Kumbheswar & Baglamukhi
You come into Kumbheswar Square from the south. You will see a series of pagoda temples thrusting to the sky, the tallest of them a graceful five-tiered Malla period temple dedicated to Shiva. This is the Kumbheswar temple after which the whole complex is named. The only other five roofed pagoda temple in the Valley is the somewhat larger Nyatapola temple in Bhaktapur. Pagoda temples are said to be Kathmandu Valley’s gift to Asia’s architectural heritage: according to some scholars, this style originated in the Malla period and traveled over the centuries to China and East Asia.

You will find that the Shiva temple and its surroundings are enclosed within a wall. Next to the temple is a square brick structure topped by a dome, from which a constant stream of water flows underneath the pavement into a large pond (picture opposite). This water is considered divinely blessed because it is said to flow from the sacred Gosaikunda Lake, which lies in the High Himalaya at an altitude of 4400 m, some 70 km north of Patan.

While hundreds of pilgrims do make the daunting high-terrain pilgrimage to Gosaikunda itself, tens of thousands of city dwellers visit the Kumbheswar pond during the Janai Purnima festival in July. This festival brings many non-newar inhabitants from the rim areas of the Valley to Patan, and there is much merry-making here of the pahadi (hill) kind. Tamang shamans arrive at Kumbheswar by the score on this full-moon night.

On the opposite (south) side of the towering temple is a low-slung shrine dedicated to Bagalamukhi (Parvati), the consort of Kumbheswar (Shiva). Bagalamukhi attracts devotees all year round, as the goddess is associated with Shakti, the female form of power, and homage to her strengthens one against enemies. Perhaps this helps explain why Bagalamukhi is a vavorite deity of civil servants up for promotion and those embroiled in litigation. This wish-fulfilling deity is also worshipped by young devotees on Thursday and Saturdays, which are thought to be auspicious days.

Exiting Kumbhewswar’s walled enclosure, retrace your steps up the path back to the megalith site. At the Ganesh shrine, take the brick-paved path that goes to the left (east), and bear right. After a couple of turns, look up to see a dilapidated house which contains one of the few surviving specimens of a lattice-work window that wraps around a corner. This window, and a less ornate one underneath, is an example of the privately-owned architectural wealth of Patan which can all-too-easily disappear in the absence of philanthropic support and economic revival (part of which can be brought about by tourism). While the larger public monuments will be restored sooner or later, the challenger for architectural conservationists is to devise a way to keep private dwellings from being pulled down.

You will have already noticed how tall modern buildings affect the generally low, three-storeyed skyline of Patan. In the past, the height of the local temples tended to set the limit for residential buildings. The skyline, however, has changed rapidly in the last two decades due to several reasons: land values have greatly escalated; new building materials are now available; community controls have loosened; joint families have broken up, increasing the demand for separate dwellings; and the government is unable to enforce even the regulations that do exits. There are still quite a few streets, however, which retain their original integrity, whereas elsewhere the past has to be left to the imagination.

Fortunately, the particular corner windows which you have just seen and the entire area behind it madeup of three courtyards, are the focus of attention of a Nepali team of conservationists. The neighborhood’s revival, it is hoped, will provide an impetus for similar efforts in Patan and elsewhere.
Designed by iCube Galleria