On the door sill of the shrine, sat a rotund woman, basking in the light of butter lamps that burned on a pyramidal stand. A vajra sat directly aligned with the lamps, to strike admiration and spiritual tenacity amidst the faithful. Meanwhile, a Brazen Sakyamuni Buddha, enshrined inside MahaBuddha Temple gazed at our judgemental eyes.
The temple was built in 1600s by Abhaya Raj and was inspired by Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya,India. This temple was the first Buddhist temple built in Shikhara stye architecture. It was covered with floral motifs and terracotta reliefs of Buddha… no wonder this temple was an abode of thousand Buddhas.
The flickering lamps enchanted us and reminded us of sacred fires of Baglamukhi Temple(southeast of Patan). We had seen throngs of devotees sitting in front of Goddess Bagalamukhi’s shrine. The shrine complex hosted numerous temples dedicated to other Hindu Gods.
No sooner we were about to leave Baglamukhi Temple Complex than three children surrounded us.
“Photo, photo” they yelled in unison. Their smile was infectious, so we were glad to oblige. Why would these kids want to be photographed, may be to be showcased in a photographic magazine? Or it was there way of breaking ice with strangers!
Not far from Baglamukhi temple, was Golden Temple or Hiranyavarna Mahavihara, which was the richest monastery in Patan. The secret of their wealth was centuries of trade with Tibet. A smaller shrine, with a gilded tapering roof, stood in centre of the temple courtyard. Sadly, at the time of our visit, the three-storeyed, gilded main shrine that lay beyond the smaller shrine was under renovation.
Butter lamps dimly lit a big prayer room in the monastery of Golden Temple. I closed my eyes. I could imagine Tibetan psychonauts diving into the unfathomed realms of existence. If only, that sort of exploration was easy!
Not far from MahaBuddha Temple was another important monastery. It was Rudravarna Mahavihar. Prayer wheels lined the periphery of the central courtyard. Ashok Chaitya, (a stupa, covered by a gilded roof, built by Emperor Ashoka) rested in front of red-faced, Sakyamuni Buddha. Animals like Dragons, Shardula or Pegasus, Griffin, Lion, Elephant and Peacock have taken their metallic stances outside the main shrine. They made the ancient shrine look dramatic and appealing.
MahaBuddha Temple’s lamps had us enthralled for a while. We sat there for a while. Soon, we realised that the temple’s view was restricted by the surrounding narrow courtyard; hence, we were instructed to climbed up to the terrace of the shops at the rear of the court.
From our vantage point, we saw the mighty Himalayas at the precinct of the valley. We looked to the north, trying in vain to see Patan Durbar Square.
Patan was one of the three city-states in Kathmandu valley. It not only displayed pagoda style temples and shrines, adorned with Newari artifacts. The city also held numerous Viharas. Patan has blurred borders between Hinduism and Buddhism. It shows us that peaceful co-existence is superior to mere tags!