarded by two brass lions holding the Nepali flag, the only flag that is not rectangular or square. To the right of the door is an image of Bhairab painted on rattan, decorated with a gruesome garland of buffalo guts. Next to the temple is a sunken hiti with a particularly fine spout in the form of a makara (mythical crocodile-like beast). The small 14th century Temple of Jeth Ganesh, is next door.

From here it was a 10 minute walk to the oldest square in Bhaktapur, Dattatreya Square. Dattatreya Square is dated to the early 15th century, but could well be much older. It is likely that it was the first square used by Nepali royalty, and probably the site of their first palace There is little indication why Bhaktapur Durbar Square took over other than due to its additional size which would have been more suitable for an
expanding kingdom. Dattatreya Square is often called Tachapal Tole (tole means market street in Nepali and still has some old market stalls). The square has an open central area with two main temples along with a smaller one. There are also two museums and a host of side streets leading to markets, monuments and yet more temples.
Dattatreya Square contains Dattatreya temple, a dancing platform with a tall Garuda statue and Bhimsen Temple.
Dattatreya Square
Temples: A.Bhimsen B.Lakshmi Narayan C.Dattatreya (Sattal) D.Vanalayaku (Forest Palace) Math: 1.Sithu 2.Dathu 3.Taja 4.Pujahari 5.Chikanphale 6.Godavari 7.Bardalighar 8.Purano Chota 9.Jangam
Bhimsen rear, Bhimsen front with Lakshmi narayan; Lakshmi Narayan with Garuda coulmn
We first arrived at the two roofed rectangular Bhimsen Temple. It looked so very different to other temples in Nepal and no one knows the exact date of its construction though 1605 is generally agreed. From the dance platform in front, look up into the first floor above the open ground floor. There in the centre is a shrine where a clay image of Bhimsen, the god of trade and commerce, portrayed with a red face, angry eyes and a thick black mustache. We walked through the open ground floor to the back of the temple where there was a very old deep hiti known as Bhimsen Pokhari, which archaeologists say predates the temple. Back at the platform in front of Bhimsen temple is a column with a Naga at the top. Bhimsen temple is undergoing renovation work, which is nearly complete. Next to it was Laxmi Narayan Temple, a small two-tiered temple dedicated to Laxmi/Narayan. Finally, in the quiet square was Dattatreya Temple, one of the oldest in Bhaktapur, with a tall Garuda column. The temple was built in pagoda style in 1427 by King Yaksha Malla (1428-82), and restored in 1548 by King Vishwa Malla. It’s said to be the only temple in Nepal dedicated to Dattatreya who is part of the trinity of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Legend tells of the temple being built using the timber from a single tree (similar to Kasthamandap in Kathmandu). The front area is a little di!erent from the rest as it was added later. The base of the temple has several erotic carvings and (like Nyatapol) is guarded at its base steps by statues of the Rajput wrestlers Jayamel and Phattu (Jaimala/ Pata). There is also a chakra.
Dattatreya temple
Behind the Dattatreya temple were Pujar Math (Woodcarving Museum) / Brass and Bronze Museum, standing opposite each other. We noticed a puppet looking out from one of the top windows of the woodcarving museum! This lovely math (monastery) was built in 1763 and converted to the museum quite recently. On down the lane was the famous Peacock window set high in a wall (dated 1548). The window is said to have been made in the 15th century and sometimes referred to as the "Mona Lisa" of Nepal.
We now walked back towards Tripura-sundari Temple (a Char Dham temple to the 4 great Hindu deities) and ending at the pond (pokhari) Siddha Pokhari or Ta Pukhu on the main crossroads. Once Bhaktapur had numerous ponds or pukhus. Today, there still are 33 of them in the city. Siddha Pokhari or Ta Pukhu (Big Pond) located at Dudhpati (at the entrance of the city), is said to have been built in the 15th century during the reign of King Yaksha Malla. It becomes a focal point during the Dashain festival (Oct-Nov). Considered to be the oldest pond in Bhaktapur, it measures 275 x 92 meters and there are quite a lot of fish in it.
Entrance to Palikhel Dhunge Dhara (stone water spout); side view Nyatapola Temple
Festivals Bhaktapur is known as a city of festivals. Some unusual ones include Gathamaga chary or straw devil festival. Locals make gathamaga dolls which they burn to remove devils. It is said that a mosquito loses its one leg this day. Gunla Panchadan, the 10th month of Nepal (Aug/Sept), is a sacred month dedicated to Buddha and celebrated in Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur. In Bhaktapur, the last day has 5 Buddhas brought to Taumadhi square accompanied by Gunla Baja, an instrument played only today as Buddhas are walked around Bhaktapur. Pulu Kisi (Indra Jatra) puppets tell the story of Pulukisi. The son of Lord Indra of heaven was kidnapped by a devil named Maisasur who tied him to a pole and killed him. Indra sent an elephant, Pulukisi, to find and kill Maisasur.

