Continuing further into the Art City of Patan, we walked through the traditional handicrafts market of this city. The place reminded me of the Red Fort Market in New Delhi. You find yourself sent back in time, where you relive the old times. What fascinated us the most was to know about Golden Temple, and this was one of the places definitely worth finding out about.
About Golden Temple
As an Indian, when we think of Golden Temple, the first thing that comes to our mind is the about the one at Amritsar. So, when we heard of Golden Temple here, we couldn’t hold back on our curiosity for long. So, we followed the directions through the market to explore the temple. The best way to move around the city as I suggested earlier is to keep the Patan Durbar at the center and search for the monuments based on the cardinal Stupas or points. This makes spotting the monuments quickly.
After passing through the hordes of handicraft and art stores, we reached the outskirts of the temple that entered into a narrow lane. The entrance to this temple is a massive stone facade with two giant lions at the gate. This is customary to indicate not only the royalty of the kingdom, but also its strength and prosperity. The facade came much after the temple in the 19th Century. The façade wall indicates five different meditation postures of the Mahayana Buddha, depicting the five elements of nature. This gate was built by the stone mason Krishnabir, and his signature can be found as an inscription on the gate. Apart from that, the gate also has inscriptions in various languages such as – Arabic and English; indicating the influences of these cultures on the city.
The Hiranya Varna Mahavihar or “Kwa Bahal” also known as the Golden Temple is located in the North West side of the four cardinal stupas of the Patan City. This temple is of the Shakyamuni Buddha and was built in the 12th Century by the King Deva Varma. After passing through the outer gate, you pass through a narrow corridor with seating area on the right and another massive decorated entrance door in front. As you enter through the second gate, a whole new mesmerizing view awaits the eye.
Inside the Golden Temple Premises
As you enter inside the temple, right in front of you is a majestic Pagoda all covered in metal. The shining metal resembling gold is a rich composition of copper alloys that still retain their luster and shine ages after it was built. This goes beyond saying the intricate scientific knowledge of the creators had, apart from their immense inclination for ornate artistry. What had been continuously fascinating me is the various murals and postures of the Buddhist demigods that resembled the Hindu demigods. At many places, there has been elaborate use of both Hindu and Buddhist expressions, making it increasingly difficult to understand the true essence of one culture. At the same time, this made the whole thing even more empowering how both the cultures have so amalgamated to exist together.
The center of the temple has a huge shrine with delicate art work. This is believed to be self-incarnated or the Swayambhu Chaitya. The four corners have real-life statues of monkeys paying obeisance to the Gods. At the far end of the courtyard, the idol of Shakyamuni Buddha is placed. A huge metallic cast is placed in front of the door which is called the Bajra or the Weapon.
About the Rituals
I got into a conversation with a teenager who was preparing the oil lamps for the day. According to him, the Bajrayana sect of the Nepalese community hold the responsibility of continuing the legacy of offering prayers in the temple. As a part of the ritual, a boy from every Bajrayana family is supposed to bear the responsibility as a priest once he turns a teenager for a period of 30 days. Women do not do this ritual and women are not allowed to participate in the rituals. Also, the same teenager does have the choice to repeat the process after the first time, should he choose to do so. Also, no shoes and leather are allowed inside the temple.
I also met a local from whom I wanted to find out the reason behind so much of amalgamation between the Hindu and the Buddhist cultures as at one glance, it always gets confusing. As per him, Nepal practices the Mahayana and the Bajrayana Sutras of Buddhism, which are liberal as against the other orthodox Sutras. This mere fact made both cultures harmoniously coexist to the extent that they almost shared common prayer spaces within the same temples. If one has to put aside the religious differences, that prevails today, these structures stand a true testimony to the possibility of respecting each other’s cultures and instill harmony in the world.
I am yet to gather in my journeys what makes one culture better than the other. But, what I do understand by such encounters each time is that we are all a ‘work-in-progress’; in different forms. We are but incomplete and the union of all colours makes it one .