Patan in the Kathmandu Valley : An Architectural Treasure of Nepal

A land ruled by many dynasties, Nepal is one fascinating destination to explore the cultural magnetism, religious practices, unique architectural treasures and its mysteries. Nepal has a glorious history and an enriching cultural heritage. This is one of the unique countries in Asia wherein the ancient culture is preserved carefully. Popularly known as a trekker’s paradise, Nepal has much more to offer to the world than the Mount Everest. Nepal overwhelmed me with its rich cultural legacy. More than anything, Kathmandu valley alone is a treasure trove for ancient architectures that tell fascinating stories from the past.

My very first tryst with the ancient architectures happened when I decided to explore the oldest settlement of Kathmandu valley known as Patan. Around 7 km away from the bustling city of Kathmandu, Patan welcomes you to its vibrant Durbar Square, adorned with the finest collections of Buddhist and Hindu temples, intricately designed palace and surrounded by the Newari houses on those tiny alleys. The very first impression of Patan Durbar Square was rather intriguing and it instilled an inherent curiosity to know more.

The spectacular amalgamation of architectural finesse is what Patan signifies and due to which it has become one of the most inviting places in the country for the historians, artists and writers. At the very first glance, it seems too much to absorb. But as you settle down in the chaos and look around, it creates an urge to dig out more about this oldest settlement.

City with many names

The ancient city of Patan was known by different names in different periods, like Lalitpur, Patan and Yala. The word Lalitpur means Beautiful City (Lalit means Beautiful and Pur means City). It is said that because of its very beauty, attractive and unique architectures, the city was named as Lalitpur. It is also said that the city was a flourishing trade centre in ancient time and that’s why it was called Pattana, which means trade centre. In Newari language, it is known as Yela De , which means a lovely town.

Turning pages in history

When we talk about the origin of the city of Patan, there are several versions available by the historians and scholars. Many of them stated that Patan’s history dates back to 250 BC, when the emperor Ashoka had visited Nepal during the pilgrimage and constructed four earthen mounds in the city, which are still existing and are known as Ashokan Stupas. But many believe that it was the Kirats, who are the aborigines of the north-eastern Himalayas, came to Nepal around 700 BC and ruled. The Kirat king by the name of Yalamber built a palace in the city of Patan on the bank of the sacred Bagmati River, from where he used to rule the country. It is said that king Yalamber defeated Bhuvan Singh, the last king of the Ahir dynasty and established Kirat rule in Nepal. During his kingdom, the powerful king Yalamber extended his kingdom as far as the Tista River in the east and the Trishuli in the west. He made Patan his capital and later he named it after his name –Yala.


Also Read : “Once Is Not Enough”, The Photo Blog About Nepal


The recorded history of Patan states that it begins from the Lichhavi period and the many inscriptions mention about the settlements, royal decrees, construction of temples, chaityas and other monuments. It is believed that it was during the Lichhavi dynasty, Patan saw the massive constructions of architectures and the constant development of the city to establish it as the centre of trade and commerce.

The Patan continued to flourish during the Malla dynasty. During the 13th-18th centuries, the Malla kings created its extraordinary architectural legacy in the city. The Malla rulers were said to be the great connoisseur of art. The Sikhara style temple, typical Nepalese multi-tiered “pagoda” temple, palace or other monuments belong to Malla dynasty. The Nepalese architectures reached its zenith during the Malla period. In other words, more than 80% of the existing monuments belong to the Malla dynasty and are confined to the Kathmandu valley. It was due to the skilled craftsmen and artisans, these unique architectures were built to perfection and became the identity of this Himalayan country in the world.



Large concentrations of Hindu temples are found in the Patan Darbur Square because of the Hindu origin of the Malla rulers. The beautification and preservation of the historical monuments were very much evident in Malla kings. The best part of these dynasties, specially the Lichhavi and Malla was that the rulers had the urge to develop and maintain the cultural heritage of Nepal. Patan became the supreme centre of importance until the valley capital was shifted to Kathmandu with the arrival of King Prithivi Narayan Shah, who created a unified Nepal which was ruled by his descendants for the next two and a half centuries.

What all to see in Patan

Patan Durbar Square

The main attraction of the ancient city is the Patan Durbar Square. The bustling square is dotted with Buddhist and Hindu temples, palace and surrounded by the Newri architectures. Enlisted as the World heritage site, this courtyard is an amalgamation of the finest collection of architectural treasures. The square has three courtyards like the Keshab Narayan Chowk, Mul Chowk and Sundari Chowk.

One can see the masterpiece of Newari architectural designs here in the temples and palace with intricately designed wood carvings. The grandeur of the architecture of Patan Palace is absolutely eye-arresting. The palace belonged to the Malla kings, which is now converted into a Museum. Whether it is the courtyards, finest wood carvings, pagoda styled temples, or typical Newari door and windows, each corner shouts loud about the spectacular amalgamation of architectural excellence.

