Patan, I believe, is a very interesting city. In fact, if you meander through its inner core, the alleys, some very narrow, winding here there and everywhere, and you see ponds and temples and hitis and traditionally built houses, and old folks lazing the afternoons away in the patis, and you got to say, “Wow, what a lovely place to live in!”
And, if you go at around five in the evening through these very same alleys, with their small chowks at intervals, where undoubtedly a temple or two will be located, and you see pretty damsels at the doorways of houses, waiting for friends to take the evening stroll through the durbar square and to try out the delicious eats around the place, and you know it’s a pretty lively place to live in. Especially when you see that all the girls you see are so svelte and fashionably dressed, and all so fair and lissome.
Yes, indeed, Patan is a nice place to be in, whether it’s in the early morning or the afternoon, or the evenings. Go at around three, before even dawn has broken, and you’ll find the streets and alleys so serene and peaceful, all the shops, naturally, closed, and not even the barking of those irritating dogs one finds elsewhere. Make a beeline for the Golden Temple, pass through its imposing gate guarded by two massive stone lions, and you are suddenly transported into a surreal world of hundreds of flickering butter lamps, the sensuous uncoiling of thick and fragrant wisps arising from smoldering incense sticks, the subdued murmuring of heartfelt prayers. Possibly, you will have a moment of nirvana here, if you are lucky.
The afternoons are best spent in the durbar square and the adjoining Mangal Bazaar, as ancient a bazaar as you’ll find anywhere. Of course, urbanization has taken its toll (How could it not, what with man’s greed and the skyrocketing real estate values around this world heritage site monument? Nevertheless, the fact that it is one has fortunately curtailed more devastation of modern living, what with some pretty rigorous parameters as laid down by UNESCO for such monuments of universal cultural value).
Anyway, you’ll always find vibrant life in and around this site on any given afternoon; plenty of visitors from around the globe, for whom it is a must-visit sight when in Kathmandu; quite a few young guys and gals, for whom the terraced steps of platforms leading up to sacred temples are a wonderful place to rendezvous; groups of children, smartly uniformed, but most with ties askew, for whom the expansive courtyard is a regular short-cut to the other side; and a gaggle of locals, mostly seniors, parking themselves in the patis, walking stick in hand, for whom the varied sights and sounds are a thousand times more enjoyable than those never-ending soaps on television.
As the evening draws near, you’ll hear chants accompanied by the soothing tinkling of bells in and around the temples, the vihars, and the mahavihars, the evening prayers being as much a part of life here as are the robed priests, who are usually from the Sakya and Bajracharya clans that make up a large part of the Patan populace. Buddhism is perhaps the religion followed by most people here, followed by Hinduism, with many folks practicing both in equal measure. The streets leading to and away from the square are now teeming with all kinds of specimens of the two-legged kind, and the shops, some large, but most pretty small, do brisk business.
This is particularly most evident in the street leading to Lagankhel, where stand many buses going near and far in and around the valley. Because of this, with passengers swarming into and out of the large vehicles, many with only one thing on their mind, shopping, this street is a shoppers’ dream come true. You’ll find a veritable plethora of all kinds of goods being sold on this street. Till a few months back, even the sidewalks, and the bus stop itself, were filled with numerous makeshift stalls, but I think the municipality has put its foot down, so there’s less of this chaotic scenario nowadays.
Evening time is also when you’ll find plenty of eager beaver foodies gorging on the delectable pani puris and chaats sold in roadside shops and from mobile stalls, luscious ras malais and savory samosas in the mithai shops, and cool and refreshing ice creams and yummy and comforting dahis in the ice cream parlors. You’ll also find quite a few kerb-side shops selling a variety of fresh greens, while in the branching alleys you’ll find what delights a non-vegetarian the most, chicken and mutton and buff and fish.
Yes siree, Patan is a city that has something for everyone, and like I said before, it’s a great place to be in at all times of the day!