Nepal, up until 2008, was the only Hindu country in the World (now a secular state) where about 80% of the population is Hindu. Perhaps that’s why one can find temples and shrines in every nook and corner of the cities, especially Kathmandu and Patan. Kathmandu (the capital) has been rightfully termed the city of temples, closely followed by neighboring cities – Patan and Bhaktapur.
For followers of Lord Krishna everywhere, the Krishna Mandir of Patan has great architectural and spiritual importance.
Location of Krishna Mandir – Patan Durbar Square
Situated in the center of the city of Lalitpur (Patan) in Nepal, Patan Durbar Square is one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a perfect sample of the Newari Architecture.
History and Origin
It was built by King Siddhi Narasimha Malla of Patan in 1637 AD. Legend says that it was built because of a dream. One night, King Siddhi Narasigh Malla dreamt that the god Krishna and Radha were standing in front of the palace. The King ordered a temple built on the same spot. During a war with a neighboring kingdom a decade later, the King emerged victorious after calling on Krishna to vanquish his enemies. In gratitude, the King built a temple replica inside the Sundari Chauk courtyard.
Krishna Mandir of Patan is perhaps Kathmandu Valley’s finest stone wrought monument. Krishna temple is made in the Shikhara architectural style, a style that is commonly found in what is now known as the Indian Subcontinent. The temple is made of stone, and the carving is finer than that of the other smaller Krishna Mandir at Patan Durbar Square, built by Yogamati, the great-granddaughter of Siddhi Narasimha Malla, in 1723.
Beneath its 21 golden pinnacles are three floors. The first floor enshrines Krishna, the second Shiva, and the third Lokeshwor. Scenes from the Ramayana narrated in the Newari script decorate the temple’s interior.
Its architecture successfully blends two styles: the solidly formed Southern Gupta shikhara form and the open multi-storied style of Moghul.
The craftsmanship of the stone carvers can be seen in the intricate images of gods and the perforated stone screen railings of the passages. There is an open passage on the ground floor, and it is empty inside. A narrow and low passage leads to the center of the first floor.
The first floor is the main area of worship, where a large hall holds an image of Krishna with two consorts, Radha and Rukmini, all beautifully carved out of black stone. The flooring also contains images of the ten incarnations of Vishnu.The delicate stone carvings along the beam on the 1st-floor recount events from the Mahabharata.
The second floor contains an image of Shiva. The hard-to-see beam on the 2nd floor features scenes from the epic Ramayana.
The small fourth floor contains no images now; however, the people say that there was formerly a statue of Avalokitesvara. Perhaps such placement acted as an example of the harmonious blend of Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal.
The steps to the temple’s first floor are narrow and small, and it is not common for the first-timers to hit their head while climbing down the stairs. From the balcony of the first floor, one could look around Durbar Square. The temple is adjacent to the Patan Museum because of which one can glance at the temple from the window of the museum. Viewing with a binocular from the museum window would give a clear view of the idols of Lord Krishna and his consorts enshrined in the temple.
The temple is usually opened at all times, and during the festival of Krishna Janmashtami, large numbers of devotees throng the square to offer worship to Lord Krishna. The temple is beautifully decorated with colorful papers, lights, and flowers during the festival.
People gather around the 17th-century stone temple, which is beautifully decorated and lighted, singing praises of Lord Krishna waiting for the midnight hour. Euphoric prayers and chants fill the air, and small oil lamps are lit as a mark of felicitation and devotion to the deity.