Temples in Patan

The Patan Durbar Square has the maximum number of Hindu temples. Among them the three storied stone temple, built by King Narasingha Malla in the 16th century AD was the prominent one. The beautiful Krishna Mandir is one of the top attractions in the square. The temple is one of the finest specimens of Newari craftsmanship where the important scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics have been intricately engraved on its friezes.

It also houses 21 spires known as the Chyasin Deval. Another important temple in Patan is the famous Golden temple located at the Kwabahal Tole of Patan. The temple is also known as the Hiranya Varna or Suwarna Mahavihar, built in the 12th century by the King Bhaskardav. With copper plated facade, surrounded by a courtyard, the golden temple is another fine example of courtyard temple architecture in Nepal. The Mahabouddha Temple is the first Buddhist temple  built by a commoner named Pundit Abhaya Raj Shakya, who was an ardent follower of Buddhism. It took him 36 years to build the temple after getting inspired by the Mahaboudhdha temple in Bodhgaya, India. The temple is designed in the Hindu Shikara style and is a masterpiece of brick and tile. It has five golden pinnacles. Apart from these prominent ones, the Durbar square is decorated by other famous temples like Bhimsen Temple, Manga Hiti, Vishwanath Temple, Jagatnarayan Temple, Red Machhindranath Temple, Hiranya Varna Mahavibar, Kumbeshwar temple, etc.

Statue of Yog Narendra Malla

The statue of Yog Narendra Malla with a snake canopy and a golden bird on top is one imposing statue which can’t be ignored. The Malla King ruled Patan between 1684 AD and 1705 AD and during his reign, he added many structures to the city. He was believed to be a religious man who had a strong faith in religion which led him to build many temples in Patan. He also initiated many festivals in the city. The single stone pillar statue of Yog Narendra Malla, facing the Taleju Bhawani Temple is one unmissable statue in Patan Durbar Square.

The Narrow Lanes of Patan

When in Patan, go beyond the Durbar Square and the temples to see the lifestyle of the Newari people on those tiny alleys. It was surely a rewarding experience for me to walk on cobblestone streets dotted with the Newari houses. It gives you glimpses of the life in the old settlement, the markets, people and much more.

The south of the Patan Durbar Square was cluttered with shops selling copper, brass and bronze ware. Later I was told that Patan houses the skilled artisans from the Newari community. They have many sub-castes who are experts in different fields. Among them, the ‘Tamrakars’, are mainly concentrated in Kathmandu valley, but mostly the inhabitants are found in the heart of Patan.




The word ‘Tamrakars’ comes from the word “‘Tamo’ or ‘Tamot’, which in the Nepalese language means copper. I also tried striking a conversation with the humble Nepalese people. Patan houses some of the best local restaurants for authentic Newari food. I visited one of the restaurants facing the Patan Durbar Square to have their famous Nepalese momos. It is undoubtedly worth trying whenever you are in Nepal.

If there is anything that left me awestruck in Nepal, then it has to be the Patan Durbar Square. I haven’t seen such depository of medieval culture and architectural treasure anywhere. I was captivated by the finest work of art, exquisite presentation of artist imagery and the craftsmanship of the Newari artisans. Each structure tells fascinating tales from different dynasties that has shaped Nepal. In spite of various rulers from different dynasties, the development of art and architecture got the highest attention in Patan. Each ruler of the Lichhavi period to the present day is keen on preserving and maintaining the ancient architecture that gives Patan an undivided attention.


Getting There

By Taxi : The easiest way to reach Patan is to hire a prepaid taxi from anywhere in Kathamandu city. It takes hardly half an hour without traffic. The distance between Kathmandu city and Patan is around 7 KM.


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21 Comments

  1. MyLine

    Nepal has always been in one of my very many bucket lists! The photos of those monuments are insanely flooded with art, I also love how ornate each building is! I hope to visit these places soon! Thank you so much for this blog, makes me more encouraged to travel and really explore Nepal soon!
    MyLine recently posted…Best Places to Shower on the RoadMy Profile

    Reply
  2. Marchus Shane

    Though Nepal is a small country, it has a great variety of beautiful and wonderful scenery which includes the Terai, the hill, and the mountain. The mountains are uniquely popular among mountaineers, trekkers, etc. Nepal experiences all the three major climatic conditions in the world i.e. tropical hot, temperate cool and sub-polar cold. Nepal is also rich in biodiversity. It consists of a lot of rare species of plants and animals. Nepal is rich in natural beauty. Its culture is also renowned for its diversity. It has many green forests, beautiful waterfalls, snow-capped mountain peaks, artistic temples, simmering rivers, fine flora, and fauna, etc. those lure tourists to visit Nepal.
    Patan Dubar Square is one of the historical places that any visitors traveling to Nepal must have to visit there in order to know the history out there. There are also so many places that are encapsulated with the history around in Nepal.

