The ancient name for Patan was Lalitpur which translates to 'City of Beauty' and is located 3 km southeast of Kathmandu and on the southern banks of the Bagmati River. Built during the reign of Veira Deva in 299 AD, it is the oldest of the three cities of ancient Kathmandu Valley. Like the two other Durbar Squares ( Palace Complexes ) of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, the Durbar Square of Patan is the major attraction for not just tourists but even the local inhabitants. Laid out on a circular format, Buddhist stupas guard the sanctity of the city at four points.
The city is home to numerous Buddhist monuments and Hindu Temples. The fine bronze gateways, guardian deities and wonderful carvings are the work of master craftsman like metal workers and artisans. Patan is popularly referred to as the 'City of Artists'. The skill and workmanship of these skilled craftsman have been handed down from generation to generation and not just simply taught in some commercial art school; it is a father to son inheritance.
The small houses that line the narrow cobbled streets are home to generations of craftsmen who have lived in close proximity of a city that they created. Within the Durbar Square lies the Krishna Mandir, a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, which is the major draw of Patan. The temple was built by King Siddhi Narsingha Malla in the 16th century and is deemed the supreme example of Nepali artisanship in creating multiple forms of temple craft. The temple's frieze ( the upper borders ) have been carved to emulate scenes from the four Ashoka Stupas and is situated in the four corners of the city. This is believed to have been built by Emperor Ashoka, the Buddhist monarch of ancient India.
The Hiranya Varna Mahavihar is a Buddhist monastery built by King Bhaskar Varma in the 12th century when he reigned the city of Patan. This monastery has brilliant gold-plated roof, a courtyard with numerous prayer wheels and an intricately decorated three-storied temple.
Another prominent Buddhist shrine is the Mahbaudha Temple which is often called the 'Temple of a Million Buddhas' because of the 9000 Buddhas carved on the bricks of the edifice. This temple is a fine example of terracotta craftsmanship. This temple was built by the ancient priest of Patan, Abhaya Raj.
Situated near the Patan marketplace is the renowned Machhendranath Temple built in the pagoda style architecture. For six months of the year, the temple houses the fine clay image of the Red Machhendranath.
Despite surrounding urbanization and present day influences, Patan still retains the old world splendour and mysticism. The people, the architecture, food and culture can still engage your senses to transport you back to the rich bygone era. A walk through the narrow cobbled alleyways to enter the heart of Patan Durbar Square is an experience never to be missed.