There is the bathing well, (tusha hiti) of King Siddhi Narasimha Malla in Sundari Chok with its gilded garuda spout. Or, a large display of a gilded pair of the Buddha’s hands, ‘calling the earth to witness’, depicting the moment he attained enlightenment.
In these days of quick-fix concrete and steel, visitors sense a dwindling appreciation of lingering around a water well, resting on a courtyard ledge, or leaning in to admire the intricate carvings of a temple’s eaves.
Which is why it is important to accept the invitation to spend a day at the museum, to explore, to rest, to compose one’s impressions of the city, and even rekindle the divine spark with greenery, nourishing food and inspiring architecture.
Monuments are kept alive by their relevance to the community. In Nepal, they have been maintained by devotion: annual rites and festivals that ensure places of worship are regularly tended to and repaired by devotees. In cases where monuments are given into state care, they have often fallen into disrepair.
Luckily, the team led by Austrian architect Götz Hagmüller that was given the charge to restore Patan Durbar in the 1990s, took to the task with an intention to turn the palace complex into a self-sustaining cultural institution, capable of withstanding not just natural shakeups but also political instability.
In its modernisation into a world-class cultural treasure, the palace complex underwent a significant rearrangement to house not only artifacts, but a constant flow of people within what would once have been quiet, private quarters of the royal court. Amid the mostly faithful restoration of the palace to its Malla heritage, the Patan Museum also features a clutch of modern elements: new materials and motifs seamlessly worked into the intricate historical fabric of the East Wing’s Malla and Rana styles. As part of the rearrangement, a graceful timber staircase leads from a new foyer to a stunning display of iconic tundaal: intricately carved timber struts featuring deities in various poses.
The columns and capitals supporting the restored Rana-style wing are detailed in steel and timber, to clean modernist lines, and hold their own within the simple brick and white plastered detailing of the period. They also feature a postmodern take on the scrolls of old Newa capitals, reinterpreting the decorative art of traditions past, whilst acknowledging the architectural language of the restoration’s own timeline. At the Museum Café, new metal-roofed pavilions also feature similar modern detailing in timber, a graceful reminder within the new construction of its heritage.
The restoration efforts that led to the establishment of Patan’s Royal Palace as a public museum in 1997 features modern twists on traditional motifs, designed in timber and steel by Hagmüller’s team. The clean lines and geometric postmodern interpretation of decorative Newa carving presents a nod to the architectural language of the restoration’s own timeline.
Courtyards and access to the Museum Cafe are open 7am-6.30pm.
Entry fees to the Museum:
Foreigners: Rs1,000 (included in Patan entry fee)
Nepali Students Rs5 (with ID)
In perfect harmony, Sahina Shrestha