By Razen Manandhar
Asmall but rich in uniqueness city lies just six kilometres south of the capital. The city of Patan or Lalitpur, named Yala in local language, was a separate state three hundred years ago and the kings ruled from the Patan Durbar Roayl Palace till Nepal was conquered by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1769.
The Patan Durbar Square is called Chaukot Durbar and Mangal Bazaar, which is derived from Manigla or Manigvala, the ancient name of the palace. It is no less significant than that of the Hanumandhoka of Kathmandu though it is smaller in spatial distribution.
Probably there had been a administrative office by the 7th century as the King Narendra Dev had addressed the area as Yupa Grama in his writing. A chronicle adds that a 11th century king Bara Dev started living in the palace as his father abandoned the throne. Similarly, contexts that King Rudra Dev constructed different courtyards in the palace by 1170 AD but lacks strong conformations.
On the foundation of chronicles, what today is seen there is mostly the creation of three of the prominent kings of the state of Patan King Siddhinarasimha Malla, Sri Nivas Malla and Yog Narendra Malla in 1619 to 1705 AD.
The present status of the Durbar Square has three courtyards - Mani Keshar Chowk, Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, the Bhandarkhal Garden and Kamal Pokhari in its complex.
The major temples can be found in and around the palace are : Bhai Degaa, Maharani Pokhari, Octagonal Krishna Temple, Shiva Pagoda, Hari Shankar Temple, Shiva Temple, Narshimha-Vishnu Temple, Jagat Narayan Temple, Krishna Temple, Vishwonath Temple, Bhimsen Temple, Mani Ganesh Temple, Degutale Temple, Taleju Temple, Shiva Pagoda, Ganesh idol, Hanuman idol and Hanuman idol.
The Big bell, Statue column of King Yognarendra Malla, Statue column of Garuda, Mangal Water spout are also the parts of the complex. Besides, the public building of Taha Phalcha, Aayoo Guthi House and the platform of Mani Mandap also have their significance being the public places which shows the cultural proximity the palace permits to the public.
The Patan Museum is sophisticated but it also stands as an example of the intrusion of the foreign technology in conservation of the archaeological monuments. Many archaeologists objected in the form the conservationist gave to the inner courtyard of the Keshav Narayan Chowk.
Further, Shiva Pagoda Temple, Temples of Saugal, Ibahabahil, Machendranath, Minnath, Purnachandi, Kwalakhu area, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, Kumbheshwor, Chapat Ganesh Rudra Varna Mahavihar and Mahaboudha Temple are some other temples which are close to the historic palace and they all combine to make the Durbar Square a zone of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But though, this Durbar Square is waiting for conservation. Shops for modern appliances are rented in the Durbar Square and a rows of curio shops, squat upon the main area. One side of the palace is used as a school whereas the other side is left idle, after using it as a district court. The precious doors and windows are decaying and the local Royal Palace Protection Office, a section of Department of Archaeology is waiting for budget to renovate the heritage zone. The masterpiece Tusaa Hiti or Sundari Chowk is closed for several years afer a constly documentation, in the pretext that some international agency would come and renovate it for our sake.
Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City started levying entrance fee from the tourists in Janaury 2000. Out of the money, it has recently stated renovating several temples outside the palace. But Department of Archaeology is yet to show its existence in the World Heritage Site. The modern buildings are rising in the vicinity against the Protected Monument Zone Act. The whole complex is standing without a single security personal to safeguard the mass of priceless monuments.
Amazingly, it is one of the most favoured platform for the Cummunist leaders to hold mass meeings. Even the radicals, who show their existance by dismantling historic temples in remote districts, choose the velnerable zone to hoist cycle-and-hammer flag on temples being renovated.
"In 1997 work on heritage conservation plan for Patan began with funding from the German Technical Corporation (GTZ) under its Urban Development through Local Efforts programme. Its publication, Patan heritage Conservation Action Plan, 1998, was prepared by Sandy Kentro Associates. This provides detailed suggestions for strategic, physical, and managerial planning with significant inputs also from the Department of Archaeology, but fails to relate its own recommendations to the historical background of earlier planning proposals for the Patan World Heritage Monument Zone," states an evaluation report of International Safeguarding Campaign for the Kathmandu Valley 1979-2001.