We now drove back towards Kathmandu to go to Swayambhunath Stupa (often called Monkey Temple, due to the number of monkeys living there), a crowning glory of Kathmandu Valley architecture. The perfectly proportioned monument rises from the whitewashed dome to a gilded spire, from which the four faces of Buddha stare across the valley in cardinal directions. The nose-like squiggle below the piercing eyes is the Nepali number ek (1), signifying unity, and above a third eye signifies the all-seeing Buddha. The entire structure is symbolic: the white dome represents earth (as in the entire world), while the 13-tiered, beehive structure at the top symbolises the 13 stages humans pass to nirvana (or Buddhahood). The base of the central stupa is ringed by prayer wheels embossed with the sacred mantra om mani padme hum (hail to the jewel in the lotus).
Pilgrims circuiting the stupa spin each one as pass. Fluttering above are 1000s of prayer flags, with mantras, said to be carried to heaven by the winds. Set in ornate plinths around the top are statues representing the Dhyani (Pancha or 5) Buddhas; in each plinth all 5 are depicted, but each direction has a different main one. These are: Vairocana (occupies the centre and is the master of the temple), Ratnasambhava (faces the south and represents the cosmic element of sensation), Amitabha (represents the cosmic element of Sanjna (name) and faces West), Amocha Siddhi (Amoghasiddhi- represents the cosmic element of confirmation and faces the north), Aksobhya (faces the east and represents the cosmic element of consciousness); (ie the 5 qualities of Buddhist wisdom), and their shakti (consorts). Swa(o)yambhunath Stupa is often called Monkey Temple due to the large number of monkeys that live around it in the parkland / woods. There is a large pair of eyes on each of the four sides of the main stupa which represent Wisdom and Compassion. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye. It is said that when Buddha preaches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye which acts as messages to heavenly beings so that those interested can come down to earth to listen to the Buddha. Although hellish beings and beings below the human realm cannot come to earth to listen to the Buddha's teaching, the cosmic rays can relieve their suffering when Buddha preaches. Between the two eyes (also called Wisdom Eyes), a curly symbol, symbolising the nose, is depicted (it looks like a question mark), which is the Nepali sign of number one. This sign represents the unity of all things existing in the world as well as the only path to enlightenment through the teachings of Buddha.
We parked outside and walked into the lower level, which has an abundance of monuments. A small statue in the centre of a pool was the focus of a ritual to toss a coin to land in its hands. After a lot of throws both of us managed! Then it was on up the steps to some religious stalls, where we purchased a beautiful hand made singing bowl (which was great fun to home as it ruined every X-ray attempt!).
ad579720-cc2f-11eb-9cc2-095120405193.pngAn interesting game called Bagh-Chal "Tiger game" was shown to us. This strategic two-person board game originates in Nepal. The game is asymmetric in that one player controls 4 tigers and the other player controls up to twenty goats. The tigers’ hunt’ the goats while the goats attempt to block the tigers movements. Much of Swayambhunath’s iconography comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Newar Buddhism. However, the complex is also an important site for Buddhists of many schools, and is also revered by Hindus. The entire valley was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus. The valley came to be known as Swayambhu, meaning “self created”. The name comes from an eternal self existent light (svyahu) over which a stupa was built.
Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning raised the hill which the stupa stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and his head lice transformed into these monkeys. Manjusri had a vision of the Lotus at Swayambhu and traveled there to worship it. To make the site more accessible to human pilgrims, he cut a gorge at Chovar. The water drained out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The Lotus was transformed into a hill and the flower became the stupa. Swayambhunath is among the oldest religious site in Nepal. According to the Gop#lar#java!$#val%, it was founded by the great- grandfather of King M#nadeva (464-505 AD), King V&sadeva, confirmed by a damaged stone inscription at the site, which indicates that King Vrsadeva ordered work done in 640. Emperor Ashoka is said to have visited the site in the third century BC and built a temple on the hill which was later destroyed. Although the site is Buddhist, the place is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. Numerous Hindu monarch followers are known to have paid their homage to the temple, including Pratap Malla, the powerful king of Kathmandu, who is responsible for the construction of the eastern stairway in the 17th century. The stupa was completely renovated in 2010, by the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Centre of California.
Overall view of stupa; Ajima Temple
At the top of the hill was the large stupa itself, surrounded by other small buildings and covered with monkeys. We watched the sun set behind the hills and set off back down to the car. The driver, Mr. Ram, took us back to the hotel in Kathmandu and agreed to collect us the next morning at 8am. We offered our travelling companion Salvador dinner with us at Northfield cafe and enjoyed a pleasant evening with live music in the background.

Posted by PetersF 15:28 Archived in Nepal Tagged temples nepal kathmandu bhaktapur patan

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