    Reply
  3. Trek the Himalayas

    Wow. Patan seems like an amazing place to be on Nepal. I never knew about Patan so much. Thank you so much. When I visit Nepal for trekking next time, I would love to visit Patan as well.
    Anyone else interested in trekking?

    Reply
  4. Dil Gurung

    Namaste Parnashree
    Thank you so much for sharing a beautiful article about the Patan Durbar square, ruled dynasty, and nearby areas but you have forgotten to add places called Mahabouddha which also highlights of the Patan day tour

    Reply
  5. Bella Smith

    Explore the Patan near the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal if you are heritage and history lover. The beautiful description of the attractions along with the amazing pictures can be found in the blog. The historical information’s, tourist sites and the ruling dynasties information turns out this blog to be very knowledgeable.

    Reply
  6. Mirela

    Nepal and Kathmandu valley never stop to amaze me, hope to follow your footsteps in a matter of no more than an year if I am lucky, great post, thanks for sharing

    Reply
  7. sumit

    Nepal is so beautiful. And peoples of Nepal are so loveable. Great memories of Nepal trip.

    Reply
  8. Yukti

    Nepal always interests me, due to lots of ancient temples and hindu culture. I was only knowing about Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, but never knew this beautiful place Patan. The temple in Patan looks very magnificient and has rich heritage associated with it. Besides temple, there are also other things to see like those narrow lanes, painted houses and local culture of that place.

    Reply
  9. Nathan

    Nepal is such an intriguing country with influences from the Himalayan culture as well as the neighbouring Indian peninsula. I would love to visit and admire the beautiful rustic architecture that can be seen all over the country. Patan seems like the prime place to check this out, so I’d love to visit as well.
    Nathan recently posted…Vientiane Itineraries: Royals and Commoners (Western Circuit)My Profile

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  10. Arnav

    The history behind such places always intrigues me, and you seem to have narrated it down perfectly, and have managed to generate the curiosity to visit Patan. Nepal has been there on the cards for a long time, but still haven’t been able to take a trip there .Hoping for a trip to Nepal soon.
    Arnav recently posted…What to EAT when you are Hungry in HUNGARY ? The Budapest Food GuideMy Profile

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  11. Dada

    I haven been to Katmandu and Patan in 2014 and I must say that you have captured this chaotic but yet beautiful very well. I have to be honest, I have forgotten all the intriguing history of Patan so I am happy to stumble upon your post! Your post really brings back all the memory of Nepal!
    Dada recently posted…The Apricot blossoms trail in Saxon, SwitzerlandMy Profile

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  12. Rhiannon

    Did you visit before or after the earthquake? I was there a few years before – in 2012 – and like you I absolutely fell in love with Patan Durbar Square and the surroundings! I spent the whole afternoon just wandering around the little alleyways, getting lost. However, one of my bosses in work is from Nepal and he showed me some photos his cousins took of Patan after the earthquake. It was so sad to see so many of the beautiful structures collapsed and in ruins! I’d be interested to see how much repairs have been done in the years since, hence wondering if your visit was before or after

    Reply
  13. Stella Jane

    Patan seems like an amazing place to visit! I can see why you call it an architectural treasure. The Patan Durbar Square would be the centerpiece of any city. I liked reading about the different names the city has had. I can see why it has been called Beautiful City.
    Stella Jane recently posted…A Perfect 24 Hours in Buenos AiresMy Profile

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  14. Val

    I visited Kathmandu a few years ago but not Patan and it’s such a shame because it sounds really interesting. The temples look amazing, I could spend literally hours taking pictures of every single detail!

    Reply
  15. Lisa

    I loved reading this post, mainly because I’ve never been to Nepal, and not sure I’ll ever get there. I can see why you were mesmerised by Patan Durban Square, I too feel the same way after seeing your photos. An incredible and vibrant place to visit.

    Reply
  16. Marcie

    I can’t get over how ornate each building is! I’ve heard of Kathmandu, but not Patan specifically. I’d love to shop down those lanes in Patan just to see what’s offered. But, I think exploring the temples would be top of my list!

    Reply
  17. Iman Mitra

    First of all, thanks to Parnashree Devi for sharing your story. You gave an idea to those who are planning to visit Kathmandu valley. Travel Gujju appreciates your story. It’s truly amazing to know about Patan and its architectural treasures.

    Reply
  18. Visiit

    Wow, amazing photography with great information, I love this kind places.
    Thanks for these amazing article!!!

    Reply
  19. Bharat Veer

    Amazing blog post. thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply

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